“We will not regret the past,” says the Promises that many meetings close with each week. Usually we think of this as referring to the stuff in our backgrounds that we’d rather not remember. But we also need to keep careful watch for sentimentalism, a gateway to self-pity.
Of course there’s nothing wrong for reflecting gladly on bygone days of glee. We rightly and naturally cherish the memories of our loved ones, special moments, successes, happy surprises, challenges overcome. But the disease of addiction is cunning and baffling, and so we must be on guard and monitor our thinking. Instead of keeping it in the day, our illness can turn our thoughts toward matters of food, weight, and body image quickly and almost imperceptibly.
What begins as a pleasant trip down memory lane can turn into lingering thoughts about certain foods or meals. Once our minds reach a place such as this, we can easily slip into self-pity over the foods we can no longer eat. Our disease can begin to tell us that those meals of yore were worth more than our abstinence. The cycle of addiction always beings with a thought or feeling.
So how do we recognize when we’re in danger of romancing the foods of yesterday? And what do we do if we enter that mindspace?
These are some warning signs heard from OA members that signal when we’ve crossed over from sentimental remembrance into self-pity:
- “I wish I could eat that again.”
- “Ooh, I remember that [holiday or special event]. The [food] was soooooo good.”
- “Wow, I can taste that right now.”
- “I wonder if that would taste as good to me now as it did back then?”
- “Maybe I could have a bite of that? It’s been so long.”
- “That food reminds me of my parent/sibling/friend who I miss so much.”
If thoughts such as these rattle through our mind, we’ve got to act quickly and decisively. The longer we polish this turd, the more it looks to us like a jewel. How do we get ourselves out of this tight spot?
- Pick up OA’s Tools: The Tools which will turn our thinking back toward our solution quickly.
- A plan of eating: Review our food plan to help remember why we don’t eat what we’ve been thinking about
- Sponsorship: Call our sponsor to talk about this slide into food-romance or call a sponsee to see how they’re doing to move our thoughts in a more productive direction
- Meetings: Get to a meeting quickly to hear about the solution and to be reminded of the hellishness of being in the problem
- Telephone: Talking to someone right away about the dishonesty our illness is trying to perpetrate on us is a sure way to be reminded of the solution
- Literature: Read any piece of program literature to remind us of the importance of maintaining our abstinence
- Writing: Journaling about our thoughts drifting foodward, writing a letter to our Higher Power asking for help, or continuing our 4th Step inventory will support sanity around food
- Service: What’s better for redirecting our thoughts than seeing how we can be of service to OA or any group that needs a helping hand?
- Plan of Action: Any other action that we regularly take as part of our program can help us keep our OA foundation strong.
- Do a 10th Step: Page 84 of the Big Book tells us to watch for selfishness, dishonest, resentment, and fear then gives us specific actions to take when these crop us:
- Ask our HP to remove the issue: Go straight to the spiritual source of our recovery!
- Discuss the issue with someone immediately: A sponsor or trusted OA friend is the ideal someone who understands how food addiction plays tricks our minds
- Make amends if necessary: Especially if our thinking is causing us to neglect other important responsibilities
- Turn our thoughts to someone we can help: Getting out of our own heads requires us to put ourselves second
- Remind ourselves of the nature of our illness: Our addiction always lies to us, and it even uses truths to deceive us. For example, it reminds us of the fleeting pleasure of food, but blocks out recollections of the daily torture of compulsive eating.
Additionally, we must remember that whatever direction our life in recovery takes, it’s an unfolding adventure that we get to live fully one day at a time. Rather than worry that tomorrow won’t be like yesteryear, we can instead rejoice that today isn’t as painful as our old way of living was. Rather than pining for the “good” old days, we can be grateful for this moment in recovery.