When I walked back into the rooms of _____ in March of 2003, I knew that, as a nearly 350-pound (159-kg), Native American, non-Christian woman, I was different from the roomful of people who greeted me. I was the largest and only brown person in the room. I certainly looked and felt different. A program person who knew me from one of my previous dates (I call them dates because I wasn’t willing to commit to the program) stood and gave me a hug to welcome me. I knew in my heart that I was home, and it was a relief.
I learned many things during my “research” or relapse phase. My compulsion will not go away if I try not to think about it. It steals the life I want little by little. It nibbles away at my sanity. It robs me of a healthy body. It mistakenly leads me to believe I am alone and misunderstood. Most importantly, it forces me to believe my Higher Power has abandoned me. This disease is not selective. It cuts across racial, social, and economic barriers. No one group of people is immune to its effects. Compulsive eating is so powerful it is able to travel to all countries. It grabs hold of all types of people. Why would I think I am so unique as to be immune from its grasp? As powerful as this compulsion can be, I have experienced something stronger: my Higher Power and the Fellowship of Overeaters Anonymous.
I have found my home with people who do not look like me or have a Higher Power just like mine. The most important thing we share is a weight and food compulsion that will kill each of us if we don’t take our daily medicine. My medicine consists of going to meetings where I have yet to see another person of color. I also call program people, and I can’t see the physical differences over the telephone. I can only hear what we have in common: our desire to work a program that is focused on living today. I could focus on the differences among the people I meet and how I am not like others, which leaves me feeling lonely, sad and misunderstood, but I choose to focus on the element that binds us. Then I can gain an understanding of my disease, others and myself.
In understanding myself, I had to choose a new concept of God, not the one I had as a child. When I was fortunate enough to go to a treatment center for my initial exposure to the Twelve-Step program, they gave me the life-altering information that I could choose a Higher Power of my liking. Wow! That is when I had my first spiritual awakening. I knew God was with me every step of my new way of living. God was always near me and wanted only the best in life for me. I believe my Higher Power is a flowing, light-filled force that knows no boundaries and can be in every place, person or thing. I do not refer to my God as he or she. Gender has nothing to do with the love and energy my Higher Power gives me. I believe God loves to hear God’s name on my tongue; therefore, I try hard not to use a pronoun.
I have had the rare experience since coming back to ____ of being the only female at a meeting. I have had issues with trusting men, and yet I knew it was a special experience. I saw those men as compulsive overeaters first, and my initial uneasiness melted away. These guys were speaking my language. They understood me, which was the most important thing. I have since been careful to watch my generalizations regarding men and myself at meetings and elsewhere. In meetings, I have cringed at some of the statements regarding men female members have made to male members. It would be like someone making broad, sweeping statements about Native Americans or people of color to me—not very welcoming or understanding. It would convey to me that they saw my color foremost. If we put that which binds us first—our eating compulsion—we can look beyond gender, color, size and religion. We are then able to help one another transcend active compulsion and experience the magic and miracle of recovery.
I find it difficult to put into words how much my life has changed in the short time I’ve been living one day at a time. God has removed 80 pounds (36 kg) from my body. I like to move my body and am living a lifelong dream of taking dance lessons. I used to become winded from walking to my car. I can shop in stores and have clothes fit. Before OA, I had to order my clothes by mail because I didn’t fit in clothes off the rack at the plus-size shops. I have relief from the mental obsession that plagued me every waking moment. Food is no longer my first thought when I wake up and my last thought when I go to bed, and I no longer binge constantly in between. I no longer take daily naps because I’ve overdosed on food. I no longer take pills for depression or acid reflux or to menstruate, and I am down to one water pill to treat my high blood pressure.
The thing I am most grateful for is the relationship I have with my Higher Power. After years of isolating, I know that God is near and within me. I see God in these people who look nothing like me and are not the same gender. Each day the choices I make are allowing me to honor the life that has been given to me, and I feel God rejoicing in my heart as I live each day as the person my Higher Power intended me to be. I am living and loving in recovery.
— W.O-R. (female, US)