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At the age of eleven I seemed to recover from a sickly early childhood. I began to “bust out” all over. Coming back from the nurse’s office when I was in the fifth grade, everybody wanted to know how much I weighed. That meant I was a fat kid. I was ugly, too, because in those days girls with long hair were considered old-fashioned. The girls with short hair were the beautiful ones and of course my mother and dad wouldn’t cut my hair. It was too long and beautiful and heavy and wavy. But I cried until I finally got my way. When my dad took me to the barbershop and the barber cut my hair there were tears in Dad’s eyes. But the haircut didn’t make me attractive because I was wearing size 18 clothes. Can you imagine that on a four-foot, ten-inch kid? I never did get to be very tall, but I grew very wide — almost as wide as I was tall. Jean Harlow was the idol of the day and I believed that someday I would be beautiful like her. I would be thin, too, because I would go on a magic diet that would be easy to follow and I would have a beautiful figure. Things didn’t work out quite that way. When I became sixteen my mother had a nervous breakdown and it was unbearable in the house with just my dad around. It was during Depression and he didn’t work much. I was not allowed to date so I sneaked out. My first “steady” had a brand new car, and I thought he must be a bootlegger because they were the only people who had any money in those days. I knew because my own parents made and sold wine and beer until my mom was arrested for selling it. We always had beer and wine around the house. My parents drank moderately and only with meals, but my older brother and I found our home brew very pleasant in the evening. We didn’t have any soda or other beverage except well water, so we drank beer or wine.
The man I began dating at sixteen drank whiskey. He brought it with him when we went out in his eight-cylinder Oldsmobile. I loved riding in that car, and I liked going to the movies. So when he threatened to stop dating me unless I “proved” I loved him, I gave in. But I didn’t love him. Not even when I had to marry him.
In my mother-in-law’s house, where we went to live, I began drinking heavily. Everyone else drank. I suspected that both my husband and his mother, as well as the man she lived with, were alcoholics. That was my life at sixteen. I was fat and I was an alcoholic; and I had a miscarriage.
During the war years, I went to work in a steel mill. That’s where I found out about diet pills. It was the magic way to go.
When I became pregnant again, I became angry. I did not want a baby. I had divorced my husband once, but my brother had persuaded me to go back to him. After our little girl was born, I went back to the diet pills. It was the only way I could keep my figure — not as slim as it should have been, but still not too bad.
When we moved to a new house, we took in roomers. One young man caught my interest and I told him he had to go. My husband was very jealous.
In my third pregnancy, I gained 50 pounds and I nearly died during the delivery. After my recovery, things did not go well at home. My husband and I began drinking more, sometimes to the point of battling with our fists and throwing things at each other. We really got cut up. But I wasn’t going to take his battering; I was going to fight back, even if it killed me.
I began, counseling, which was to last for years. I didn’t tell my counselor much about my drinking and blackouts, but she once told me that an alcoholic is not a person who is down in the gutter but a person who needs alcohol in order to function. That was me, all right. Between eating and drinking I was one sad sack. I had heard of Alcoholics Anonymous, but that was not for me — it was for the drunken slob in the gutter.
Shortly after our son was born, I wrote a Christmas note to the last roomer we had, telling him we had a little boy now and inviting him to drop in and see the baby. He moved back in with us, and he made himself very useful. He could diaper the baby and do all sorts of things around the house. He took over and my husband let him. My husband was lazy. Stamp and coin collecting and watching television were his idea of recreation. He wasn’t interested in mowing the lawn or feeding or changing the baby — and after all, Art was dependable, Art was around all the time. He liked Art.
Well, you guessed it. I began to think, why do I need a husband? I needed Art. I could feel the attraction between us growing. And one day in May I found myself in his arms. I knew he wouldn’t move out; I didn’t want him to.
After four years of counseling, I asked my husband for a divorce. He refused. For one whole year we fought in court. And I drank. At last, the divorce was final and Art and I slipped quietly over the state line and were married. “Now I have heaven on earth,” I thought, “My diet pills to keep me thin, my liquor to keep me happy and a husband I love.” But something was wrong. We were both drinking. I knew that marriage number two was going to break up.
In late November that year, Art told me he was taking his Christmas vacation. He packed and said, “When I come back, I’m not guaranteeing you that I’m coming here to live. I may get another room somewhere.”
After he left and the children were in school, I lay on my bed and said, “Oh God, if you’re for real and you can hear me, please change me, because I can’t change myself.” About a week later, my husband came home. I stopped drinking. That was my introduction to the twelve steps. I had hit bottom, found my Higher Power and turned my will and my life over to the care of God. I knew now that AA was where I belonged. I have been sober twenty-one years and ten and a half months. When I found out that OA was like AA and used the same twelve steps, I sent for a beginner’s kit. There were no meetings in our area, so I asked God for three things: that I would lose my weight; that I would find a place for a meeting near a highway; and that people would come. I lost all my weight while waiting for the beginner’s kit and looking for a meeting place. I found one within a mile of not one but five highways. From our first meeting, OA in this area has grown to sixteen groups. I am the outgoing chairman of our intergroup, now leaving my beautiful groups behind and moving to another city. I learned that there are several OA members waiting there to take me to meetings. What a beautiful thing it is to know that OA has so much love in it for people who really want the recovery. Back in the Thirties I wore a size 18 dress. With diet pills, I managed to go down to an 11. Now, through OA, I have been maintaining a weight loss of about 40 pounds for four and a half years. And I now wear a size 3 dress.

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