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Willingness to Work

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I was introduced to OA in 1987 following outpatient therapy for binge eating, overeating, and bulimia, so I was already armed with a food plan and an understanding of the First Step when I “jumpstarted” into the program. The miracle of abstinence led to a new spiritual life, and OA saved me from the insanity of my disease. I was a busy wife and mother with a full-time nursing job, and many miracles came true for me, including a 35-pound (16-kg) weight loss.

As years passed, the marriage got rocky, the kids grew, and I settled into doing only what I thought I needed to stay abstinent by depending almost solely on: HP, a spiritual life that became religious, and the Second, Tenth, and Eleventh Steps. “Half measures” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed. p. 59) haunted me as my precious abstinence was eroded, first by a few slips, then sporadic ‘bad’ days, and eventually a return to a life of eating binges. Dishonesty, one of my character defects, kept me in denial for two years before I admitted I was in relapse.

Every day of that thirteen-year relapse, I started my day with meditation, prayer, and a resolution to live abstinently. I had some good days, but the spiraling was harder than ever to stop. Following my program was difficult, and my knuckles were usually white.

One big realization finally took hold: As long as I’m fighting myself over the food, I will lose. I was still powerless over food. I couldn’t control a ‘failure’ any more than a cough from bronchitis. That meant no more shaming myself. I just had to move on to what I could do— more program.

I’ve been abstinent for over two and a half years. I’ve lost over 50 pounds (23 kg) from my highest weight in relapse, and now I work all the Steps daily. I check in with my sponsor and email my food, action plans, and Step work. Retired and divorced (and a grandmother), I make more time for meetings and service. I’ve learned so much:

  • If I’m fighting with myself over what I’m eating, then I need to go back to Step One.
  • I have to pray to do my HP’s will and for the willingness to work program, not just for the willingness to be abstinent.
  • Abstinence, like weight loss and serenity, is a gift of grace.
  • Relapse was never as bad as life before program, because I had hope, the Tools, and experiences of abstinence.
  • If I have time to overeat, then I have time for more meetings and program.

The blessings of a sane and useful life happen when I follow the rules instead of trying to do life and program my own way. Following instructions is no longer a bitter pill. I’ve seen the light. It took a big chunk of my life, but relapse has given me deep understanding, and fellowship with sufferers and survivors.

Relapse is not inevitable, and it’s never an excuse for shame. It is what it is, and like a mistake, is there for the learning. Always for me, there is hope in recovery through OA.

— Janet P., Danville, Kentucky USA

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