Home How OA Changed My Life From Self-Help to Sanity

From Self-Help to Sanity

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I walked into my first OA meeting a little over two and a half years ago. It had taken me almost forty years to recognize that my eating disorder and compulsive food behaviors were out of control. I’d spent my entire adult life climbing the ladder of success, but when I reached the top, I realized it was leaning against the wrong wall. Outwardly, I appeared successful, but I knew inside something was missing. I had no spirituality and therefore felt no purpose in life. I knew I wasn’t coping well with life: I was emotionally unbalanced, and I fluctuated between being 20 and 80 pounds (9 and 36 kg) overweight.

I not only had a food addiction but also an obsession with self-help. I’d tried every new diet and read all the self-help books about relationships, emotional health, and spirituality. I believed the solution to my hopelessness, shame, and self-loathing was out there somewhere. I came to OA addicted to a belief that I was in control, so I believed that by following all the OA “rules,” I could fix all my problems.

As I did with any other self-help project, I bought all the literature, digital and print, and read it obsessively. I attended OA meetings twice a week. I tried working the Steps, but without a sponsor because I couldn’t believe that I could trust someone to know my true self instead of the mask I wore.

After about six months of this, I knew I needed a sponsor if I wanted to recover. I found one and began working the Steps again. I’m embarrassed to write that I told my sponsor what she wanted to hear, not what I really felt. I wanted to zip by Steps One, Two, and Three because I still thought I was in control and I just wanted to get to the action in the rest of the Steps. I told my sponsor of course I was willing to turn over my will and my life. I still believed I could fix my problems if I did everything the Steps, my sponsor, other members, and the literature told me to do. I still saw OA as a self-help program.

But somewhere along the way in my recovery, something magical happened, and now I’ve been abstinent for two years. I’ve worked all Twelve Steps with a sponsor, and I have a practice of daily prayer and meditation. I reach out to others in the program, journal, and do service. I know for sure that OA is not self-help; without a doubt, a Power greater than myself is restoring me to sanity. I do have a part in my recovery, but it’s not the part I’d thought: I am taking responsibility for my actions and using program Tools, and my Higher Power is patiently reworking my whole attitude and outlook on life.

In every moment that I commit to quiet meditation, my HP is developing my ability to be more patient and less distracted. Bringing mindfulness into my day allows me to stop when I notice I’m being triggered into behaviors that might need an amends later. I stop; take a deep, calming breath; observe my body, thoughts, and feelings; then proceed with kindness instead of reacting impulsively.

I’m not perfect at this, but recovery is a journey, not a destination. So, every time I reach out to a fellow member, my feelings of “uselessness and self-pity” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p. 84) become less pronounced. As I share in meetings and speak honestly with my sponsor, my “fear of people” (p. 84) decreases.

As I take time to stop and pray a silent “Thanks,” I learn to see all that I have. I’ve learned that the opposite of scarcity is not abundance—it’s knowing my HP will always give me enough of what I need. When I reach a stumbling block and stop to pray for help, I learn to handle “situations which used to baffle us” (p. 84).

Before OA, I kept looking for a magic date to start my latest self-help plan: January 1, or next Monday, or the day after the holiday, or tomorrow. Now I know: the magic moment is now. Whenever I become aware that I’ve veered away from my recovery, I can accept it with self-compassion and just begin again, knowing that a Power greater than me will be a constant companion in my lifelong journey. Every day, I wake up and ask that I be willing to do the next right thing and take the actions that are under my control. I’m at a healthy body weight, I feel spiritually connected to my Higher Power, and I’m learning how to stay grounded when life becomes turbulent. I’ve become very aware of the things I cannot change or control, and for that I am grateful that my eating disorder brought me to OA.

— Anonymous

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