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If Only

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Before OA, I thought I was so unique with my secret of using compulsive eating to cope with fears, regrets, selfishness, and inadequacy. I also suffered from “if onlys:” “if only I would be more outgoing,” “if only I had a faster metabolism,” “if only I enjoyed exercising.” I felt so incompetent as a wife, mother, and employee.

A friend suggested OA to me because I seemed desperate. The argumentative part of me said I had a home, a spouse, a job, and a toddler. I was miserable but not desperate. Another year passed before I went to my first meeting in May 1986.

At that meeting, I was ready to debate. How did the greeter know it was healthy to eat just three meals a day? (I was a grazer, so you can imagine my resistance.)

She said, “Go to six meetings before you decide if OA is right for you.” Okay, game on! I would prove it doesn’t work.

At my second meeting, the group shared on the chapter “We Agnostics” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., pp. 44–57). I shared my doubt that I could ever come to believe in any Higher Power. One member shared she had “fired” the God of her childhood and started over with a new concept. Her statement was shocking yet comforting. Could I be open to a concept of an HP that would work for me?

At the next four meetings, I listened to members share about ways they had tried to cover or numb their own feelings of inadequacy. I also heard them share about using the Steps and Tools to face their challenges. I was attracted, so I kept going to meetings weekly.

That summer, I attended the World Service Convention, and a speaker shared that she didn’t know how to be a wife, mother, or employee before finding OA. I was in the right place after all! We were finding our directions in the Steps and the Fellowship.

I couldn’t prove the program didn’t work, because it did until I stopped working it fourteen years later and hit bottom. But I found comfort in this passage from Voices of Recovery:

“Why did they fall from grace? Because they have a chronic, incurable disease that requires daily application of this program and conscious surrender to God. Circumstances in their lives distracted them from the knowledge that abstinence was their most pressing concern. Self-will, ego, and denial will always lead me back into self-destruction with food” (p. 40).

Only by connecting with others can I fight off my terminal uniqueness and isolation. Only by working with a sponsor can I be guided on the path of abstinence and recovery. Only by reaching out to other members can I develop a posse to ride this path along with me. We need each other as partners in recovery so we don’t slip off the trail or go it alone.

I am so grateful I have been back in program for sixteen years. The gifts of abstinence, a healthy body weight, and spiritual and emotional recovery have all returned to me. And I don’t have to worry about “if only I’d gone to OA,” “if only I’d returned after relapse,” “if only I’d stayed.” Phew! Thank you, God.

— Nancy S., Windham, New Hampshire USA

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