Questions About Whether We’re Spreading Hope When We Share

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:

  1. 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?
  2. What percentage is about how we are working toward the solution?
  3. 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 

Sea to Sky Update – May, 2018

Spring.jpg

Welcome to May and an update on activities in our region!

Check out the May Newsletter for all the latest information about upcoming events and workshops plus a great article by Greta H on An OAer on the Big Book’s “A Doctor’s Opinion”. Feel free to print extra copies for your meeting or share by e-mail. Submissions for the June newsletter can be sent to seatoskynews@gmail.com.

Loads of upcoming Retreats if you are looking for a boost to your program and to make some new OA friends. Together we can what we could never do alone!

  • Southern BC & Interior Intergroup Spring Retreat, June 1-3, “In All Our Affairs”, Seton House of Prayer Retreat Centre, Kelowna, BC
  • Greater Seattle Intergroup Spring Retreat, June 1-3, “HOW it Works: An Exploration of Honesty, Open-Mindedness and Willingness”, Camp Huston, Gold Bar, Washington
  • Vancouver Island Intergroup Retreat, June 8-10, “Been Slipping? Been Sliding?” Bethlehem Retreat Centre, Nanaimo, BC
  • Greater Columbia Intergroup Retreat, June 22-24, “God and the Twelve Steps” Lazy F Camp and Retreat Center, Ellensburg, Washington

The May Meeting Directory is now available to help you find meetings throughout the month. The Chilliwack meeting welcomes visitors & needs support. They meet at 10:30 am on Saturdays at St. Thomas Anglican Church, 46048 Gore Avenue, Chilliwack. Road trip!!!

Download and use these two OA resources to support strong meetings in your area. Guidelines for Addressing Disruptive Behavior Affecting Overeaters Anonymous Meetings describes issues members might experience and suggests actions face-to-face and virtual groups can take to address disorderly behavior and protect members and groups. What does it mean to live happy, joyous, and free? Enhance your recovery and encourage membership retention by using this Fun and Fellowship download, created by the Twelve Step Within Committee.

sponsorshipSponsorship Day is coming up on Saturday, August 18th. Does your home group plan a marathon or other special event? Let us publicize it in our next newsletter by sending an e-mail to the newsletter editor.

Intergroup Elections are in June! Check out the descriptions of available positions and abstinence requirements and consider whether service could strengthen your program at this time. Please contact Carlos, our intergroup chair, if you’re interested in being of service.

All OA members are welcome at Intergroup meetings. Join us! Check out the position descriptions and feel free to attend the next Intergroup Meeting on Saturday, May 26, 2018 at 10 am (1630 Edinburgh Street in New Westminster). All are welcome.

Responsibility Pledge
Always to extend the hand and heart of OA to all who share my compulsion; for this I am responsible.

To my Loved Ones, from an Addict

I returned from a treatment centre for food addiction last week, armed with a new practice around my food – weighing and measuring my meals (in addition to abstaining from certain food substances, committing my meals to a sponsor, and other practices). My Dad, who I was staying with for a few days after treatment, asked me: how different is this current eating plan compared to how you were eating before? I took his question as a launch pad to address my loved ones regarding the fact that I am an addict.

I am an addict. In my case, it’s usually food that I’m addicted to. More specifically, I am addicted to sugar, flour, caffeine, high fat, volume, processed foods, bingeing, purging, restricting, over- exercising, under-exercising and body obsession. These are the food drugs and food behaviours over which I am powerless. In the same way that a heroin addict is powerless over heroin – she’s lost the ability to just say no – I am powerless over my drugs and behaviours. Incidentally, I’m powerless over alcohol, money, my emotions, other people, and self-destruction. In other words, these are other areas in which my addictive personality comes into play. In these areas, my life is unmanageable [Step 1].

Many food addicts before recovery (or in relapse) are significantly overweight or obese. Some are mildly overweight, at a normal weight, or underweight. This can be for a number of reasons, ranging from compensatory behaviours (purging, restricting, fasting, exercising, dieting, etc.), to metabolism and genetics. Food addiction, like all addiction, is a progressive disease. Later stage addiction is far beyond “habits” or “problems” or “vices” or “coping mechanisms” – it is a full-blown disease barreling headfirst for death. This is not an exaggeration. My disease will kill me, and it has had me in a stalemate for a while.

The most literal course towards death for a food addict is when the morbidly obese individual dies of a heart attack or from complications resulting from diabetes. Another obvious death sentence is heart attack, stroke or other complications arising from bulimia. I’m certainly at risk for those, at times spending up to 12 hours repeatedly filling my body with litres and litres of food and inducing myself to vomit it out. Death from addiction can often be slow or amorphous. It is often a spiritual death first, or, in other words, a destruction of everything life-giving and good in the addict’s life. When I choose my addiction over my health, relationships, career, spiritual life or other meaningful pursuits, I’m committing a slow suicide.

I’ve been so firmly pressed into a corner by my disease that I’ve been on the verge of selling all of my possessions, relocating to a remote corner of the world, and eating myself to death where no one can judge me or stop me. This is nothing but a slow form of suicide. Nor is it a mere fantasy – I could do it as easily and as suddenly as I recently moved across town in attempt to escape my disease. My impulsivity on account of co-occurring disorders exacerbates this risk. I’m also an addict with the propensity for cross-addictions, like alcohol, drugs and sex – my disease will pick up anything to try and kill me (I’m pretty sure it prefers food).

Many people think that the only side effects of food abuse are weight gain. But the fact is, when used in excess by certain types of people, food drugs can impair judgment and severely alter the state of one’s mental health, for a number of well-documented physiological reasons. Food-related addictions are deadly serious and hardly different from addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, or gambling. In my experience, addiction is addiction, period. It is the same acute spiritual suffering that brings all addicts to twelve step programs worldwide.

And so, I work a twelve-step program. And I surrender my food wholly by weighing, measuring and abstaining, in the same way that the alcoholic surrenders alcohol completely. And I do recovery the only way possible: the hard way, which is one day at a time.

Thank you for your love and support.

~ Fernanda, Vancouver

 

The Holidays are over …

… aka Sponsor Wisdom …

After an excruciating long explanation of why my holiday was no where near the Norman Rockwell experience I would have preferred, my sponsor had a brilliant four word comeback: “Tomorrow is just Tuesday.” Somehow all that hot air was deflated by those four simple words.

And now another holiday weekend approaches. I will soon be able to say, “Tomorrow’s just Tuesday.” And just like that the holidays will be only a blip on the screen of my life.

How can I NOT make such a big deal over holidays?

Number one thing I can do is to take the holidays through the first three steps of “Twelve Stepping a Problem.” Truly I AM powerless over holidays. The experience will change year after year and I need to be open to each experience. I certainly need to answer the question what would recovery look like in relation to holidays. And then I need to turn THIS holiday over to the care of my Higher Power.

Another thing I can do is concentrate on what I have rather than what I don’t have. Gratitude. My sponsor always tells me gratitude is the antidote for what ails me. That and service. How can I be useful to another is always a question to consider when times seem hard for me.

So I can look forward to a new year with hope, gratitude and service; remembering that tomorrow is just Tuesday.

~ Anonymous

12 Steps to a Better Holiday Season

We admitted that the holiday season has a deeper meaning than devouring food.

We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could help us see and celebrate the true meaning of the season.

We came to believe that our Higher Power could help us appreciate the joyfulness of the season as we understand it.

We made a searching and thorough examination of our relationship with food during the holidays and other things we enjoy about the season.

We admitted to our Higher Power the exact nature of our food habits during holiday season past.

We became entirely ready to allow our Higher Power to remove our attachment to food as a necessity of the holidays.

We humbly asked him to remove our desire to compulsively partake of holiday treats.

We made a list of all persons whose presence makes the holiday season joyful for us and with whom we would like to share our joy.

We made plans to spend time with those people whenever possible, except when to do so would remove us from our primary purpose of abstinence.

We continue to enjoy the company of friends and family and other nonfood aspects of the season.

We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our appreciation of the season, praying for knowledge of its meaning and the joy we feel at the time.

Having realized that  sharing the joy of this season with others far outlasts the fleeting pleasure of food, we gave ourselves the gift of abstinence throughout the holidays and gave others the gift of our full attention and appreciation.

~ Edited and reprinted from New Horizons newsletter, West 10th Street Big Book Meeting, November/December 1998.

To the Season

I’m writing out the holiday cards,
wishing everyone good cheer.
Suddenly it’s holiday time,
but I don’t feel holidayish this year.
Dinner with friends and family
will surely brighten the day,
but being around all that food
concerns me more than I can say.
“Thank you, God, that’s not my food,”
has worked for me before,
and when they ask, I’ll say,
“No, thanks, I don’t want any more.”
Holiday foods have always been
a big part of the season.
But this year I’m not eating them—
I’m listening to the voice of reason.
“Those foods aren’t treats; they’re poison!”
my OA friends all say.
I know it’s true. If I took one bite,
I’d be throwing my life away.
I’d hate myself, I’d want to die,
and nothing else would matter
but eating more and more and more,
while growing fatter and fatter.
Now I’m losing weight.
I’m feeling great!
My clothes are starting to to fit.
I’m calm and serene,
my heart’s full of hope,
and I really don’t want to quit.
They say, “It gets better and better!”
and “Don’t quit
before the miracle comes.”
Okay, why not?
I’ll give it a shot.
Light the candles,
sing the carols,
drum the drums.

— Phyllis B., Danville, Kentucky USA