Mary's Story of Recovery

 

Mary before COR RetreatAt the end of April, 2019, I sat waiting to see a therapist and all I could think about was getting a prescription for something, anything, that would take away all the pain, anger and unmanageability of my life. I wanted to die, but I knew I couldn’t take my own life, so numbing out seemed the only escape. Nine months earlier I had buried my mother and things were so bad between my siblings and me that we actually sat on opposite sides of the church. After the funeral, neither sibling would talk to me, avoiding me at all cost. I was totally fine with that. They were the problem and I didn’t want anything to do with them either.

I was miserable and I knew it was all due to my weight. I weighed 313 pounds; the new dress I bought for the funeral was a size 28. I knew that if I could only lose weight, my life would be much better. My weight was always the issue, so ten days after the funeral I had a second gastric by-pass surgery. The first surgery was not successful. I was bound and determined that this time would be different and I would be successful. I did everything the doctors told me and lost 80 pounds in six months. Even though the weight was coming off, my life was still miserable. I fought with my husband over everything. He couldn’t do anything right and we discussed getting a divorce in the spring of 2021 when our youngest son would graduate from high school. My three sons were present in my life, but stayed away from me and my craziness. I was always telling them what to do and getting involved in their business, without them asking. They would avoid me, going to their father before coming to me with any problems. My work was also out of control. I never felt appreciated and while I got along great with my boss, everyone else was a problem in one way or another. I didn’t feel respected or included and was seriously thinking it was time to start looking for a new job. I needed to work where I was valued.

While experiencing some weight loss from surgery, I was doing everything I could to control myself and food. I was over exercising, trying to compensate for binging on food or alcohol. I found that when I drank, I didn’t eat and if I didn’t drink, I would eat. Every night I would come home from work and either secretly eat or secretly drink.  I had food stashed all over the house, even in the bathroom. My drink of choice was vodka and water.  My family thought I was drinking water. This vicious cycle was a nightly routine. My life was totally out of control, but I kept thinking if I could just lose “the weight”, life would get better.

Then, life took a turn for the worse. In February, I tore the meniscus in my knee. I was unable to walk for two weeks and exercise was totally out of the question. Two months later, I had gained 50 pounds and was on my way back to where I had been just nine months earlier. My life was miserable, I hated myself and everyone else! All I could think about was how to convince this therapist to give me drugs! As I walked into the office, I decided I would be real with her and tell her how unhappy I really was. As we were talking, I remember admitting to her that food was my drug of choice.

Mary before COR Retreat

With a puzzled look she said, “Why don’t you go to OA?”

“OA? What’s that?” was my response.

Seeing that I was a doer and liked to check things off a list, she gave me the assignment to find and go to an OA meeting before our next appointment two weeks later.

I did some research on OA and found a meeting about 30 minutes from my home. Scared and apprehensive, I walked in and was met by a woman who gave me a warm hug and welcomed me like a long-lost friend. After that meeting three people sat down with me, went over what OA was and  told me stories of the crazy things they did with food. I was shocked, I thought I was the only one who did these things. More importantly, all three were of normal weight. I knew I wanted what they had so I was going to do what they did. I jumped into the deep end of the recovery pool. Ten days after my first meeting I attended a Big Book Study weekend. During this time, I met more women who welcomed me and helped me through my initial questions and fears. I knew after that weekend that this was what I needed. All I had to do was study the Big Book and go to meetings. I could do this!

Mary after COR RetreatI started working with a sponsor about three weeks before attending COR in July, 2019. I was ready to do whatever my sponsor suggested because I wanted what she had. Attending COR was a vital part of my recovery. My whole family attended the open speaker meeting on Saturday night to support me. I felt humbled and loved. Especially by my husband. Here was a man who I had treated so poorly. A man I basically told I didn’t want in my life after our sons grew up and he showed up to be my cheerleader.

I was going to meetings each week, staying abstinent from sugar and feeling pretty good. I was like, “I got this!” I was on a pink cloud. I had signed up for a weekend OA gathering in Iowa, the Thursday evening before the retreat I was at a work event. For dinner that evening, I was offered a BBQ pulled pork sandwich. Not thinking of what ingredients go into such a sandwich, I ate it. Throughout the evening event I proceeded to consume almost 2 pounds of candy meant as a small treat for guests to grab and enjoy while walking through. At the end of the night, as I was cleaning candy wrappers I had stuffed into every pocket, I recalled yelling at a small child because he was going to take the last piece of the type of candy that I wanted. The drive home was long and I felt defeated. I knew I had screwed this thing up. I also knew that if I didn’t get back on program, I would be back in the food and I didn’t know if I would get out again. I attended the retreat and began to detox off of sugar for a second time. At the retreat I realized I needed a sponsor to help me through the steps and that I also needed to go to COR Retreat. I had received information on COR from multiple people but was afraid to ask my husband for the money. When I got home, I sat down with him and told him the truth, what had happened at my work event and how desperate I felt. Gearing up another of our infamous (at least in our household) battles, I was ready to go. There was no fight, my husband agreed that it would be a good thing and offered his full support. I signed up for COR Retreat.

I have worked the steps to the best of my ability and am recovered. As much as I wanted it to be a one and done process, it hasn’t been that at all. I actually love working the program every day. I’m currently involved in a year-long intense Step Study. I work a structured program where I weigh and measure my food,  connect with multiple fellows on a daily basis, attend OA meetings on a daily basis and work with sponsees to help them through the program. Because of the relationship I have developed with God, I can honestly say I live in peace and serenity. I feel blessed every day that God did for me what I could not do for myself!! This doesn’t mean I don’t have problems. Life gets ”lifey”, but I’m able to turn to God and He is able to give me the knowledge, strength and love I need to get through.
 

Mary after COR Retreat

The best part of recovery is mended relationships. My husband and I are no longer talking about getting a divorce in six months but are actually planning on where we would like to retire together. He wants to go to Texas and I want to go to Northern Minnesota along Lake Superior. We obviously still disagree sometimes. Now, we can talk it through instead of fighting and even make jokes about it.

I’ve learned to let go of running my kid’s lives. They are capable. I’m available for love and support, but I no longer tell them what to do, how and when to do it. It’s taken some time, but they come to me for advice and support. I’m learning to take a deep breath, pause and seek God’s direction before I share. I was always so quick to tell them what they “should” and “shouldn’t” do. I’ve now made amends and with God, it is possible to be loving, kind and supportive, which is actually what they need from me.

My work relationships have improved immensely. Before program I didn’t feel valued or respected, now my co-workers include me, I feel trusted and connected. Funny, they didn’t really change. How I treat them, how I value them, is what changed and it has made for a much better work atmosphere. That’s not to say I don’t get irritated or frustrated with my co-workers, I do, but how I handle the irritation and frustration is different. With God, I accept life on life’s terms and no longer treat people as less than. Something valuable I learned about myself was how I would mentally judge everyone I came into contact with. If I felt you were above me, I wanted to be your best friend. If I felt you were below me, I treated you poorly.  I was disrespectful to wait staff and retail employees. I have been extremely rude to store clerks. I would leave items wherever I wanted telling myself that it was their job to put it away. I would argue with them to get what I wanted, especially when it came to a return. They better not cheat me, or they’ll suffer the wrath of Mary!  Now, I am committed to making a “living amends” to waitstaff and retail employees by making their job easier. I try to be kind and caring and go out of my way to connect with each person I encounter.

One of the best things that has happened in my recovery is a repaired relationship with both of my siblings. Again, God has made it possible for me to be kind and loving to them, make amends for my harms and to actually be in a relationship with each of them. This is a beautiful gift from God and I’m truly grateful for it.

I came into OA and COR Retreat looking to lose weight, which I’ve been able to do. I’m down 170 pounds, 30 pounds following gastric by-pass and 140 more pounds from OA.  Most significant is what I have gained in this program. I am developing a beautiful relationship with God, one that I only dreamed about for the last 30 years. I’ve gained relationships back and I’ve made beautiful friendships. I have dear friends from Minnesota to North Carolina to Canada, from the East Coast to the West Coast. I value each person I come in contact with. I treat people exactly the way God would have me treat them, with love, kindness, patience and tolerance. I live in peace and serenity, thank you God!!
 

About COR Retreat
COR Retreat is a residential retreat program that teaches a way to live free from the obsession with food through a 12 step program. COR Retreats are 5-day programs, scheduled each month at the McIver Center in Wayzata, MN.

Learn more about the COR Retreat Experience, and register online to attend an upcoming retreat

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