that time I joined a 12-step program
“Hello. My name is Kate, and I am a compulsive overeater”.
Nope, nope, NOPE! The meeting just began, and I already hated everything about it. I hated the label, I hated the helpless link between the self and that label, expressed in simple words “I am”.
The website for Overeaters Anonymous says:
“Our way of life, based on these twelve steps and twelve traditions, has brought us physical, emotional and spiritual healing, that we don’t hesitate to call miraculous. What works for us will work for you, too.”
The first sentence makes sense. It’s the certainty of the second sentence that I have a problem with.
After the introductions, it went from bad to worse.
Thirty people were seated in a circle in a small Toronto church. The fact that I was one of those thirty people was traumatic enough.
“We admitted we were powerless over food — that our lives had become unmanageable”.
“Ok”, I think to myself. “They definitely got the piece about my life becoming unmanageable right. But… powerless? That’s a strong word. And I AM here, aren’t I?”.
“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
UGHHHHHHHHHH. I sure hoped something COULD, in fact, restore me to sanity. But there was no Power greater than myself, when it came to restoring ME to sanity.
“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
I felt angry tears starting to well up. This will be a long hour. It IS an hour, right? Oh God (hiiiii!), I hope it’s not two hours. IS IT TWO HOURS?
“We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
Wait… WHAT? Why would I want to remove all defects of character and have all my shortcomings removed? I just want to be functional, and not stuff myself with food, and then flush it down the toilet. ALL shortcomings? That seems like a tall order. Will God remove my appendix too? I mean it is a bit of a design flaw.
“Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”
This sounds like “a list of people to kill”. But you know… backwards. I like the idea well enough. But seems a little compulsive to make a freaking list, and work one’s way through it. Aren’t we here to become LESS compulsive?
“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.”
Ah! Finally, a step I can get fully behind. YES!
“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
Annnnd… you lost me again. Sigh.
Listening to people talk, I gathered that OA encourages eating balanced meals, avoiding snacks, and banning trigger foods forever. Because once an addict, always an addict.
I never went back to OA.
The amount of dissonance I experienced facing the main tenets of the approach was greater than the potential benefit.
However, I never regretted going.
Seeking out a meeting was one of the first moves I took to help myself. I DID have to acknowledge the problem. Not to God, but to myself.
Talking to the meeting coordinator before the first meeting made me say the words out loud: “I binge, and make myself throw up”. I also heard myself say that “it wasn’t that bad”, since I was only doing it occasionally. Right. Never good enough. Even for an OA meeting.
I continued to seek something more… non-denominational, which landed me at Sheena’s Place, one of the best organizations I encountered, helping women with eating disorders. I went to support groups for few years, and they played a crucial role in my recovery. Italian went too. Because they offer separate groups for family, friends and partners. They are awesome like that.
I used a metaphor of a dark cave with a client this week.
Imagine, you wake up and find yourself in a cave. It’s completely dark, you cannot see anything. How do you get out? Do you continue sitting on your ass, trying to strategize a perfect plan of escape? Or do you get the fuck up, and start feeling around for walls? Walk right, bump into a rock. Walk left, trip over a log.
Sometimes, what seems like the step in the wrong direction is not a step in the wrong direction at all. You are just feeling around the dark cave, looking for a way out.
*Please note that Overeaters Anonymous helped and continues to help many people around the globe. This particular approach is not for me. It may very well be for you.