Addictive Eaters Anonymous for the Healthcare Professional
It is our desire to reach out to Healthcare Professionals in order to share our approach to the problem of addictive eating, and a solution we have found works for us. As a fellowship, we welcome your comments, suggestions and observations to enable us to better serve the addictive eater who still suffers.
The following text briefly details what AEA is and how it works. It also provides the testimony of an AEA member who has been in recovery from addictive eating for many years, and is also a practising clinician, which we hope you will find beneficial.
AEA: A Brief Overview
Addictive Eaters Anonymous is a Twelve Step fellowship based on Alcoholics Anonymous. Through working the AEA Twelve Step Programme, members have found several decades of recovery from binge eating, anorexia, bulimia, other forms of addictive eating and compulsive exercise. AEA is not a diet or weight loss organisation. Members share their experience with newcomers of how they have found sobriety. Sobriety in AEA is freedom from addictive eating and all mind-altering substances.
AEA takes no public stance on eating disorders. As a fellowship, we don’t enter into any debate about the food or diet industry or any other issue. We have simply found a solution that works for us. Over time, we of AEA have come to realise that food is a symptom of a wider problem, the disease of addiction. Our personal histories show us that addiction can switch from one substance to another and that addressing all aspects of addiction is essential in finding freedom from addictive eating.
AEA and Individual Choice
We know from our own experience that the decision to seek sobriety must be an individual choice. The programme is one of attraction, not promotion, and cannot be imposed on anyone. With this principle in mind, it is the individual (or patient) who makes the call to AEA, makes the decision to go to a meeting, and ultimately decides whether or not the programme is for them. No one can make that decision for them. People are free to come and go as they wish. AEA does not provide counselling, medical advice, medical treatment or rehabilitation services.
AEA meetings are open to anyone and there is no cost to attend. At AEA meetings, members share how the programme has worked for them and the difference it is making in their lives. Meetings offer newcomers the opportunity to get to know other AEA members, and see that there is a solution to the obsession with food. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop eating addictively. Everyone is welcome in AEA, including family or friends of anyone who suffers from addictive eating. AEA also welcomes healthcare professionals and members of other Twelve Step recovery fellowships. Newcomers from around the world are encouraged to attend a regular online AEA Web Event.
A Spiritual Approach
While AEA offers a unique spiritual solution to addictive eating and the obsession with food, it is important to note that AEA is not a religious organisation, nor is it affiliated to one. AEA has members of different faiths or with no faith at all. We have found, however, that we need a Power greater than ourselves to become sober, as we had repeatedly failed to achieve this on our own unaided will. How individual members choose to define their Higher Power is entirely up to them. For some it is their AEA group, for others it is the Spirit of the Universe, for some the collective human consciousness, and for others a more traditional religious God.
Inside AEA: A Clinician’s View
The following is the experience of a clinician who has been practising the AEA way of life for over ten years.
I am a member of Addictive Eaters Anonymous. I am also a doctor. For almost 14 years, I have worked in the speciality of General Practice (GP). For more than a decade, I’ve worked in a suburban practice of a capital European city. The nature of my work means that every day I meet people of all ages from different backgrounds. From time to time I meet patients who I suspect have an addiction to food,
just like me.
Over ten years ago, at the age of thirty, I realized that, despite my education as a doctor and apparent willpower in other areas of my life, with regard to food I was beaten. Always intending to have just ‘one or two’, I would find myself addictively eating large volumes of food on a regular basis. I couldn’t follow the sensible recommendations I would have given patients. I felt baffled and ashamed about my secret life.
At that time I saw a notice for a Twelve Step fellowship that dealt with food. I made a phone call to the contact person. I was very tense going to my first meeting. I was admitting that I had a problem that I couldn't manage myself. I was afraid I would meet someone who recognised me from where I worked at that time. At the meeting I was welcomed by a group of people, many of whom had found recovery. I was wary at the mention of a “Higher Power”; Was AEA some sort of a cult? I soon found that it wasn’t -
I was free to come and go as I wished. There were no fees to join. This didn’t suit me. I would have preferred to be able to buy recovery. There was talk about the disease of addiction. This too caused me to balk. To my medical mind it sounded like I was abdicating responsibility for my behaviour. However, when I reflected on my experience, I could see that my obsession to control my food and weight, my complete failure to do so and the progression of my symptoms, fitted the disease description. I learned that addiction does not discriminate and that education does not provide the necessary defence against ‘picking up the first one.’
Through having the experience of recovery through The Twelve Steps of Addictive Eaters Anonymous, I have found freedom from the obsession with food and weight. I see The Twelve Steps as essentially spiritual in nature, which, when worked, bring about spiritual, mental and physical recovery.
Members of AEA have various symptoms when they first come to the fellowship. These can include overeating, undereating, bulimia, anorexia, binge eating and obsession with exercise. Often addiction to other substances is a feature. As a GP, I see in my job the destruction that addictive eating can bring to individuals and those around them. Too often the best efforts of the patient themselves, their family, GP, dietician and other healthcare professionals, just don’t result in lasting recovery.
In AEA I have witnessed remarkable recoveries. People who were utterly hopeless, beyond medical aid, now find that food and weight no longer rule their life. They don’t have to purge, get on and off the scales, worry about eating too much or not at all. They have recovered. As a doctor, I find it quite amazing that people who were once driven by an obsession with food now have freedom. In addition, I’ve seen ‘the lights come on’ for people. People who get sober and practise the programme of recovery get well in other areas of their lives too - relationships improve, careers open up and a joy enters their hearts. AEA members live sane, happy and useful lives. There are members with decades of sobriety.
Today when I meet patients who are struggling with addictive eating, I suggest that one option is that they go to Addictive Eaters Anonymous. There is a power and understanding in one addictive eater in recovery sharing the solution with another who has the problem.
While addicts, like me, have no willpower over food, we often are given the grace of willingness to work through The Twelve Steps. AEA has given freedom from addiction, hope and joy to many people who were once hopeless. From my own personal experience and witnessing the recovery of other addictive eaters, there is no doubt in my mind that Addictive Eaters Anonymous provides a solution to the problem of addictive eating.