DEAR ABBY: I want you to know that you saved my life. I was a lonely, desperate woman, dying a slow and painful death. I had an eating disorder and weighed more than 400 pounds. I was taking many different medications and suffering from depression, high blood pressure and other ailments. Most of them were the result of my addictive eating. I wore a size 52 dress and had 89-inch hips. I had trouble caring for myself and I wanted to die.
One day, I saw a letter you had printed from a woman who seemed to know what I was feeling. She had gone to a 12-step program and was happy, successful and free from her addictive eating disorder.
Seeing her letter gave me a spark of hope. I sought and found a program called Overeaters Anonymous and began attending meetings. I took a sponsor and am in recovery from the food addiction. I lost more than 300 pounds and have lived in a normal-sized body for eight years. (It took a long time to lose that weight safely and sanely.)
Thanks to that letter in your column, and your continuing support of the 12-step programs, I am living a life that I never imagined possible. No words can ever express the gratitude I feel for what you have done for me and many others. At our meetings, speakers often share that they found recovery because of a letter to Dear Abby. Please keep the word going that there is hope for us, no matter how far down we are or how far we have gone. -- JANET IN ORLANDO, FLA.
DEAR JANET: Thank you for a heartwarming letter. It's gratifying to know you were helped because of something you read in my column. I hope your success will inspire others who also suffer from compulsive overeating and are unaware that help is available.
Overeaters Anonymous has more than 6,500 groups in more than 80 countries. There are no requirements for membership except a desire to stop eating compulsively. I have attended some of the meetings. There is no shaming, no weighing and no embarrassment -- only a fellowship of compassionate people who share a common problem.
Chapters are located in almost every city, but anyone who has difficulty locating one should go to www.oa.org, or send a long, self-addressed stamped envelope to Overeaters Anonymous World Service Office, P.O. Box 44020, Rio Rancho, NM 87174-4020. The email address is email@example.com.