When I became an adult, I realized my father had suffered from a disease similar to my disease of compulsive overeating. His was “compulsive hoarding disorder.” Over the years, I’ve developed a much more compassionate view of his bizarre behavior, and I credit my participation in OA for this realization . . . and for my ability to forgive him.

My dad had been a young man during the Great Depression and suffered greatly during that time, so I can understand how his disease developed in him. However, I’m also aware of the chaos, dysfunction, and shame I grew up with because of it, and how much it has affected me to this very day.

As a result, I am constantly trying to keep the things in my life to a minimal level. If my house feels even slightly cluttered, it is very upsetting for me. It is also upsetting for my husband, who helped clear out my father’s home when we had to move Dad to a retirement community. It required several dumpsters to empty the place. We have a stack of photos as evidence of Dad’s disease because people would not believe it!

So one year, when my husband and I were cleaning out our own garage, we decided to get a storage shed for our backyard to store and organize our seasonal items when they weren’t being used. Soon, however, it became my own personal space. Who knew? My “dream retreat” was a shed!

Let me describe it. After we’d neatly stored in the loft of the shed the gardening supplies, the summer beach chairs, and other items, there was still plenty of room to spare. There was room for a little desk and chair that had belonged to my son. I decorated the walls with items that are meaningful to me. I hung pretty white curtains on the windows. There is a cushion on the floor for meditation. Voila! Perfect! It was a place I’d always dreamed about—and it was all mine.

I view my shed as a gift from my HP. I wonder why I hadn’t thought of it sooner. Perhaps I didn’t feel worthy? I’m not sure. All I know is that this shed is a sacred reminder that my childhood is now in the past and I can move on from it. I can now be responsible for myself, my life, and my space.

The shed doesn’t have electricity. At one point, I thought that installing electrical access and putting in a desk lamp would make it feel even more cozy. I chose not to go to the trouble, though, because I realized that what I love most about the shed is its simplicity. I use lanterns and candles instead. The rustic nature is part of its charm. It is my little “prayer room,” and from my home, I can see it through the window.

In the winter when I don’t use it as often, I still think about the peaceful way it makes me feel. Just thinking about it helps me relax and recharge. Having a place of my own has helped me see that, even when the world feels chaotic or circumstances in my life are beyond my control, just as they were when my dad was trash-picking and hoarding, I can go to that quiet place inside my heart and say the Serenity Prayer. Thank you, God, for my wonderful shed and for this wonderful Twelve Step program!

— Terry, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

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