The Recovery Group is a Twelve Step support group for compulsive eaters

Personal Stories of Recovery

~ Lisa B. ~

Hello. My name is Lisa B. I have a history of compulsive overeating and anorexia. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my story with you.

Because Iím currently working on step 12 in the OA workbook, my sponsor asked me to read ďWorking with OthersĒ in AAís Big Book. As a way of better comprehending this useful chapter, I will be modeling my share tonight according to the guidelines offered by the author. Seems quite appropriate as speaking to our group is a lovely way to work with others.

Chapter 7, ďWorking With OthersĒ tell us, ďto be helpful is our only aim.Ē When I first came into these rooms, my only aim was to stop the dark, stormy craziness in my head. My disease was seeping out of my head into my swollen body and spilling over into my life. I had no desire to help others but eventually I understood that helping others helps me.

i don't remember ever being normal with food. As a child, it was used to comfort me. My mother would give me treats as a token of love. There was a great deal of physical and emotional abuse in my upbringing. When I felt scared, I would stockpile food in my room and eat it in secret.

My older sister once found me huddled in the shadows of our dining room with a loaf of white bread. Her look of horror told me that what I was doing wasnít normal. Still, that bread offered me more love and acceptance than anyone else in my family.

There were many addictions floating around my childhood home; alcoholics, rage-aholics, drug addicts, compulsive overeater, sex addicts, codependents. You name it, we had it. Coe is the one that suited me best. It was the quietest way to numb the pain while managing to stay out of trouble.

I was a normal weight until age 14. Thatís when my Coe started to catch up with my body. In the eighth grade, my tall frame began to gain weight. No one dared to make fun of me because I was relatively likeable and didnít take well to being bullied. Still, I could see that thin girls got more attention.

It was then that I took dieting on as a serious hobby. I look back at my young self with compassion, thanks to the growth Iíve made in OA. I did such extreme damage to my body during my teens and twenties. When I first came to program, I was livid with myself. Now, I see that I was sick and trying as best I could to get better.

Of course, my means for getting better was sick, too. I overused fibrous foods so much that my body is practically immune to fiber. I once drank so much water for breakfast that I threw it up. I was on diets where I had to stay close to a bathroom for fear of pooping my pants. I would eat the same empty foods over and over and over during binge weeks without giving myself an ounce of nutrition.

I discovered anorexia in my sophomore year. I survived on a bagel and an apple per day for months. When a rumor spread through school that I was anorexic, I was secretly flattered. Anorexia was a way for me to control something in my life since so much was unsafe. I often starved myself as an act of silent revenge. I loved the feeling of power I got from restricting. In my mind, I was never thin enough.

Once I started dating, I began eating again and the gain/loss cycle began. In college, I yoyo dieted a great deal. Because of my low self esteem, I stayed in a failing relationship from ages 18 to 24. My friendships were often lopsided, too.

Iíve tried every diet in the book. I was on a liquid diet for about a year that allowed me one real meal a day which is why I call that diet ďthe one binge a dayĒ diet. And the cabbage diet, that was just embarrassing. When not on an insane diet, I had little willpower. For a year or so, I lived alone. I would fill up on a binge and throw the leftover food out only to dig through the trash and finish it an hour later.

How very low I felt when the pizza delivery girl started acting like we were old friends. I switched pizza places after that. I spent thousands of dollars on expensive novelty junk food and fast food that had no nutritious value whatsoever. I charged most of my binges on my credit card. Because of this, saving was nearly impossible for me.

I had spells where I would over-exercise and slowly destroy my body. When I was around 190 lbs, I would run for miles. One time, I actually lost control of my bowels while running. At the time, I didn't connect that to insanity or abuse of my body. I was amazed at how I could exercise for 2-4 hours a day and not lose a pound. It was like the binges never entered the equation in my mind.

But because I was a talented pretender, many people came to me to solve their problems. Ha! What in the world were they thinking? At one point in my 20s, I was 237 lbs and shouting orders at friends who called for advice. I thought I had all the answers, just ridiculous, lonely and very sad.

In July of 2000, I managed to spend 7 months losing 20 lbs only to gain it back during a 5 day binge. Thatís when I finally admitted I had a problem. I don't remember how I heard about OA. I just knew it existed. Looked it up online and went to my first meeting.

It was at an eating disorder hospital where many of the attendees were either so large they had to be wheeled around on a double wide wheelchair or so emaciated, they were hooked up to an IV. When I first walked into the room and saw the overwhelming pain of their disease, I had the urge to walk out before listening. I thought to myself, "I don't have what they have." And then I heard their shares and got really frightened because their stories sounded an awful lot like mine.

I kept coming back to different meetings. I would binge on the way to the meeting and share about it. Members would come up to me after the meeting and give me a hug. They kept telling me that I was doing just fine and to keep coming back. I thought they were nuts but I didn't have any other workable solution. So, I kept coming back. I got a sponsor and did what she told me to do. The tools worked for me.

I ask my sponsees to do much of what my sponsor suggested I do. My program is one of using the tools, working the steps and taking the next right action. I share how I work my program with others. I limit my shares to what Iíve actually done that has worked for me. ďTake what works and leave the restĒ is my favorite motto.

I was gifted with a year and a half of miraculous recovery. Self hate slipped away. I was living in a fun city and enjoyed my supportive, fabulous friends. My art was flowing. I met and married an incredibly loving and kind man. I reached goal weight. I was slipping into a size 6. I felt great peace in my life. I had a type of joy that i didn't know was possible.

And then I was cured or so i thought. I was proud of all I did to get where I was. I forgot about my Higher Power's will. I slowed down my meetings and eventually stopped going. I moved a few times and neglected to get a new sponsor. It took about 3 years for me to see the weight pile back on. My marriage was suffering from my emotional imbalance. My job reflected the self hate that I felt. It wasn't until I found myself alone in my car with a number of trigger foods that I admitted once again that I needed help.

I walked back into these rooms on 4/27/06. My head was full of judgment because I failed myself again. It took months for me to finally understand that humility and humiliation are totally different.

Humiliation is a relative of pride. Humility is a relative of gratitude. As long as I stay grateful or take actions of gratitude like writing a list of my blessings, I stay sane. Doesnít mean Iím happy go lucky all the time. It just means I can feel what I feel and still know that I am blessed by Higher Power. I am a beautiful child of Higher Power.

I am currently 76 lbs less than my top weight. I have a mere 3 lbs before i reach a western medical definition of healthy body weight. I would love to be less than my current size 10 but I must remind myself that my body size, weight and shape are hp's business. My business is doing the footwork to keep myself abstinent.

Being a size 8 (or less) is a desire I can't pretend I don't have but being abstinent is my TOP priority. I must keep my eye on the true prize (serenity) lest I get confused and falter.

Since being back in program, Iíve lost 33 pounds of physical weight and about 2000 lbs of emotional weight. My marriage is one of connection, love and trust again. My new career still reflects what I feel about myself, only now, I feel balanced and worthy.

The energy vampires I used to call friends no longer fill up my day planner. I have the strength to say, "No, thanks". My time is spent doing things that matter - spending time with my love, studying for grad school, practicing self care daily, keeping in touch with friends that uplift me and enjoying the gifts Higher Power gives me. I LOVE my life again.

I donít know about you. I canít tell you if youíre a Coe, anorexic or bulimic. Thatís for you to decide. What I can tell you is that I have found a proven, workable method for MY insanity.

The unconditional acceptance of all different faiths and no faiths is the strength of OA. I almost always use the words ďHigher PowerĒ when I share my story with others because it doesnít matter what my spiritual convictions are. ďThe main thing is that we be wiling to believe in a power greater than our self and that we live by spiritual principles.Ē (AABB, Working With Others)

When chapter 7 states, ďwe have no monopoly on god; we merely have an approach that worked with us,Ē I let out a big sigh of relief. I donít have to PROVE this program to anyone. If it sounds like something youíd like to try, great. Weíll help you as best we can. If you think itís not for you, I wish you much success on your journey. There are other ways to truth. This one happens to work for me. What a gift of acceptance weíre given with that sentence!

The '8 Tools of Recovery' is how I work my program daily.

Writing - I write answers to the step questions from the OA workbook. I send them regularly to my sponsor. I also write when I feel feelings because it helps me sort through the jumble in my head. Committing to 5 minutes of writing has been surprisingly helpful for me. At times, I just write a gratitude list to keep me sane. I contribute to one of my loops weekly because it's a way to give service and keep me recovery minded.

Service - I hold at least one service position at any given time. It keeps me coming regularly to meetings. At meetings where Iím not holding a service position, I help in other ways like setting up the meeting room or introducing myself to newcomers and giving them either a copy of lifeline that Iíve already read with my phone number on it or a newcomer's packet. I submit articles to lifeline. I put 3 ads on for my city's OA website weekly. I email members that have not shared on the loop in a while. I email program questions to my OA friends to keep myself teachable and help my fellows think recovery.

Meetings - I go to two meetings every Saturday because they are back to back and in the same building, once a week works well for me because I use the other tools a great deal. i use online meetings for emergencies, insomnia and illness where Iím homebound. I share at meetings because others need to hear there is hope and I need to get out of my head by talking about solutions.

Telephone - probably my most hated and most used tool. I don't like talking on the phone but I do it because it gets me into the solution. I have several members' numbers saved on my cell. I call three members regularly because I know they will let it go to voicemail so that I can just share and be done with it. I do the same for them, too. When I make an outreach call, I try my best to always end it with a commitment. Itíll be either to use another tool or pray or take 10 deep breaths or think of a gratitude list of 5 things. At my meetings, I look on the call log and take down 2 numbers per week. One is usually a newcomer and the other is usually someone that is struggling or hasn't been here in a couple of weeks. I call them as Iím walking out of my meeting to be sure they come home to a loving message.

Sponsorship - I email my sponsor daily with my step work, my food plan and my questions. She helps me stay balanced and practice gentleness with myself. I use her as another tool. She offers me a great deal of wisdom but because I use the other tools so regularly, I don't fall apart if she's too busy to respond right away. My Higher Power has spoken through her many times. Iím grateful for her service.

I sponsor others in the program. My sponsees email me daily with their lists and I respond every Monday, Wednesday and Friday unless it's needed more. The inspiration my sponsees have given me is immeasurable. Each individual has certain amazing strengths. Their commitment to recovery keeps my program growing strong, too. Their questions and comments help me stay fresh in OA. Iím truly blessed to have them in my life. Iím amazed at how much I love and admiration feel for them. My program is so much stronger when Iím sponsoring at least one person. If youíre scared of sponsoring, Iíve heard of members talking to their sponsor about starting out slow by allowing someone to call their daily food into their phone. Every little bit counts and we need all the sponsors we can get.

Food plan - my food plan is based on one day at a time. For today, I have eliminated white flour and refined sugar from my food plan. That has been working well for about 5 months now. I find great freedom in knowing that refined sugar is just not for me. I usually have 3 meals a day with two snacks. My food plan also has 4 sessions of exercise per week. I also have a refined sugar free dessert once a week.

Anonymity - Iím big on not telling other people's stories. Thatís not my business. What a gift!

Literature - being an avid reader, devouring OA literature is a way to relax for me. i read "For Today" every AM. I subscribe to lifeline, read it often and usually take it with me on trips. The orange book called "Abstinence" was helpful to me. I read the OA 12&12 regularly. Iíve read the entire big book a few times though Iím not as good at quoting it as others are. AA 12&12 has been quite enlightening, too. I find that the truths in our literature sort of seep into my unconscious mind and I start thinking they are my natural truths. Whatever works!

Step 11 - I pray every AM before getting out of bed (3rd step prayer, 7th step prayer, serenity prayer and a quick thanks for the new day and my many blessings). I meditate daily for 1-20 minutes. I pray throughout the day as follow-up to my telephone commitments.

This is what my program looks like today. It doesn't take as much time as you'd think. Now that my thoughts are clear of obsession more often than not, I have a whole mess of extra time on my hands.

Lisa B.

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