I spent the first part of my adult life wearing sizes 7 and 9 in clothes, until the event, the incestuous encounter. What made my incestuous situation unusual? My perpetrator was my father, and I was an adult when it happened. I was in such shock after the event that for the next few days my brain (to help me survive, I guess) worked as hard as it could to make me believe it didn’t happen.

The day of the event, I walked into my therapist’s office and told her what had taken place that morning. I explained I needed to forgive him. I’d been raised in a religious home where we were taught to forgive. I saw forgiveness as the carrot at the end of the stick, so I felt I had to capture this carrot and hold it close to me. In her wisdom and training, my therapist patiently explained the importance of feeling and expressing my anger.

What was anger? I didn’t know. I didn’t ever remember experiencing it. I was always taught—perhaps brainwashed would be a better way to put it—to never yell, disrespect your elders, or talk back to your parents. I worked so hard at pleasing my parents and trying to be perfect as my religion dictated that any anger, which I certainly must have had from an early age, got shoved deeper and deeper. As an adult, I really had no clue what anger was.

So how does this tie in with my 60-pound (27-kg) weight gain? I became very depressed and suicidal, and I ate to feel better. I read that it’s common for incest survivors to eat to put on weight to make themselves unattractive and distance themselves from others. Deep down, I wanted physical distance between me and any available men I came in contact with, though I didn’t know what I was doing and why I was doing it. I just ate and ate desserts. Sometimes I even gave in and ate desserts for breakfast. All those years after the encounter, I wouldn’t wear dresses or skirts unless they were longer than knee-length. (It wasn’t until this summer that I finally wore shorts again.) On many levels, I was trying to make myself unattractive and undesirable to men.

As I worked through the emotional pain, the anger gradually began to fade, fear of my father began to lessen, and the forgiveness came. I can now be in a room alone with him, give him a hug, and tell him I love him. Time heals all wounds.

But while those years went by when I was working on releasing anger and feelings of betrayal, I continued to put on weight. I hated myself for my lack of discipline and willpower. Many, many times, I thought, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I overcome this habit of running to desserts?” It happened when I was angry, or sad, or even when I was celebrating some occasion. About a year ago, it hit me. I’m an addict and my drug of choice is sugar in all forms.

I’d heard about OA from two friends. One had gone to meetings about fifteen years ago and lost all her excess weight and got off blood pressure medication.  She really inspired me, so I went to a couple of meetings but wasn’t willing to face my demons.

Four years ago, another friend entered OA. Week-by-week, I saw him gradually lose weight. Again, I went to a couple of meetings, but I wasn’t ready.

It wasn’t until four months ago that I realized I must do something to stop living in this pit of despair because nothing was working. I couldn’t manage to stay on a diet, let alone give up my drug. I looked up meetings in my town and went to my first meeting again. I continued to go, but I resisted the Step it would take to become willing to let go of my love of sugar.

About four weeks into it, after listening to stories from other members, I began to feel I wasn’t alone, and I wasn’t a horrible, undisciplined person. I have an addiction. The people at the meetings gave me hope that maybe I could do this too. They made me feel loved and accepted. After three weeks, I purchased two books, The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. I found a sponsor and began to work the program. Now as I write this, I have lived in abstinence for ninety days. Never, ever before had I lasted on any eating program longer than two weeks.

What surprised me most about this wonderful program is the spiritual practice of it. I walk a spiritual path, but I never thought OA or any Twelve Step program could help me in my walk with God. It’s a joy to meet and communicate with supportive members of my weekly meetings, and I am so grateful for the constant support of my sponsor. OA has changed my life. Not only am I getting healthier due to eating so much better, but I’m losing weight. I look forward to my meetings. I look forward to each day. I look forward to being “real.”

OA is helping me open up. Emotionally, it’s helping me be willing to tell people how I’m really feeling. I’m learning to set boundaries and express myself in ways that are not destructive to those around me or myself. I now have the courage to say how I’m feeling when asked. I realize when you truly love yourself you are able to focus on others.

I want to live in love. I’m learning that when I’m alone with my thoughts I can love myself. I believe we come to this planet to learn what it is to love ourselves, so we can then be free to love others. I believe we are here to love one another.

— Cecilia B., Laporte, Colorado USA

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