Dearest Friends,

My name is Mari Cokely and I am a compulsive overeater in recovery. What you are about to read is something I rarely write. It isn't just that it's my ESH ... it is more personal than that. It makes me uncomfortable to do much of this and it brings back memories that I'd really rather not have. I do so today because I am reminded of why we all do this. I have been writing a journal for quite some time now and recently I started writing about the 12 Steps of OA. Today happens to be the day that it was time to write about Step Twelve. And as part of the 12th step, it is today that I am going to carry a message to you. It is my personal message.

"Having had a spiritual awakening
as the result of these steps,
we tried to carry this message
to compulsive overeaters and
to practice these principles
in all our affairs."


The Twelve Steps of Recovery

As I mentioned to you above, for the past twelve days, I have been writing about the Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous. Each day and each step have been thought provoking. But it is today's step - - -that twelfth step - - -that I now take and that I will take each and every day of my life... it is the step I feel that has given me my life's purpose.

The first two decades of my life were spent growing up in the deep South where I was the oldest of three children. I was very different from my brothers and often I wondered if I had been adopted. I never really felt I "fit in" with my family and my two little brothers and I were really never close. Both my parents were alcoholic and, as a result, our family was very dysfunctional. I didn't, of course, know it at the time. None of us do when we're living in the middle of it. We think *everyone* lives the way we do.

The manifestations of my parents' disease of alcoholism affected my entire life .... it still does. The very smell of alcohol now brings back memories I'd like not to have. Things happened in my childhood that I have blocked out and only resurfaced in therapy a few times when my therapist would regress me and I would "let them out." But, despite my family, my childhood was rather extraordinary because of a gift I had been given and which set me apart from, not only my family, but just about everyone else.

The gift was that of music. I was called a child prodigy. And my instrument was the piano. I began giving little concerts and recitals and my world became wall-to-wall music. Little Mari became a "special child" ... she basked in the attention and she felt like Shirley Temple! Little Mari also lost her identity in the process. I became someone my parents "displayed" ... my teachers "displayed" ..... even my friends "displayed".

I was fortunate, I suppose, in that I did not have a problem with weight as a child or as a teenager or young adult. All of the predispositions seemed to be buried somewhere. The disease was there .... and as I so often say .... doing push-ups just waiting for the time to emerge ... but it lay dormant during those years. My life was music. Church five times on Sunday and all during the week .... playing for everything including all the weddings and funerals, playing for dancing school and ballet classes, practicing constantly for recitals and concerts, accompanying others ... so many things. Somewhere along the way .... I lost my childhood. The keyboard took it. And my parents became known as "Mari's Mom and Dad" and my two little brothers as Mari's brothers. My two brothers felt left out ... ordinary. I was resented. My parents forgot that I was a little girl ... they forgot that I was their teen-age daughter .... and when I left home .... they pretty well forgot me. By then it was ..... where did you play this week? How much money did you make? Did you win that scholarship? How many students are you teaching now? When in God's name were they ever going to ask about ME.

I married, had children .... the wall-to-wall music continued. No longer a prodigy, not pursuing everyone's dream for me to become a world famous concert pianist ... I felt I had let everyone down. So I continued to practice and teach and give recitals and concerts and supplemented that with all the things women did in the 70s. Raising their children ... being good wives ..... having a pretty home .... entertaining ...... and, for me, the never-ending, never even slowing down, totally and completely absorbing life of music.

It was at this stage that the disease, once dormant, began rearing it's ugly head. I stuffed every anxiety, every shred of guilt, every bit of anger I had ever felt into anesthetizing my once 125 pound body with food. I had taken a respite from the music before I married and became an airline stewardess trying to claim a different identify and when my weight began ballooning, I would each day go look at my navy blue David Crystal designed stewardess uniform and see my body going from slim to grotesque .... and I died each and every day a little bit.

Most of us who are victims of compulsive overeating are long-timers. The weight gain plateaus ... we take it off ... it plateaus again at a higher level ... we take it off ... we begin a life of yo-yo dieting ... and we say "Okay, life ... this is ME. This is the way it will always be." And we do our jobs, raise our children, take care of hubby and home and when we go into our bathroom to take our showers and look in our mirrors at what we have become, we try to cry but the tears won't come because we are all cried out and we no longer feel.

I began my plunge into that deep dark place called depression. I functioned .... I HAD to function. I had children. But I was a non-person. A person without the slightest bit of hope left. Hopeless was an understatement. Hopelessness was something I lived with day after day. I had reached my absolute bottom. In this beautiful world of mine with beautiful people and beautiful things ...... I was desolate. Withdrawn. My feelings were locked tight. No one .... absolutely NO ONE was going to be allowed to enter this place where I resided 24 hours a day. This place called ME.

God intervened.

It was raining. Hot. I was alone. I was staring into cyberspace via a new computer. It was three years ago. Summertime. I was clicking my mouse randomly from one place to another. Hopeless women do not look for miracles on computers. Depressives do not surf the net looking for recovery. I was NOT looking for hope. Or recovery. I ran across a man named Richard who introduced me by EMail to an angel named Billie who introduced me to 37 other people in a place called simply "the loop." That loop is now called the Overeater's Recovery Group formally and Big Loop lovingly. I call it my "loving loop." It was here that God gave me the first miracle. HOPE. The second miracle UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE. The third miracle LOVE. The fourth miracle FEELINGS. The fifth miracle SPIRITUALITY. The sixth miracle RELEASING 100 POUNDS. The seventh miracle PRECIOUS FRIENDS. The eighth miracle MY LIFE BACK. And there have been so many other miracles since. I learned to cry. I learned to feel love. To be loved. I learned what joy felt like.

Music Mari is now just plain Mari .... Would someone like a seven foot Steinway sitting in my studio that I don't need anymore?

And I still have my airline stewardess uniform with it golden wings hanging in my closet.

I have just, by writing this letter and sending it to you, completed yet another 12th Step!

And I will continue until the day I die to carry "this message of my personal ESH to compulsive overeaters" any and everywhere I can find them. I hope to live my life, not proselytizing about the miracles of recovery .... but by "practicing these principles in all my affairs."

I hope this helps some of you who have not found hope in some way. I hope perhaps some of you will understand a little better now what this loop means to me .... and why I want it to stay a recovery loop and not a recess. I hope you can understand that this was the place, where, when there was no place else for me to go, I came. And it was the place that took me in ...... unconditionally accepted me .... loved me warts and all ..... and introduced me to the miracles of the 12 steps ... and to OA ... and to recovery.

Dear God,
Help me to carry
the message to those
who need to hear it ...
as I needed to hear it ...
and as I now do.

The Recovery Group

Copyright © 1998, The RECOVERY Group