“As far back as I can remember, I was fascinated by food.” This is what I heard the young woman who carried this message of recovery to me say and I just knew that she knew. I knew that she understood that as much as I wanted to control my eating so I wouldn’t put on any more weight, I just couldn’t. I knew that she understood how I would go to sleep at night desperately hoping tomorrow would be different, dreaming that tomorrow I would win the battle against food and despairing that I would never lose weight. I knew that she understood that I never did ever win that battle, always at some point in the day I would just give in and start eating and not be able to stop. I knew she understood that I had been dieting and struggling with food my entire life.
By the time I met her, I was obese and had been for most of my life. It was 10 days before my 23rd birthday and one year before I was due to get married to a man who told me he loved me. Of course, I couldn’t believe him because he didn’t know that I was lying about my eating and stealing money and food, and I thought that when he found out he would leave me. My weight was affecting my ability to live my life. I was struggling with my dancing, which I loved, and walking hurt. I had big plans for my life. I had achieved a Master’s degree at university and was sure I was going to go very far, except that the whole world was against me because I was fat and they obviously couldn’t see past the package. My parent’s marriage had just broken up, Princess Diana died, size 24 wedding dresses were very ugly and I just didn’t have another diet in me. These were all reasons to feel sorry for myself and I thought I was done for, that there was no hope of me ever achieving my big dreams and ambitions.
Another reason to feel sorry for myself was that I couldn’t stay thin through exercising or vomiting. I really thought that the weight was my only problem. This was the point where the solution was offered to me and, because I was so desperate to lose weight, I was completely sold. I was so clever I thought that I would completely ace this recovery thing. Twelve Steps? Easy. . . give me the Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous), give me twelve weeks and some new stationery and I knew that I would pass the test and then teach everyone else how to do it even better. Unfortunately for me and for the people around me, that was not the attitude with which to tackle this way of life. There was no surrender in my attitude of “I can figure this out for myself” and, while I did lose a lot of weight, that did not turn out to be problem after all.
The answer for me, ultimately, and it took years and years for me to get there, was not in the food plan, the meetings or the literature. It was not in knowing the Twelve Steps or even understanding the Twelve Steps, but it was in practising the Twelve Steps. It was not in having a sponsor, but in actually being able to be sponsored. It was not in being able to recite the third step prayer, but in actually trusting and handing my will and my life over to a Higher Power. I had to get to a point of understanding that where it says that “we are beyond human aid”, it turns out that I am a human being and I cannot fix myself. I had to let go of all the intelligence I thought I had, all the “figuring-it-out” and all the “fierce independence”. I had to ask for help, I had to follow direction from the people that were getting well and I had to trust my Higher Power. I had to surrender.
By God’s Grace, I can now say that I am sober and am living my life as best I can, according to the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions. The problem wasn’t my weight or the food, it was me, and AEA is where I found the solution. My husband and I will celebrate our twentieth anniversary soon and I have a beautiful and full life. Every day I have an opportunity to be available to be of maximum service to God and to others. I am eternally grateful to that first woman who shared her story with me, my sponsor and all the other people in AEA who have been patient and generous with me along the way. I do not live my life these days with big dreams or ambitions because I have found my purpose. My primary purpose is to continue to stay sober in this fellowship of Addictive Eaters Anonymous and to carry the message of recovery to those who need and want it. It is a great life.