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Our Stories

By OA Member, May 25 2013 03:41PM

From the time I was a little girl I can remember not being normal with food.I know this because I used to eat secretly. One of my earliest memories is sitting in a field surrounded by wrappers on my own.I can remember quietly creeping around the cupboards and fridge in the kitchen hoping my family would not hear me. I used to steal food and money for food, always knowing it was wrong but my desire to eat always won. Going to birthday parties I’d be told not to eat too much or I’d be sick. It was never enough to stop me and I always went home ill.

I don’t remember ever feeling comfortable in my own skin. I have found it difficult having friendships and relationships with people all my life. My dishonesty with food and myself found me demanding for constant approval, attention and acceptance from others.

In my early teens I was made by my parents to cycle to school 2-3 times a week.Over the years I had gained a lot of weight. Understandably my folks worried for my health. I still couldn't stop eating and hated the cycling. It appeared to me nobody ‘cool’ cycled to school and I felt big, frumpy and awkward on a bike. The truth was I felt big, frumpy and awkward anyway.

In time I lost weight and began to love the attention and comments it brought from others. I started to feel confident and gradually became accepted by what I considered at that time to be the ‘cool’ group in school (a group I strived to be in since childhood).

The pattern of gaining weight and losing weight was to continue on a long journey for a number of years. At that time I was not aware I had a disease that affected me mentally and physically. I thought I just had weak will power with fierce determination to lose weight in between. As my disease progressed I became more and more obsessed with food, weight and what I looked like.I thought whenever I put food in my mouth the weight would go on. I believed if I was thin I’d be at peace with myself. I tried different forms of self help to try figure out the reasons for why I ate the way I did. If I could just go back far enough in the past, If I could just look at how others had behaved and treated me and how that had affected my life I’d be ok. Of course I still wasn't able to stop eating or control the food in any way.

I started to attend Overeaters Anonymous.Here I could identify with other members when they shared their experience.I could see I was powerless but didn’t see what I could do about it. It was suggested I keep coming back and I did.

At one time I attended an Overeaters Anonymous meeting overseas and experienced something different to what I’d seen before. I listened to members share their stories about what it was like for them when they were eating but they no longer behaved that way with food. These members had peace of mind that I wanted in my life. I didn't want to surrender at first and my disease had to get worse before I was ready to ask another compulsive overeater for help and be willing to go to any lengths to get well. I have found my addiction swaps from substance to the next (alcohol, pills, food) and have needed help with all areas in my life.

Today, the compulsion and obsession for food, diet, weight and exercise has been lifted.For me this is as a result of putting the food down and working the 12 steps with the help of a sponsor and a power greater than I.

I have that peace of mind that I once saw in others and I’m truly grateful that there is a solution.

By OA Member, May 25 2013 03:39PM

I believe that I was born a compulsive overeater. As a child I always liked food and had a good appetite. When I was ten it was recommended that I eat less. I was mortified. I always had the notion that life would be better if I was thinner. I devised my first diet at the age of twelve, I wrote it down in a notebook, when a classmate saw it she roared with laughter. This embarrassed me. I wanted to lose weight but I was too proud to admit it.

I had my first full-blown binge when I was seventeen. It was late at night after my boyfriend had gone home. I raided the biscuit cupboard and bread bin. I was very ashamed of myself and did not eat any food the following day. I alternated between gaining and losing weight. People who hadn't seen me for a long time would be shocked by my appearance. I was delighted with the attention I got when I was underweight.

My eating and life got progressively worse. I remember thinking that I needed to find the reason for this behaviour and that when I did I would be able to stop.

My first introduction to twelve step programmes was in 2003.

I heard about the disease of addiction and I felt they were describing me. Soon after I saw an advertisement in the local paper for Overeaters

Anonymous and went to my first meeting. I thought that they would tell me that my problem with food was not that bad and that I did not need to go. Nobody said that. Instead I listened as people talked about what they had done with food. I remember feeling hope. I wasn't alone.

I continued to go to meetings for many years. I enjoyed periods of not bingeing and my life seemed to get better. Yet the problem always returned in a different guise. I tried to eliminate what I considered to be trigger foods. I became underweight. I binged on healthy foods. My family expressed their concern. I was powerless over the mental obsession. I tried many different forms of self-help as well as adopting a strict food plan. However, I was not ready to give up the food.

I can't tell you how sorry I felt for myself. Here I was trying everything to stop and I couldn't. What was wrong with me? At this stage all my friends and family knew about my behaviour with food.

One Monday evening after a weekend of binging followed by another attempt to stick to a food plan, I was roaming the streets going from bakery to shop, wondering whom I could turn to. I had the strong realization that no Human Power would be able to relieve me of my compulsive overeating. This came as a nasty shock, as I knew I couldn't do it on my own. I don't know if I cried out for help, but I knew there was an OA meeting on so I went there.

At that meeting, a woman asked me how I was. I replied that I was high on food. When she shared she read a passage from the Doctor's Opinion (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page XXViii) that describes how the only normal life for an alcoholic is to be irritable, restless and discontent until they get the ease and comfort of a drink. They could not tell the true from the false. I cried. It described my life. My whole life was spent figuring out how I could stop eating. She shared her experience and I could see that she was free of the food. After the meeting I rushed over to get her phone number. I followed her out of the meeting and asked her for help. She asked me if I was willing to go any length? I felt my heart drop. I had been asked that question before but I had never been willing. I said yes, not knowing if I was.

I did everything she suggested. I had a strong sense that if I did, I would be okay. She continued to give me directions. At some of these I balked and I thought I knew better but I felt a strong voice in my head say "I give up". It was a relief to follow directions and not have to figure things out.

My life is becoming more manageable and I am developing a relationship with my family, friends and Higher Power.

When I take the next right action and help others I get out of my own head and get to live life.

By OA Member, Aug 23 2012 07:55PM

Hi my name is Jim, I am a compulsive overeater and bulimic. I am abstinent today and since my last meeting. I have a problem around food, my problem is that I love it too much. Since I was a toddler I have been given food as a treat. I went to boarding school when I was quite young. While I was there I also found that when I was down I could turn to food and it would be a comfort to me. The first time this occurred was when my parents left me there to go overseas. I went up to my dorm, sat in bed and cried eating the box of tuck while reading some comics.

In school it was “normal” to have seconds at dinner and desert. As I got older I would also try and get thirds. After school we would go into the town to get chips, there was also sweets and chocolate. The weight didn’t go on too much because I played a lot of sports and also exercised. But at the same time as I played rugby it gave me an excuse to put on some weight and not feel too guilty.

After I left school I didn’t know how to eat properly and found myself bingeing on chocolate bars and not eating regular meals. I found that my weight yo-yoed and that is when I started some of my dieting. During this phase I tried different diets. The water diet was where for several weeks I would only drink water in conjunction with vitamin pills. There was the grapefruit diet where I would eat half a grapefruit for breakfast and lunch, and then I would have a main course of cereal for dinner. I have tried different slimming shakes, wraps, and diet pills. As with all of the things I attempted, I initially lost loads of weight. I used to check my weight many times in the day. The buzz I got when losing weight was huge, but when I found that I was still starving myself and the weight wasn’t going down, I was very angry with myself and the world.

My bulimia started around exercising, I found that I could eat a lot of food and keep my weight fairly okay by over-exercising. This was fine whilst I was able to do this, but I had a bad car accident that left me unable to walk for several months. The weight piled on, with this came the self-pity and my depression. This gave me the excuse I needed to go into my other addiction. I am a compulsive gambler. The two addictions complimented each other.

At this time I was gambling all day. When I was gambling there wasn’t enough time to eat. When I came home in the evening I used to be depressed and this would lead to me bingeing mainly on different types of cereals. This could go on for the whole night with purging in between the bingeing. One day I got food poisoning, where I lost ¾ of a stone over a couple of days. I thought that this was brilliant and as I was naïve regarding laxatives, I decided to give myself food poisoning again so that I could lose more weight. I did this five times, the last incident making me violently ill.

At the end the two addictions led to a suicide attempt on the 16th June 2000. I admitted myself into hospital for depression. I hated myself and had no interest in living. Five weeks later I left there and went into a treatment centre to be treated for my gambling. It was there that I found the will to live.

It was also there that the seed was sown regarding my overeating. One day I was listening in a group therapy session to someone sharing about their problems regarding food. I was surprised because I understood what that person was feeling, whereas everyone else struggled to identify with the story. After the group session I went up to the councillor and told her about my binges on cereals, but when she told me that I would have to give up this trigger food I decided that she wasn’t going to hear about any of my other problem foods.

A year later in aftercare, someone was sharing about how they were controlling their food through another fellowship. I wanted to tell her that she was wrong and that if you had a problem with drink you go to AA, with gambling GA, with food OA and so on, but I couldn’t because I was doing exactly the same thing.

The next night I went to my first OA meeting. I felt strange being there, but that day I had emptied my car of sweet papers and it had filled up 2 ½ black sacks so I realised I was in the right place. In the meeting I found that people were telling my story. I left the meeting elated. I wasn’t a weirdo, I wasn’t weak-willed. I found out in my first meeting that I had an illness that thousands of other people have.

I have been abstinent since my first meeting, “One day at a time” and I am grateful to all the members who give me the help that I need to keep this addiction at bay. The people in the rooms help each other in order to help themselves. For today I am very happy, I am not paranoid and I don’t get panic attacks anymore. Overeaters Anonymous has given me a choice today, that no matter what happens to me I do not have to run and hide from my feelings.


By OA Member, Aug 23 2012 07:51PM

My name is Mary and I am a compulsive overeater. I have always had an abnormal relationship with food. The only reason I think that I was not an overweight child was because I grew up at a time in Ireland when junk food and sugar laden foods and fizzy drinks were not available, also as we lived in the country we walked or cycled everywhere. I feel that my compulsive overeating springs from an incident in my childhood when I contacted TB as a three year old and ended up in hospital for 14 months at a time in Ireland i.e. 1960 when children were not informed about what would be happening and also visiting was restricted to once fortnightly. I never felt that I belonged anywhere or that I was good enough just being me. So I had to be perfect. Others could make mistakes, fail exams, and stand up for their rights even demand their dues but not me. I suffered from low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence, which I still do to a much lesser degree to this day. I always felt that food, especially chocolate and sweet foods, held the promise that they would relieve my distress, but the food no matter how much of it I consumed, never delivered on that promise. It was a case that one bite of my binge food such as chocolate was too much and then all the chocolate in the world would never be enough. I hid food from my children and stole their supplies on many occasions. I would binge every weekend at a minimum and would do this in private.

Before joining OA I would have preferred to eat above just about any other activity I could mention. Food was my best friend and my worst enemy. It helped me I felt at that time to deal with all my emotions. These could range from happy, sad, angry or just feeling o.k. The only problems were that: (1st) I was using food to try to deal with my feelings so that I could say that I was trying to swallow down my emotions, (2nd) this resulted in a weight gain as I was eating ++ when I was not hungry with a (3rd) result in that I was becoming more depressed and full of shame as I realised that the (1st) was not working and that diets and self will were not sufficient to prevent me compulsively overeating and becoming overweight. There had to be a better way to deal with my situation.

Luckily for me I read an article in The Examiner about OA meetings in Cork which included a contact phone number. This contact person is a member of OA and understood what I was dealing with. The only requirement to joining OA is a desire to stop compulsively over eating. It is a 12-step programme encompassing spiritual, emotional and physical healing. We use tools to help us such as: a food plan, phoning other members, meditation and prayer, writing, service and sponsorship. We hand over our compulsive condition to a power greater than ourselves. We continue on the format of “One day at a time”. At the beginning of every meeting the ‘Invitation’ is read out and the final sentence of which reads, “Welcome to OA, welcome home”, made me realise that I had indeed arrived at a safe, healing home.

By OA Member, Nov 20 2011 10:04AM

I don’t know where to begin. How do you tell a story that goes from complete despair and unhappiness to hope and contentment in a few lines? My addiction to food and obsession with weight and size started when I was very young. The first time I remember it affecting me was is when I was about five years old and I had an earache. My parents didn’t believe I was sick until I wouldn’t eat my ice-cream. Then they knew something was seriously wrong! I know it’s not unusual for a child to love sweet foods but my addiction seemed to progress from there, getting worse as the years went on.

I came from a home where there was a lot of fighting. I used the food to comfort me and block out the constant raised voices. I developed strange rituals around food. I would buy junk food – usually chocolate and crisps, but anything would do – on the way home from school and go up to my room, close my door and lay all the food out on my bed, then eat it while reading a book. Because of these binges, I started to put on weight, I was never huge when I was young but I felt as if I was. I was bullied when I was in school. For a full year, my friends barely spoke to me and I didn’t know what I had done wrong. The only thing I could think of was that it was because I was fat. They didn’t like me because I was fat. And who could blame them? I despised myself so how could anyone else like me?

At that time I started to diet. I starved myself for days on end and eventually I lost weight and had some freedom from the bingeing. But not from the obsession with my body and its size. I look back on the photos from that time and I realise that I was a normal size, maybe even slim. But that’s not what I saw in the mirror. I was astounded when a guy showed any interest in me, thinking there must be something wrong with him. Even though I was a normal weight, I still wasn’t happy. The disease hadn’t gone away.

Even when I went to college, the overeating began again and it got worse and worse until my daily routine was: get out of bed at 2pm, have a shower (sometimes), go to several different shops to get all the food I needed – even stealing some of it because I was too ashamed to buy it, going home hoping there would be no one there to whom I would have to explain my purchases, going up to my room and eating all around me. Then I would sleep so that I didn’t have to feel the pain of how disgusting I felt. Before long I was eighteen stone and unable to stop. I could hardly even leave the house for fear that people would laugh at me or even despise me.

I still can’t believe how lucky I was or maybe even how blessed I was to have a family who saw my pain and wanted to help me. Thanks to them I found Overeaters Anonymous and my life has changed completely since then. OA is teaching me how to accept myself as I am, how to live my life in a way that makes me happy and able to enjoy myself. I have so many real friends with whom I can share the thoughts that I had previously thought were wrong and crazy, only to find that they have them too! I don’t hate myself anymore and I am happy. That’s what Overeaters Anonymous has given to me.

Caroline, 22