While a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, attending 12 Step meetings for years, I got by working the first half of the First Step. I admitted I was powerless over alcohol and I was not drinking. I probably also practised Step 12 a little, as I was willing to help others by taking meetings. In all reality, I had done minimal work on the other Steps, except for doing Step Four and Five in the treatment centre where I sought help after first going to AA. It was over 13 years between that point and when I asked my sponsor in AEA for help and started to get serious about recovery. Facing Step One again, there was a lot more to be gained the second time around. Likewise, when I did another searching and fearless moral inventory, I realised I was still in active addiction all those years in the other fellowship.
I used to claim it was my professional training to question things. But really, it was just the bloody mindedness in me. I was always someone that would argue the point. That started to change the first time I found myself on a phone call with a member of Addictive Eaters Anonymous, agreeing to things suggested, saying yes to what I needed to do around food, with meetings and working the 12 Steps. It was unbelievable, like an out of body experience. I asked myself, “Did I really say that?”. There was a willingness there before I even knew it. I then heard from members that the willingness to do came from doing, so I got on with doing what they were doing, one day at a time. All those things I feared as restrictions turned out to be freedoms. I had to get down to causes and effects through working the 12 Steps.
Peeling back the layers by working the Steps became an adventure
There was a lot of historical stuff that I had ignored when I was in the treatment centre. There were also a lot of wrongs I had done during the time I was in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. Looking at that on paper, I was absolutely convinced that while I was not drinking, I was not “sober” in the strictest sense of the word until I surrendered in AEA. There was more to be gained and this time I had a completely different mindset. Because I was able to see it from the perspective of the people I had harmed, I was able to go out and make amends for what I had done, as described in Steps Eight and Nine. These Steps are ongoing, a bit like removing the layers of an onion. There is always something to peel back and look at in the great adventure of sobriety.
Like a lot of people of my generation, I did have exposure to Sunday School and things like that growing up, but I had rejected it all. Intellectually, I would have regarded myself as an atheist and/or agnostic when I first started going to AA all those years ago. I was an atheist most of the time, but if the plane plummeted 10,000 meters, I was agnostic. I might call out to God, but only in rare moments. What convinced me was the collective power in the meetings of addicts coming together, helping each other, that enabled them to stay sober. I latched onto that experience early on in AA.
I was blocked by the food but now my mind and heart open to a spiritual life
By the time I came to AEA, I believed in what I would call a Higher Power, but the channel to that Power was blocked solid with food. When you eat the way I was, it is pretty hard to keep that channel open. Over time, my experience of a Higher Power has deepened and evolved. The great thing is that I no longer have a mind that is “slammed shut to any spiritual theory”, which is a line in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is not something original that I just thought up, but I really like it. The fact that I am more open minded about spirituality is a much better way to live. When I was still eating, I was just so angry and judgmental of others. In other members, I see how they keep getting better and better spiritually, as their minds remain open. That's the way I want to live today.
Keeping an open mind is important, rather than the closed mind I am ashamed to say I had for a long time. I lived in denial in addiction while scoffing all that food and reading books about what the problem was. I justified my eating by thinking it was only a woman's problem. I do not believe that today. I had to let go of old ideas like these, grab a hold of AEA and come to meetings with an open mind. In meetings I hear the experience of others who have recovered from the disease of addiction. I read stories on our website, listen to podcasts, and identify with both the problem of the addictive eating, but also with the hope. It really is great to see people get well in meetings and see how their lives just blossom and grow over time. As has mine now that I am free of the binge eating and working all the 12 Steps in Addictive Eaters Anonymous.