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Working Out the Feelings

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I am so grateful for OA.

It’s September 12, 2017, and I have thirty-nine days of abstinence after being in program since January 21, which is a date I will never forget because it is eight days after my mom passed away due to her drug addiction. Her death marked a turning point in my compulsive overeating. What was once a hunch that only grew more obvious bit by bit, suddenly became a punch to the gut. Bingeing is what I did to survive the week following her death, but I knew the buck had to stop there.

After getting sober in another program, I had, for years, lost weight and controlled my weight by purging through exercise—exercise bulimia. Not until my body started falling apart did it dawn on me that my obsessive working out wasn’t normal. Why did I do it, I thought to myself over and over again, never once realizing it was because I was binge eating. I always thought it was the other way around. Only when I couldn’t lose the last 10 pounds (5 kg) after more than two years did the ball of yarn start to unravel. That brought me to January 21, 2017.

I managed to attain a couple of weeks of abstinence right away, but looking back, I know it was merely out of fear of how the previous week had gone: I’d stuffed every possible feeling surrounding my mom’s long, painful death by stuffing my face like I never had before.

Staying abstinent out of fear doesn’t last long; not for me, anyway. And after that, it was cycle after cycle of even worse binges. Due to neck and spinal problems, I was no longer able to purge by exercising two to four hours a day. My mind would race and keep me up at night. What was I to do? What would my bottom look like in this program? Why couldn’t I trust my Higher Power to take care of this for me? Why didn’t I believe he could help, the way he had for other substances? Would I turn to food until I was once again obese, then turn to other substances as I’d once done as a young person, ultimately dying a long painful death like my mom?

No, I was told. Just keep coming back. My HP sure does work through others to help me be able to connect with him! I shared these thoughts at meetings. I continued to work the Steps with my sponsor, finally coming around to my Fourth Step. And as I kept coming back and kept plugging away at Step Four, a miracle happened. I stayed abstinent for one day. Then two. Then three, and so on. Before I knew it, and without a lot of struggle this time, I found myself on day thirty-nine of abstinence! And I have found my Higher Power in this program. My life has kept on happening, but I haven’t had to “fix it” by bingeing. I’ve worked out for an hour each day and sometimes even less.

By not binge eating, I am available for spiritual work and service work. I’m available to reach out to other suffering compulsive eaters. I’m available to feel the feelings surrounding my mom’s death, and I’ve felt feelings about people, places, and things that go beyond anger. I am looking for happiness in healthy places instead of taking my comfort in foods. Life is real and not always easy or fun, but binge eating uncontrollably and not knowing when it would stop is not part of my list of fears anymore. OA works; we just have to work it. And we just keep coming back.

— Jackie B

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