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.