Almost 20 years ago, I was very involved in OA. I worked a strong program with three or four meetings a week. I abstained from compulsive overeating and binging for months at a time. Without following a popular diet, I dropped 50 or more pounds.
Even more than working the 12 steps, I believed in them. They lived in me and provided an excellent guideline for my daily choices. In those days, I honestly believed that I could and would achieve long term success and remake my life into something far healthier physically, emotionally and mentally.
Not that maintaining abstinence is ever easy, but a program friend at the time struggled constantly and despite hard work and effort, never achieved abstinence for any significant amount of time. I remember clearly the day she told me she was looking into having gastric bypass surgery. I was dismayed! I feared for her and, even more, felt badly that it seemed like she was giving up on herself.
A few years later, another friend made the same decision. I had a pretty similar reaction.
I’ve said before that I resisted even considering having surgery myself for years and years. Right now I can’t help but wonder how much of that was legitimate fear and how much was me comfortably living in denial. I was talking to a friend tonight who lives the struggle daily with food and overeating. She understands all the issues. I shared with her that a year ago, I was broken down and as low as I’ve ever been about my obesity. Even last year when I had my defining moment and decided to investigate bariatric surgery for myself, I felt like the moment came from weakness. I don’t have word-for-word memory of what my friend said, but the gist was that it’s time to think about this choice differently.
It’s only in hindsight that I see the difference. Making the decision, commiting to the plan of action, and all the many things that come with that action plan, aren’t acts of weakness, they’re examples of strength. It’s kind of funny that it’s taken so long for me to truly internalize this realization. Once I made the decision and started the process of consulting with the surgeon, doing all of the evaluations, talking to people about it, I never felt weak. I felt stronger and rejuvenated. The positive action changed everything. The changes still happen on an almost daily basis.
To be honest, whenever I’ve been with someone suffering a different disease, I had reacted differently than I did with my program friends. When my mother’s relapse took her so far down that she couldn’t get back to sobriety without going to rehab, I told her she was making a strong choice for her own well being. I dated a man with bi-polar disorder. He had a hard time accepting that he needed professional treatment and that the therapist and team were allies to his recovery. I would never, ever have thought that Mom or my ex seeking treatment indicated that they were weak.
With my friends, however, I reacted out of my own fears. I didn’t understand that they weren’t “giving in” or caving. They were choosing what they needed. Their choices took guts. I wish I could go back and contact those friends from long ago. I owe them amends. I don’t know how to reach them, unfortunately.
At least for today I can acknowledge that I was wrong and that I definitely see things differently now. I’m really glad that I’m acknowledging the strength in myself, too.