Member Submission: Now and Then, Reflections on being a Newcomer

I am celebrating 11 years in OA and 11 years of abstinence September 17, 2016 god willing.  I wrote the following piece in December 2005, almost 90 days into program and abstinence.  At that time the future looked bright as I was working the steps and moving beyond the blocked emotions to feel each day.  I had no idea how bright the future could be.  Since then, I have gotten married, have two children and have had better jobs with more responsibility.  I also have more out of my life in less obvious ways.  Overall, program has given me my life.  Here’s a look at how it started for me:

I’m told I was first given Carvel soft chocolate ice cream at three months.  I’m told that when I was about four years old, I used to go around at family events and finish the dregs of peoples drinks while the adults sat down to dinner.  I guess I have been a compulsive overeater from a very early age.  My first memories are from a little later.  When I was six or seven, I used to sneak desserts, usually chocolate.  And lie about it, of course.  I remember spending the night at a friend’s house.  His mother had a small party that night.  We snuck down to the party, raided the chocolate candies and stuck them in our underwear to sneak them back upstairs.  After Thanksgiving one year, I went into the fridge, opened up the chocolate almond bark and took a piece.  When my mother asked who opened it, I told her I saw my grandfather do it.  Of course I had eaten my fill during the meal, but there was chocolate to be had.

Candy was often used as a reward.  I also had the typical Jewish grandmother.  She would have us over, prepare way too much food for four adults and two children, and then say “Someone has to finish this, there is too little to put away.”  That someone was usually my father or I.  I don’t actually ever remember being full as a child.  I was pudgy, but I seemed to get a 2 day virus once or twice a year.  Everything that went in came back out.  I would lose 5-10 lbs.  I was also very active, played a lot of sports and ran around.  So I never got huge.  But food was always on my mind.  I didn’t need a lot of money, but was encouraged to get jobs shoveling snow, babysitting and the like, to learn responsibility.  Since my parents paid for most things, I spent my money on sweets and fast food.

When I got to college, things started to change.  I had more interests that required less movement, and the meals were often keep going up to get more food.  Between that and the drinking, I started putting on weight.  And I learned not to have any self control.  Then I graduated and eventually got a job.  Now I was practically sedentary all day, and I had lots of money, so I could eat a lot.  I started to spread.  So I went on my first diet, Weight Watchers at work.  I lost about 16 lbs, then went back to my same old eating habits.  I gained and lost for a little while, then stopped bothering with losing.  I was still active when I wanted to be.  I went on week long bicycle trips and played ball with friends or on company teams.  I felt that as long as I was able to be active, the weight was not a problem.

I was very unsuccessful at dating (of course not my fault) and by 27, decided not to date anymore.  For seven years I wouldn’t even consider it.  I decided I was happier alone.  Or perhaps my disease decided, but I hadn’t figured that out yet.  Then at 32, disaster struck.  I was having problems with muscles in my stomach.  I had trouble tying my shoes.  I went to the doctor.  I had an umbilical hernia.  He also did some blood work.  I was less than five points away from being diagnosed with Diabetes II.  I had surgery on the hernia and I started Atkins.  I stuck to it for six months and lost 47 lbs, from 242 down to 195.  I gained a lot of it back, but never let myself over 230 again because I was finally scared (at least a little).

At 34, I did some workshops and trainings that helped me decide to get my life back.  By this time, I was not dating, was very closed to everyone I cared about, was not advancing at work anymore and blaming everyone except myself, and had reached my one major remaining goal in life.  I owned a decent sized one bedroom apartment in NYC.  I was done living and just coasting along, claiming to be happy.  I even fooled myself.  After the workshops, I started dating again.  Decided I wanted a family.  I also got involved in volunteer work again and started finding things in life to enjoy.  And I started allowing myself to feel emotions besides anger.  I started living.  But food still was the centerpiece of my life.

A friend from the trainings joined OA.  She tried many times to get me to go, but I did not have a problem.  I was keeping myself between 220 and 230.  Finally, after she lost about 100 lbs, I was ready to admit I had a problem.  I suddenly realized I could not be active the way I had been.  And I was having knee problems.  36 was too young for knee problems, so I said I would go.  I hated my first meeting.  She had started me on a food plan and I had come up with my abstinence.  After a week and a half, I went to my second meeting.  Then I committed to it and started going to more.  After a few weeks, she called me up on a Sunday afternoon and asked if I had a sponsor yet.  I told her I wasn’t ready for that yet.  After a long discussion, I ended up going to a meeting that night to hear someone speak that she recommended.  I asked him to be my sponsor.  Within a week we started working together.

I have been abstinent since my first meeting.  As I write this, I am finishing day 87.  G-d willing, I will soon have 90 days.  I have already led a meeting and spoken at two.  Service has become a major part of my program.  I can’t succeed without it.  I go to 3-6 meetings a week and have started Step 3.  I feel confident in myself.  I am two and a half months into a new job for more money and responsibility but less hours.  And I can truly say I am able to experience joy in my life.  My day begins and ends with reading literature, I pray every morning, and I have started as an interim sponsor.  I also have room for time with friends, belonging to clubs and spending time with family.  Life is good and I am committed to living it, happy and healthy.

By Andy P.