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Guest Post

I asked a recovery sister of mine, Megan (pronounced Meegan) H., to write a guest post for Promise of Recovery.  I am honored and humbled by the magnificent words that came forth from her pen.  Thank you, Megan H., for writing a wonderful guest post to share with our recovery family.  You are very special to the Tampa OA community and we love you very much.

Am I recovering?

Perfectionism is a demon that I only recently thought I may want to dispose of.  In so many ways, it has served me well—pushing me ahead in many things I’ve tried which lead to external praise yet internal conflict, even hatred.  A year ago I started this program by enrolling in a treatment center and then realizing what I’d done once I got there!  No more hot French bread??  Ever??  Seriously??!!  Well, actually, no more just for today.  See…I’ve got the lingo.  But I also have the fear.  Mostly the fear that I’m not good enough.  That because I have not had 365 days of perfect abstinence, I have failed.  People outside this program may roll their eyes at this idea because I’ve truly lost a lot of weight.  They think, fine, now have a slice of pizza.  You’ve earned it.

In the meantime, I’m working on steps 10-12 every night with my sponsor where I’m admitting things like purchasing and eating an entire bag of mozzarella cheese sticks.  How compulsive is that?  Or binging on raisins because they are the only sweet thing I can find and I’m dying for some sugar?  To me, this is really, really shameful.  Bad, embarrassing, offensive.  I’m a failure in my own mind. 

But thank God for sponsors!  Mine is an amazing example of recovery and there she is to redirect me to the solution in the Big Book along with loving and accepting the wild food beast I am.  She points out all that  has changed by being in this program.  Of course, the major weight loss, but along with that, a new freedom.  More health, confidence, less medication, more friends and support, and a new spiritual connection that I’ve clogged up in the past.  These things are here for me!  When I slip and slide, it does not automatically negate the hours of service, reading, praying, meditating, meetings and sharing that I’ve done.  I remind myself of this as I learn to love and accept who I am right now.  “And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.”   

-Megan H.

Thanks again, Megan H., for sharing your experience, strength, and hope with Promise of Recovery!  See you at the next meeting!

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Living Amends

“Only by permanently changing our harmful attitudes and actions can we make it up to ourselves and our loved ones.”  OA 12 & 12 p. 79

Step Nine begins my path of reconstruction; a path that begins a long time before the literal act of making a direct amends to those I have harmed even occurs.  The AA Big Book blatantly states that Step 9 is reconstruction, saying, “Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction ahead.”  It goes on to state, “We must take the lead.”

The word used – reconstruction – is of vital importance to note when discussing the 9th Step.  While we are in our active disease of compulsive eating we ‘construct’ a particular frame of a life.  But this frame is structurally damaged.  It is filled with mishaps, resentment, guilt, and an overall sense of self-loathing.  This disease is not limited to only the one who suffers from compulsive food behaviors, for every person who has contact with an active food addict experiences the thunderous tornado through with life we pass.

The permanent change that recovery asks of us is unlike any intention of dieting, exercise programs, or (for our bulimic and anorexic members) avoidance of compulsive eating behaviors like purging and restriction.  Our permanent change is simply a willingness to continue on in working our steps.  Each day we permanently change by writing a moral inventory, promptly admitting our wrongs, developing our spiritual life, and passing the message of recovery to newcomers.

Thanks you so much for my recovery!  I love all of you so very much!  See you at the next meeting

Reflection

At the close of this wonderful Mother’s Day, I sit in contemplation of my day and its events.  This is the time of my day when I work my 10th Step, which suggests

Step 10:  “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.”

Where and when have I been selfish?  Did I lie to anyone?  Did I intentionally people-please, or say something to cover-up my real feelings?  Have I been present and willing to experience closeness with my family and friends?  Have I sought the place where I am able to be of use to my fellows?  Did I thank my Higher Power for my abstinence today?  Am I grateful?

Of course, on a special day like Mother’s Day, I ask myself even more direct questions:     How are my living amends to my mother going?  Do I listen to her?  Do my actions show her that I love her?  Am I emotionally available for and to her?  Have I thought of her needs and wants today, instead of just my own?

The miracle of recovery is that I can answer those questions in a way that I was unable to for many years prior to working the 12 Steps.  My relationship with my mother, which was once rocky and unstable, is now filled with love, honor, and acceptance.  The co-dependent rope has been broken.  We are both free to be ourselves and to accept each other – the good and the bad.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!   The promises of recovery are real and true.  See you at the next meeting!

The Lifeboat

“Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the compulsive overeater who still suffers.” – OA Tradition 5

Sometimes I venture out in a boat on Tampa’s glorious bay and enjoy the beautiful scenery.  Although my trips are lovely and spiritual, I seem to have a strange compulsion to peer over the side of the boat and into the water…and fear falling out to a doom of shark-bait madness.

Is there any reason for me to fear falling off the side of the boat and dying?  Is some strange and mystical wind going to come and shove me off the side and plop – fall directly into the mouth of a vicious shark?  Doubtful …but I still insist upon staying near the center of the boat, lest I forget myself and slip and…whoosh!  Over the side of the boat go I!

Recovery is like that for me, too.  I like to stay in the middle of the boat for fear that I might clumsily forget to pay close attention to my program and find myself flailing about in the murky waters of relapse.  My safety is found when I pay close attention to the direction of my program, when I focus on my relationship with God, when I attend meetings, and use the tools provided to me in OA.

Tradition 5 provides OA groups with this very same degree of safety.  It retains the singleness of purpose at an OA meeting – which is only to pass the message of recovery.  If we did not have this tradition we would have complete chaos.  Meetings might have beauty consultants, dietitians, or other unrelated-to-recovery professionals granted access for purposes other than recovery.

See, the reality of recovery is that a person “who still suffers” isn’t necessarily a newcomer.  It could very well be the OA member who has the longest amount of abstinence in the meeting.  So long as the group adheres to Tradition 5, anyone and everyone who attends will receive the message that recovery is real and does work.

…which is something you have all done for me.  Thank you for reading my blog!  I love you!  See you at the next meeting! 

Fun Acronyms!

These are some acronyms that are commonly used in 12 Step programs as endearing mottos about recovery.  I’ve changed them a little to fit OA…so I hope you like them!  A special “thank you” goes out to Anner-Bananer for helping me!

F.I.N.E.

[I’m] Frustrated, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional

F.E.A.R.

Face Everything And Recover

N.U.T.S.

Not Using Tools/Steps

E.G.O.

Edging God Out

D.E.N.I.A.L.

Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying

H.A.L.T.

[Don’t get too] Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired

H.O.P.E.

Happy Our Program Exists

H.O.W.

Honesty, Open-mindedness, Willingness

A.  S.P.O.N.S.O.R.

Abstinent Smiling Person Offering Newcomers Suggestions On Recovery

G.O.D.

Good Orderly Direction

B.I.G.  B.O.O.K.

Believing In God Beats Our Old Knowledge

S.L.I.P.

Steps Losing Its Priority

A.C.T.I.O.N.

Any Change To Improve Our Nature

P.R.O.G.R.A.M.

Person Relying On God Respecting Abstinent Meals  

A.  S.T.E.P.

Abstinent Solutions To Every Problem

K.I.S.S.

Keep It Simple, Shnookie

Thank you for my recovery!  See you at the next meeting!  I love you all so much!

A Bunch ‘A Pucky

Sometimes newcomers exclaim, “God?!  What does that S.O.B have to do with my compulsive eating?!”  This freak-out moment, which almost all of us have had, occurs only when the first two steps have not been completed by the upset new OA member.  And I put this out there because Step 3 is actually really simple once we have taken 1 and 2.

Once we are on Step 3 a couple things should have happened.  The first is that we have fully realized that we have an abnormal reaction to food that will never leave us and we have stopped trying to fight that reality.  The second is that we realize that fighting our compulsive food behaviors is completely nuts-o and that only something greater than ourselves (and greater than food) can bring us peace.  If these two things have occurred within the soul of a food addict, then Step 3 is a very simple task.

The OA 12&12 keeps it real for us by saying, “Note that we have said the step is simple; we have not said it is easy.” –OA 12&12 p. 19

I love that our literature keeps it real and totally on the up-and-up.  Step 3 is very simple, yet it isn’t easy.  Isn’t that the truth!  Suddenly, I am living on a spiritual basis…and no longer trying to manipulate and control things so that I get my way.  Step 3 asks something of me…something that for some reason is very difficult to do…and that is to be nice to other people, be honest, and love others.

Yes!!  It is that easy to work Step 3!  My first sponsor, Ms. Angel, said it best, “Lauren L, the way to work Step 3 is to stop acting like an a**hole.”

So, what does God have to do with my compulsive eating?

“Once we compulsive overeaters truly take the third step, we cannot fail to recover.”  OA 12&12 p.27

Thank you for my recovery!  I love all of you!!  See you at the next meeting!

Sleeping On Step Work

My preciouses do more for me than just snuggle-buggle late at night.  I have learned A TON about unconditional love, God, forgiveness, and patience from them.  Most of all, though, they seem to remind me about things I am doing…or better yet…the things I am NOT doing.  ARG!

Here we see Magnolya doing what I have been doing with this blog for about a month now:  sleeping on my step work!  This blog was created to pass the message of recovery (mostly to myself so I don’t forget it) and I haven’t been passing much around.  It is an important part of my recovery to talk about the program because when I am not doing that I am forgetting everything people have taught me.

“The principle of service which underlies OA’s twelfth step can now guide our actions both inside and outside the program.” –OA 12&12 p. 106

This single sentence has many important lessons for me.  The first is that I had no idea that the word ‘twelfth’ has an ‘f’ in it.  Did anyone else know this??  Anyway, the second is that my recovery is based in service.  This fact begs the question of me:  What am I actively doing to live recovery?  Am I reaching out to the newcomer?  Am I involved in service positions for the group?  Do I even bother to hold the door open for the person behind me?

And with that I shall leave you, my lovely friends, with one last quote from all 12 Step books that sums up 12 Step recovery like nothing else does…

“We”.

Thank you for my recovery!  I’ll see you at the next meeting…and don’t forget about the new ‘Monday Keep Comin’ Back’ meeting held at Rainbow Recovery Club at 6:30PM!  I love you all so much!!!

Eating Dreams

Dreaming of Whiskas and Catnip...

Sometimes when Petunya dreams she twitches her sweet little toes.  Other times she clinches up her beautiful legs, as if she is chasing something.  Often she makes mumbled cat sounds, cracking open her lips and popping her voice box, communicating something through her subconscious.

Such a natural state to reside!  REM, where the dream is reality and the body literally functions as if awake.  Everything is the same, for our breathing and our heart-rate is consistent with that of when we are wide awake…yet we are not, and we snooze in a world parallel to reality.  Sounds fun, huh?

Sure!  But not when I wake up in a cold sweat, wondering if I was just where I swore I was…see, I remember last night’s dream all started because I was walking through the International Mall.  I suddenly stopped at the candy store in the International Mall and debated for a while whether or not I was a compulsive eater.  I thought, “Am I really addicted to food?  I mean, I’ve gone a little while now without eating sugar products, like candy and dessert foods, so I should be good, right?  If I were really addicted then I wouldn’t have made it abstinent for any length of time, right?  But then, I am obsessing over eating candy or not eating candy right now…oh, Jesus!  Maybe I am addicted to sugar!  If so, what’s the point in fighting it, anyway?  Hmm…”

And then suddenly I was at the register, buying a bag of those blue-and-white-shark-gummies.  I recall feeling anxious and fretful, yet determined, and I specifically remember thinking that because I never liked eating blue-and-white-shark-gummies, why would I not consider them an abstinent food?  I mean, hey – I abstained from eating them because I didn’t ever like them so they don’t count in my non-abstinent foods, right?  I took a deep breath and decided that surely they didn’t count.  If I never binged on a specific food because I didn’t like the taste then even if it was candy it didn’t count, right?  The clerk interrupted my rationalization by telling me the cost – something like $6.29 – and I looked up and there before me was my OA pal, Anner-Bananer!

“OMG,” I muttered, “Ann, it’s not what you think.”  I still handed her my card, though, and she smiled as she swiped it.  Oddly, she didn’t seem to notice I was buying candy!  Then she asked, “Will you be at the meeting Wednesday night?”  I think I said yes, but I can’t remember what happened with Ann after that.

My memory rekindles later as I am again walking through the mall.  I saw the Coach store and thought, “Oh, I certainly should go in!  I have a Coach bag, after all.”  And so I went in, with my bag of gummies, and I looked at bags and chewed and, while relishing the flavor, pondered honesty and abstinence.  I kept thinking about the gummies, and how they tasted great.  I constantly was worried about running out of them, and if they violated my abstinence, and why mentioning it to my OA sponsor was a probably bad idea.  I thought, “She’s busy anyway, right?  Yeah, it’s not a big deal.”

And then, right as I decided that I would NOT tell my OA sponsor, I looked up AND THERE SHE STOOD!  She said, “Hey, Lauren!”  Guilt and shame and terror engulfed me.  I felt such despair.  How could I have ever convinced myself that blue-and-white-shark-gummies don’t violate my abstinence?  It’s candy!  It’s all sugar!  My disease had won – I was lost and alone and destroyed.  I fell before my sponsor, handed her the bag of gummies, and begged her not to fire me.

My sponsor was so kind and loving to me in my dream.  Truthfully, she is always like that.  My sponsor loves me.  And not just in my dreams, but also in real life.  So, I’m not quite sure why I was so convinced that she would reject me in my dream.  Anyway, for some reason I feared she would cast me aside and hate my guts.  But, she didn’t.  She hugged me and told me that she loved me and asked me if I was ready to surrender.

And this was the moment when I woke up.  I jolted upright and thought, “Am I ready to surrender?”

Eating dreams are normal.  Scary, but normal.  Some say they keep us on our toes and in-check with our program.

But for the grace of God I am not at the International Mall today, debating gummies and abstinence.

Thank you, my brothers and sisters in recovery, for passing the message to me!  I love you all so much!  

Support Network Post

I had an amazing experience the other morning.  Before attending the OA meeting (Sat 10 AM Rainbow Recovery Club) I met up with several of my OA friends at the local Starbucks and we did something amazing:

We sat, talked, laughed, and loved each other as if we were all sisters.

Isn’t that great?!  Now, let’s get real for a minute, ‘cause I know what some of y’all are doin’ right now…

Surely, a couple of my readers (Yes, I have read your emails!   Thank you for contacting me!) are thinking, “Oh Lord, not more hokey ‘We-covery’ stuff.  I can’t take it.  Doesn’t Lauren L know that I am suffering over here?!”

Yep, I sure do know that!  I suffer sometimes, too.  Guess who it is that lifts me out of my murky mire when I don’t have enough humility to call upon my Higher Power?  That’s right.  It’s my OA family.  Just with a single smile and a hug they pass to me the message that recovery is possible.

You know, it’s true that I am all about my recovery network.  They keep me abstinent and they keep me honest.  If you haven’t come to an OA meeting, or if you have come and then rushed out before meeting anyone, please just keep coming back.  The promises are true and they can come true for you, too.  Together we can do what we could never do alone.

See you at the next meeting!

The Weight of Meetings

Meetings are a very important part of recovery in OA.  It is a tool that members use to connect with other members.  Usually, I make 2 meetings a week.  The other days I spend at my AA groups.  This week I wasn’t able to make my 2 OA meetings…and I can really feel the difference.

I’ve received some emails from people asking what, exactly, my reasons for being in OA are.  I’ve been asked, “Are you bulimic?  Anorexic?  Are you morbidly obese?  What ARE you?”

Well, lucky for me, the 3rd Tradition of OA states that, “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively.”

No, I am not bulimic.  Nor am I anorexic.  Nor am I obese.  Seriously, folks, I got to the rooms of OA because I am an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous.  In 12 Step groups, the 10th Step is a daily personal inventory.  By doing my personal inventory in AA, I realized that I was exhibiting some abnormal and unhealthy behaviors revolving around sugary foods.  So, I stopped doing all the diets I was trying and I went to OA.

In the rooms of OA I learned that my obsession to try different diets to lose about 20 pounds wasn’t normal.  It was compulsive behavior.  I realized that once I ate sugary food, I always went back, even if I was trying to avoid eating more of it.

Therefore, I went to OA.  Since then I have been abstinent from those sugary foods.  For the record, my abstinence is truly a gift from my Higher Power, the Fellowship, and the rooms of OA.

So, to answer the question of weight loss:  Yes!  I have lost weight!  But, weight is only a symptom of wellness or sickness.  My weight, though lower, is not what OA suggests I focus on.  OA suggests that I look at whether or not I am in right relations with my Higher Power.  Do I love me?  Yes.

Thank you, OA, for helping me learn how to love myself!  See you at the next meeting!