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What a Gift to Grow

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Abstinence has changed my life physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Abstinence has stopped physical cravings and emotional swings. It has opened the doorway for acceptance and understanding as well as Step work around my powerlessness over food, people, places, and things. Abstinence has opened me up to Higher Power, inner growth, and open-mindedness. One day at a time, Higher Power and this program have kept me on track to new learning.

Abstinence has allowed me to feel at ease. I can buy clothes that fit and wear them year after year. It’s given me more appreciation of Higher Power, the earth, opportunities in this lifetime, and my chance to develop a loving care for myself and others with Higher Power’s guidance.

Abstinence has guided me in planning for self-care while traveling. To ensure physical abstinence and the ability to follow a plan of eating (designed for me by a registered dietitian who is familiar with my health history, food addiction, and OA recovery), I’ve learned to avoid over-planning while ensuring I have access to healthy food. I plan time after my arrival to buy groceries, and I stay in places with a basic kitchen so there’s a way for me to prepare healthy, abstinent meals.

When traveling by plane, I pack weighed-and-measured meals for the travel day and the following morning. I do this so I can remain abstinent despite delays. I ensure the meals have no liquid or gooey ingredients that could cause them to be confiscated at security.

When traveling by car, I pack dehydrated and non-perishable foods as a backup to ensure I can make healthy meals to nourish my body. I stay connected to the Fellowship through phone or on-site meetings. Reading Conference-approved literature, writing on OA recovery, and making telephone calls as part of the OA-HOW structured meeting format keeps me in touch with the Tools, which serve as a barrier to potential relapse.

Abstinence has prevented wear and tear on my joints and circulatory system that could have progressed from continued binge eating and the excessive weight I carried before recovery in OA.

Abstinence has prevented marital strain. What a relief it has been to know that, because of Higher Power and this program, I haven’t tried making my husband responsible for relieving the negative thinking that kept me stuck in the disease of compulsive overeating for decades.

I’m getting better and better at avoiding over-commitment to activities. I rarely need to cancel plans with others due to exhaustion, which is something I did regularly before recovery and in early recovery when I was still fueled by self-will.

Abstinence has made me open to guidance. People sharing with me is a gift, not a burden. This change has improved my relationships and well-being. At work, it has improved my ability to be a team member, and it’s more and more possible for me to be relaxed, easy, and confident in HP’s will. Cowering to others, shirking my responsibilities, or living in fearful “what ifs” do not support emotional abstinence, and I’m grateful to my HP and OA for helping me dig up the patterns that had kept me from being productive and sane at work. Prior to recovery, I was ready to resign from my job. In abstinence, I’ve worked at the same job for more than ten years. What a gift to grow!

Daily prayer and meditation has helped me explore my beliefs, attitudes, physical sensations, and thoughts. Learning to discern truth from fiction through reading, writing, and conversations with OA members and other trustworthy allies has freed me up mentally and taught me lifelong thinking skills.

Abstinence has made me willing to step out of my comfort zone for better physical and emotional health. Learning to speak up when eating in the homes of other people and in restaurants was good practice for learning to speak up with relatives, friends, and colleagues. Just as it’s not possible for me to be physically and emotionally healthy while eating foods that cause physical cravings and insane behaviors, it’s not possible for me to be physically and emotionally healthy when I put people, places, and things before my abstinence and HP. Sometimes I need to let go of my participating in group plans, and shedding some tears while writing or meditating helps with this.

Conscious contact with a loving Higher Power of my understanding was not on my list of priorities when I first joined OA in 2004. Fortunately, HP and the program lovingly welcomed me anyway. I was still compulsively overeating back then and felt cruddy physically and emotionally, so the First Step, which doesn’t mention a Higher Power, made sense to me. (I’d thought subsequent steps mentioning God and spirituality could use some rewriting—haha!) But now, with Higher Power’s help, I’m befriending myself more consistently and wishing the best for others. Daily prayer, meditation, reading Conference-approved literature, writing, sponsorship, using the telephone, and attending at least one OA-HOW meeting per week are creating 1) space and practice for conscious contact with Higher Power and 2) balance in the three-legged stool of physical, emotional, and spiritual recovery that supports me.

Trust, joy, faith, and friendship are spiritual gifts pouring into my life through a doorway opened with abstinence. Thank you, Higher Power and OA, for these gifts.

— Alyson H.

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