I am alive. When I reflect on the mistakes I’ve made, I realize how lucky I am to be alive: I seem to find balance when I least anticipate it, through luck and working the Twelve Steps. Perhaps that’s because coincidence is simply Higher Power being anonymous. One way to accept that I’m fully alive is by understanding that I no longer simply exist. Prior to OA, all I could do was exist. I was in deep denial. At my job, I preferred not to go out to eat with my coworkers; instead, I’d eat leftovers from the plates of patients or steal what I wanted before delivering the plates. I never had a visible weight problem while on duty, but I knew I was ill somehow, though I couldn’t identify the illness.

Gratitude. Acceptance. Forgiveness. Fourteen years ago, these words meant little to me. Today they shape my life . . .

Eating one meal a day seemed great, especially when I didn’t have to pay for it. It was easy to rationalize my behavior. I paid taxes; therefore, I thought, I paid for the food I stole. I didn’t recognize the blunt fact that I was a thief until my sponsor had me do my Steps. It took less than a year for me to realize how selfish and mean I had been to others. That Fourth Step was a doozy! I could not finagle it: either I had to be honest or I had to walk alone—again. Honesty won, hands down. Then came Step Nine. I had no way to make amends to those who were no longer at my workplace. At the risk of losing my position, I told my supervisor the truth. Doing this, face to face, was one of the hardest choices I’ve ever had to make. I am forever grateful for the faith and strength of the coworker who introduced me to OA. He was kind enough to stand beside me that fateful afternoon. It gave me the shakes to follow through with it.

When I learned that my thievery was not a well-disguised secret, I felt ashamed. My supervisor and I came to an agreement, and I remained faithful to it right up to retirement. It was the best I could do, and I had to accept that: no pity-pot time allowed. Today, I work the Steps and follow our Traditions to the best of my ability. Being perfect might be a nice goal, but it’s a rotten demand to make of myself. I’m learning to release it one day at a time. I find serenity by being rigidly honest, and that sustains my life.

Change is only as frightening as fear makes it. Without change, I would still be a caterpillar chomping on someone else’s rose leaf. It is much less stressful to be a butterfly, surrounded by sunshine, flying with love and self-respect. I sowed those seeds when I wrote my first set of Steps, and the tears that followed were the raindrops Higher Power knew were needed.

Now, I sponsor others and walk them through their Steps. I would easily fall back into isolation without the daily serenity I gain from reliving and sharing lessons with these new members. By living each moment as if it might be my last, in touch with my Higher Power and the golden rule, I feel no shame and no inclination to make a mad dash to the cookie jar.

Gratitude. Acceptance. Forgiveness. Fourteen years ago, these words meant little to me. Today they shape my life and give it back to me in colors and shapes I never knew. Today, feelings matter. I don’t hide them away, but I no longer let them control my behavior. Those three words brought such sweeping changes. Want a life? Find out how to be alive with an attitude of grateful forgiveness.

— Jo