Four Decades

On January 19, 2016, I will enjoy forty years of recovery in Overeaters Anonymous. On that day, the fifty-sixth anniversary of the founding of OA, I will wish I could say I have forty years of abstinence. But I have had plenty of ups and downs, sometimes enjoying years of abstinence, sometimes struggling to maintain a few days.

On that day in 1976, a depressed, obese 25-year-old staggered into a small church on a cold morning. There were nineteen women and me, a desperate, 225-pound (102 kg) man who knew he had found the right place.

Today, despite all my ups and downs, I can say with gratitude that I have maintained a 40-pound (18-kg) weight loss for the past fifteen years, and I am within 5 pounds (2 kg) of my goal weight.

Living OA’s Twelve Steps has given me a life beyond my wildest dreams. I enjoyed a professional career in government service that ended at a very high level. At my recent retirement ceremony, current and former heads of the federal agency for which I worked praised my contribution to the nation. they never knew I was in OA; all those years, my OA fellows protected my anonymity.

When I joined OA, I was bankrupt. Now I am financially independent and free to choose from positive opportunities. Most important among these choices is to give more service to OA than ever before. I am humbled to admit I have been a “free rider,” taking more from the program than I gave back. It’s time to pay forward what I have so generously been given.

I was able to reconcile relationships with my parents and siblings before my parents died from lung cancer. Today I have the forgiveness, love, and respect of my siblings and their children and grandchildren. My recovery family (sponsors, therapist, and Higher Power) carried me through two difficult marriages and two painful divorces. I learned — slowly and stubbornly — what honesty, openness, and willingness mean to create a healthy relationship. Today I am in a long-term relationship with the most supportive, delightful woman I have ever met.

Let me share the simple lessons that I have learned.

I know enough about my history and psychology, and about neuroscience, compulsive overeating, and Twelve Step programs, to write volumes. But not one word of that knowledge has ever stopped me from eating compulsively. Only taking Steps One, Two, and Three each day stops me from overeating.

The older I get, the simpler and more basic my program gets. I email my plan of eating to my sponsor daily. I follow a “3B” food plan—no bread (or flour of any kind), no booze, and no bon-bons (refined sugars). I use the Tools imperfectly, but regularly.

Last, I believe in progress not perfection. When I was young and had strong abstinence, I had the hubris to look down on those who struggled. My karma has paid me back with many years of slipping and sliding. I am learning humility and compassion for others.

OA not only changed my life, it saved my life. It transformed a distraught, angry young man into a patient, considerate middle-aged man who is at peace with himself and the world. I look forward to forty more years of recovery, service, health, prosperity, and joy.

~ Robert P., Reston, Virginia USA