I groan as I roll over and realize it’s morning. What did I eat last night? My brain feels foggy, my thinking confused, and I am filled with self-hatred. I decide to be “good” and eat a healthy breakfast, knowing I probably won’t make it to lunch without bingeing. In the trashcan lie the remnants of last night’s binge. I’ll delay today’s binge, but when the frenzy hits me, I’ll be clawing through the garbage.
By the time I became abstinent at age 25, I had done all the bingeing, purging and starving I could stand. I wanted my head to stop hurting, to gain 30 pounds (14 kg) and to achieve a healthy weight. I wanted to live in one city for more than a month, stay at a job for more than a few weeks and not feel sick and lethargic, afraid of everything and everyone. OA has given me much more.
My friend and I have set our tent backwards on a hill. We laugh about it as we cook our abstinent breakfast over a campfire. Backpacking out, we are besieged by mosquitoes and race the last miles to the car shouting the Serenity Prayer. I inhale a mosquito and my friend shrieks, “Is that on your food plan?” We dissolve into laughter. I am three months abstinent.
“Pass the salad, please.” I gaze at OA members who gather each month to have an abstinent potluck. I feel safe eating with them; I am learning how to be social again. After the meal we play Frisbee. I can’t catch it, but it doesn’t matter. I feel loved and accepted. I am 14 months abstinent.
I awaken on the beach to the sound of ocean surf. For a moment I can’t remember where I am. My friend is next to me in her sleeping bag. We are following the Grateful Dead across the US, camping and going to OA meetings. Life seems full of hope. I am two-and-a-half years abstinent.
I stare into the night sky, searching for the Southern Cross through wisps of billowing steam. Across from me are two new OA friends. We are relaxing in a hot spring in New Zealand, where I am spending five weeks traveling solo and going to OA meetings. I am 10 years abstinent.
I struggle up the last steps of a 13,000-foot pass in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. The wildflowers are brilliant. My backpack weighs 40 pounds, and I am fit and strong. My husband and I hike 50 miles up and down mountains for more than four-and-a-half days. I have been married four-and-a-half days. I am 15 years abstinent.
I open the envelope and stare at the certificate; I can’t believe my eyes. “Summa cum laude.” I have to look it up in the dictionary. I have just received a bachelor of science in computer science with highest honors. I am 16 years abstinent.
My 15-month-old son runs to me and hugs me. My heart swells with gratitude, amazement and joy. I can’t believe God chose to entrust this incredible being into our care, after seemingly insurmountable fertility problems. I am 18 years abstinent.
How did I get here? How is this life possible for someone like me? In exchange for the first compulsive bite, along with the actions you OA members advise me to take, I have received this amazing life full of joy and difficulty, beyond my wildest dreams.
Reprinted from Lifeline magazine