Last week I did a crazy/scary/awesome thing. It had nothing to do with adrenaline highs or sky-diving. It wasn't roller derby. In fact, there was nothing death-defying about it at all. But it was crazy (to me), scary, and awesome all the same.
I went to an OA meeting.
I can hear you thinking, "Uh, what's OA?" (Bet you didn't know I am psychic.)* OA stands for Overeaters Anonymous, a fellowship-based recovery program for compulsive overeating as modeled on the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
As you know, I continue to struggle with disordered eating. In the past this has taken the form of binge eating, not eating, restricted eating, chewing and spitting, and compulsive exercise. These days I'm eating large amounts of "safe" foods (salad, air-popped popcorn). And I'm sick of it. I'm tired of the seemingly fruitlessness of my struggle. It seems that there is no light at the end of this tunnel.
A local Twitter contact recommended that I check out OA. I tweeted back that I didn't think OA was the right fit. After all, I'm not morbidly obsese. She encouraged me to try it anyway, saying that she knows many people whom OA has helped that were never morbidly obese, or that struggled with anorexia/bulimia versus compulsive eating.
So I went.
In spite of my Twitter friend's reassurances, I expected the OA meeting to be full of very, very overweight people. I was very, very wrong. Instead, the room was full of members of all sizes, ages, and food struggles. As I listened to people reading from the manual and sharing their stories, I wanted to weep at these beautiful, amazing, broken people from whom disordered eating has claimed so much. At the same time, I wanted to shout for joy because, wonder of wonders, I am not alone.
That was a week ago Saturday. This past Saturday I went to the meeting again. I will be going back, possibly forever. For me, attending OA is crazy (because I never thought I would willingly sit down in a group of people to share about how screwed up I am with food and feelings), scary (because vulnerability always is), and awesome (because I am starting to believe that there really is hope for me in this).
Here are some things that I already knew going into OA that the meetings confirmed which I think it is important for everyone to know:
- It is not about the food.
- Even while it is not about the food, disordered eaters do not have the same relationship with food and eating as everyone else.
- Disordered eating (anorexia, bulimia, overeating, etc.) is a disease, it is an addiction, it is a matter of mental health.
- It is not a matter of willpower. Often disordered eaters have an extraordinary amount of willpower.
- I will probably never be "normal" with food -- and awareness of this truth is powerful.
*I am not actually psychic.