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How to live life on life’s terms was the most important lesson I learned during my deployment in 2015. I’m a member of the U.S. Navy, and I spent more than seven months on a ship sailing across the ocean. The ship’s menu did not cater to me. The hours of food service did not cater to me. My work and sleep schedule was out of my control, and exercise became more stressful than rewarding to my exhausted mind and body.

Within the first two months of deployment, I relapsed. I had been in program for over three years and had almost a year of continuous abstinence from bingeing and purging. I felt so ashamed and defeated. I tried so hard to manipulate everything so it would work for me. I complained about my food needs constantly and threw fits when the foods I wanted weren’t available or when I knew I wouldn’t be getting my full eight hours of sleep that day. For months, I tried to force myself to exercise, and when I couldn’t get out of bed early enough to do it, I beat myself up the rest of the day. I felt lower than I had in years. It never occurred to me to go easy on myself given that I was living at sea on a floating hunk of metal and working twelve to fourteen hours a day.

Deployment is hard, but I didn’t want to seem weak. Though I could tell everyone on the ship was suffering, I didn’t think anyone was suffering as badly as me with my disease. I was too embarrassed to admit defeat. By the grace of my Higher Power, I stayed abstinent during the last four months. I did my absolute best to live life on life’s terms by taking everything one step at a time. I wrote to my sponsor constantly. If something felt too difficult and triggered cravings, then I told myself I could deal with it later. If the food I needed wasn’t available, I became as flexible as I could or I very politely asked the cooks if I could have something different. When I was calm and sincere, it was usually not difficult to move around bumps in the road.

I know that I will experience hardship again, maybe not quite like deploying on a ship, but other things will happen to me to challenge my peace of mind and my abstinence. Next time, I can reflect on the thoughts and actions that helped me during my deployment so I don’t lose my abstinence again. I am forever grateful for this program. Without the Tools, the Steps, and all of my loving OA friends back at home port, I think I would have done much more damage to myself on that ship.

— Madison, Hawaii USA

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