Tomorrow we celebrate the sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have given their life in service to our country. It’s a day of parades, wreath laying, and, of course, eating.
Many of us will attend picnics and parties where a spread of every salty, fatty, sugary, and floury food will be on display. And lots of it, free for the taking. We will be tempted, lured, attracted, and even admonished to eat things not on our food plans and in quantities no longer appropriate for our life in recovery. In our meetings this coming week, we will celebrate along with those who made it through cleanly, and we will encourage those who didn’t to get back on the horse.
Of course, the answer to how to get through Memorial Day is best talked about with a sponsor, but the same general guidelines apply to any similar occasion.
- Ask God for help before, during, and after the event
- Use the tools: have a food plan, use the phone if tempted, get to a meeting afterward if you still feel the compulsion.
- Don’t go if you will be unsafe around the food.
- Treat the day just as you would any other, not as an excuse to go off the wagon.
- One day at a time!
But let’s take the conceit of Memorial Day and think of it in OA terms. We in OA have witnessed many who have died from this disease and its complications. In our own area, we know OA members who have died from heart maladies exacerbated by their physical condition as well as those who have taken their own lives from the desperation this disease causes. Among us now are those who count themselves as absolutely certain that without the benefits of our program, they would no longer be alive. Outside OA examples of the ravages of this disease show in the obituaries each day.
We have a life and death illness. It doesn’t go away, but it responds to the treatment known as OA. We survivors, however, are left with reminders. Those reminders might even help us get through Memorial Day weekend without eating compulsively. In OA our defects are turned into assets for helping us and our fellows recover. Our Higher Power uses these reminders of our disease when we remember how miserable our life as compulsive eaters was. Here’s some examples of those reminders:
- loose skin
- stretch marks
- pitting in our skin from weight-related edema
- limping caused by damage to our hips, knees, or ankles
- surgical scars from joint replacements, organ surgeries, and other procedures
- missing toes due to type 2 diabetes
- dental work caused by eating too much sugary food or by throwing up
- chronic acid-reflux or heartburn
- breathing issues
- sleeping issues
- clothes we can no longer fit into—too big or too small
- photos from the bad old days
- wedding rings we no longer can wear because our marriage dissolved before the food problem was solved.
For us overeaters, it’s not a question of whether we are scarred by this disease, only where. Even if we can’t see or feel the scars on or inside our bodies, we probably also have many, many emotional scars in our psyches related to this disease. Shame, guilt, a feeling of unworthiness, depression, anxiety, remorse, regret, and loneliness, run rampant among us food addicts. Our disease may try to trigger us with flashbacks to traumatic, embarrassing, or merely difficult events in our lives. Like picking at an infected scab.
Instead of seeing all of this as pain to number with food, we have an opportunity to see them as the reason not to eat. Reminders of how lousy life can be when we eat compulsively and don’t stay in touch with God.
Unlike a war in the conventional, real-world sense, we OA members don’t get leave time, and our war never ends. The good news, however, is that we don’t have to fight the battle. In fact, when we surrender, we win! So on Memorial Day, we can enjoy peace by letting God do the fighting for us and by using what we know about the fellowship, the Steps, and the Tools to keep this disease from turning us into another casualty statistic in the war for our bodies, minds, and spirits.