A Story of Recovery:
Fifty and Free
I am of Italian descent and was born in America. I turned 50 years old in September. I have had the pleasure and the opportunity to visit my family in Italy quite often. The first time I traveled there, I was 4-years old and I celebrated my fifth birthday in the home in which my father grew up. I also celebrated my 25th birthday there. As a young adult, I visited often, even spending a year studying there and a summer having fun with my favorite cousin.
After I married and had a child, we went there and took our 11-month-old daughter. I had not been back since. How I longed to see them and wander the streets of my beloved Firenze (Florence) again. So I began to pray. I said, “God, if it is your will for me to return to la terra maternal (the motherland), then show me how. If not, then please remove the desire.” That prayer is very powerful for me. I can really obsess if I have the desire to do something.
The desire would not leave me. Had my prayer failed? Could it be God’s will for me to really go? I thought that I did not return for many years because of my small children. In reality, I would not have even seen an opportunity if it tapped me on the shoulder, because I was in such a food fog from food addiction relapse. I had been in OA for many years before I had children. I had stopped working a strong OA program just when I needed it the most—when I faced parenting, which was the greatest challenge of my life. I did not have a faith that work, and I relapsed.
There I was, my fourth year in FA, enjoying the pleasures of a 115 pound weight loss, an open heart connected to the God of my understanding, and a quiet mind. So I kept praying, asking for God to show me how to make my dream come true.
One day, I woke up certain that God wanted me to go. . .alone. . . leaving my husband and two children here at home. It was not the right timing for my 9-year-old son, and I wanted the trip to be about re-connecting with my family and my most favorite city in the world. So I talked to my husband, who was very supportive. The actually physical preparation took a few phone calls. I knew the money would be available, because my business was more solid because of my Program, and I just knew it was God’s will. It took almost two years of prayer and working a strong FA program, for God to prepare me to be ready to receive this most extraordinary gift.
The entire trip was divine in the true sense of the word. God was at every turn! I made up my mind that I would be abstinent, and so I did everything I could to work my disciplines even while in Italy. I believe that there is sacredness in the sameness. I had a temporary overseas phone so that I could call my sponsor and connect with recovery friends back home, I got up early and did my tools and weighed and measure my food. (I needn’t have even brought a scale; my cousin borrowed one for me!) I asked God’s help when I was traveling and eating in restaurants or in other people’s homes.
One of my favorite memories of the trip is excusing myself and stepping out of a restaurant in Florence after ordering my abstinent lunch, and calling my sponsor from a busy street corner. We were both laughing as the Vespas whizzed by while we were talking.
My cousins threw a birthday party for me, and I was able to receive the love and the honor of being the celebrated guest. I even had the courage to stand up on a chair and tell my cousins, in Italian, how I felt. How many times in my life did I want to stand up and share my heart, and could not. At 253.5 pounds, I would never have stood up on a chair! At 138.5, it was a breeze. This was truly a divine experience.
Sharing my heart at FA meetings gave me the courage to do so in Italy. Traveling to see my out-of-town sponsor on two separate occasions to do my Fifth Step gave me the courage to travel without my children and husband. Having traveled to my sponsor to work the Steps showed me that all would be well in my absence.
I had a technological mishap and lost most of the video and pictures from my trip. My memories were lost. For one night, I was desperate. I prayed and appropriated God’s power to help me with this. After having hidden from cameras for years, I was so attached to the video of my cute self, standing on that chair at my party!
I got the gift of acceptance that night, after praying and looking at my writings from the trip. (Yes, again an FA discipline saved me.) I was able to revisit the memories of the trip with my heart, not my head, and see many things that I could not see through the lens of a video camera or on a photo. I saw with my heart the depth of my roots as I stood near the well of the garden with tears streaming down my face, and when I saw the snow on the Maella mountain top, the Adriatic from the window of my dad’s home, children dancing to Italian folk music, soul sisters singing one of their favorite songs while strolling arm-in-arm on Piazza della Republica in Florence, a full moon rising over the Ligurian mountains, middle schoolers spilling out onto a busy street, and the peaceful Tuscan countryside.
Thank you, God, for one of many lovely 50th birthday gifts. Thank you, FA for the divine trip, where I was free from the food obsession, free from the bondage of self, free to try on clothes in any store with my size 6 body, free to be me.