I walked into my first OA meeting in late June, 2003. I had gained 70 pounds in the previous 9 months. I was obese for the first time in my life. In those 9 months – once I’d finally become a functioning, employed, law-abiding citizen –I was eating healthily during the day, but I could not stop eating at night.
Since getting sober in 2001, I had met people in AA who were maintaining significant weight loss. I learned they were going to OA. I didn’t know the exact details of their program, but they all seemed to have a food plan that eliminated sugar and flour, and they weighed and measured their food. That wasn’t for me. I was an alcoholic and a drug addict – and I had a problem with night-eating and couldn’t stop gaining weight – but I “knew” I wasn’t a food addict. I kept trying my own solutions: alarms on my bedroom door, not keeping much food in the apartment, counting calories, forcing my very heavy body to do high-impact exercise daily. But as things got worse, my AA sponsor encouraged me to attend an OA meeting. I agreed, but only to prove to her it wouldn’t work.
My first meeting was at a small meeting at noon in Post Office Square. They were all thin, nicely dressed, and clearly happy to see each other. I didn’t belong here; I was the only fat person there. I heard that many of them used to be up to 100 pounds heavier. They described doing all the things with food that I did. A woman turned to me at the end of the meeting: “Are you new? Do you need a food plan? Do you need a sponsor?” I burst into tears. I told her I would be able to follow any food plan during the day, but I got up and ate in my sleep. I didn’t think anything could keep me from doing that. She said, “Why don’t you try it just for today?”
During the next couple of weeks, I had a few breaks at night, but eventually I was able to go from dinner to breakfast without eating anything. Over the next 3 years, I got involved in all kinds of service, worked the steps, and stayed in the “center of the pack”. Although I lost all my extra weight (about 100 pounds), I had addictions to artificial sweeteners and caffeine, about which I was in denial. Slowly, over time, I became resentful about sponsor questioning me about my food, and became defiant and resistant to suggestions. One night I woke up in front of the refrigerator with a piece of “abstinent” protein in my hand and a piece partially dissolved in my mouth. For the next years I never left, I never stopped working with a sponsor, I never stopped working the steps or the tools, but I also couldn’t get through the nights without eating.
How did I finally get out of relapse? I have no single answer, but I listened to phone meetings where I heard long term recovery. I found their programs extreme, but the desperation grew. Finally, I called someone who was available to sponsor and told her I was willing to do whatever she told me to do. Almost 10 years later, I am blown away by the gifts in my life. Yes, my “thin” clothes still fit after all these years, but the biggest gifts are getting to be present for all of life’s incredible joys and sorrows and being able to work the steps without the numbing of compulsive eating.
Thank you to all who kept reminding me “Don’t give up until the miracle happens.”