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Growing Up in OA

No one comes to a Twelve Step program on an upswing, and I was no exception. I was overweight and felt certain foods were the problem. I asked my husband of eighteen years to move out; I thought he was the problem. I wasn’t communicating well with my adult children, so they were the problem. 

Meanwhile, an acquaintance from another Twelve Step program was buzzing about OA. I walked into that first meeting and knew to look for a sponsor who had what I wanted. Even with twenty-four years of sobriety, I knew nothing about recovery in OA, except to be the newcomer. 

My sponsor started me off with a “daily fifteen.” I wrote five reasons I was grateful, five things I’d done well, and five things for which I needed to forgive myself, plus what I had eaten. I emailed this to her every day. I also began the Steps by answering questions she provided. 

Within days I recognized that the people around me were not the source of my problems: I was. 

At eight months, my weight loss stalled at 20 pounds (9kg). I decided OA wasn’t working, and it was time to go. Oh wait—I had a service commitment through the end of December. I decided to give OA a real try so I could affirm it didn’t work. 

I attended three to five meetings each week and added daily exercise and spiritual reading to my action plan of writing, prayer, and meditation. I made a daily outreach call, tightened up what was going on my plate, and met weekly with my sponsor to review Step work. I continued my service position and picked up another one. I lost an additional 19 pounds (9 kg) before Christmas, and I didn’t quit. I lost another 15 pounds (7 kg) my second year and then hit a wall. 

With over 50 pounds (23 kg) lost in OA, I went to my health care specialists, confident in my improved health. But my lungs, heart, and pancreas were still degenerating; and my sleep apnea, hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, and arthritis were not improving. What was the point if my health wasn’t going to rebound? My weight started to yo-yo over the next couple of years. 

I decided my dwindling energy belonged to my family, friends, and Twelve Step work, so my world shrank dramatically. I took on service that could be done from home: typing OA phone lists and meeting minutes, editing the newsletter, acting as an email loop secretary, and sponsoring someone long-distance. I learned about setting boundaries and growing within. My weight stopped yo-yoing, and I began losing again. 

After two heart procedures last year, I am no longer looking to improve my stamina or ability because I need to spend time accepting myself as I am. I am at the bank of the river of emotional maturity. 

During my five years in program, my food has changed from an eight-hour binge every night to three enormous meals per day to three salad-plate sized meals. The biggest difference is food is no longer the focus of my life. In abstinent service, I have made connections to people with love, acceptance, and esteem flowing both ways. I am still married, and I have strong relationships with my children and grandchildren. As my external world contracts, my spiritual life expands. I am grateful to finally grow up in OA. 

— Anonymous