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Connection Matters

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My first day of abstinence was December 28, 1979. I’d been in OA a year and a half. Even though my bingeing and purging had ended, I still stole food from supermarkets and insisted on creating my own food plan. That day in December, on vacation, I stole a binge food. Then I called my food sponsor (who, for some amazing reason, was still taking my calls) with the binge food still in my hand. She asked if I could throw it away, and I did. When I got home, I went to a meeting.

At that meeting I asked an OA member if she would sponsor me through the Steps. She used the sponsoring pamphlet that today is called Sponsoring Through the Twelve Steps. This was a wonderful guide. Each Step had several questions, so I wrote responses and read them to her. I wrote about surrender, unmanageability, and powerlessness. It wasn’t difficult to see what a mess my overeating and addictive eating had made of my life. When I was in the throes of my disease, all I could think about was where and how to get my substance. Over time, I worked every Step and made financial amends to every store I’d stolen from. I learned to carry a grocery list with me whenever I shopped and to only buy items written on that list. Sometimes I made a program call before going into a store. I’d notice how overstimulated I became in certain grocery aisles, and I learned which aisles to avoid.

This is a threefold illness: physical, mental (emotional), and spiritual. But the physical part matters. It matters what I eat, and to me, it matters how much I weigh—I like wearing the same size year after year. (My top size was 14, but for many years now, I have worn a size 6 or 8.) Before I eat, I weigh and measure proteins and grains. Sometimes I need to be reminded what a cup of vegetables looks like. Our disease tries to get us alone and confused; my digital scale acts as a deterrent to confusion.

My adherence to my food plan is not perfect. A few days ago, I bought a questionable food. Early on, I was told foods with sugar were okay for me to eat if sugar was listed on the label as the fifth or lesser ingredient. My grocery store had recently changed suppliers, and a bulk-bin food that I usually bought now had sugar listed as the second ingredient. I bought it anyway, ate one portion at one meal, and realized immediately that this was not a good idea. I gave away the remainder to someone who does not have my food addiction. In AA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions a sentence in Step Six comforts me: “No matter how far we have progressed, desires will always be found which oppose the grace of God” (p. 66). Or, as my sponsor says, “You’re human, and there ain’t no cure for that.” What an incredible freedom that gives me.

I have been abstinent through many personal losses and difficulties: Close family members have died, I’ve lost jobs, and I’ve made major moves from one large city to another. More recently, I’ve had surgeries, been unexpectedly “retired” from my work life, and endured creative disappointments. To navigate this life abstinently, I attend one face-to-face OA Step study meeting each week and try to get to at least one other meeting by phone. I never want to lose my OA connection. I cannot function without it. I heard early on that “abstinence is the single most important thing in my life, without exception.” That, thank God, is still true for me. And I want it to always be true.

— Anonymous

Give yourself an abstinence boost by using the Strong Abstinence Checklist and Writing Exercise, which is free to download from oa.org.

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