First, I need to tell you how it was before. I would overeat for any reason: happy, sad, hungry, tired, angry, bored, lonely, or afraid. Food was the first thing I would turn to for pleasure, comfort, and anesthesia. It had been that way since I was about 9 years old, when I was the victim of sexual abuse. I had no idea what was happening to me, but I believe this is when the eating really took over. As a teenager, I thought I was fat even when I was a size 8 and 5′4″ (162.5 cm) tall. I did not feel loved at home. Instead, I sought love in food, and I loved food more than anything or anyone. As I got older, my excuse for my weight gain was that I came from a strong ethnic stock and most of my female role models were hefty. Looking back, my mom, grandmother, and many aunts were all about 200 pounds (91 kg). So when I started to look like them, I was not too concerned.

I started to care about my weight gain during my second marriage. My husband had been overweight as a child and was teased mercilessly, but after he lost the weight, he started having a problem with obesity in others. (He told me before we were married how disgusting fat people were to him.) As our relationship floundered, I gained more weight and blamed my weight gain for his infidelity. I joined a weight-loss club and lost the weight, but really, the marriage was doomed. He was selfish and egocentric, and I was mean and condescending. We were not a good match, and the marriage needed to end.

Before the divorce was final, I started seeing someone else. It became a tumultuous, on-again-off-again relationship, and in comforting myself, I put on a lot of weight. I went to a weight-loss program and lost it, but it soon came back. So I went back and lost it again. When that relationship ended for good, I moved to Michigan. I was at 150 pounds (68 kg), which is a reasonable weight for me since I carry it evenly, but my weight was already creeping up again. Soon, I started to gain weight more rapidly. I was lonely and insecure in a new place, away from my old friends and most of my family. I tried to stuff down my emotions with food and excessive busyness. I got really good at pretending I was happy.

Here’s my new normal: Today, and for the last five and a half years, I’ve been a steady size 8. I recently took my bin of summer clothes out of the attic, and everything fits, just like it did last year and the year before.

In the few years before I joined OA, I had also become very unhappy at work. On top of that, I was prescribed some pain medication that decreased my impulse control. So I justified using excess food every day to comfort myself. I didn’t think I could make it fifteen minutes on the drive home, so I got a treat for the car ride. I was already convinced that no diet or weight lost supplement would work and that I would be fat forever. My weight reached 198 pounds (90 kg), and then I decided to stop weighing myself. I was stretching the seams of my size 18s, but I refused to buy more clothes.

What made me remember Overeaters Anonymous was certainly my Higher Power. I’d heard about OA about twenty years before but never thought I would need it.

When I joined OA in January 2009, I was so afraid that I was killing myself with food and that my inability to control my weight would make my health insurance go up. I definitely could not afford that! I had struggled with food for many years but did not know what the problem really was. I now know I have a disease! I guess it took all those years for me to hit bottom and become willing to admit I was powerless over food.

Here’s my new normal: Today, and for the last five and a half years, I’ve been a steady size 8. My weight fluctuates from 138 to 146 pounds (63–66 kg), but my clothing size has not changed. I recently took my bin of summer clothes out of the attic and everything fits, just like it did last year and the year before. I get up every morning, have an abstinent breakfast, and take quiet time consisting of reading OA literature, journaling, and prayer. I eat an abstinent lunch, dinner, and evening snack, and I have life in between. I do not eat in between those planned eating times. I attend one or two OA meetings a week and sometimes listen to recorded meetings or speakers. I do as much service in my home group as I think is right. (For a while, I was doing too much.) I recently completed a two-year term of service with my intergroup. I have been in a stable, loving relationship with the same man for thirteen years, and we have been married for two and a half years. Even though he does not have my disease, he is a partner in my recovery, cooking me abstinent meals based on a food plan that we have chosen together. He likes the weight loss he has experienced since I joined OA and began abstaining from sugar, most snack-type foods, and oversized portions. I have a sponsor whom I talk with regularly, and I am a sponsor. For any problems that arise, I trust I will find the answer in the Steps, and my Higher Power will comfort me and guide me to the answers that are his will for my life.

No matter what goes on in my life—health problems, fears, emotional or physical pain, money or car problems, or even a very sick dog—there is nothing that sends me to the food. Excess food never makes things better. It can only add to my problems and destroy my serenity. My abstinence is the most precious thing in my life, without exception. If I did not have my abstinence, I would be useless to my Higher Power, my OA program, and my loved ones. I know I am loved by my Higher Power more than I can even imagine. I often experience happiness and joy. I am grateful every moment of every day for this new normal that has become my life since I found OA.