I went to a meeting today. By that I mean an OA meeting. I’ve been in and out of the rooms for 12 years and even though it’s hard to stay, and it hurts to stay, and sometimes it seems pointless, I know in my heart and in my soul it’s where I belong.

I can’t really explain why other than that I can breathe when I’m there. That it doesn’t matter who’s there or what those people look like or what else we do or don’t have in common. They know. They get me.

So I’m back in the rooms. It feels good. And it doesn’t.

Why is it that I can give up my will and then take it right back even though giving it up felt better? Worked better?

I suppose if I knew those answers I wouldn’t have to be there at all. But I don’t. So I do.

Someone shared today about her process of finding abstinence. She said she was only able to find abstinence after her spiritual and emotional work was well underway. That abstinence took months, nay, years to come.

My first experience in OA 12 years ago was a near instantaneous abstinence. I was at bottom 12 years ago, tired, lonely, scared, and just done with the food ruling my life. Program gave me a life. A good life. A few other people pitched in and it was a great life. It still is. Except the food. Which is a mess.

I’ve been despondent of late about my ability to make program work again, my ability to get abstinent again, my ability to let go of my will again, my ability to find a higher power I don’t believe in.

But the share today wasn’t just about how long her abstinence took, it was about how she got it. I think she was talking to me, trying to give me hope, sharing a tool that worked for her when she’s heard enough of my shares to know how much alike we are in this way.

She practiced forgiving herself. Each night before bed she’d stare at herself in the mirror and say, “I forgive you. I forgive you for eating…” and then she’d list all the non-abstinent things she eaten and ways that she’d eaten… and it helped her let go of the shame and the pain and the anger and the frustration and the feelings of helplessness and her will.

Suddenly I did have hope again. Which is a little bit weird since I don’t forgive myself for anything. I’m not sure I know how to forgive myself. I force myself to live to such an impossibly high standard that I couldn’t possibly forgive myself for any transgression, no matter how small.

This is how I hold myself hostage.

This is how I allow my disease to hold me hostage.

This is how I allow my disease to win.

By forcing myself to be perfect, by not forgiving myself for my own humanity, I can continue to feel all the negativity about myself and I can continue to punish myself for not being perfect.

How do I punish myself?

By eating.

By eating compulsively.

Today I ate compulsively. Today I ate mindlessly. Today I ate defiantly. Today I ate not to fuel myself. Today I will forgive myself. Or at least I will tell myself that I forgive myself. Even if I don’t feel it I’ll say it… act as if… borrow the forgiveness of my fellow OA members who would never be as hard on me as I am on myself.

I forgive me for eating the bag of Cheetos at lunch today. I forgive me for eating the bag of jelly beans from the kids’ Easter baskets. I forgive me for licking the bowl of melted chocolate when I didn’t need to eat any of it. I forgive me for the spoonfuls of pasta I ate out of the kids’ bowls when I was cleaning up after dinner.

I forgive me. I forgive me not. I forgive me.

That may not be perfect but for today it needs to be good enough.

Perhaps that will help me see myself that way too: not perfect, but good enough.