As heard at the Passport to Unity Workshop, hosted by the NorthShore OA group on June 24, 2018 –
The most useful “take-away” I learned today is:
Abstinence opens the door to dealing with one’s mental and spiritual problems. – Anonymous All of it. It was a wonderful day. Thank you so much. – Patti H.
Be open to new possibilities. – Sue A.
Continued reminders of how similar the experiences of people in OA are. It’s useful to hear other people’s stories and identify with them as it helps dispel the disease’s assertion that we are alone. – Anonymous.
Cravings aren’t commands. – Kathleen A.
Cravings are an early warning signal that I need to reconnect with my HP. – Anonymous
Food is an issue for a lot of reasons. Program works for us all. HP uses whatever you have. – Anonymous.
Forgiveness is not permission. – Anonymous.
How important service is! – Kia E.
I am not in charge! – Anonymous.
I am powerless over everything, food included. – Kelsey F.
I am powerless over reading glasses, just like food addiction. “I’ve got this” is a danger thought. – Kathleen A.
“I realized I am not triggered by specific foods, but by specific states of mind. When I binge, I just don’t want to feel anything. I have to allow myself to feel to heal.” – Anonymous
It is important men in OA work with men so they learn to support each other and not rely only on women for the emotional support / intelligence – they need that for their recovery. – Anonymous
It’s going to be waste material whether I eat it or not. – Wendy A.
Key: be GENTLE with myself. – Kathleen A.
“Lower your expectations, raise your performance.” – Anonymous
No matter how different our struggles are, we can learn from each other. It’s the same disease, but there’s many paths to recovery. – Victor M.
Service is playing nicely with others. – Kathleen A.
So much… Important to use the tools like this workshop. “Blessed beyond measure”. – Susanne H.
That I am powerless – I’m a food addict. – Mellissa R.
The idea that bingeing starts with pleasure but ends with me as my own jailor, throwing scraps to my skeletal starving soul. – Anonymous.
“There is no reason to keep eating, you just had a big meal!” – Ashley M.
There is room for differences in OA. Not all recover exactly the same way. And a stronger commitment to my recovery. – Pat C.
“When I lost the weight but didn’t lose the hate (of myself), I relapsed. The first time I was so angry, then I finally got Step 1 – without shame, without guilt.” – Anonymous.
Women struggle in program with isolation with other women. Some women in program feel more comfortable with men. – Tim C.
Work the Steps. – Anonymous
The spiritual experiences and beliefs expressed by members of Overeaters Anonymous are as varied as those found in society at large. Some members have spiritual orientations; still others have come to OA with a history of religious conflict or do not accept the concept of God.
Working the OA program of recovery is a highly individual process. We don’t all think alike. As stated in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, page ix, “Our common bonds are two: the disease of compulsive eating from which we all have suffered, and the solution that we all are finding as we live by the principles embodied in these Steps.” This is what unites us in OA. Differences regarding a spiritual concept, or lack thereof, need not keep us from working the program. As the third Tradition states, if we have the desire to stop eating compulsively, there is a place for us in OA. Therefore, we need not explain or defend our individual beliefs even if they differ from the majority opinion.
The thoughts shared below are from the pamphlet What if I don’t believe in God? and reflect the experience, strength, and hope of OA members who do not express a belief in “God” but work the OA program. We hope you will find their insights helpful as you work our Twelve-Step program of recovery.
What if I don’t believe in “God”?
An atheist is one who denies the existence of God. An agnostic is one who claims the existence of God cannot be proven. Some people assume these beliefs mean a resistance to personal spirituality. Others believe such an assumption is far from the truth.
“I think we naturally assume people who call themselves atheists or agnostics are not spiritual people. Therein lies the basis for confu sion.
“In the course of my recovery, I’ve had the privilege of attending OA meetings with people who identify themselves as atheists and agnostics — and they were some of the most spiritual meetings I’ve ever attended. We are people who know you don’t have to believe in God to belong to OA or to be abstinent. We walk a spiritual path that incorporates the principles of OA into our daily lives.”
Admittedly, it may be harder for nonbelievers to jump right in and start working OA’s Twelve-Step program. Some members say the very mention of the word God hindered their early attempts to embrace the Twelve-Step way of life.
“I found it easiest to try the parts of OA I could do immediately and leave the God stuff for later. As they say in OA, ‘Take what you like and leave the rest.’ ”
“Many skeptics, like myself, have come to terms with the use of the word God. Some even use the word, while others simply tolerate it at meetings.”
“In my experience, many members who are atheists or agnostics still rely on something greater than themselves and food.”
“I am agnostic. I believe there will always be a question about the existence of God. But more important than continually asking whether or not there is a God, I have simply stopped asking the question.”
Clearly it is more helpful to focus on recovery from compulsive eating than to continually seek arguments that lead us astray.
e pain of compulsive eating has led some members to a point of desperation. They became willing to take actions suggested by abstaining, re- covering members regardless of their spiritual beliefs or disbeliefs at the time.
“I had always used food as my Higher Power. I certainly ‘acted as if’ food could or would help me deal with life—inspiring, exciting, comforting, distracting, and fulfilling me in turn. By the time I came to OA, however, I could no longer find food adequately inspiring or exciting. The comfort ended as soon as the swallowing stopped, if not before, and I ceased to know what ‘filling’ was, much less ‘fulfilling.’ Distraction was about the only function food still performed and that was uncomfortably short.”
“OA was right. My Higher Power—food —didn’t work. After some miserable attempts to use OA as a diet program, I began to take some of the slogans and sayings I was hearing to heart. ‘Listen.’ ‘Resign from the debating society.’ ‘Take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth.’ And I became abstinent from compulsive eating.”
“Identify, don’t compare” is common sense wisdom for many members. Often the “Power greater than ourselves” referred to in Step Two is the power of seeing a whole group of people who are recovering from this disease. Some found it easy to go to OA meetings simply because they identified with others, as this member relates:
“I knew of the program long before I became a member. In fact, I had attended two meetings in my twenties. I purchased some literature but rejected OA as soon as the spiritual nature of the program became apparent.
“Joining OA in a committed fashion at age 33 was comparatively easy, however. I identified with the members, and some sense of grace allowed me to suspend my agitation about spiritual recovery. Initially, it was the people, not the Steps, who impressed me.”
The only requirement for membership in OA is the desire to stop eating compulsively. Open- mindedness is our watchword as we read in The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, page 13:
“OA doesn’t tell us we have to believe in God— only that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. We are invited to de ne that Power however we wish and relate to it in what- ever way works for us. OA only suggests that we remain open to spiritual growth.”
Frequently, newcomers will simply accept the program has worked for others and, therefore, can work for them. e new freedom and happiness we are promised are reflected in the harmony with ourselves, others and everything in our present reality.
“I’m a longtime OA member, and I continue to use the OA program itself as a Power greater than myself because I continually witness people who have recovery from compulsive overeating and that’s why I’m here.”
“While I do not believe in the prevailing concept of God, I do believe that a transcendent, moral, and spiritual plane is the highest level of aware- ness for human beings.”
“My Higher Power is the Fellowship of OA, where each individual surrenders to the wisdom, conscience and love of the program.”
“My Higher Power is my moral intuition, my conscience, my highest nature, tapping into the greatness of all wisdom.”
“My Higher Power is nature: the germination of a seed, the brilliance and energy of the sun, a woman giving birth to a baby, the formation of snow flakes, lightning and rushing rivers.”
“I am spiritual when I ‘place principles before personalities.’ I am spiritual when I reach out to another compulsive eater with a listening heart, a phone call or a loving hug. I am spiritual when I honestly search my soul for defects and have the willingness to persistently seek to be rid of them.”
Few OA members who have hit rock bottom have trouble with the First Step, regardless of their religious beliefs or conception of a Power greater than themselves. e OA program of recovery offers a way for us to move forward, to leave behind the wreckage that we have made of our self-esteem, our bodies, our relationships, ourselves. None of us recovers by continuing the thinking and behavior which brought us to the Fellowship.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, page 14, offers this suggestion:
“We learned we could ‘act as if.’ is didn’t mean we were to be dishonestly pious or pretend we believed in God when we didn’t. It meant we were free to set aside theological arguments and examine the idea of spiritual power in light of our own desperate need for help with our lives.”
Working the Steps can present particular difficulty for those whose Higher Power is not a deity to which one prays. It is especially important to remember that working the OA program is an individual process. How we interpret and work the program depends, in large part, on how we view the world and what we believe.
“The Steps don’t ask a great deal of us at rst glance. In fact, I see now that all I did was pay lip service to Steps One, Two and Three at first. Realistically, they are tall orders and completely inward processes. For me they boiled down to ‘You hate what it is like now. What you’re doing and thinking made things as they presently are. Obviously those things must change. You can get better if you listen and try to act and think differently.’ “
The Steps are just practical ways to change— guides to spiritual progress. It was the height of my personal arrogance to try to dictate my recovery as a newcomer. I can now accept others where they are on all three levels: weight-wise, feelings- wise and God-wise. I am not spiritually identical today to how I was when I came to my first meeting, but I’m still me and still as special as I was then. I must admit, though, that I’m lighter and happier now.”
Deciding to turn over our will and lives is crucial and perhaps the most difficult task in the program. Here is how one member handles it:
“For me, Step Three was making a commitment to work the OA program of recovery despite my doubts, criticisms, rationalizations and desires to do it ‘my way.’ Some would call this surrender. But rather than surrendering to an omnipotent being that would pull strings in my life from now on, I made the decision to turn my will and my life over to the process of working the Twelve Steps.
“While I’m not certain of the existence of God, I can’t deny the empirical evidence of OA recovery that I see in meetings. Whatever the power is be- hind the OA program, I feel it strongly every time I step through the doors of an OA meeting or use the tools of the program.
“Working Steps Three and Eleven, to me, means realizing that this power is real and its label doesn’t matter.”
All in all, the experiences of those who work this program with their own concept of a Higher Power show that this program does work regardless of one’s personal interpretation of that Power. Clarity, peace of mind and growth are some of the many byproducts of OA’s recovery program. When we stay in the program and apply these principles in keeping with a personal understanding of a Higher Power, these rich rewards are ours! ese are certainly good reasons to “keep coming back.”
So many of us cried out, “I can’t do it, I’m different.” When we took the time to try—choosing instead lives of abstinence and working the Steps— we stopped being the one for whom the program just wouldn’t work and became one of the thousands for whom it did work.
One day at a time.
Since it would get dark so early and I no longer drive at night, I made a conscious effort this past winter to replace my face-to-face evening meetings with virtual meetings.
I found two excellent meetings. One is a Step Study videoconference meeting based in Newfoundland, Canada. The other is a non-real-time meeting that uses a popular messaging app. That meeting is moderated by members from Region Nine.
Shares in the latter meeting are a combination of text and voice messages, and I hear people from all around the world, all with very different accents. This blew me away when I first heard it. It also seems to be a much younger group than I see at my face- to-face meetings. I hear babies crying in the background sometimes.
This has been an extremely rewarding experience, and it makes it real to me that we truly are a worldwide Fellowship. Virtual OA saw incredible growth in 2017. In the first nine months of the year, 121 new virtual groups were registered with the World Service Office— including online, phone, and non-real-time groups, plus two new virtual service boards. In addition, membership in virtual groups on Facebook is increasing, with some groups reporting 500–1,500 members.
To keep up with this incredible growth, the Find a Meeting page at oa.org has been expanded to include a variety of digital meeting options, including meet- ings via email or bulletin loops, social media pages, bulletin boards or forums, and mobile applications. OA calls these meetings “non-real-time” meetings because they do not meet in real time or have designated start and end times. Non-real-time meetings may take place over a period of hours or days.
Finding non-real-time meetings is now easier than ever, since a new category has been added to Find a Meeting at oa.org. Click the “Non-Real-Time Meeting” button to view your options.
To register a non-real-time meeting, download the OA Non-Real-Time Group Registration/Change Form (an interactive PDF), fill out the form, and email it to email@example.com.
~ A Step Ahead, Second Quarter 2018
Think back to the moment we first walked into an OA meeting. We finally gave up outwitting or toughing out our disease. Our eating discouraged us. The shape of our body discouraged us. So did our emotional health.
We come into OA on a losing streak. None of us thought that, gee, OA might be a fun place to meet friends and network. We came because our lives, as we were living them, were pretty lousy: chained to food like a slave to their master. None of us had the foggiest idea what to do, we just wanted a place that could help us where no one else could before. So when we went to our first meeting, what were we looking for? Why, hope of course! All we wanted was a tiny glimmer, a glinting of shining hope. Half a ray of hope, even an eighth of a ray, would have been infinitely more hope than we walked in with.
But how do newcomers (or current members) get that hope? In our first meeting, we were probably confused by all the terminology chucked around: abstinence, food plan, Higher Power, unmanageability. What’s it got to do with stopping the uncontrollable urge to eat? Then we hear someone describe their journey. We hear in them what’s familiar: the obsession, the physical need for our binge foods, the fear and self-doubt. We hear in another’s words the lonely secrets of our food behaviors.
But the problem isn’t the only thing we need to feel hopeful. If everyone shared only about the problem, then it’s just talking. What we felt and heard was that OA has a solution. We didn’t necessarily know what “Twelve Steps” meant, but we heard people talking about how their compulsive eating had been arrested. We saw that they achieved some physical recovery. And we imagined ourselves in their place. “If they were like that before, and they are getting better, then I can too!”
If we heard hope, then we probably left our first meeting with some lightness in our hearts. Finally, we’d stumbled into a path forward.
But what if we hadn’t heard hope? What if we didn’t hear that there was a solution? What if we mostly heard about the problem? Or sharing that’s mostly retellings of the difficult problems of the past week? Would we have stuck around?
Just as newcomers need to hear hope, current members, no matter where we are in our journey of recovery, need to hear hope, too. Even more important, we desperately need to share hope. Step 12 tells us that we are to carry the message of hope to those who still suffer. The Big Book tells us explicitly and implicitly that we must share what happened (the problem), what we did (the solution in OA), and what we’re like now (how we’ve been changed by OA). This isn’t optional; it’s foundational to maintaining our spiritual condition. It’s mirrored again in Tradition 5 that tells us that the primary purpose of any OA meeting is to carry the message to still-suffering compulsive eaters. It’s not about us, it’s about others. It’s about hope! As practicing OAs, we can ask ourselves three important questions about our sharing:
- What percentage of our sharing is about our problem with food? With non-food life problems? Or is a retelling of events of the past days or week?
- What percentage is about how we are working toward the solution?
- Are we remembering to describe how our lives have changed for the better through OA?
Or we can ask one big question: Do I consistently share so that I feel better or so that someone else in the room feels hope so they can get better?
These answers make all the difference to us as well as the newcomer. If we hear ourselves talking about the solution, we may be more likely to continue reaching for it, reminded of its daily importance to us. Just as the still-suffering compulsive eater may be more likely to stick around and reach for the solution when they hear hope from us.
Hope is a diamond for the newcomer, each of our recoveries are its facets, and our Higher Power is the light that sparkles through it.
– Anonymous, June, 2017