Working it out

When I entered OA over 20 years ago, my life was out of control. I weighed just under 200 pounds (91 kg) at 5 feet 4 inches (163 cm), my blood pressure was around 170/110, and I was depressed. I had never owned more than two pairs of slacks in any one size because I never knew what size would fit me. I had low self-esteem. Every problem seemed major, even insurmountable. I was unemployed and wondered when I would work again and feel purpose and direction in my life.

I learned early in OA I ate to deny my feelings and anything could trigger my eating (anger, fear, boredom, excitement, you name it). Yesterday a woman from my OA home meeting called. She shared about a long-standing, seemingly insurmountable problem similar to one I had encountered many years ago in OA: waking in the middle of the night and being unable to go back to sleep without eating a meal. I suggested an approach that has worked for me in handling many issues. I explained that usually the problem/obsession involves either anger or fear.

What I do first is to write a detailed description of the problem. Next I list program tools to counter the obsession. I suggested the following for this woman’s situation (but different tools can be used depending on the circumstances):

  • I am powerless over the situation (Step One).
  • The insanity is the belief I cannot fall asleep without eating an entire meal. In this dangerous situation, I need to do the opposite of the insanity (Step Two).
  • I need to take the actions I can and put the rest in God’s hands (Step Three).
  • Like it or not, I am exactly where I am supposed to be (acceptance). I need to ask myself, “How important is it?”
  • I need to put first things first, to realize I am blaming and doubting myself, perhaps feeling self-pity, or wondering, “Why is this happening to me?” “Why am I the only one this happens to?” “Am I a hopeless case?” I have to forgive myself and drop any self-judgment. (When I do “first things first,” I often try to write down what I need to do and take action.)
  • Next I must take action using any program tools that can counter the obsession and then turn the rest over. This tends to solve the problem and/or avoid eating over it.
  • If the problem persists, I can read what I wrote to my sponsor or other trusted persons in my support system. This is doing a mini Fifth Step, the opposite of isolating. Keeping the problem a secret will only add to my burden and frustration.
  • I keep a journal or notebook of situations in which the above tools and techniques have worked for me so I can use them as a reference for similar future situations. (This writing tool has been wonderful for me, working in many different situations.)

I feel grateful to OA, and to a former sponsor who taught me this tool, for this wonderful way of life. Above all, I am grateful to my Higher Power, whom I choose to call God.

— Marc L., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
From the March, 2012 issue of Lifeline Magazine