Last August I started going to Overeaters Anonymous (OA) meetings. Every diet I've ever tried has quickly failed me, but this isn't a diet, and it is really working for me. I have now lost 12 pounds. The weight loss has been very slow (3 pounds a month) but my life style has completely changed - I just realized that are dozens of other things that I'm "losing" besides weight.
I'm losing the temptation to stop by the vending machine after work. I'm losing the desire to snack in between meals; instead I can say, "I can eat again in a couple hours. It's okay, I'm not really hungry right now and I can wait." I'm much more consistent about exercising and look forward to my walks, even on cold snowy days. A couple times now when I've eaten too much at lunch, and I'm tempted to "blow it" for the rest of the day, I have been able to STOP the binge and wait to eat until I'm really hungry again. I've never been able to do that before!
I've been thinking about what has enabled me to make these changes. It's God. That's the amazing simple answer. As I've posted before, this program is all about admitting weakness, admitting we don't have the will power to resist, and then turning to God for His strength since we've learned we don't have it on our own. This means checking in with Him a lot.
You know how diabetics need to take insulin or make careful diet choices everyday to control their disease? I have a diabetic friend who was in denial for many years, until her health became critical, and then she got serious about "checking in" several times a day: checking her blood sugar and adjusting her diet accordingly.
I have a disease called compulsive overeating, and to keep it from ruining my life, like a diabetic I need to "check in" several times a day. I don't have to check my blood sugar, but I do have to check other things - am I eating because I'm hungry? Or because I'm bored, anxious, distracted, putting off doing something else, stressed, etc. OA has a list of "tools" you can use in the battle against compulsive eating, such as making a plan for eating each day and checking in with my higher power (in my case, the God of the Bible). It also means remembering to do one or more of these things: reading OA material (or the Bible or a devotional), or calling another OA member, writing in a journal, or going to an OA meeting.
OA meetings are a problem because we don't have any in my town. I have to drive 50 minutes to Cheyenne to get to a meeting, which is only Thursday nights. I was faithful about taking the time to do this for the first three months, but lately I haven't been going as frequently because either the weather is bad for driving, or as the case yesterday, I felt I was in pretty good shape (binge free for 9 days) and didn't want to take the time, and since I've been in OA five months now I have learned a LOT and am not necessarily learning anything new now at the meetings.
But then another OA member called and asked if I was coming to the meeting last night. I told her I didn't think so, I was doing pretty good this week, and it's a big time commitment - basically uses up all my evening with the driving there and then driving back.
She said, have you heard the two reasons for when you know you need to go to a meeting?
The first reason is when you are struggling and you know you need a meeting. Then obviously you need to go.
The second reason is when you aren't struggling and you don't think you need to go to a meeting. Then you need to go.
That made me laugh, but it's true. We still need to go even when we aren't struggling. Because it's just as much preventative as it is curing. I have a disease that will never cure itself or go away; it will always require daily attention, and it frequently requires getting together with others to brainstorm and encourage and enlighten - and even if I'm doing okay I can't discount the fact that my presence at a meeting could be a huge encouragement and help to another struggling person, especially in our situation here in Wyoming, where there are so few people, and sometimes we have 5 people at a meeting, sometimes only two. It would be awful if one person showed up to a meeting and no else did. After all the 12th step involves serving others as part of our recovery.
So I went to that meeting last night and it was one of the best meetings I've ever been to. There were only two of us so we had lots of time to talk personally and discuss the different issues she's facing and I'm facing (I'm still struggling when one of my binge foods appears in a situation I hadn't planned for).
We read a recovery story from the AA Big Book that I could so identify with, because really there isn't much difference between compulsive overeaters and alcoholics; they are both addictions with the same root causes. This recovering alcoholic ran into a situation he hadn't planned for - when he headed home for the day, his neighbors were having a party. Having that party so close, so accessible, was torture to him. He tried calling his sponsor, but couldn't reach him. So far he hadn't been willing to believe in a higher power, but that night, with no other options, he looked up and said: "okay, buddy, it's just you and me." And immediately his desire to go to the party and drink lessened. He realized God really was there and was listening and waiting for him to ask for help. He was able to stay home, all alone, and resist that party next door. That is so amazing, for an addict, to overcome such an intense level of temptation!
When unexpected and intense temptations hit me, I am still so far away from remembering to call someone or text someone or reach out to God with the surety that he can overcome the temptation. I usually just give in. The success I've had so far has come from planning and praying ahead of time, identifying times that will be extra hard (e.g. pizza night or after church) and preparing for them, but I haven't yet reached the point where I can pray through an unplanned situation.
This gave me hope that someday I will have success even in those situations. And it taught me never to take meetings lightly, they are part of the "check ins" I need to do to keep fighting this disease.