When I entered OA, I lived in a constant state of depression from the shame and guilt I felt. I soon heard in meetings that guilt was when I perceived I made a mistake and shame was when I felt I was a mistake. Well, I certainly felt like a mistake and asked God and myself why was I born. I could see no earthly reason for me to be on the planet.
Gradually, as I did my Fourth Step and gave it away in Step Five, I began to identify the things that contributed to my shame. One of the greatest feelings of failure and shame concerned my role as a mother. That my children are now grown, responsible, and loving adults did not alter that I felt like a total failure to them. Could this be because food was my number-one priority during much of their childhood? I was so busy obsessing, bingeing, and stuffing down feelings that I missed much of the joys of raising these beautiful spirits who radiate curiosity, creativity, innocence, and wonder. The guilt of missing that experience continues to be a part of my ongoing forgiveness process with the Steps.
Step Six was and is one of the most challenging for me. It asks me to look at the payoffs I am getting from the defects (I call them defenses) I identified. I found that much of what I held onto gave me the feeling of a martyr; I liked the pity others gave me. I was big into self-pity, and struggle and hardship are more comfortable for me than success. In other words, this Step made me honest about the motives for my continuing shame and guilt cycle.
Again, gradually I came to know greater self-worth. I was willing to make amends and let go of old resentments, fears, and judgments. One of my greatest challenges has been to forgive myself and realize I, at any time, am doing the best I can with the awareness I have. I now know I have choices about how I see and perceive everything, and with the Steps I keep in contact with HP to guide me in all my choices. How freeing!
I have been in OA for twenty years and have maintained a 30-pound (14-kg) release of shame and weight. Thank you, HP and OA.
Reprinted from Lifeline magazine