For many people in the US, Valentine’s Day is synonymous with one thing: Chocolate. For others, it might also include a romantic dinner date as well. For OA members, especially those whose abstinence hinges on refraining from sugary foods and alcohol, it’s yet another holiday where we have to watch out.
In fact, many OAs will tell you that Valentine’s Day stings in a way that other special days don’t. Go to any meeting, and over time you’ll hear how our disease has caused us vast pain romantically speaking. Things such as:
- I was too ashamed to pursue romantic relationships or say yes to them
- My eating became more important than my marriage
- I didn’t believe anyone could love me
- I tried to control everything in all of my relationships
- I hid my eating and my disease from my spouse.
These and many similar sentiments and experiences indicate how negatively compulsive eating and food addiction have impacted our lives. It’s hard to love or be loved when we hate ourselves for the terrible damage we do to our bodies, minds, and spirits through food.
When we do the 12 Steps, we route out the negative patterns associated with this old thinking. We come to discover that our Higher Power (whatever it may be) doesn’t create junk. Through working the Steps, we find a new source of strength and courage, and food ceases to call us in the way it has. We don’t have to fight constantly to maintain abstinence, it just comes.
But what about before we finish that work? While we haven’t yet exposed that negative thinking to the daylight and revealed the awful lies we’ve been telling ourselves for what they really are? How do we, when confronted with happy couples, heart-shaped boxes, and champagne dinners, keep away from the first bite?
First of all, we have to remember that we are always “activated before the first bite is taken.” If we are obsessing about food, it’s because some feeling has gripped us…and we don’t like feelings! We may not be able to identify that feeling, but it’s there, and it is reminding us of every bad feeling we keep inside us, buried under years of overeaten food. (The very ones that Steps 4 through 9 help us get rid of!) And what will activate us more than thoughts about our isolation (within or outside of a relationship)?
So we know we are activated. The obsession is on us. We MUST act fast and decisively to stave off the first bite. Because once the first bite is taken, our bodies resume their physical dependence on food. Here’s three simple things we can do RIGHT NOW:
- Pray like our life depends upon it: If we have a conception of a Higher Power, our first order of business is to pray for strength and the willingness to go to any length to avoid the first bite. By the way, our life does depend on it.
- Call people in the program: That 1,000 pound phone actually gets lighter once we pick it up. We can start by dialing our sponsor, then trusted friends. If we don’t reach someone, we can keep dialing until we do. It’s worth it. Remember that it’s always better to call before we eat compulsively than after.
- Get to a meeting: No meeting in our area at this hour? If we are willing to go to any lengths, then central New Hampshire, southern Maine, and Mass aren’t very far to go. Check their website to see if they have a meeting. We can also go to OA.org and look up a phone meeting. Don’t even have to leave the house for that!
These simple suggestions remind us that until we have completed a thorough run through the Steps and established a working relationship with God as we understand God, we need the support of the fellowship. Without it, we’re just like the mouse under the cat’s paw. Waiting the death blow, but not sure how long our disease will keep batting us around for its fun.
And after all, this is a matter of life and death.