Wanting more than mere survival

Dear Hope Nation,

Emptiness is at the center of my addiction. Whether addiction is environmental or genetic or some complex interplay between the two, my disease is like a black hole at my core, a vacuum that draws in all other parts of me. Drugs and alcohol were a way to avoid not just the abyss itself but my very knowledge of it. Every time I drank or drugged, I entered an escape vehicle, a means to avoid my emptiness. Over time, this avoidance became an obsession, so every time I returned to the launch pad of normal I looked for a new way to escape, jumping from drug to drug and drink to drink.

I am lucky my addictions for drugs and alcohol can be treated. I’m even luckier I can spend the rest of my life avoiding them. Although recovery has presented challenges, once I’d detoxified myself I could avoid drugs and alcohol while continuing to fill that inner vacuum. Although occasionally someone will offer me a drink or, way less often, to get me high, I can lead a normal life without drugs or alcohol. If I don’t put drugs or alcohol into my body, I don’t trigger my obsession. Period.

About six weeks ago, on a Saturday night at Hope, I ran into an old friend, but one who was unrecognizable. Usually, when I use that phrase, it’s a sign someone’s life has gone off the rails—he’s returned to using and looks haggard, shifty, shady, and in need of a shower. In this case, Barry looked great! He clearly had lost a LOT of weight, and since Barry weighed 300 pounds when I knew him, this was a great improvement. He also carried himself with more gravitas and self-assurance. I asked him whether he’d been on Keto, the trendy diet that encourages folks to drastically cut down on carbs, eat proteins in moderation, and get most of their calories from fat. If a friend has started buttering bacon, she’s likely on Keto. But I digress.

No Keto, Barry said. Instead, he’d recognized food as one of his many addictions and started attending Overeaters Anonymous (OA) meetings, mainly in greater Boston. As we talked, it became clear Barry was using the same 12-Step techniques (sponsorship, self-evaluation, reliance on a higher power, etc.) as he had with his drug and alcohol challenges. I was floored! While I’ve seen outward changes in folks who’ve entered recovery for drugs and alcohol, Barry was a completely changed man—as though the creature who’d eaten him—or whom he’d eaten himself into– had finally let him escape.

I am stunned, amazed, and overjoyed my friend has found a new way to live. Even more than I, and other folks addicted to drugs or alcohol, Barry and other OA members demonstrate the power of recovery.  It was said of Ginger Rogers that she did everything Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels. Overeaters Anonymous does the same for recovery—imagine an addiction that’s necessary for life but can help destroy the life it sustains. I can stay away from drugs and alcohol forever—Barry must eat to survive but practice recovery to make life more than mere survival.

Barry and I talked, and hit upon the idea of Barry hosting an OA meeting at Hope. That idea is a reality, at least virtually (Friday Overeaters Anonymous 5:00-6:00p Click Here). Eventually, I hope, those meetings will be in real life, but for now, I’d encourage anyone with concerns about their relationship with food to check out the meeting. Do let me know about your experiences. After all,

You matter. I matter. We matter.


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