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Blessings and Opportunities

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I have been maintaining my abstinence through illness, one day at a time, for the past eighteen months, and I am so grateful to other abstinent fellows who had shared with me, prior to my diagnosis, that they faced chronic health conditions. I thought it was a miracle they were abstinent despite their ill health. Then I was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, and now, I am living that same miracle.

As I write this, I’m four years and four months abstinent from compulsive overeating, which is a miracle in itself. I credit this to following the program as set out in the Big Book and the AA Twelve and Twelve and passed on to me by my abstinent sponsor: to follow a sane, weighed-and-measured plan of eating that supports my nutritional needs and to work the Step I am on each day. This formula worked for me before I became ill and continues to work, even on days when I have pain, exhaustion, nausea, or chills or when I’m emotionally charged with self-pity, anger, fear, or irritability.

Within a few short months, I went from working full-time, giving service in OA, socializing, doing hobbies, studying, and walking, to being bedridden for months at a time. I felt as if my identity, which at the time I considered to be what I did, had been stripped from me. This reduced activity caused me to put on weight, and my sponsor agreed that my pre-bedridden plan of eating no longer supported my physical needs.

So, I committed to a reduced quantity of food, which made me fearful initially, but I wrote about it, prayed, and shared my fears with my sponsor. I knew in my heart that I didn’t want to eat more than my body needed, and I knew my Higher Power would take care of me if I surrendered completely because it has been true ever since I took Step One fully.

At times, food and different menu options consumed my thoughts as I laid in bed, and I would clock-watch, waiting for my next meal. I was grateful for these reminders that I am a compulsive overeater and that food thoughts may arise when I am displeased. And I am so grateful that I have a desire to be abstinent, one day at a time, no matter what, and I can use the Tools, even when bedridden, to help me stay abstinent. Again, I’m grateful to my abstinent fellows who share their abstinence despite life’s challenges to remind me that abstinence is possible even through tough terrain.

This time of illness has brought many blessings and opportunities for growth: Getting honest about my physical abilities. I resigned several OA service positions at the group and national service board levels, and it was humbling to see that the show goes on without me! I had to take fewer sponsees, and I adjusted their daily call times to accommodate my sleep patterns. I felt self-centered fear of what my sponsees would think of me when I spoke up for what I needed, but with the help of an abstinent sponsor, I was able to make those changes sanely.

Practicing surrender to my healing plan and acceptance of my circumstances. This was challenging because, until I became ill, I’d been mostly self-sufficient and believed I knew best. Some days I cried or threw a tantrum because I didn’t want to be in physical discomfort or take my rest. I was full of ambition and didn’t want to accept today as it was. I now write a daily inventory to help me see my shortcomings and how I create my own disturbance by not accepting what I cannot change. I share these writings with my sponsor, who tells me rather directly that I’m on the pity potty, which I’ve come to appreciate.

Asking for help and letting go of control. Some days I’ve been too tired to prepare my meals, and I’ve become grateful for a weighed-and-measured plan of eating and a partner who’s willing to help. He can prepare and measure my meals  and help me to the dining room table. Releasing control and trusting someone to prepare and serve my meal was a huge step for me and helped me see that it’s my Higher Power that keeps me abstinent, not a plan of eating or the food scale.

Using the appropriate tool for the circumstances. I’d been attending two face-to-face meetings a week before becoming housebound. I tried virtual meetings, but what worked best for me was to make frequent telephone calls to a few abstinent fellows from my face-to-face groups. This let me develop more personal relationships with them and helped me feel less alone. Reading Lifeline and other literature has been a lifesaver, especially when I haven’t had the energy for a fellowship call. I can continue to work with one sponsee, and this is also an invaluable lifeline.

Cleaning up my past. When I first became ill, I had a lot of time to sit with my own thoughts. Unpleasant memories surfaced, especially of actions for which I felt I owed amends, and these brought on several months of heart palpitations, anxiety, and fear, for which I sought medical help. My sponsor suggested I put these amends aside and look at them later from a saner perspective. I was grateful for this because my self-esteem was on the floor, and I would have approached these people in a groveling way. Today, I’m glad to have had this period of spiritual healing. Things in my past have come to mind that I hadn’t remembered when working Step Nine a few years ago, and I’m making amends sanely and appropriately.

Deepening my relationship with my Higher Power. I am working Step Eleven, and this has helped me appreciate the blessings in my life: abstinence, warm bed, food in the fridge, running water, birdsong, sun rays, and hot baths, among others.

In my experience, abstinence from compulsive overeating has been possible one day at a time, despite chronic illness, through a growing relationship with my Higher Power and a willingness to surrender to my plan of eating, to work the Steps, and to accept the support of abstinent fellows who’ve walked this road before me. Bless you all and thank you!

— Anonymous

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