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Gut Check

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Before I came home to OA, it didn’t take much to send me to the food. While stress and other emotions were obvious reasons for me to bury myself in junk food, other feelings— physical ones like being tired or in pain—also gave me all the excuses I needed to overeat. I had no spiritual life either, so I only had my own willpower to drive me, and believe me, that was exhausting!

Now, I am more than two years abstinent and have worked my way through the Twelve Steps twice in an organized fashion. I doubt I’ll ever learn all there is to learn, so I’m certainly a work in progress; however, I now have a plan to follow when I realize I want to overeat, and I know I want to overeat because my willpower is trying to take control again.

First, I check my physical well-being: Am I really hungry? How long has it been since I last ate? Perhaps I’m just thirsty? Am I tired, not feeling well, or in pain? When was the last time I exercised? Has my food plan gotten boring?

If the urge to overeat is not coming from a disturbance in my physical wellbeing, it is likely an emotional issue. This is much harder for me to diagnose because, for the past fifty years, I used food to suppress my emotions. Now, I use a written list of positive and negative emotions to help identify what I’m feeling. I know now that I cannot indulge in negative emotions, because that is a serious threat to my abstinence. Once I identify a negative emotion, I consider the best way to cope with it and decide whether I need to make amends.

If I have no control over something or someone who is triggering negativity in my life, I give the problem to my HP, then move on to seek ways to be happy. I have lately learned how to change my attitude by doing things that give me joy. Examples include gardening, spending time in nature, exercising, meditating, using affirmations, adding to my gratitude list, spending time with friends or family, sleeping well, turning off the news, planning a trip or a project, and praying for or helping other people. I especially like planning a small party since there will be lots of laughter.

If I have eliminated physical and emotional causes, then I must be neglecting my spiritual practices. My solutions include reading Steps One, Two, Three, and Eleven immediately. I make sure I’m reviewing the Step Three and Step Seven prayers (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., pp. 63 and 76) daily. A common failing of mine is to get too busy to meditate, so I make meditation a priority again. I review my action plan to ensure that I’m making abstinence the most important focus of my day and using all the OA Tools. The Tools that work best for me are reading OA literature and journaling.

With this plan in place, I no longer panic and stress about losing my abstinence. I am reassured that my program and my Higher Power have prepared me to overcome the obstacles that life will throw at me.

K. H., Oviedo, Florida USA

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