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The Difference Was Spiritual

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I joined OA about six years ago. I had been overweight and fighting late night bingeing most of my adult life, and I came into the rooms kicking and screaming. The only thing I knew about OA was 1) my mom and grandma tried it a million years ago and 2) it was for fat women. I made the decision to try it after I had lap band surgery. I thought the surgery was going to be the answer to my prayers, but it wasn’t . . . not by a long shot.

I came into the rooms at 340 pounds (154 kg), and I only stand 5 ́8 ̋ (173 cm). I remember sitting down and hearing someone read “Welcome Home,” and that was it—I’d finally found a group of people who knew what I was going through. I quickly got a sponsor and a home group, and within eighteen months, I had gotten down to 175 pounds (79 kg). It was a miracle! My wife wouldn’t stop taking pictures of me every time I wore new clothes and the faculty members where I teach were absolutely astonished.

I can’t tell you how many people asked me how I did it, but I can say I never told them the whole truth. I told most people that I went to a nutritionist (which I did) and followed her instructions to the letter. I told a few people I trusted that the weight loss was also a result of OA. But not many people wanted to hear that part; they just wanted to hear the “diet and calories” part of my weight loss story.

I was asked to speak at so many OA meetings over the next several months that I felt like a rock star. But after a while, people stopped commenting, and I wasn’t asked to speak as much. It was about this time when my sponsor asked me where I was in my Step work. I told him that I was on Step Six, but to be honest, after losing all that weight and looking and feeling so good, I wasn’t sure why I was even doing the Steps.

Soon, I completely abandoned the idea of finishing the Steps and decided to just attend the meetings. During this time, a terrible realization entered my mind: the pink cloud was fading. I was starting to struggle with my food, especially at night! I knew I could not go back to bingeing. What would my OA family say? What would my wife and friends say? I was in full panic mode, so I came up with what I though was a stroke of genius! I would replace my eating at night with drinking. Yes, alcohol was the answer.

Mind you, I’d never been a heavy drinker and was able to put the drink down at any time, but at 49 years old, I turned to alcohol to get me through my binge eating so that I wouldn’t gain the weight back. I figured a couple of beers each night instead of a snack ought to do it, but as I well know now, I was only changing deck chairs on the Titanic and picking up a second addiction: alcoholism! Just like my food addiction, it took me a while to admit my disease with liquor.

Then one day, in February 2015, my wife gave me an ultimatum: get help or lose your wife and daughters. The very next day I checked into a treatment program. I was bitter and resentful that God had given me not one but two addictions, but I just kept pushing forward, one day at a time. I did with AA the same thing I did with OA: I jumped into action and got a sponsor and a home group almost immediately. But the difference this time was that right away, I started to work the spiritual side of the AA program and soon began to work the Steps. I was also taught that I must reach out my hand and help another suffering alcoholic. Those two things I refused to do during my first encounter with OA. Because of that, I truly believe I never had a chance of changing on the inside. As good as I looked, my inner self was still rotting away.

Today I work both programs as vigorously and honestly as I can, and my spiritual connection with the God of my understanding is stronger than ever. I will soon have two years of sobriety from alcohol (God willing), and I’ve been abstinent from compulsive overeating and bingeing for sixty days. I do service in both fellowships and am an AA sponsor and hope to be an OA sponsor in the future. I have a morning ritual, which includes reading literature and calling and texting men in both fellowships. I have discovered the incredible power of meditation, which I practice two to three times a day.

What a gift I have gotten from my Higher Power. I couldn’t see it just a few short months ago, but I realize today how truly blessed I am to be part of not just one but two incredible fellowships.

— Joe, Long Island, New York USA

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