12-Step Groups for Eating Disorders
A formidable obstacle for many people is the lack of treatment resources available that fit within one's financial budget. What I'm about to introduce may raise red flags for some, for the 12-steps are most commonly related to alcohol and drug abuse, but they have been adapted over the years to welcome those with eating concerns. In fact, the literature of Overeaters Anonymous (OA) and Eating Disorders Anonymous (EDA) is nearly identical to groups designed for substance abuse.
OA can be found in nearly every city, sometimes with groups available daily. EDA groups may be more difficult to locate, but they at least have online meetings for those who live in smaller towns. In addition to this availability factor, 12-step groups are also highly appealing because they are FREE!
Eating Disorders Anonymous
Eating Disorders Anonymous is a self-supporting fellowship of people who gather with the purpose to recover and let others know that recovery is possible. A central effort of the meetings is to practice focusing on solutions rather than problems. There are no specific diets or food plans other than balanced nutrition. In fact, one of the slogans is, "Balance, not abstinence, is our goal." Of course in substance related groups, abstinence is key, but we cannot avoid food and recover, so we practice moderation.
Another EDA motto is "HEALTH" which stands for: Honesty, Equality, Accountability, Love, Trust, and Humility. In EDA, "recovery means living without obsessing on food, weight and body image." Rather than becoming a victim, "Recovery means gaining or regaining the power to see our options, to make careful choices in our lives. Recovery means rebuilding trust with ourselves, a gradual process that requires much motivation and support. As we learn and practice careful self-honesty, self-care and self-expression, we gain authenticity, perspective, peace and empowerment."
Keep it Real!
The first trick of the trade is finding the meetings that best fit you. You may need to try a few different groups to find the one that will best serve you. Over time, each group develops a unique "personality" so they are as unique as those who attend. The second key to success is finding a sponsor to help you start working the steps. A sponsor is similar to a mentor, someone who has already taken their journey through the steps who commits to helping you walk through yours.
The Basics of a Meeting
Meetings all have a similar format and last about an hour. Meetings range from being as small as 2 people to being in large auditoriums. Meetings usually begin with a reading of the 12-steps and traditions and include time for announcements and an introduction of newcomers. Then, someone is usually chosen to go over a step or tradition and how they experienced it or to just share in general. People often talk about a Higher Power, and although there is this spiritual component, no religion is forced upon anyone. If not read at the beginning, meetings usually close with reading the Serenity Prayer and EDA Promises. A brochure is also passed around on which people can voluntarily put their name and number to be shared with the group if they are willing to be a call support for the week. Separate from a sponsor, a call support is someone that you can simply call if you are having a hard time. If they put their name down, they seriously want you to call them; they are not doing it because they feel obligated!
At some point during 12-step meetings, a basket is passed around to collect donations, which are used to pay for the rented space and program materials since EDA is a self-supporting program. If you can't or don't want to donate, DO NOT feel you have to and DO NOT let it deter you from trying out a meeting.
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor
wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us — sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.
Finding a Meeting
If you have difficulty finding a meeting in your area or are too nervous to try it alone, there are three weekly online meetings through the EDA website, where you will also find a TON of information, 12-step related literature, how to find a meeting in your area, and the online chat room.
If You Work It
You can never have enough support, and you literally never have to be alone in your recovery! I still have to remind myself every day to accept the things I cannot change, have the courage to change the things that I can, and express the wisdom knowing the difference. I wouldn't be able to do this if I had to battle ED alone all the time.
Recovery is a journey, so empower yourself and fill your path with all of the resources and tools you have at your disposal.
It will work if you work it!!!
Gaining back a positive and balanced relationship with food is not an easy process, nor instantaneous. As you work on recovery, relearning your hunger cues and building a balanced and new awareness with food, you will regain more of your self and your life back that the eating disorder has taken away. The path is not easy, somedays you're fighting for every second, but keep fighting. Food literally brings life, you deserve life, and in that life, nothing should be holding you hostage. You deserve to be free, powerful, and open to taking hold of any opportunity that may come your way!