Reclaiming the Spirit

When I look at pictures of myself as a child, I see a young girl spinning, smiling and smelling lilacs. But my parents divorced when I was seven, and life became more difficult. Slowly I gained weight and retreated as I began to eat and eat. Each year I saw another 10 pounds (5 kg) on the scale. Each year I experienced more dismay and harassment from my family. I topped out at just over 300 pounds (136 kg). Of course, this top coincided with my bottom.

At 21, I felt different. I didn’t think I was supposed to date. I didn’t know what would become of me professionally. Even the glimmer of self-confidence I guarded inside me diminished because I was sure people judged and disliked my fat appearance. I felt I had to earn admiration and acceptance. I was my toughest critic.

Then I found OA, where I belonged the minute I walked in the door. The recovery that slowly followed could only have come from some power outside myself. This is obvious to me because my best devices had taken me to a demoralizing and uncomfortable weight. In the depths of my disease, I remember thinking the real solution to my weight problem (not my life problem) was to become a compulsive exerciser. This is laughable in hindsight. Probably no exercise regimen was rigorous enough to counteract all the calories I was taking in!

Once in program, I started to exercise in a healthy way. I replaced my family’s dysfunctional systems with the Traditions and Steps that make OA a safe place to recover. Since joining 10 years ago, I have given up things that no longer serve me, whether foods or friends. I have lost over 150 pounds (68 kg) and have maintained that loss for more than seven years.

The greatest opportunity and challenge of my life came this year. I’d never been farther south than Florida, yet I accepted a job in Brazil! The process has felt “Higher Powered.” I’m happy to find the Twelve Steps here in Brazil too, with OA literature translated from the familiar English versions.

“The will of God will never take me where the grace of God cannot protect me.” Recently, I heard these words read at a meeting. The will of my Higher Power has taken me far from home this time. My gratitude to OA runs deep. I know that no matter where I am on earth, as I turn away from excess food and toward my Higher Power, I will make it through whatever challenges and adventures are in my path.

My life has changed and continues on a changed trajectory from where it would have ended without OA. Every time I have feared letting go of something that does not suit me, I’ve been rewarded with serenity and growth on the other side. In the process of surrendering, I end up reclaiming the spirit I see when I look at those childhood pictures of myself.

Reprinted from Lifeline magazine