When my sponsor suggested I write an article for Lifeline, I was resistant and felt a surge of rage toward the program because, to be honest, my experiences in OA have not been perfect. For years I used OA to reinforce my eating disorder. I am an anorexic, bulimic, compulsive over-exerciser, and a compulsive overeater, and I’ve been in OA for five years.

When I first entered the rooms, I’d already been in and out of treatment facilities. I was also hopeless and resigned to dying on the bathroom floor after a purge. My bulimia was aggressive, up to twelve episodes and three hundred dollars per day, so my whole life was spent eating and vomiting.

When I started going to OA meetings and working with a sponsor, something shifted. I asked my Higher Power for relief from bulimia, and for a long time I stopped purging. But my disease morphed into anorexia and compulsive over-exercising. I ran 6 miles (10 km) a day, five days a week and was under eating. I called in my food to a sponsor, but since I wasn’t purging, we both thought I was doing great. I didn’t have weight to lose, but I lost a lot of weight and became even crazier in OA.

I became obsessed with my eating, my body, and the number on the scale. I thought weighing and measuring and no flour and no sugar was the only way, and I held myself up as a recovering person, when in fact I was emotionally overwrought and spiritually bankrupt. After two years free of bingeing and purging (but still miserably anorexic), I relapsed into bulimia and couldn’t stop. I stayed in relapse for a long time.

At a certain point, I recognized I was trying to control my eating and my body, so I gave that up, surrendered to a Power outside myself, and enlisted the help of those around me. I decided my abstinence is about conscious surrender, so I make no rules about my food. Instead, I trust my partner, who prepares my meals and tells me what to eat. I don’t restrict, binge, purge, or over-exercise.

My plan of eating looks different than most, because I’m not in charge. I eat every food in moderation, with guidance and support. I eat three meals and one snack per day. Today I eat to live. OA has offered me a bridge back to life, but I sometimes feel different when I hear people share about what they can’t eat or how they weigh and measure. So I write this for my anorexic, bulimic, and compulsively overeating siblings so they know there is another way. OA describes abstinence as “the action of refraining from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors while working towards or maintaining a healthy body weight” (Dignity of Choice, p. 1). It says healthy, not emaciated.

Today I see that real recovery, true healing, and the support I receive has enabled me not only to feel human again but also to eat like a human being, and for that I am forever grateful.

— Dara L.

  • Image by Pauline G., Waterville, Ohio USA

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