I have learned what true deprivation is: eating foods that trigger me to binge. When I binge, purge, or eat compulsively, I deprive myself of a happy, joyous, and free life. I have learned that I am powerless after the first bite. But I have the power to choose what is best for me—to take that first compulsive bite or to reach out and ask for help. I can choose to do the footwork, call my sponsor, or get to a meeting. I am powerless over food, but I am not powerless over choosing recovery.
I have learned that I have no willpower. That is not what keeps me abstinent. I do have the power to turn over my will. I gain freedom from my obsession by giving up the idea I can control this disease. I have learned that I don’t have to get abstinent; I just have to remain abstinent. Abstinence is a gift. I wake up abstinent every morning. If I want to remain abstinent, I can choose to get on my knees and ask for help.
I have learned that when I desire more of a specific food, sometimes it’s because of the feelings I relate to it— happy memories and feelings of comfort after eating it. When I identify this, I can make a phone call or write about those happy memories, rather than trying to linger in them by eating excess food.
I have learned that a food plan is a tool, not the definition of abstinence. Because this program does not require a specific food plan, I can find the healthiest eating plan to meet my nutritional requirements. Abstinence is “to refrain from.” I am abstinent if I do not overeat, binge, or purge. I have learned that slips are reminders that I am not immune to this disease—just in remission. Poor food choices can lead me to eat more or can help me work on humility. I am human and not perfect. Beating myself up is a dangerous, shaming behavior. Being gentle with myself soothes my soul and lets my humanity shine through. Slips are important lessons that keep my program strong.
I have learned that I can’t keep what I have if I don’t give it away. Service keeps me connected to OA, other members, and those still sick and suffering. It helps my program to know that in some way I may have planted a seed that could change someone’s life. Service keeps me coming back and helps me carry the OA message of recovery.
I have learned that OA is a personal program with no right or wrong way to recover. What works for me may not work for someone else. I must consider my specific trigger foods, allergies, and medical issues. Doing what is best for me, and still finding recovery, is important for healthy emotional and physical abstinence.
I have learned that I don’t make mistakes; I just learn another lesson. As my journey continues, I will continue to learn and grow. Without this program and my sponsor, OA friends, and Higher Power, I would never have found recovery. For today, I have made peace with food and live a happy, joyous, and free life.
— Reprinted from Lifeline magazine