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Nature’s Signs

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While working the Steps early in my OA recovery, I struggled with surrendering to a Higher Power. A kind man explained a Higher Power could be anything outside ourselves that we turn to for guidance, comfort, support and a healthier perspective. I could relate to that!

Drawn to the outdoors since my lonely childhood, I’d often felt at peace in nature. I never felt the need to eat compulsively outdoors. Instead I felt healthy and wanted to take good care of myself. Prayer and meditation with nature felt awkward, but I knew OA was a spiritual program and I had to pursue this road to become less compulsive.

One morning while walking in a beautiful nature preserve, I thought about my eating disorder––a repetitive pattern of dieting and bingeing. I had yo-yoed up and down some 50 pounds (23 kg) for decades! I was raised in a culture engaged in the relentless pursuit of thinness. My OA meetings helped me identify deprivation as a primary trigger. I seesawed because I was trying to lose more weight than I could without feeling deprived. I knew I needed to work towards healthy eating and comfort as a strong, healthy, medium-sized woman. But at any weight I could maintain, I felt ungainly and unfeminine. I prayed to be able to let go of the old notion that only thinness is attractive and graceful.

I walked on in the preserve, lost in thought and looking down at my feet, when I heard a huffing sound. Blocking the road in front of me was a magnificent doe—the perfect animal to illustrate that size alone has nothing to do with grace.

She stared at me with no intention of moving, even though her instincts should have told her to be fearful of my large dog (uncharacteristically still) and me. We three looked at each other in silence. I hardly breathed. Before me was 200 pounds (90 kg) of solid muscle, power, and strength, but also the quintessential example of elegance, beauty, and delicacy. After a while she bounded off and leapt over a nearby stream with the grace of a 90-pound (41-kg) ballerina. This clear answer to my prayer moved me so much it prompted my journey toward real recovery. My “goal” became not a given weight, but the grace and confidence of a healthy, medium-sized woman. I was able to develop a food plan I could be comfortable with, forever.

I continued to notice nature’s many metaphors for my life. A mockingbird, unlike other songbirds that repeat a distinct call, mimics hundreds of birds, changing its songs in rapid succession and mixing them up in new ways. I decided this amazing bird would be a reminder to try new behaviors, to “sing a different song” rather than repeating the same old unsuccessful behaviors.

One afternoon I took a drive to distance myself from a crisis. I used to soothe my despair with sweets on the ride. But now in OA recovery, I drive to a nature preserve to take in the beauty until I feel more peaceful.

This day I was struggling with the craving to self-medicate. I had pulled up to a stop sign. A left turn would have led me to the nature preserve; a right turn would have led me to a convenience store and some sweets. I had been about to turn right when a beautiful mockingbird landed on the stop sign and looked straight at me.

We stared at each other until his unrelenting gaze made me laugh. Could this creature have landed there to guide me on a different path? Yes. I turned left to the preserve where I laughed at the mockingbird and its message. My angst had transformed into astonishment and gratitude, and my cravings vanished.

I have had many such amazing experiences in nature. My new spiritual  connection has transformed a lonely, lifelong struggle into a successful, gratifying journey towards health, joy and confidence. A gentle and kind force accompanies me on my recovery. As part of my connection to nature, my diet now consists of whole, natural foods. I have maintained a deep commitment to abstaining from compulsive eating because it is the only way I can live a life of hope, pride and serenity. Our Higher Powers communicate to us in many ways, so I regularly attend meetings, read OA literature, work the Steps and draw on the grace of nature, my Higher Power, to guide and comfort me on my journey.

— Leslie

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