In the years following high school, I couldn’t hold down a job for more than eight consecutive months, and my residence changed just as frequently.

Between each new address, I would return to my childhood home, where my mother now lives alone. I’d pass through town just long enough to discard another mountainous load of boxes into her basement— always oblivious to the physical and emotional upheaval I left in my wake. The obscene amount of belongings I accumulated was akin to the weight I collected on my body; at 5 feet 5 inches tall, I eventually weighed 213 pounds (97 kg).

I had no respect for my possessions or the money I’d invested in them. I would frequently break and ruin items through carelessness or have to purchase a duplicate of something I’d lost. I never attempted to organize anything until after one year of recovery. OA prepared me to acknowledge this unmanageability and tackle the clutter, box by box. My heart sank each time I came across an empty candy wrapper, fast food receipt, or scrap of grocery packaging I’d hidden away.

I also discovered enough unopened mail to fill three plastic garbage bags. Among bogus credit card offers and expired coupons, I found precious family photos, keepsakes, and urgent letters from a dear college confidante: “Why have you stopped calling me? I’m your friend, and I want to help with whatever’s troubling you.” The seals on business correspondence had similarly been left intact. If I received a bill from a creditor I knew I couldn’t pay, I’d simply ignore it. I ate compulsively to escape from reality and was spiritually incapable of acknowledging that I spent every cent on food.

That cluttered basement was a sad testimony to my emotional turmoil; a fitting metaphor for the distorted values by which I had been living as a food addict Too much was not enough. With a thick layer of denial (junk) to insulate me from reality, I had been mired in my own self loathing.

Knowing the garbage truck was due the next morning, I worked feverishly by moonlight, dragging trash to the curb one heavy bag at a time. My eyes moistened with tears of joy when I awoke the next day and discovered that the municipality (a power greater than myself) had removed every last scrap of rubbish I had offered up to them.

Through prayer, rigorous honesty, and the support of friends, I am now learning how to discriminate between what is important and what is useless. I am making great strides in reconciling with friends, family, creditors, and myself, all of whom got lost in the shuffle. If I am fearless enough to sort through my character defects one by one, I can offer up all that is negative, destructive, or superfluous to a Higher Power for removal. By working the OA program, I gratefully receive a daily opportunity to be rid of my trash.

— Erin F., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

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