These are locally sourced member stories, they are not OA approved literature. The opinions expressed in these stories are those of the individuals and not of OA as a whole.
"OA Offered Me The Gift Of Hope"
When I first came to OA, I was a very sad person. My weight was higher than it had ever been and I found myself unable to stick to any diet, for even one day. Each morning I would wake up filled with self-loathing, ashamed of my weakness and my appearance. I felt I was undeserving of love. I would look in the mirror and see only fat.
The fat was not my only problem. My relationships were full of conflict. I was angry and resentful. I was always in conflict with someone. It seemed that life never turned out the way I wanted. I became more and more isolated and depressed. I was suicidal.
I had always struggled with food. Even as a small child, I would sneak and hide food, steal food and finish food left on other people’s plates. Although I had lost weight at different times in my life, the obsession with food continued and these behaviors always returned.
When I came to Overeaters Anonymous I was greeted by others who shared my experiences. They offered me the gift of hope. After my very first meeting, my cloud of self-loathing lifted. I was now living in the solution, not the problem. I learned that I have a disease called compulsive overeating. This disease, I learned, is three fold. It is emotional, spiritual and physical. In order to become a functioning human being, I needed to tackle all these aspects of my illness. I learned that the weight I carry is a symptom of the emotional and spiritual inability to deal with life on life’s terms.
I’ve been coming to OA for over 3 years now and have lost 9 kilos. But more importantly, I’ve gained freedom from self-loathing and the pain associated with living a life that was totally unmanageable. I have also gained enough experience, strength and hope to allow me to help others by being an OA Sponsor. My recovery hasn’t been perfect, and I still have a long way to go, but in OA, I have been given the tools and support I need to manage my life and to become a grateful member of the human race.
OA member- Mitchell Park
"21 years Abstinence: Through a Series of Critical Moments"
The first moment is me at 12 coming home after school and bingeing. It was just after my parents separated and I came home and found myself eating huge amounts of breakfast cereal. I didn’t know why I was doing it, I simply thought ‘well I’ve eaten enough for a week now so I won’t eat for a week’. That started a cycle of bingeing and starving, only I didn’t keep up the starving for very long and I got much, much better at bingeing.
The next moment is me taking an overdose of sleeping tablets, not because I wanted to die, I just wanted to rest. I thought if I could just sleep for 2 or 3 months I would: firstly, lose weight while I slept; and secondly, I would wake with the energy to go on. Because I felt like my life was a constant battle – every day I was fighting not to binge or berating myself for having done so.
The next moment is about 6 years later. I had been in OA, stayed 4 ½ years, made some progress towards abstinence but could never gain long term abstinence and left. I was now in my early 20s and travelling in Europe. I was staying with the friend of a friend of a friend in Hamburg, Germany and everyone else had gone out. ‘Great now I can eat!’ I thought and danced around the kitchen eating Nutella sandwiches. Then it suddenly occurred to me that the only rebellious thing I ever did was eat. Not stay out all night at nightclubs, not protest against the many social injustices I saw in the world, not write a manifesto on how to live. No, eat. I was always waiting to be discovered, spouting theories about how to live but never risking life itself. I was living a half-life. And I realised then that I wanted to give up bingeing. Not because it was the right thing to do, and not sitting back hoping my Higher Power would do it for me. I wanted to stop bingeing. I wanted to put down the food. I decided to go back to OA. I wanted to live!
I did go back to OA. I did 6 meetings a week for two or three months and got abstinent. Which brings me to my next moment: I am back in Australia and have been abstinent for two years. I am sitting at one of those old fashioned school desks, I am squished in because it is for little kids and I am supposedly a grown up except I have before me a huge stack of children’s party food. I am at my Dad’s house, he is throwing a party for all his workers and their families, and there I am on the back porch bingeing. The background to this moment is that I had recently become terribly ill (physically). Besides this public foray to my Dad’s party, I was mostly confined to my bed, and the doctors had told me there was no known cure for my illness, only daily management. I was terrified. It was bad enough being ill but bingeing on top of that would be an unimaginable nightmare. I was so scared I put down the food the next day then went to the May Convention and got a sponsor. I count my abstinence anniversary from the May Convention each year and by the grace of God, this year I am 21 years abstinent.
Next moment. Five years on I am still chronically ill and in one of those bizarre twists of fate, my husband becomes chronically ill also. Not long after his diagnosis my stepmother is diagnosed with a brain tumour. My sister is only 17, my brother 12 and my family is reeling. Things are pretty hard. I fall back on the saying, ‘When life gets tough work the program harder’, which I do. Eventually my step-mother dies and I think ‘now things will settle down’. But they don’t. Somehow my days get worse. Until one morning a friend arrives early and is talking to my housemates in another room and she is so bright and cheery and life seems so breezy for her that in contrast I realise that something is wrong with me. I am finding it difficult to get out of bed, I don’t want to wash. I go to my usual default position of – you’re hopeless, you’re useless, it’s your fault – and then I stop myself. ‘Hang on’, I think, ‘I am five years abstinent that must count for something. Maybe it’s not that I am all wrong but that something else is not quite right’. I get help. I see the doctor and I start taking medication because I need it. It is only because I was abstinent that I could stop the cycle of self-hate and seek help. Life does not always go right. To quote one of my favourite poets “Things happen”. But my abstinence provided me with the ground and clarity to look after myself.
So – naught years, five years and then ten years of abstinence. It is Christmas, I am pregnant and we have just moved to Castlemaine. My husband is so happy to own our first home that he decides we should have the family to our joint for Christmas! Let me give you a clear picture of this situation … I am having a really bad pregnancy. I am constantly nauseous and have been hospitalised 3 times and my mental health is deteriorating again. My toddler is unsettled because of the move and won’t go to sleep at night. My husband and I are still chronically ill, we have just moved house, Christmas Day is my birthday, and my mother, stepfather, father, in-laws and most of my original, step and half siblings are coming for Christmas. But my husband assures me everything will be alright, and his happiness is such a beautiful thing I decide to go with it. So we invite everyone for Christmas. On the day I am determined I will be happy (the burden of expectation!) and I do well for the first hour and a half and then I am exhausted! By the time people arrive for lunch I am struggling. I eat way too many peanuts, which sets off the screaming internal OA siren in my head. I take myself away from the Christmas action. I get down on my hands and knees and go back to basics. Prayer, abstinence, service. I decide a bowl of peanuts is my lunch and I completely let go of any expectations for the rest of the day. Christmas day then unfolds as it will, and I am fine.
I spoke about this day at the next Sharathon. It was a hellish day in many ways. And yet I realised it was also good. I was abstinent. There was no active addiction from anyone at lunch. No swearing, no hostility, the children were well loved and cared for. We were fortunate to own our house and very fortunate to have family to celebrate with. God does not always hand us the life we wish for. But I felt that because of my OA recovery I could be grateful for the blessings I had been given.
As I was preparing this personal story I became aware that so many of the critical moments in my recovery were crisis moments. I felt a little disturbed by this – was I focusing on all the bad stuff and not enough on the good stuff? Because my life in program has been extraordinarily GOOD. Many beautiful things have happened. I got married to a beautiful man and despite all the upheavals and difficulties we are still happily married 18 years later. We had two beautiful boys – an extraordinary leap of faith considering we were both chronically ill – and those boys have blessed us with abundance and joy. My work, when I have been well enough to do it, has improved significantly. My relationships have improved ten-fold. I live a life I am proud of, that is rich and blessed. I learn more and more everyday about who I am. So why the focus on crisis?
I read this morning “There is crisis at every stage of growth”. And that is it. At every point of crisis I have gone deeper into my spiritual, emotional and physical growth in OA. At every crisis point I have come to trust in the wisdom of the steps and their practical application in my life. Every time I have come through a crisis, I learnt that my faith in the program in grounded in reality. I have learnt to trust myself, to reach out, to move through grief. And this is it. There are big crisis points but it is the daily application of the program that matters. Each day, each small task, adds to a new Reality. Each prayer, each act of service, each abstinent day builds a sure foundation. Because there will be crisis points in life. OA does not give you a licence to live Happily Ever After. But each day, little by little, like drops of water filling a well, the practices of OA have cared for me. I have been attended to. There are deep wounds in us all. They are there, you cannot run from them. But you can attend to them through the OA program, one day at a time.
I have a beautiful life. It is not Beyond My Wildest Dreams because I can dream pretty big – fame, achievement, regard. My life is quiet, attentive and extraordinarily rich. And more than I could ever have imagined.