Paul’s Story of Recovery
Perhaps 3 years ago I was on a workshop in Sydney and I went to a restaurant with a group. Afterwards a close friend and elder said that she had been uncomfortable with the amount of rice and other food I had helped myself to. She also said that she was sure I did not want to set an example to family, daughter and granddaughter who were also at the meal sitting next to me. I resolved to do better and some time later at another shared meal situation at a restaurant I thought I had done well. After that another friend from the same group said he had also noticed me taking more than my share.
I resolved to look at my food issues and began attending OA and identifying as an overeater. Soon I got a sponsor and began work on the steps. As she lives in another city I phone her each week and I am able to phone at other times as well. I have a “home” group which I go to every week and I have phone numbers and can phone when I have a compulsion to eat something off my food list, usually foods that I binge on. I have found that I need to be careful about problem foods being kept in the house. I negotiate with others in the house to see whether they need to have the foods in the house. If they do, then we can often store them so that they are not in places where I store food that I use regularly.
I am amazed, frequently, that I can quietly and without drama turn down offers of foods that I used to binge on or that are foods that I have decided are not good for me. Once I started on these I mostly could not stop or I found that I had less resistance to these foods or other binge foods later.
Now, I am grateful to OA and my Higher Power that I am able to say no to these dangerous foods for me. I am able to serve foods to others and be comfortable in not eating them myself. I can buy an ice cream at the movies for my wife and not have one myself or feel that I am deprived or that I deserve a treat myself. This is a great freedom for which I am grateful and I can only put this down to my Higher Power and OA. I was certainly not able to do this before OA when I was relying on my own self will and powers of reasoning.
I am guided by my sponsor in the decisions on what to eat. For a health issue, I recently went to an herbalist and have suggestions from her on what is healthy for me. I am comfortable with the ideas and have put them out to others including my sponsor. I have resolved with the help of my sponsor to eat 3 moderate meals a day with 2 snacks (usually a measure of nuts and a piece of fruit, if needed).
I have noticed that behaviours around my eating have changed too. I don’t eat so fast or take more than I need, or think that I should finish off the dish or my plate or accept food from someone else. As a child, I was often exhorted to finish what was on my plate or to help clean up leftover food. This was regardless of whether I was hungry or not. One behaviour I can have trouble with, is tasting some delicious food and thinking that was so good I must have some more. Again, I don’t take cognisance of whether I am hungry or not. In fact, I would often have no idea of what was sufficient food for me to eat. I am thankful when I can sit in an OA meeting and not feel that I am too full and I realise how much more comfortable I am to have eaten soberly. While preparing meals, I am able to resist sampling as I cook and serve meals. I used to take more of the best bits for myself and be upset if I got the plates mixed up and ended with someone else getting the plate I had intended for myself. This again is much more than my own willpower was able to achieve.
With my compulsive behaviour around food, I need to take it one day at a time and not give myself a hard time about my failures. One recent challenge has been not to eat foods from the garden away from meal times. This was a habit as a child when I would retreat to the garden and overeat on the “healthy foods” available. I was seeking comfort in food. A habit which I carried into my adult life.
Sometimes I get into rationalising that I am not as bad as other people who really need this program. I am not hugely overweight and I don’t eat the amounts that I see others eating. I need to put the focus on myself and stop distracting myself with taking the inventory of others and judging them. Through working the programme of OA I am letting go of defects of character such as arrogance and judgmentalism.
Family and friends have noticed a change in my eating behaviour and I need to be vigilant and listen to my Higher Power when I get uncomfortable about my eating behaviour. Also to listen to people who notice or question what I am doing with food and not to be defensive.
I am working the steps in OA and doing them thoroughly with my sponsor and am currently on step 9. As I work this step, I write about the harm I have done to others and I consider the defects of character involved. What I notice is that, as I go through this process, and the preceding steps, my behaviour is changing even before I do the amends called for. I notice and no longer indulge in my hurtful actions. Also, as I make amends, I am noticing an amazing change in my relations with others. I realise that it is the change in me (a change in attitude) that has brought about the change in the way that we relate. I need to acknowledge that this is not due to my efforts alone but the work that I have done to involve my Higher Power in working the steps and working with others in my meetings and in discussions with my Sponsor. When making amends, I ask my Higher Power to help me find the words. I have been especially careful to not cause harm when I talk to people and to stay on my side of the street and not to talk about anything that they may have done.
I have done service for OA, been treasurer for my group and helped run a recent workshop run by our intergroup. I am very willing to do service when the opportunity presents itself. When asked to share at a meeting I try to be as honest as I can. As with making amends I can ask my Higher Power to help me find the words.