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Mirror Image

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“The main problem . . . centers in his mind, rather than in his body” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p. 23). Ever since I can remember, I looked in the mirror and honed in on the flaws of my body: the soft protruding belly of adolescence, the irregular dimples on my left buttock, the way my inner thighs jiggled when I ran. Though I wasn’t sure of much in those earlier years, I was sure that when people looked at me, the flaws were all they saw.

I lived with this skewed perception all my life. I thought if I could control my food and reach a perfect weight, I could magically fix the repulsive defects that were keeping me from living a full life.

This distorted thinking cast a spell on me for the next thirty years. It set into motion an endless cycle of starving, bingeing, dieting, overindulging, bulimia, and compulsive exercising that grew progressively sicker, until the elusive ideal of perfection discolored all my waking thoughts. If something went wrong, I reacted by feeling fat or unattractive and then restricting my food. If others complimented me, I reacted either by dismissing them or by feeling thin and good about myself and then overeating. Food became my master, and I marveled at others who didn’t have this secret obsession. I was angry that I was different, until I came into OA.

In OA I learned the truth about myself. I learned that my weight problem was really a spiritual malady, a peculiar mental twist. I learned that to recover into a sane way of thinking, I needed an entire psychic change. Changing thirty years of distorted thinking has not happened overnight for me, but through the help of others in this Fellowship, working the Steps, and being open to spiritual help, a psychic change—a huge emotional rearrangement—is taking place.

Today, my definition of a full life is broadening beyond the quest for the idyllic body. Now, it includes a healthy relationship with food, a calm and sane mind, genuine desire to help others, and a belief in a power greater than myself.

Ever so slowly, I am learning to see everything that is in the mirror. I am finally beginning to see the good I could not see before: a normal-sized body, a sparkle in my eyes, dimples on my face when I smile. Developing a balanced perspective for me also means making peace with imperfections, like the soft, protruding belly of middle age and my defects of character. It means forgiving the imperfections of others. In doing so, I am learning to make peace with my humanity.

I have been abstinent for twenty months, and I am maintaining a 70-pound (32-kg) weight loss.

— Edited and reprinted from New Beginnings newsletter, Central Florida Intergroup, July 2004

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