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Surrender and Accountability

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When I finally realized that my behaviors with food (overindulging, hiding, sneaking, and lying) were the same as my past behaviors with alcohol, I knew I had a problem. (Thirty-nine years of sobriety assured me that I knew a lot about Twelve Step recovery.) While my AA fellows were tolerant of my obsessive food talk, my fear and sense of fairness drove me to find a meeting specific to overeating. I feared being asked to leave the AA group if I continued to focus on my food addiction. I also realized it wasn’t fair to burden newly sober members with my food issues rather than sharing the experience, strength, and hope of my AA recovery that they were there for.

Being well acquainted with AA literature, I was both fascinated and discouraged by the story at the bottom of page 63 in AA’s Twelve and Twelve in which an individual asked his Higher Power to give him release, and his obsession to drink vanished. I didn’t recall asking God to remove my desire to drink‚ I only remembered that it happened. So why now, I thought, when I was specifically asking God to remove my desire to overeat, wasn’t God helping me? I’d lost and regained weight many times using a wide variety of programs, but I hadn’t yet searched for a Twelve Step program.

My first OA meeting was full of surprises. First, the energy in the room was electrifying. People were happy with themselves and happy to see me. Second, I was surprised to find minimal talk about food—how could you lose weight without talking about food? I was also surprised to find so many people already in recovery. I didn’t quite understand how OA worked, but knowing that AA worked, I decided to give it a try.

So how was OA different, and why did I find it so attractive? The OA literature made it very clear that my freedom from compulsive food behaviors was dependent upon my relationship with my Higher Power. I already had an HP but had always been under the delusion that I had gotten sober from alcohol on my own because I thought I was in charge. My attitude was one of arrogance and defiance‚ but OA also made it very clear that I had to give up being in charge or I would never have release from the food.

Begrudgingly, I went back to page 63 in AA’s Twelve and Twelve, reread my favorite passage, and saw the words I had always skimmed over: “When I became willing to clean house and then asked a Higher Power, God as I understood Him, to give me release, my obsession to drink vanished.” Ah, the missing piece! God expected me to become willing to clean house before even talking about abstinence. I wanted what the people at my meeting had, and it became obvious that I could not move forward unless I got honest with my Higher Power and myself.

While I could see that both alcohol and food were addictions for me, it was difficult to find an understandable parallel. With alcohol, I used to drink, and now I don’t drink; with food, I used to eat, and now I still have to eat. How could I align the programs that addressed both of my addictions?

My solution was to make a list of foods that triggered my overeating. These trigger foods became my “alcohol” in OA, and I committed to my Higher Power that I would abstain from them. I also committed to my Higher Power specific behavior changes that I was willing to do: three meals a day with nothing in between and nothing after dinner. Some days have been harder than others. A higher activity level might require an afternoon snack. Extreme evening hunger might require a change in the dinner hour.

My dual addiction is a gift that affords me a perspective other OA members may not have. When I am in a situation for which I think food is the best answer, I say to myself, “Would I drink over this? Of course not! I’m not giving up years of sobriety for this.” The next question is, “If you won’t drink over it, why would you eat over it?” This always stops me dead in my tracks. If I see that my food addiction is as deadly as my alcohol addiction, then I must practice abstinence from both compulsive food behaviors and alcohol consumption in all areas of my life, not just in the situations that are convenient.

I believe that my years of AA sobriety prepared me for OA abstinence. I was finally ready to meet the expectations OA asks for: a level of personal accountability to myself and my Higher Power that I had not experienced before and one that has brought me closer to emotional sobriety.

— Sherilyn M., Brooklyn Park, Minnesota USA

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