When I came back into OA in 1999, after eighteen years of trying to work the program my way, I was broken. It had beaten me. I began turning up to meetings and after two weeks got a sponsor. I knew I had a huge self-will, so I went for a strong sponsor. I was now prepared to do everything suggested, go to any length, if it meant I could get out of the deep, dark hole I was in.
I was given a food plan and told this would be the God-given fuel my body needed. I found that easy to accept, since I had been a failed dieter for many, many years. I was to call in to my sponsor every morning with my planned food for the day. I managed to “put down the food and pick up this food plan“ immediately, but I did experience some really busy thinking without my comfort food. I went to more and more meetings and heard the slogans and the Big Book promises (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p. 83–84). I lost my excess weight over the first twenty-one months, and that was a miracle. But I still had a thinking problem.
It finally dawned on me that the food plan was not the solution—the Twelve Steps were. I heard “trust God, clean house, help others.” I was shown how to help others to distract myself, instead of doing it for accolades. By going to five to eight meetings every week (as well as working at my job sixty hours per week), I experienced more sanity than I’d had in years. I was grateful I’d found in OA a solution that worked. I acted as if I had a Higher Power and tried to work the Steps to the best of my ability.
It finally dawned on me that the food plan was not the solution—the Twelve Steps were.
I learned to accept what my sponsor told me as being best for me, so I did everything suggested. I believed what she believed: “Stick with the winners” and “go to strong meetings.” I was one of the “winners”! I had “strong recovery”! I did plenty of service at group and intergroup levels. Over time, I became thin. I became abstinent. I was very grateful to not be eating compulsively and also grateful for the friends I’d made in the Fellowship. This is how I worked the program for over seven years.
But I still lived in fear—fear of eating again and fear of losing my sponsor. I did not have a lot of peace of mind.
I do have peace of mind now, however, and that change along with a change in the way I work my program started with a change of sponsors. She had what I wanted: peace and serenity; and I’m so grateful I asked her if she would be my sponsor. When I told her about my fear of eating again, she told me she could not stop me from eating, but she could show me how she found a loving God that had kept her abstinent and in recovery for many years. We had conversations around how to refine my food plan to suit my body by listening to my body, the difference between making a mistake and deliberately picking up a comfort food, how to eat normal meals, and how to eat out without fear.
Still, I frequently felt sudden fear around food and the lack of being controlled by a sponsor. I would have to forget the old ideas I’d learned. This was so much easier to say than do.
I began to be grateful as I realized the miracle: I was still alive and in recovery, and I’d witnessed other miraculous acts in my OA life. I could now trust God. Wow!
I’ve had to work on all my addictions and defects of character. I’ve had to practice turning an unhealthy thought into a healthy one. I’ve had to work, even mid-sentence, at stopping myself from gossiping.
In early 2016, I found outside literature that gave an in-depth way of working the Steps, which gave me acceptance that I’m on the right track as I do service to the best of my ability. However, I now take my sponsees through the Steps using the Twelve Step Workshop and Study Guide that became available in July 2016. This literature is what had been missing from my OA life.
I plan each day, handing everything—my will and my life—over to God every morning and continually as needed during the day. By remaining God-conscious and staying in the day, I’m living the program, not just working the program. I have my dream of a peaceful and serene life, daily, thanks to OA.