TRG SPEAKER PROGRAM
Personal Stories of Recovery
~ Cindi ~
Hi, I am Cindi, a compulsive overeater. Five years ago today, I spent my last day under the influence of my obsession with food. I had been in program for two and a half years, worked what I thought was a solid program, yet I was unable to stay abstinent more than a few days at a time. The disease of addiction had beaten me and I had a choice to make. Do I give up on program entirely and submit my life to one of obesity or do I give up self-will and surrender my life and my addiction to the care of my Higher Power? I am deeply thankful I was able to face the truth of my addiction and surrender my will and my life over to the care of God on June 1st, 2004. Tomorrow I celebrate five years of freedom from the obsession of food and a weight loss of 114 pounds.
My disease of addiction began on September 20th, 1969 six weeks before my 18th birthday. At my cousin’s wedding where I was a bridesmaid, I was permitted to drink alcohol for the first time. I liked the effect so much I continued to drink until I passed out. The next morning when I woke up, I was a sugar addict. I could not get enough sugar into my system to satisfy the intense craving the alcohol had set up. Somewhere I read that alcohol and sugar have the exact same molecule structure. I believe it! Up until this point, I had been a normal eater and on the slim side. Suddenly, overnight my world changed from a young woman on the verge of adulthood and everything in life to look forward to a miserable, isolated girl who was obsessed with food and gaining weight at a very rapid pace. I did not want anyone to see me ingesting these huge amounts of food. It became very shameful to me to not be able to control my eating. I began to gain more and more weight and soon I noticed that when I was walking down the street, people would turn and stare. At first I couldn't understand why, then it dawned on me. They were staring at how huge I was. That realization crippled me emotionally and I began to build a wall around me that no one could penetrate. Instead of going to college, I spent my time at home hibernating from anyone and everyone. My life was food, sleep and television. I went into a deep depression but no one recognized what was wrong with me so I did not get any help.
Eventually I pulled out of the depression with the help of my aunt who insisted I go to work for her. My life consisted of food, sleep, television and work. By the time I was 24, I decided I would like to get married but I knew no one would marry a 300 pound woman. Weight Watchers was in our area so I joined and lost about a 100 pounds. Then I began to drink because that wall around me not only kept people from getting to me but from me to reach out to others. The alcohol helped break that wall down and I began to visit bars every night looking for my soul mate. I found him and married him. He was an alcoholic but he didn't mind my being overweight as long as I didn't say anything about his drinking. Either I was in the food or I was in the alcohol the entire ten years of our marriage. By the time I hit my mid 30's, my body began to break down from the excess food and the alcohol. I became very physically ill and the doctor said I had to quit drinking. I joined AA and stopped drinking on November 19th, 1986 but in the process I lost my husband who did not want to stop drinking. I loved my husband very much but it was either stay with him, drink and die or leave and live. I left.
I had little self esteem, no self confidence and no goals in life other than to make it one day to the next. In the paper it announced that OA had a local meeting so I went. All they talked about was God and since I am not a religious person, I felt these people were all religious freaks. I wanted none of that. I simply wanted to lose weight, not find God. I left the meeting but always remembered that OA was there if and when I wanted it. It took another two years of misery before I was willing to go back to OA again. This time I stayed about a year. I went to meetings, I read literature and I did some service. I thought I was working the program. I listened to people with recovery and they said to get a sponsor. I said I was too scared. They said to work the steps and I said I can't do that. They said to reach out to others but I still had that wall between me and everyone else. Fear and self will held me back. I wanted to be thin more than I wanted anything else in the world EXCEPT food. I wanted food more than I wanted to be thin. I tried every diet I could find that seemed reasonable and every diet I lost weight. But as soon as the diet was over, I went back to eating and gaining all the weight back plus more.
The shame, guilt, and embarrassment of my being unable to control my food intake was too much for me. I spent 35 years of my adult life suffering not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually. I thought I was at fault for being so obese. I was either too weak or too stupid to understand how to eat normally and I lacked the needed willpower. Most of those 35 years were spent weighing between 250 and 300 pounds. My true self was hidden deep behind the walls of protection I was forced to put up. Mentally, I berated, badgered and harassed myself for being so fat. The self-hatred, resentments and fears grew as the years passed me by.
Yet, if I had not lost my good job at the age of 50, I seriously doubt whether I would have come back to OA. The pain of being a severely obese person was not yet as great as the pain of doing without the comfort of my food. However, fate stepped in; I lost my job and hit 50 at the same time. No one wanted to hire an obese, middle-aged woman with a high school degree. I thought if I returned to OA, I might be able to take off enough weight to find a job.
January of 2002 I returned to OA for the third time. I found it to be much easier to join online than to face people locally. Hiding behind a computer screen felt safe and I was able to reach out and get a sponsor and begin a step study. Six women met once a week in a chat room and answered the OA workbook questions one at a time. It took us sixteen months to complete that step study, one of the most rewarding studies I have ever done. As we began to answer the questions, I noticed that most of our answers were the same. I kept thinking, “We are all one and the same person, only the details are different.” The study was the first place that I began to understand that I have an actual disease and it is called addiction. Since I am powerless over my disease of addiction, I am not to blame for having it. It is not my fault. I did not ask to be an addict but I am one.
Self-will and fear were the two main reasons why it took me two and a half years to get recovery. I kept trying to prove repeatedly that I was a normal eater. I did not want to be an addict! I wanted to be normal. I wanted to be able to eat whatever I wanted in whatever amounts I wanted and still be thin. My disease kept me believing that I could not live my life without excess food. Fear of the unknown world of recovery held me back. I spent a very long time deluding myself that someday my desires would come true. Denial (Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying) kept me an addict in hell. The Twelve & Twelve says on page six, “Denial of the truth leads to destruction.”
In May of 2004, I hit bottom, gave up my delusion and denial, handed my life and my food over to the care of my Higher Power and began my recovery. Acceptance of what is allowed me to take that action of surrender. Program has a saying that goes like this, “Awareness equals Acceptance equals Action.” The more aware I am of the damage that food obsession causes me the more likely I am to accept the need for the truth and change. Acceptance, for me, really was the key to recovery. I accepted that I could no longer compulsively overeat. I accepted that I had to work program to the best of my ability each day of my life. I accepted the fact that I would always be an addict and I had a choice. I could choose to be an addict in hell or I could choose to be an addict in recovery. On June 1st, 2004, I chose to be an addict in recovery. I prayed that God would grant me the willingness to do whatever it took to have good recovery. The willingness was granted that day and each day for the past five years. Acceptance and willingness allow me to take the necessary action daily in keeping my recovery.
The OA fellowship was the first place that I was accepted and loved for exactly who I am and what I am and where I am in recovery. The acceptance and love of the fellowship allowed me to begin to nurture, accept and self-love. Acceptance of self is vital to healing. I found I could only begin to grow once I began to heal. Up to the point of program, I was a perfectionist. In program, I found that perfectionism restricts growth. My emotional and spiritual growth comes from learning and learning comes from lessons. Where do I learn life’s lessons? By making mistakes! Humility gives me the God given right to make mistakes. Program teaches me to learn from my failures but focus on the lessons learned and not on the failure itself.
Each day I place my life and my will into the care of my Higher Power. But I am not a religious woman. Where is this Higher Power? I looked “out there” but never found God. It was only when I looked into my heart that I found a spiritual strength greater than I and that spiritual strength is what I call God. The God of my understanding resides deep within my soul and is always available to me. All I need do is look into my heart, take a quiet moment and listen. God does for me what I had not ever been able to do for myself, free me of the obsession of food. Conscious contact with my Higher Power on a daily basis is an absolute must as is ongoing spiritual growth. Self-will keeps a wall up between me and my Higher Power. I must be rid of self-will to maintain the needed conscious contact with God. I find I cannot keep my recovery until and unless God is first in my life. The BB of AA, page 85, says this: “What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” I am unable to be cured of my addiction but if I work program and keep God first I will be in remission One Day At A time. The Twelve Steps are my guide to a better way of living my life.
I am deeply grateful to be in recovery and able to share with others how well program will work for them. Thank you so much for allowing me to share my recovery with all of you. The fellowship of OA and TRG offers me the emotional support I need to stay in recovery. I thank you most humbly.
Love in Recovery,