Starting again in OA—rebooting from relapse

When our computer or device gets hung up, the first piece of advice we get usually goes, Did you try restarting? Rebooting causes programming to refresh itself, which typically relieves whatever bugginess has cropped up.

In relapse, we can feel as though we have gotten hung up too. We are frozen in a pattern of compulsive eating, and we can’t get to the next screen. But unlike an insensate device, we have to reboot ourselves to get our OA program back online.

We can’t rely on anyone else to hit the power button for us. OA is a program for people who want it, not people who need it. We’ve got years of experience at resenting others for telling us what to do. You aren’t the boss of me has rattled around our inner monologue more than a few times. Even if another person told us they’d drive us to meetings and help us do the work, we’d say no or get no benefit. As the ABCs on page 60 of the Big Book remind us, “probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.”

It’s up to us to take the actions required to gain or regain food sobriety. The recovery is ours, not the next person’s.

If we are ready to get back into the swing of OA, we might ask ourselves, What have I learned from this experience with compulsive eating? Could be we’ve learned some hard lessons about things such as:

  • I can’t stop eating compulsively once I start, and I can’t stop from starting.
  • My food plan wasn’t enough by itself to prevent me from eating compulsively.
  • My disease is worse now than when I first arrived at OA.
  • I can’t work this program without a sponsor.
  • I need to take my sponsor’s suggestions.
  • This disease uses my own thoughts to kill me.
  • I can’t do this halfway.
  • I need to do the Steps.
  • I’m totally screwed without OA.

These are just a few things we may have learned, there are so many others. We can take what we’ve learned and use it as a stepping stone toward recovery. We know that eating in isolation is likely to kill us with a heavy dose of misery before we lose our life. we need the fellowship of OA.

  • Luckily, OA’s nine Tools are designed to help us make maximal use of the fellowship. Meetings, Telephone, and Sponsorship place us in direct contact with other local compulsive eaters who can help us.
  • Literature gives us insight from OAs around the world.
  • Writing helps us get those lessons mentioned above onto paper so we can remember them and talk about them with other OAs.
  • Food plan helps us restore boundaries to our eating and provides an opportunity for accountability.
  • Service helps us stay connected to OA.
  • Anonymity frees us from shame with the knowledge that the public isn’t invited to know our story.
  • Action Plan gives us a framework for understanding how each element of our program supports our abstinence and recovery.

Of course, we’re going to need more than fellowship with people as the ABCs we referenced above tell us. We need a Higher Power. That’s a big lump in some of our throats, but less difficult to swallow than we imagine. All it takes is a willingness to believe something might be out there and a decision to work with that Something for the Steps to work for us.

Here’s a few things we don’t need to restart our program:

  • Guilt, shame, and remorse: These feelings often pull us back down into the quicksand of self-pity and compulsive eating
  • Stubbornness: We know we’re in trouble with food and that others have recovered, so why do we insist on doing it our, failed, way?
  • Denial: If we still think we’re in control or that we’re not like our OA fellows or that we are unique, we’re in for a bumpy ride
  • People-pleasing: We must toss aside our need to be “good” or please others because we have to get better for ourselves
  • Waffling: If we want recovery, we must commit to actions that result in recovery and avoid saying we’ll do something then bailing on it

Honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness are the keys to successful recovery. If we practice their opposites, we’ll get the opposite of recovery.

Finally, the journey to recovery can seem long and difficult when we try to imagine how getting back on track will play out. Yeah, there’s work ahead of us, but we’ve been committed to our substance one day at a time for a long time. Now we can commit to freedom from food obsession one day at a time. In the long run, a little work now will save us a lot of pain and an early death later—or for the really unlucky, sooner.

Don’t Feed the Tomorrow Trolls

We addicts often talk about The Committee inside our minds. That collection of voices that shout a seemingly endless stream of corrosive negativity at us. When a good thing happens, they scream that we don’t deserve it. When a bad thing happens: See? They told us so.

These voices exert power over us. They drive us to eat compulsively, to act out, to conduct ourselves in the opposite manner of our most heartfelt values, and, worst of all, to believe the killing lie that we’re not good enough.

The Committee’s favorite pastime of all is predicting our future and judging how we’ll respond to it. It’s their favorite because they get to use every deception they have, and they get to use our memories against us. Over time, they have twisted and warped our perceptions of the past, and now they use those distortions against us as we contemplate the future.

The Committee is made up of Tomorrow Trolls:

  • The Dread Seer: Transforms any amount uncertain knowledge into an unfalsifiable vision of a future filled with pain
  • The Inferiority Complexor: Sorcerer with the spellbinding incantation, I’m not good enough, that traps us in our minds
  • Impostro: Who cuts through our external positives to reveal our inner weaknesses to us
  • The Mentalist: Reads others minds so we can know what they really think of us
  • Dr. Perfect: Uses the power of perfectionism to keep us from making mistakes
  • The Puppeteer: Creates unbeatable plans to keep control of the future by any means necessary.

Together this unjust league of evildoers have us ensnared in their web of powerlessness. We seem unable to escape their clutches. Every time we think we’ve finally gotten away, we hear their laughter around us and realize we hadn’t gotten very far at all. What’s left to us is reducing our suffering with the anesthetic called food. That’s right where the Tomorrow Trolls want us.

The only thing that can break The Committee’s crushing grip on us is the 12 Steps. It attacks the source of the Tomorrow Trolls’ power over us, our unwillingness to trust and rely on something greater than ourselves.

It’s true. These trolls exist inside us because we needed them at one time. They started out life as benign voices that helped us get through hard times, but they became twisted and evil as their megalomaniacal power over us grew. We didn’t know they would turn into monsters, and, besides which, we never learned another way to be.

The 12 Steps give us deeper perspective. We suddenly see that what bound us to these voices was fear. Fear of the past happening again. Fear of a tomorrow we can’t abide. But when we work the Steps, we discover that our Higher Power has abilities and authority that The Committee only pretends to have.

Our HP has the power to soothe us instead of scare us. HP can guide us forward instead of keeping us stuck in yesterday. God, as we understand God, can show us the innermost, light-filled truth about us instead of hiding it from us.

This is the essence of the phrase one day at a time. We fear pain in tomorrow. It prevents us from enjoying today and having real relationships with others. But when we live in today, when we make incremental progress instead of trying to go to war with the future, we do just fine.

We can be happy even if bad news looms. Trusting and relying on God is how that works. Today we step through our day with courage founded on faith. We leave tomorrow in the future. Today is where spirituality and abstinence live. Tomorrow is where fear and compulsive eating exist.

So our job in any given twenty-four hours is simple: Don’t feed the Tomorrow Trolls! Instead we do business with our Higher Power in the now. We don’t listen to the BS our brain tells us, we listen to the sound guidance from our HP that has come as a result of doing spiritual work on a daily basis.