As part of my master’s degree program and substance abuse counseling class, I was asked to attend two 12-step meetings of my choice. Naturally, what do you suppose I chose?
OA, like AA or NA or et cetera, is based on a spiritual plan of 12-steps. Each step, completed in order and in successive completion, until you reach the ultimate goal. Abstinence. In the case of OA, abstinence entails refraining from all types of disordered eating. Compulsive overeating, binge eating, bulimia, anorexia…all so different but all the same = disordered eating.
Tonight I attended my first Overeaters Anonymous meeting. From the moment I walked in the door, I was greeted with acceptance and with cheer. I introduced myself as a student from my mental health counseling graduate program coming here not only to complete a class assignment but, to learn. And, learn, I did.
I learned a lot tonight. I learned a lot and it was overwhelmingly humbling. I listened to those who suffer speak of moments of hopelessness and moments of grieving with guilt and with shame. I listened to those who are abstinent all the time, some of the time, and, sadly, some that are abstinent almost none or absolutely none of the time. I listened as they defined Freedom as Abstinence; Acceptance as thee way; recovery as indescribable gratefulness; Surrendering as a way to peace.
They, as an OA group, described themselves as self-contributing. As they readied to pass around a basket for monetary donations, they asked the circle to give as they could and, as one did, to recall their last binge. This, I assume, to be a way to substantiate your donation to a cause whose purpose is to promote your future abstinence.
As I sat there swallowing my tears, I donated the lone $5 bill I had in my wallet, and I tried to think of my last binge and my last purge. It was then that I was overwhelmed with an unbelievable sense of grateful humbleness. I really had to think back; I had to think 5 months back. I haven’t binged in months. This, I realized, as I sat in that circle, was a huge and meaningful, hard to come by, total victory. I sat there victorious amongst others who may not have ever been quite so victorious. Joyous, proud humbleness…
My heart beat steady but staccato as I listened to a middle aged woman introduce herself and describe herself as a bulimic. Everyone said hi to her name, but I sat there silently and vastly intrigued. She spoke of her very long-time battle with bulimia, how she swore to change after marriage, after childbirth, after relocations. She swore she would not do it again. Everytime she did it again, she swore the same thing again. “With bulimia, there is no end. I can empty myself and start over.” This is raw, unedited, sad truth.
As the meeting began to come to it’s close, they began their coining ceremony. One chip denoting newly committed membership and 1 day of abstinence; another chip denoting a month or multiple months of abstinence; another chip denoting a year or multiple years of abstinence. As my heart beat almost out of the walls of my chest, I raised my hand for the month-chip. I raised my hand and as I was handed a chip I followed the 12-step lead: “Hi, my name is Jessica, and I am a grateful 5-month recovered bulimic.” Everyone said hi to my name and I was changed.
I had never gone to OA. I had never really gone to counseling. I had never seeked inpatient or outpatient treatment. Yet, I was months in recovery. Why me? Wow… what a blessing… a blessing I have no other choice at this present time or any future present time but to give myself undeniable, insurmountable credit for. I did it… and I am doing it.
After the meeting was called to an end, the woman sitting next to me asked how I did it. In short, I told her I relabeled my suffering as divine destiny. I told her with complete and real conviction that I believe I suffered for a reason. And that reason is now my passion and my purpose. It is my passion in Eating to Live, Not the Alternative. It is my passion in future counseling and inspiring. It is my passion in speaking, writing and promoting.
This is my passion and I know it has been given to me by something greater than myself. I am humbled and I am certain; I have undoubtedly found, via blessing, my ultimate and divine purpose in life.
Eating to Live, Not the Alternative… this cause, this passion, this purpose, it proudly and humbly defines me.