A Story of Recovery:

Satisfied Customer 

At my last annual physical, I told my doctor that he should try reverse psychology, suggesting that instead of telling me to lose 25 pounds, he should tell me to gain 10. He was not amused. Frankly, I had gotten to the point in my life where I could not seem to lose even 5 pounds. I was pre-diabetic with cholesterol over 300 and arthritis in my knee, shoulder, and fingers. I had been in another twelve-step program for food fourteen years earlier, and I had gotten down to 214 pounds (97 kilos), but eventually I decided I could do it on my own and left that fellowship.

So there I was, 57 years young and 5 foot 11 inches tall, when I finally crossed that “line-in-the-sand” with my weight and reached 280 pounds (127 kilos). I was shocked; I’d never been above 250 (113 kilos)! So, right away, I started eating more “sensibly” and getting in some light exercise. Ten days later, to my horror, the scale said 293 (133 kilos). At that point, I refused to get on the scale, so I have no idea how much bigger I got. Yet, this drove me back to the other food program where I leaned on that fellowship and on counting calories. I got down to 250 in eight months, but my weight started creeping back up again.

As fate would have it, my sweetheart’s daughter had moved to San Francisco and joined FA. One weekend, we decided to go out there to help her celebrate her 40th birthday. On the Thursday night of our arrival, the daughter approached me and asked if I would be willing to go with her to a FA meeting on the morning of her birthday. One has to be pretty cold to say no to a birthday request, so off we went, arriving 20 minutes early.

At this meeting, I heard community, love and hope. There was a “something” in the faces and voices of those who shared that I could not quite figure out. At the break, I was dreading milling about in a room of unknown women, and as I stood up I found there were four other men sitting right behind me, two of whom I already knew. One fellow took me outside to catch up, which really settled me down for the rest of the meeting.

That night, my sweetheart’s daughter warned us of her early departure the next morning to go across the Golden Gate Bridge, and suddenly I blurted out, “you know, I’d like to go to another of those FA meetings.” Actually, I just wanted to go across the bridge, which turned out to be unusually spectacular because the morning was clear of fog and clouds.

This was largest meeting I had ever been to. There were over 250 people there, and it was so crowded that we had to sit on the step going up to a fully-filled choir seating area. As I looked around the room, I felt like I was at an international aerobic instructor’s convention. Very few people had bodies like mine, and those folks who did were sitting near the back of the meeting.

It was a sharing meeting where the leader spoke for a quick five minutes and then invited others to share. The enthusiasm and authenticity of those sharings bowled me over. They were happy, joyous, and free. At the break, I met a guy, we swapped numbers, and the next day he actually called me from a football game at half time. Who does that? But there, my Higher Power had done for me what I could not do for myself: helped me to make a connection with a solid fellow in FA.

On our way home, my sweetheart and I landed at Midway airport in Chicago at 12:30am, and we had parked in a strange, remote lot. I became very upset because we couldn’t get to the car, and I took it out on her. We did eventually get to the car safely, but it was awfully uncomfortable, and by the end, she was crying.

I was fixating on a carton of abstinent dairy. All the way home, I kept saying to myself, “Do not stop at the store.” “Do not stop at the store.” When we got to her house, I helped her in with her things, which was very little compensation for my bad behavior, but later I did make it to my home without stopping at the store. I remember walking into my place and having this huge moment of relief over not going shopping. And then, I had a moment of clarity: I was so upset because that poor woman had come between me and my drug of choice. I was one of those food addicts.

But what really broke my heart was when I called her to share this new realization. She was actually relieved, as she thought she had done something wrong. I once heard that addiction is “when you make people you love cry.” That call was when I was given the “Gift of Desperation.” I did not wanted to be that guy.

So, I called the fellow in California, who said, “today you are going to get some non-abstinent foods out of your house and then you are going to get some abstinent food in. And you will start tomorrow.” That Wednesday night, I slept straight through without waking up once. I had not slept through an entire night in years. By Thursday, I had all this bubbling energy. On Friday afternoon, I found myself inexplicably vacuum my living room.

In recovery, I have started having spiritual experiences. Every time I have practiced surrender, some miracle has happened. That has been my experience. I may only be graced with that awareness by seeing the miracles in the rearview mirror, but, wow. And my arthritis? It took me a couple of years before I realized that the pain and the spread of my arthritis had stopped for me. The one benefit from the program that I would never, in my wildest dreams, would have expected is the emotional stability I get from living the FA program. I am a satisfied customer. God willing, I will keep coming back.


This story was originally published in the connection Magazine. Subscribe to the connection Magazine for more stories of recovery. Or submit your own story of recovery.