A Story of Recovery:

Morning Amazement


“I can’t believe I did it again! I can’t believe I ate that way! What is wrong with me?!” Morning after morning those would be my first thoughts of the day, followed by a new resolve to “be good” today. I would eat a healthy breakfast, but then the kids would wake up and make something yummy for their breakfast. I would gobble down their leftovers, which were followed shortly by a large lunch and continuous eating for the rest of the day.

I ate large amounts of low-calorie foods, trying to feel full and to lose weight. I would eat quantities of vegetable and sugar-free desserts, but would still have plenty of room for my favorite binge foods. It was so hard for me to feel full. Every diet I tried made me feel like I was starving. It would only last a short time, and then I would start binging again.

I noticed that a friend of mine was losing a lot of weight. We have children the same age and, over the course of the school year, I would see her periodically at school functions. She told me she had joined a Twelve-Step program for food. I didn’t ask her any more about it because I had given up on losing weight. She called me at home and invited me to come to an FA meeting with her. I must have still had a glimmer of hope, because I eventually went to a meeting. My friend introduced me to a sponsor and I started the food plan the next day.

To my surprise, I felt satisfied after each meal. My food plan gave me about one pound of food for every meal. I remember eating “Hungry Man Dinners” before FA, which also had one pound of food for each meal, but the protein was covered in flour and there were two starchy vegetables and a small dessert. I could eat a couple of those meals followed by even more food.

Although the FA food plan gave me enough food and I was able to stay abstinent, I still wanted to eat between meals. “Addictive eating was [my] most normal reaction to life.” Before FA, I ate over my stressful job, my husband’s inability to get a job, and my mother’s poor health; in truth, I ate over everything! Any excuse would do, and I usually found someone else to blame.

FA sewed up all the loopholes and took away all my excuses. My sponsor said, “Don’t eat no matter what, no matter what, don’t eat.” She encouraged me to ask God for help when I had a food thought and to pick up a tool. I could read the Before You Take the Bite pamphlet, make a call, or listen to a tape. Long-term FA members assured me I could stay abstinent and that there is never an excuse to put anything in my mouth that is not committed to my sponsor and weighed out. I was assured that I did not ever need to eat the flour and sugar products that are poison to me.

Life can be hard, and staying abstinent is not easy, but the longer I stay abstinent, the more I experience contented abstinence. I never knew contented abstinence existed. In the past, I was either eating or wishing I was eating. Other FA members suggested that, when I was struggling, I should do the next right thing, which is never addictive eating. I was told I would not starve to death between meals.

I have faced a lot of challenges over the years. My father died when I was one year into program. He was able to watch my physical transformation and was so happy for me that I had lost the weight. He had watched my mom and her mom struggle over the years with weight, because this is a generational problem in my family. Although he was not a food addict himself, he understood the hold food had on his loved ones. My friends in FA helped me deal with his sudden and unexpected death. They listened to me and gave suggestions on how they had successfully dealt with grief in the past.

I changed careers several years into the program. Before FA, I felt stuck in my job as a mental health counselor; I had once loved the job, but I found that I was burned out. When I was overweight, people would ask me how I coped with hearing people’s problems all day, every day. I would respond that obviously I ate over it.

My sponsor and my FA friends taught me how to cope with my job without overeating. I was encouraged to look for the things I enjoyed about my job and to be grateful for jobs that I did not have to do. I was glad my chair was comfortable, the children were a great joy to work with, and I got paid to sit on the floor and play therapeutic board games. After I got into a normal-sized body, I could get up off the floor without crawling on my hands and knees to the bookshelf, where I would then climb up and hope the shelf did not fall on me and the child. I was glad I did not have to work in the cutthroat world of business, lay tar on hot roads outside, or travel for my job.

After I had a solid foundation in recovery, I began looking for a new job. FA friends helped me learn to use the computer, and they gave me tips on job seeking, interviewing, and dressing for success. They supported me through the ups and downs of an 11-month-long job search. I have been at my current position for over four years. It is a weighed and measured job that I am very well-suited to do. As I told one of my co-workers once, “Every day is a delightful surprise.” I feel challenged and appreciated there, and all of my co-workers support my abstinence. I took a pay cut when I came to this job, but the fear of financial insecurity has left me.

Three months ago, I experienced a very difficult series of events. My older son moved out on a Saturday, his dog (our family pet) died on Sunday, and my son started a new semester at college Monday, where he was two-and-a-half years into a five year program. Three days later my mother had a stroke, and she died a few days after that. I felt like I’d lost my baby, I was grieving for my son for losing his baby, and then I lost my mother. My older son has since dropped out of college and is having a difficult time financially.

It was at this point that I understood the concept of allowing the program to carry me. An FA friend brought me an abstinent meal so I would not need to leave her bedside. I received calls of support and sympathy cards, and several FA friends even came to mom’s calling hours and memorial service. My first sponsor provided my dinner for me after the service and my current sponsor drove in with her husband from out of state to support me. It has been a tough couple of months. I miss my mom and am not looking forward to my first Christmas without her. Everything about Christmas reminds me of her.

Good things are happening, too, though. My husband has been working for the past seven years, after being out of work for two-and-a-half years. My younger son has found a great job working with developmentally disabled adults and is doing well in his second year of college. He was 12 when I came to FA and does not remember me being overweight and obsessed with food. I have been in several AWOLs over the years. Working the 12 Steps helped me to be able to treat my mother with respect, patience, and kindness, and it improve my relationship with my sons and my husband. I know that one day at a time; I can face the ups and downs of life without any extra food.

I have been abstinent for almost eight years and am maintaining a 95-pound weight loss. I love living in a “right-sized” body. Every morning, when I get down on my knees to pray, I am still amazed that I have had another abstinent day. I love waking up abstinent with no regrets about what I ate the day before. I realize that abstinence is a gift from God. If I give that gift back, I have no reason to believe I will get it again. I don’t want to go back to the “food hell” where I lived for decades. I treasure my abstinence and feel so grateful for the recovery that has been shared with me, so generously, by other members in FA.

 

This story was originally published in the connection Magazine. Subscribe to the connection Magazine for more stories of recovery. Or submit your own story of recovery.