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Word of Hope

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When I woke up on Unity Day, I wasn’t too thrilled to be around people. The disease of compulsive overeating, which for me is a cacophony of voices in my head, was screaming that I didn’t need to be at Unity Day with other compulsive overeaters. My disease was permitting me to isolate! It didn’t matter that I made a commitment or would see my friends. That morning my disease spoke much louder than my Higher Power.

As I completed my morning prayer and meditation, I became softer to the idea of going. By doing the next right thing and putting one foot in front of the other, I arrived at Unity Day and found my seat.

My disease’s volume was much higher than usual, so I didn’t really hear the first speaker. But then something happened. When the Fellowship surrounded me, my breathing slowed, my body relaxed, and my heart opened. I could feel the love of my Higher Power in the room. Finally, I was able to hear what was being said and let it flow into my heart, soul, and being.

The word that resonated with me most on Unity Day was “authentic.” It was how one speaker described her abstinence. To me, it meant each person in OA has his or her own definition of abstinence that is right for him or her.

All too often, I confuse abstinence with food plan. Abstinence for me is no bingeing or purging, no starving or restricting, and no overtly sugary foods. A food plan is a Tool I use to maintain my abstinence. My food plan is three meals a day with a snack before bedtime. For each meal, I limit my starches and include a certain number of fruits and vegetables.

Although my food plan hasn’t changed drastically in the twelve years I have been in OA, my ability to stick to this food plan has been imperfect. I also have had an ongoing struggle with an internal judge that labels my actions, words, and feelings as “good” or “bad.” So on days I have eaten exactly according to my food plan, I have said I had “good, clean abstinence.” But more often than not, I was “bad,” which just added fuel to my compulsive eating and other destructive behaviors. Now I can see that labeling my abstinence as “good” or “clean,” depending on my ability to eat exactly according to my food plan, has been a form of self-sabotage.

On Unity Day, I found hope in using the word “authentic” to describe my abstinence. With the help of my Higher Power I can stop calling my abstinence “good” or “bad,” which jump starts the judge inside of me. As long as I am free from bingeing, purging, restricting, starving, and eating sugary foods, one day at a time, I have maintained the abstinence that is just right for me. I have maintained an authentic abstinence.

— Edited and reprinted from The Stepping Stone newsletter, Northeast Wisconsin Intergroup, March/April 2012

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