I entered program 33 years ago; I was 5’4″ and approaching 200 pounds. I believed I was joining a program to control my weight, or my eating, for I grazed all day long. What I discovered is that when I followed the recommendations of my sponsor, the weight I carried on my body came off. I was not aware of the weight I held in my head—the weight of fear, doubt, insecurity, anger, and rage. I often described myself at that time as a “tantrumming teenager,” even though I was 31!

I learned that I had to turn away from the things I was using to stuff down my feelings and “go away” and turn toward strategies, tools, literature, people, and meetings that would calm down my head and heart. When I prepared meals initially, I caught myself carrying my shoulders up by my ears. When I was baffled and confused in life, I would intensely react. I lived in a fight or flight mode.

I learned little by little about the 12 steps of the program by reading one page at a time from the Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book” every night – and through discussions with my sponsor, people at meetings, AWOLs, and Big Book Step Study meetings. I learned to turn toward a power greater than myself, to breathe, to trust that I would get what I needed when I needed it.

In step-study meetings, members often say, “Hi, my name is Maryellen. I am a compulsive overeater; I have been through the steps as outlined in the Big Book with a loving sponsor, and I practice steps 10, 11, and 12 on a daily basis.” The keyword for me is practice. This month, I have begun the study and discussion again of step 11 with a group of OA fellows.

The book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions states, “There is a direct linkage among self-examination, meditation, and prayer. Taken separately, these practices can bring much relief and benefit. But when they are logically related and interwoven, the result is an unshakable foundation for life” (p. 98). That is what I have received by practicing the principles of the program in all my affairs.

What a gift I have received by learning about and practicing the steps of the program. A 12 Step prayer/meditation I once read was called “The Weight of the World.” I offer it here.

O God of many names, bless You for lifting the weight of the world off my shoulders. It was never mine to carry in the first place. Surrendering my will to You has removed the loneliness and isolation that addiction placed within me. I need other people. I need their help. The key to unlocking the many gifts of recovery is asking for help. Your direction and love have taught me to ask for help and help when asked.

Maryellen L