I Finally Went to OA

I have an eating disorder. I’m bulimic, and there have been periods in my life when I have been anorexic. I have been dealing with this since early adolescence. As a result, I have a really bad case of body dysmorphia…which feeds into my low self-esteem…which adds to my social awkwardness…which ultimately led me to use drugs…which destroyed my life.

Fourteen years ago, I sought help for my drug addiction and have been clean ever since. However, without copious amounts of narcotics to self-medicate my fears and behavior, the bulimia returned full force.

Last year, I finally hit bottom, and decided I could no longer pretend that I did not have a problem. I was miserable, my health was being affected and I was tired of keeping it a secret from everyone.

My initial plan was to announce I was bulimic and then start to address it in the same 12-step fellowship that I attend for my addiction to drugs. If it worked for heroin, I reasoned, it could also work for food. I then implemented a strict diet to control what I ate, and followed an obsessive exercise regime, which not only helped with keeping my weight down, but also upped my endorphins considerably, relieving my depression. It was a win-win situation—or so I thought until I relapsed at a friend’s party.

I was devastated when it happened, but I vowed to not fall back into the same pattern of overeating and bingeing that had previously been my daily routine. Obviously, my plan worked as long as I was in a controlled environment. But if I was out in real life, I had to be extra-vigilant, or maybe just not go out at all. I immediately jumped right back into exercising and a controlled diet. But then the cravings started. It was like a demon had been awakened inside of me. And much like when I first stopped using drugs, the urge to eat the worst crappy food imaginable gnawed at my brain 24 hours a day. I constantly had to ask for the willingness to make it through each minute without bingeing on food.

And then, there I was in the grocery store on my way to the produce section and I was passing an aisle display of plantain chips. And I thought, Hmmmm, plantains? I’m eating a paleo diet, I can do plantains. So I bought a bag. You know, just to see what they were like. And within a week, I’m eating two to three bags a day. Then I’m gaining weight, then I’m craving more plantains, then I’m right back at square one again, because I’m not talking about it at meetings and I’ve got a new secret that’s keeping me sick. It’s the same old guilt- and shame-fest that I thought I had addressed a long time ago.

So okay, maybe my plan just wasn’t working. And if I really thought about it, if I had kept to this type of thinking with my addiction to heroin, I’d probably still be using. Only, food addiction is so much harder as I simply cannot just stop eating food. I have to abstain from the behavior, not the substance, and so maybe I need some extra help dealing with this.

The Overeaters Anonymous website lists meetings all over the world. I adjusted the dropdown menus to the appropriate categories of country, state and city and a dozen meetings immediately appeared. One of them was that night, a few miles away.

I parked outside the church on a side street and looked the building over. There was a light on in a basement room and I knew that was where the meeting was. I got out of the car and quietly walked toward the open door. I don’t know why I was so apprehensive about going to a meeting where I could find help, but I was. My first attempt at OA in my early days of recovery hadn’t been really positive—or I wasn’t that receptive to what they were offering—and I never went back.

I walked down the steps into the basement. There, in a small classroom with a circle of chairs, two men were sitting together—which sort of threw me since I have always been the only male I know who has, or even talks about having, an eating disorder. The intimacy of the room, and the lack of participants, almost made me turn around and flee.

Sitting down, I said hello and waited for the meeting to start. Fortunately, two women and another man arrived separately and then the secretary began reading the format. Everything was strangely the same as the NA meetings I attend and, at the same time, totally different. There were the 12 steps of OA, the serenity pray, the OA preamble and the seventh tradition. But what was most comforting was when we all introduced ourselves and each participant stated what type of eating disorder they were suffering from—and when it got to me I said, “Hello, my name is Patrick, anorexic/bulimic.” And when the secretary asked if I’d like to share, I told them about what I was going through and why I was there, and, just like when I publicly revealed my eating disorder, there was a sense that I was doing the right thing and in the solution.

I would like to say that I found immediate relief at that meeting, but I didn’t. What I did find was a group of people dealing with the same issues that I am, and that’s what helped me when I first started my recovery from drugs. It has been two weeks now, and I’ve attended that same meeting twice. I’m looking at other meetings and contemplating working the program of OA. I’m back to what OA refers to as a “plan of eating” and exercising daily. I have dropped some of the weight I gained and I’m feeling a lot better about myself.

It isn’t perfect, but then what program of recovery is?
Originally published by AfterPartyMagazine March 27, 2015

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 at 12:40 am. Leave a comment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

National Book Tour: GUN NEEDLE SPOON

June 6, 2015 — Book Launch Party/Reading/and Conversation with James Brown. Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069 – 5pm.

June 11, 2015 — Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446 – reading with: Joanna Rakoff, Jen Grow, and Shya Scanlon – 7pm.

June 15, 2015 — Outlaws and Outcasts with Dzanc and The Weeklings, Housing Works, 126 Crosby St, New York, NY 10012 – reading with: Jennifer Kabat, Sean Madigan Hoen, Jason Donnelly and Nelly Reifler. Plus live music by Sean Madigan Hoen – 7pm.

June 17, 2015 — Meet the Presses with Akashic and Dzanc Books, Word Bookstore, 126 Franklin St, Brooklyn, NY 11222 – reading with Kaylie Jones, Nina Solomon, and Jen Grow – 7pm.

June 23, 2015 — Powell’s Books, 1005 W Burnside St., Portland, OR 97209 – reading with Jen Grow, Charles Johnson, and Shya Scanlon – 7:30pm.

June 24, 2015 — 4 X Dzanc, Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122 – reading with Jen Grow, Deb Busman, and Shya Scanlon – 7pm.

July 9, 2015 — Why There Are Words, Studio 333, 333 Caledonia Street, Sausalito CA 94965 – reading with Jayne Benjulian, Liam Callanan, Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet, Robin McLean, and Marie Mockett – 7pm.

July 11, 2015 — Beast Crawl/Lip Service West, Soja, 368 24th Street, Oakland CA 94612 – reading with Tom Pitts, Justine Clifford, Steven Gray, McKay Williams, and Seth Harwood – (Leg 3) 8pm.

July 12, 2015 — NorCal Book Release at Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd. Corte Madera, CA 94925 – 7pm.

July 16, 2015 — Radar Reading Series, Main Library, 100 Larkin St. San Francisco – I’ll be reading with Tiffany Scandal, Nikki Darling, Nicole J. Georges, and the host will be Juliana Delgado Lopera – 6pm.

July 18, 2015 – Book Show, 5503 N Figueroa St, Highland Park, Los Angeles – reading with Craig Clevenger, Rob Roberge, Wendy C. Ortiz, and Joshua Mohr. MC: Ashley Perez – 7pm.

August 21, 2015 – Vermin On The Mount, Book Show, 5503 N Figueroa St. Highland Park, Los Angeles CA – I’ll be reading with Wendy C. Ortiz, Sean H. Doyle, and Joshua Mohr – 7:30pm.

September 13, 2015 — Roar Shack Reading Series, 826LA 1714 Sunset Blvd. Echo Park, Los Angeles – 4pm – more info soon.

This entry was posted on Monday, June 1st, 2015 at 12:08 pm. Leave a comment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.