Welcome to us all, who will be Working the Steps together over the next 12 weeks! Thank you for joining me on this adventure. Maybe you're a little nervous (I know i am)? Relax if you can: you cannot fail. The Steps aren't something we do once, get our grade, and graduate from. We are at the beginning of a journey that can continue for a lifetime.
Thank you to everyone who has introduced him/herself so far; I've enjoyed reading what you've written. So that you'll have a deeper sense of who I am and why you'd want to spend the next 12 weeks with me, I thought I'd share my recovery story. Tomorrow morning (Monday, where I live) I'll be posting my share and questions on Step One.
As you already know from Mari, I first came to OA in 1980. I don't have an extensive dieting history. I was living in Berkeley, CA, at the time, newly married at 23, and my binges had become so corrosive that I was becoming violent when I was in their grip. My therapist was the one who Twelfth-Stepped me into program. She asked me, "Has it ever occurred to you that you have a disease?" Well, of course it had not: as far as I was concerned, this was a moral issue, and I was a weak-willed person. And that was a mystery to me, since I knew good and darned well that in every other area of my life, I had immense willpower. Why not with food? I was so weak! Then she told me that if I couldn't learn to love myself fat (I weighed 190 at the time) then I would never learn to love myself thin. She told me about OA and I was so excited that 6 weeks later I rushed right off to a meeting. For the next 11 months, I went to maybe one meeting a week - maybe - because I was a very busy, important person and had other things to do. I didn't take phone numbers - no one could really understand my special, unique problems - and I didn't get a sponsor - ditto. I would go to a meeting, binge, and cry. The funny thing is, I knew OA was for me. It wasn't a diet, and I immediately "got" the idea of a disease. But I certainly didn't meet the conditions of our Third Tradition. That says, "The only requirement for OA membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively." Well, I had NO desire to stop eating compulsively. I had a strong desire to be thin; I just wanted to be told how to go right on eating the way I was eating, and be thin.
At the end of May of 1981 I hit bottom. I had binged my way up to over 213 pounds. In the midst of a binge I had physically attacked my husband. He told my therapist, and she used tough love. I was ashamed and scared, and I made a commitment, which I kept: the next morning I went to a meeting (there were 7 people there), got a sponsor (there was only one in the room and I didn't like her but I'd made that commitment) and took the first three steps. I used my sponsor's food plan, called in my food daily, and started reading the literature. I couldn't believe it - I stayed abstinent! I would wake up each morning in shock that I had made it through another 24 hours without compulsively eating! Within 18 months I had lost 100 pounds and worked all of the Steps with a sponsor.
I've been through a lot in this program, and I haven't eaten. With three years of abstinence my husband and I moved across the country to the East Coast (Mari misunderstood one thing: I'm a Yankee! I grew up in Vermont and outside Boston). We had no jobs, no house, nothing - except I had a list of meetings. I found us a house to rent and went to a meeting that night. I found a job and started a meeting because the ones on offer weren't at convenient times or places for me. I changed jobs and didn't eat. We built a house and I didn't eat. I lost my job and didn't eat. My husband left the marriage and I didn't eat. I sat in meetings and cried and cried, but I didn't eat. I started graduate school, and didn't eat.
Sadly, after completing my master's degree, with 12 years of abstinence from compulsive overeating, I fell off the beam for a while. I was living in the backwoods of Vermont, working a job that meant it was not always possible to drive the 45 minutes to the one weekly meeting. I had no say in what food was available, and there was no telephone. In those days, email was in its infancy and there were no online or telephone meetings (imagine!). Came the day when I slipped. I have never picked up my binge foods (sugar, flour) but my quantities got larger and larger, and my manner of eating was compulsive. This went on for several months, until I got back to civilization, got a sponsor who kicked my butt, and worked the program as written in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (AABB). I have been abstinent since then - over 16 years. I completed my doctorate - which I definitely could not have done if I hadn't been abstinent - moved to the south to marry my childhood sweetheart, became a stepmother, and started a job (all on the same day) and I didn't eat.
How do I work my program? For me, there is a Step 0: Put Down The Food. Our literature says that some people use the steps to get abstinent, while others get abstinent and then work the steps. I am in the latter category; I cannot (WILL not) work the steps unless I am abstinent. So my first rule is, Don't eat, no matter what! That's a rock-bottom commitment for me. I read program literature daily; I have a sponsor to whom I talk regularly; I have sponsees; I go to at least two meetings a week; I give service when asked; I weigh and measure my food from a food plan given to me by a nutritionist; I make and take OA telephone calls. Those are the tools, and they are effective in keeping me on track. The heartbeat of the program, though, is the 12 Steps. I start my day with a prayer to be kept abstinent and I take the first three steps daily. Throughout each day I keep myself aware that I am a COE and that as such I have certain needs and some restrictions. The most spiritual part of my day is when I am standing in the kitchen, weighing and measuring my food: it's just me and HP. As we work the Steps together, you'll learn more about how I apply the steps to my daily life.
When I came to OA, we had little literature of our own. We had some pamphlets, and we had the brown OA book (which I call "the chocolate book"). I "grew up" on the AA literature, so I refer to it a lot. There also were no online or telephone meetings. I use both now, but still prefer face-to-face (F2F) meetings and even go to an AA meeting once a week. They have really strong recovery there! My husband is in recovery in a 12 Step program, with 22 years, so I am fortunate that we work the Steps together and like to talk about them frequently. I want to emphasize, however, that my first husband wasn't in a program (he had no need of one) and even so I was able to be abstinent. Please don't think for a moment that you can't do this program because of another person. A word about my food plan: it's not magic. I weigh and measure, don't eat any sugar or refined carbohydrates, am a vegetarian and don't use caffeine. That's me. It might not be you. Not everyone in OA weighs and measures. I can only share my own experience, strength and hope. The answers are in the 12 Steps, not in any food plan.
Maybe you'd like to picture where I am while I write to you, and what my life is like? I'll be writing to you from my study, which is a bedroom in our house. It looks out over our backyard, in which there are trees and birds and grass. Today it is clear and warm and sunny (I HATE the cold and can't think why HP allows me to be cold EVER) and we are in the midst of a beautiful Spring. We have four cats. My stepchildren are grown and out of the house. In addition to working, we play old-timey and gospel music in a group called The Percolators; I take Spanish; and I work out four to five times a week. I recently started taking vinyasa yoga. I sing in a community chorus and serve on a couple of Boards of Trustees. (When I travel to Board meetings I take all my weighed and measured food along with me because it's not their responsibility to keep me abstinent).
Thank you to HP for giving me this opportunity to serve, and thanks to all of YOU for helping me to stay abstinent another 24 hours!
The Twelve Steps