September is a beautiful transition month from the heat of August to the chill of autumn. The 12 steps of OA follow the months of the year; this month we get to read and discuss the 9th Step. It reads: Made amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. This is a continuation of the work we did in Step 8, made a list of those we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
My experience prior to OA was saying “I’m sorry” frequently, but nothing changed. I felt bad about myself for never measuring up to others who never seemed to make social blunders. I blamed my appearance, mostly my weight, for my unhappiness. My self-esteem ranged from low to high, depending on the situation. I believed my intelligence to be high as proven by my success at school and in my jobs. On the other hand, I had a difficult time getting along with my supervisor(s) and peers. I hurt a lot of feelings, stepped on a lot of toes as I attempted to control my weight, my co-workers, my family and friends. I didn’t know that fear was driving me. Fear of others’ opinions, not good enough, financial insecurity, etc., the same things most of us have feared. That fear led me to marriage at 20 years old (fear of being an old maid). It kept me in a dysfunctional marriage to an alcoholic long past time to leave (fear I could never manage on my own). And it led to my belief that my life would be better if I could only be slim.
I joined the Army the month my divorce was final. I did well in the Army, except for managing my weight. I continued yo-yo dieting and overeating, exercising and practicing bulimia to try to manage the overeating. It didn’t work. Six and one-half years later I left the Army and moved home to Burlington, VT. I found Overeaters Anonymous (OA). I enjoyed a couple of years with my OA people, going to meetings, having a sponsor, socializing. I gained some self-confidence, did well at my job, joined church activities, and in May 1986 I graduated college with a BS in Business Administration. Referring now to Bill’s Story in the AA book, I was flying high. My confidence was soaring, I had the idea to move somewhere else where my brilliance would be appreciated. In June I was offered, and accepted, a job transfer to the Boston area. A lot has happened since then.
My OA story in Massachusetts began in April 1987 when I was sick and tired and contemplating suicide. I found OA, got a sponsor at my first meeting, and followed her suggestions for working the tools and studying the steps. After some slipping and sliding I was able to stay abstinent and attend a number of AWOL step studies. Around fourteen years or so into my program I went to a Big Book Step Study meeting (BBSS). Thank you HP that I got a sponsor and began the work of studying the steps as they are presented in AA’s big book of Alcoholics Anonymous. This time I applied myself to reading and studying the first chapters up to step four. I committed to step three, and to help someone else through the steps when I was ready.
I wrote my fourth step, read my fifth step to my sponsor, and took steps six and seven. Then it was time to do steps eight and nine. For the first time I was able to identify where I was wrong in my relationships with others, and became willing to make amends. I had fears around approaching people, but my sponsor guided me through writing what I wanted to say to each person before I made connections with them. Some I had to write a letter I couldn’t mail, many I did face to face or by telephone. I did begin to feel relief after a while. Now that the “wreckage of the past” has been cleaned up to the best of my ability, I use steps 10 through 12 to maintain serenity and keep my side of the street clean, and 8 and 9 as needed. I am so grateful to God and OA for the wonderful life I have today, for the change in my thinking and behaviors. It isn’t perfect, but it is better than any life I could have imagined.
Barbara Ann, Compulsive Overeater in Recovery