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I was one of six children. My family of Italian extraction, started out well but the Depression touched our lives as it did so many. I can remember some very happy times but I also remember never having enough of anything, not even necessities such as food and clothing. Though I was not fat as a child, I could never get my fill of food. Whenever I could, I stole pennies and bought candy or cookies. When my father became ill we moved from the city to a small community near the ocean. Our new house was built on stilts and stood at the end of a street that backed up to a canal. The canal became a means of survival for the family. We fished, rented rowboats and sold fish door to door. We ate fish two or three times a day Fried eels was not an unusual breakfast. Parental discipline was so strict that even as a teenager I was not allowed to date or wear makeup. As I began to earn money, I bought junk food and filled up on it before going home to a pot of whatever my mother had cooked, mostly starches. This practice launched me on what I knew was a very selfish, sneaky way to live. At sixteen, I was five-foot, one-inch tall and a dumpy 128 pounds. When one of my sisters made fun of me, I went on a dill pickle diet to lose weight. I lost the weight, but I became rundown and caught a cold that turned into a severe case of pneumonia. In the hospital I was so close to death, a priest gave me final rites. In the worst stage of my illness I kept asking for the man I was to marry, whom I had met and fallen in love with when I was fourteen. He came to my bedside with his sister and gave me a friendship ring. I started a great recovery. We dated after that, but only on Sundays, and I had to be home at ten, a curfew my father imposed. Father was a wine alcoholic and he was usually drunk. Every week he embarrassed me and tormented my mother trying to get her to promise that she would take me for a Monday morning checkup to see if I was still a virgin. She never did. I was twenty years old and a virgin when I was married. In the next two years, through pregnancy and pounds gained and lost, I tried unsuccessfully to get down to my normal size. There was no doubt now about my compulsion to overeat. One day, fat and unhappy at 130 pounds, I happened to read a book about the Roman Empire. It told of feasts lasting several days and the beautiful marble basins called vomitoriums where wealthy Romans and their guests induced vomiting in order to be able to continue eating and drinking. The ugly seed was planted. Not long after reading that book I bought a huge strawberry shortcake. I sat down with a cup of coffee and ate one piece after another until I had finished the cake. Nausea swept over me. I barely made it to the bathroom where the whole cake came up. It was unpleasant, but afterward I felt good. A few days later I repeated the performance. I regarded this incredible feat as my own secret discovery. It was as though I had a special trick and whenever I felt like eating some food that took my fancy I performed this trick. The weight fell off. At 110 pounds I felt very comfortable. Now, how does an overeater stay at 110? By eating and throwing up. I did it for nearly thirty years. My wardrobe size never changed. My family and friends marveled at the food I could consume without getting fat. They said, “Isn’t she lucky, she can eat anything and everything and not gain a pound.” I heard remarks like that all my adult life and I cringed with guilt. But I had become an accomplished sneak and conniver. Years went by and slim, trim Cora remained the same. At first I binged every couple of months, then monthly, weekly, daily and finally three or four times a day. I couldn’t understand why I did it. Each day I made a solemn vow to stop. I must never put my fingers down my throat again, I told myself. But I couldn’t stop. I wanted more and more food. Huge quantities of all sorts of food. It got to a point where I didn’t choose anything. It just became everything in sight. My ritual was always the same: I would eat until my stomach hurt. I had to stand very straight in order not to feel the terrible discomfort. Then I would run to the bathroom and turn on the tap so no one would hear me. I always washed my hands because I didn’t want a disease in my mouth. The disease that was in my head raged unchecked. Years passed and I saw my own daughter and my sisters getting fat. Many times it occurred to me to tell them my secret, but I was ashamed. In thirty years I never broke my silence. When my sister began attending OA meetings, she sent literature about the program to my daughter who by now weighed more than 200 pounds. I had been praying for her, not yet aware of how sick I was. But I was close to the bottom of the pit. I wanted to stop. Each time I looked into the toilet bowl, fear gripped me. I thought, someday I am going to die right here locked in the bathroom. Alone. One day, I could not vomit. The muscles in my throat refused to work. I kept trying, defiant and full of fear at the same time. “Oh my God,” I thought. “I’ve done it. I ruined my throat.” The next day I was so nervous and afraid, I didn’t eat. My dilemma was indescribable. At this point my daughter, who was now in OA, opened a door that was to show me the way out. She invited me to go to a meeting so I could meet her friends. I went and I listened. I bought some literature and I started my secret OA. I cold turkeyed alone. How could I ask anyone to sponsor me? Overeaters were fat; I was thin. I took God as my sponsor. Each day I said the Serenity Prayer. I did not know how much I could eat and not gain weight. But I had stopped putting my fingers down my throat. Joyfully, through this program and God’s grace, I have just celebrated four years of freedom from that obsession.
After one and a half years of working the program alone, I was still afraid. My weight was slowly creeping up. I reached 124 pounds. Here was another turning point, a new decision to be faced: throw up or get fat — or come out of the closet.
I chose to live. I chose OA. I humbled myself and walked into a room full of overweight people. They stared at me. But I needed them. I took a sponsor and began abstinence, which I have had one day at a time for the past two and a half years.
What a joy to get on the scale once a week and find my weight 107 or 108 pounds! It has been a beautiful four years. At first, weight loss was my goal. After reaching it I chose two new goals. One is to grow emotionally and the other, spiritually. It hasn’t been an easy road. After years of giving my life nothing but guilt, misery, fear, depression and no self-worth, I have had restored to me the soundness of mind and body that was God’s gift to me at birth.
How blessed I feel that the people in OA didn’t judge me as different, but understood that I have the same food compulsion they have. Their acceptance opened the doors to so much for me. I have learned how to be honest. My first amends were to my daughter. I told her everything, and from that moment on I felt I wasn’t alone anymore. It embarrasses her to hear that she saved my life, but it’s true.
Finally, I told my husband. I had been hiding literature and going to meetings secretly. He was shocked. But I went on to ask his pardon for all the food money I stole and for the lavish meals I let him buy me only to feed my obsession.
Now I have a new peace. I had been a human ship, tossing about in life, looking for a port — and at last I found one. OA is my resting place, my comfort, my serenity and joy. I shall never, and can never go back to that stormy sea of food obsession.

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