Hi my name is Sharon and I never thought I'd ever be able to say this, but I am truly grateful to be a compulsive overeater because if I wasn't, I'd never have been desperate enough to have needed this wonderful 12 step program that has enabled me to like my life in a far more sane and happy (much more of the time) way. I know that I will always be a compulsive overeater and I'm so thrilled to be once again leading this quarter of WTS.
I'm not quite sure when I realised that I had a problem around food but looking back at my childhood, the signs were probably already there. As a child I wasn't overweight at all, but I was very lonely and withdrawn as well as being very shy and far happier with books and being on my own. Of course reading books was usually accompanied by some or other snack, and I used to love to lick the bowl when any baking was being done.
My dieting began when I was doing ballet with all the pressure to be thin, and as a result I subsequently became a yo-yo dieter over the years. Even though I always saw myself as fat, looking at old photos I certainly wasn't and at any given time was perhaps only a few kilos overweight if that. I'm not quite sure whether my distorted body image came from all the years of doing ballet or from poor self esteem, but I certainly had, and sometimes still do, have distorted body image. I also started to wear glasses when I hit puberty and of course boys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses. In addition I became a perfectionist and an overachiever of note hoping that would make me feel better or be loved more. But despite that I still always felt insecure and never quite good enough, and it was those feelings that drove me to the food, so I was either on diet or else I was compulsively eating to stave off the feelings of loneliness and emptiness inside. I used to live in the future when my life would be wonderful because I either lost weight or met the man of my dreams and lived happily ever after.
Of course my life never turned out the way I'd hoped it would and my 1st marriage ended in a bitter divorce leaving me with three small children. In addition to that my only brother was killed in a car accident when he was only thirty. Then when I remarried I once again thought that my life would be perfect, but that also presented numerous difficulties what with baggage from the past and children from both sides. Finally when my stepson committed suicide in my house at age eighteen, I began to use food even more than before as a way of blocking out the painful emotions and grief. I even used food more than ever then to self medicate my depression although I didn't know it at the time, and the binges became far worse than they'd ever been plus of course picking up weight.
Fortunately I was led to the doors of OA 21 years ago and I related to what everyone in my first meeting shared. However at that time I was still angry with God for all the painful losses I'd experienced, so the spiritual aspect of the program seemed way too daunting to even contemplate and I left briefly on step two. I mean where was God when my only brother was killed in a car accident and when my stepson committed suicide? Fortunately for me I got desperate enough because the pain that the food was causing me became worse than the pain it was meant to take away. So I decided to come back and just do whatever those crazy people were doing, because I saw in their faces something that I wanted. I didn't know at the time what that was, but now I know that what I saw in their faces was hope, and I felt so hopeless at the time so I needed that. I wanted what they had so I decided to do whatever they were doing for recovery. At first I just did the footwork and "acted as if" I believed it would work and that there was a Higher Power that could restore me to sanity.
My journey in this program has not been an easy one, and over the years I have had many slips along the way. Looking back now I see now that it probably was because I hadn't really surrendered and was still trying to do it on self will alone. When I was finally able to give my major binge food one day at a time which was one of the biggest miracles for me, I started to believe that maybe, just maybe, there was a Higher Power who could help with my food because on my own I had never been able to do that.
This program works on three levels namely physical, emotional and spiritual. When I came into program I'd been most concerned with the weight and had lost weight initially but several years into recovery after many slips along the way, I finally realised that perhaps I didn't know everything there was to know about diets and dieting and consulted a dietician who understood eating disorders. I discovered that deprivation is a huge trigger for me and in the past I was either on diet or bingeing my brains out. It's been a learning process for me to find a food plan that I can stick to long term, and whilst at first it seemed more than my diet head said I should eat, as a result of that I don't feel deprived. While my abstinence now is far from perfect, I have slowly been able to find the grey area between dieting and bingeing like crazy, and that is a huge miracle for me. I've also come to realise that what I weigh doesn't define who I am and as I've heard it said, it's not what we eat that makes us fat but what's eating us. In the past I either buried all my emotions or else I became resentful, and of course would turn to food to help bury all the painful emotions.
Whilst doing the steps and taking the action, I began to clear away the wreckage of the past and was finally able to look at what my side had been in all the things that had happened to me. In the past I had lived in guilt and blame so it was always about what the other person had done to me that caused me to turn to food. I mean if you'd had a mother, ex husband, child or whatever like I had, you'd also have to eat. It was always poor me and as they say in AA, "Poor me, poor me, pour me a drink", only for me was another trip to the fridge, cupboard or shops for more binge food.
Each time I have done one of the steps in particular the amends, I peel away some more layers of the onion and as a result my relationships have improved dramatically. I had always felt so guilty about what I had done to my kids because of the divorce and what followed, but what I have only recently discovered is that whilst I did what I physically needed to do for my children, I was emotionally unavailable to them. Today I am able to change the way I am with them so that I am a better granny than I was a mom. I was even able to finally forgive my ex husband, something that I never thought would be possible.
But for me the most wonderful change for me has been on the spiritual side. Before program I was spiritually dead inside, and had this huge hole in my soul that I kept trying to fill with food. The God I have found in this program is very different from the God of my childhood whom I perceived to be a punishing God. He accepts and loves me unconditionally which was something I never felt I got when I was growing up, and is there for me even when I screw up which is often. Of course I still need to do my part so I need to do the footwork and leave the results up to my Higher Power. In the past I struggled with believing that God could help me with my eating especially as I'm such a rational logical person who needed to have an "if-then" hypothesis before I could believe something would work. I know now that God acts through people and at each meeting I attend I hear something that I needed to hear for that day, and that for me is God speaking to me through my fellows. One thing I heard at a meeting once that really helped me is that God isn't an outward possibility but an inward reality, so He is with me whenever I need to access Him.
In short the bottom line for me is that I've now realised that it really isn't just about food and weight, and in the words of an OA retreat I once went on I came for vanity but I've stayed for sanity. I hope you all will. The important thing for me was that even when I slipped I just needed to get back up and start over. I'm from South Africa and there's a lovely saying by Nelson Mandela who died recently that says: "Do not judge me by my successes; judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again." I hope you'll just keep on going even when it's not so easy and the going gets tough.
I generally work my program using the 12 steps and 12 traditions of Overeaters Anonymous but I also use the Big Book of AA which has some wonderful insights and is available online. If you don't have the 12 & 12 you can always use the Big Book and substitute alcohol for food. They say this is a simple program but it's not easy. It just takes work and lots of willingness. As it says in the Big Book of AA "If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it-then you are ready to take certain steps. At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not." AA Big Book, p.58. I certainly know I could not. Hope you feel the same and that you enjoy this recovery journey with me.
You will need a sponsor for working the steps so hope you have found one. However some members also like to share with the loop which in turn could help someone else. If you haven't got a sponsor yet here is a link and some ways to find one.
Alternatively the Loop sponsor coordinator is Shlomo and his email address is email@example.com
We will be working in most cases a step every week but this may differ depending on the step. As we will only officially be starting the steps on Monday, perhaps it would be a good idea if you like to introduce yourself to the loop and tell us a bit about yourself.
1. What made you decide you needed the 12 step program for your eating problems?
2. Do you think that your weight was the main thing that bothered you or do you think there are other areas of your life that need attention?
3. What you hope to achieve by working the steps?
Love in recovery,
The Twelve Steps