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The Great Miracle

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Recently, I was asked to write a response to a newcomer’s question: “What can OA offer me?”

I suffer from two problems that make me powerless over my compulsive eating: a physical problem and a mental one.

Certain foods, ingredients, and eating behaviors trigger me to eat uncontrollably. Many times while eating trigger foods, I tried to will myself to stop eating, but I was unable to do it. I’d just continue to eat. It was like trying to stop blinking my eyes or breathing; my body took over and I could not control myself. It didn’t happen all the time, but it happened often enough for me to realize and accept it was true: there were trigger foods and eating behaviors that caused me uncontrollable cravings. This was a physical problem. Once I started, I couldn’t stop.

Then there was the mental problem. Even when I was on a diet that eliminated my triggers, I always found a reason—a good one or an obviously stupid one—to go back to those triggers. I might have had a deep emotional reason, but I could also use reasons like: Oh, it’s organic, so it must be healthy. Somebody made it especially for me. It’s free. I paid for it. No one’s watching. I’ve been good for [any period of time]. Even the diets I tried told me I could eat everything in moderation once I lost my excess weight, so that became a reason to indulge in my trigger foods and eating behaviors.

It didn’t matter what the reason was; I always fell victim to it. My mind could not put up barriers. I would say to myself, “I won’t. I won’t.” Then my own brain, or someone else, would say something as stupid as, “How can it hurt?” and I would be persuaded that it couldn’t. This was a mind problem. My mind could not keep me from going back to my triggers.

This is the vicious circle I identified: I can’t stop once I’ve started, and I can’t stop from starting.

But there is a solution.

The Twelve Steps that started with Alcoholics Anonymous and have given birth to dozens of fellowships, including OA, are what gets rid of the mental problem. Once we give up the foods, ingredients, mixtures of ingredients, and behaviors that we know trigger uncontrollable cravings and work the Steps to the best of our ability, it is guaranteed after Step Nine (and often happens before) that our minds will become sane. Instead of being persuadable and longing to go back to those triggers, we will have the sanity to say, “Why would I indulge in poison? Why would I want to pick up things when I know I won’t be able to stop bingeing. Why start something that won’t end?”

This is the great miracle I have personally experienced for more than twenty five years. It’s a miracle shared by millions of people, with dozens of different addictions, since the Twelve Steps were first written down. I can be around things I used to be addicted to and not want to indulge in them. I can be around ice cream and potato chips and buttered popcorn and cheesecake and all my trigger foods, yet not be interested. Even if they are free and no one else is around, they mean nothing. They are poison to me. The vicious circle no longer exists. I will always have the physical problem of not being able to stop once I start, but the Twelve Steps have given me the sanity of not wanting to start again. If that seems like a miracle to you, maybe the Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous are for you. Only you can decide.

If you decide you are one of us, then you should know the Twelfth Step requires those of us who have worked the Steps to help you to the best of our ability. In fact, we need you, maybe even more than you may need us.

A big difference, perhaps the most difficult part of OA, is that we are not a “single-substance” fellowship. It is obvious that AA members must not drink alcohol. Each of us in OA, however, has to figure out for ourselves exactly what food substances or eating behaviors we have to stop indulging in because, for example, there are OA members who can safely eat things I cannot and vice versa. So, you’ll have to consult with others to help figure out your own plan of eating, but don’t let anybody tell you to just follow theirs.

Abstinence in OA is like sobriety in AA, and it is “the act of refraining from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors while working towards or maintaining a healthy body weight.” (Statement on Abstinence and Recovery, Business Conference Policy Manual, 1988b [amended 2019]). It comes when you adopt your plan of eating. Then you have to work the Steps as fast and as hard as you can because “Spiritual, emotional, and physical recovery is the result of living the Overeaters Anonymous Twelve Steps program” (ibid.). We guarantee you recovery and sanity if you keep abstinent while you work the Steps!

— Anonymous

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