Family Practice

In a dictionary, “family” can be defined in several ways: people occupying the same house, relatives, a tribe or clan, or a group sharing common features. Metaphorically speaking, we all belong to the “House of OA.” We all are related through the disease of compulsive eating.

A thesaurus may compare “family” to a fellowship or group that is close, friendly, intimate, confidential, or kindred. That sure sounds like the experience, strength, and hope offered by our OA family. I associate so closely with OA this way, and also with the Twelfth Step Within Committee.

Just a few months after joining OA in 2001 (my first miracle), my husband and I moved to Heidelberg, Germany, which was exciting, but scary too—I didn’t want to lose my newfound OA Fellowship. Well, never fear, HP is here! We were in the only city in all of Germany that had an English-speaking OA group (my second miracle). That small-but-friendly meeting immediately felt familiar. These were my people.

I learned we were part of the Region Nine English Language Service Board, and pretty soon my OA family expanded when conferences, workshops, and service positions allowed me to meet kindred spirits all over Europe, the USA, and the Middle East. Region Nine ELSB even hosts a yearly retreat in a castle! Service helped me come to a deep understanding: Together we get better. Although I was far from home, I had my OA family; they knew me, loved me, and helped me as we stuck together and recovered together. Now I’m back in the USA, and as a Region Eight Twelfth Step Within Committee member, I try to share that recovery.

OA’s Twelfth Step Within Handbook says: “Anyone who is abstinent and working his or her own recovery can do this service. No special qualifications are necessary; only willingness is needed” (p. 1), and “We can all help carry the message of recovery through abstinence and working the Steps by 1) being well ourselves; 2) giving service, sponsorship, and friendship; 3) encouraging membership retention; and 4) attending meetings and OA events” (p. 2). These Twelfth Step Within principles apply everywhere.

I’ve always believed gifts and miracles bear responsibilities. This March will be my fifteenth OA birthday, and when I look back on my miraculous recovery, I realize the Twelfth Step Within concept is what it’s all about. Everyone in OA can reach out with “carefrontation” to other members who are struggling. Just think what can happen when each one of us does.

So, I challenge you, my OA family: Let’s all work the Steps, receive a spiritual awakening, practice the OA Principles in all our affairs, and reach out to give the OA message of recovery to compulsive eaters in our groups and service bodies. You may be the one helped most.

Yours in blessed recovery,
~ Chris J., Huntsville, Alabama USA
From e-Lifeline, November/December 2016

December 12th is Twelfth Step Within Day!

Twelfth Step Within was created to strengthen Overeaters Anonymous by sharing information and ideas that generate recovery within the Fellowship. Twelfth Step Within does not focus on attracting new members – though new members are always welcome to partake in all fellowship activities – it explicitly supports the ones we already have. Twelfth Step Within Day gives those of us who wish to share our recovery a chance to do the service of carrying the message. It gives those of us who are still struggling a chance to infuse our program work with experience, strength and hope.

Writing Meditation

Each Tool of recovery has its own joys. There is the fellowship of meetings, the comforting security of a food plan, and the reassurance of a timely phone call. But the fifth Tool, writing, connects me to my Higher Power in ways nothing else can. Somebody told me that prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening to God. I have found that a writing meditation is a way to open my mind and listen for HP’s voice.

In my OA writing, some things are important and some are not. To me, the process is more important than the final written product. As part of my process,I write with a purple gel pen, because purple is a joyous color, and the gel pen makes my writing feel like flying.  However, grammar, format, and penmanship are not important; my writing is an illegible scrawl, filled with scribbles and ragged margins. When I am writing for HP and for myself, I don’t need to waste time worrying about spelling, punctuation, or legibility. The things I write for OA are private. I do not share them with anyone, except occasionally with my sponsor.

As I write this, I am sitting at my desk, enjoying the purple words flowing from my pen. Out of the corner of my eye, I see my cat curled up in front of the patio door. Her head is up—she is meditating, just like me. I hear a mockingbird proclaiming his ownership of the area, and I hear the distant voices of neighbors complaining that the trash pickup is late today. I am physically comfortable, and it is satisfying to know I have written something today. Even more important, I have heard my Higher Power tell me that writing this article may be of service to others.

I am done now. My mind is clearer. I feel refreshed and ready to go about my day, comforted by the knowledge that I have listened to my Higher Power.

How I Do a Writing Meditation

  1. I assemble writing tools: paper and pen or a computer.
  2. I read a prompt from OA literature: a reading from For Today, an article in Lifeline—anything.
  3. I set a timer for five minutes.
  4. I write. Here are the rules I follow: the pen never stops moving. If my mind goes blank, I scribble on the page until words come. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, penmanship, and format do not matter.
  5. I finish my thought when the timer goes off. I can choose to stop there or continue writing.

— Cheryl B., Las Vegas, Nevada USA
From e-Lifeline, November/December 2016

Digging Deep

In my first Fourth Step over ten years ago, I identified my major character defects as fear, people-pleasing, and low self-esteem. I thought those covered them all. These were easy defects of character for me to admit because I gured sharing them would get me sympathy. Who would still like me if I admitted to the massive ego, pride, and selfishness that have been part of my life for as long as I can remember? At the time, I was unaware of being in denial about these other character defects. I genuinely thought I had done a fearless and thorough inventory. I don’t beat myself up for not know- ing better at the time. I believe my Higher Power was only showing me what I was ready to see.

scarecrowAs I worked the rest of the Steps, I grew in self-esteem and self-awareness. It became easier for me to admit I have a big ego. In a subsequent Fourth Step, I realized there were people I resented sim- ply because they did not give me special treatment and extra attention. I admitted that a part of me thought everyone else’s rules should not apply to me. I should be able to eat what I want and not gain weight, and I shouldn’t have to work hard to be successful. Some of these realizations arose as I sat in meetings and heard others share similar sentiments. Hearing their shares also lifted the unconscious shame of having such egotistical feelings: If others I respect and admire had similar sentiments, I must not be that bad. Working the Steps thoroughly, however, was key to my coming out of denial, and if I’m not careful, then denial about my ego can still creep in.

Writing has been key to my staying honest about my motivations. Through writing, I realized that resentment toward my mother was driven almost entirely by ego. I was afraid she was right and I was wrong. But knowing what’s going on underneath doesn’t get rid of the defect. I am just as powerless over it as I am over food and therefore have to ask HP for help.

Another character defect that has given me a lot of trouble is fear. In working Steps Six and Seven, I have discovered part of me believes fear is a useful motivator. If I wasn’t afraid of what could go wrong, of nancial insecurity, or of others’ disapproval, would I even get out of bed in the morning? Here I have to trust the experience of those who came before and act as if letting go of fear will not have these harmful consequences.

My life is immeasurably better on days when these character defects are removed, which is most days. I no longer wake up feeling fearful about the day and no longer obsess over what everyone thinks about me. It takes footwork, but it’s worth it!

~ Anonymous (from eLifeline, October 2015)

What, Me Compare?

For most of my life, and deffinitely before recovery though abstinence and Overeaters Anonymous, I spent my time first looking at others, next at myself, and then throwing up my hands in despair.

Other women were always better: better body; better boyfriend; better hair, clothes, brains, job—you name it. I was the loser.

It first started with my older sister. She was thinner and smarter, had more trophies, and was just better than me. Later, all women “became my sister,” and my feelings of worthlessness and “less-than- ism” grew and grew. Naturally, being fat was a sure way of feeling “less than.” Other women had the secret. They could eat what they wanted and not be fat. If only I could get on that plan! But of course, I failed and ended up in the kitchen with a loaf of carbs, a vat of desserts, and a knife of self-hate through my heart.

Finally, driven to the brink of insanity, I came to OA again last year and got abstinent. Even so, this defect of comparing myself to others did not stop. If anything, it became more apparent once I put down the food. Now I was feeling the unmanageability of my comparisons. It sure wasn’t fun! My colleague at work was brilliant, while I was the frazzled, part-time working mom. My sponsor in OA  was thin, gorgeous, and full of answers, while I was the crazy, chubby one trying to stay abstinent. Seldom did I see myself as another comrade in this journey of life, recovery, and abstinence.

Finally, through Steps Four and Five, I started to see how the pattern of compare/despair started in my life at a young age. As the middle of three girls with a busy working mom, I learned early on to fight for attention and measure my worth in relation to others. It was all I knew.

But Steps Six and Seven told me there was a different way. I began to realize that by comparing myself to others, I was staying separate from them too. I could remain anxiously apart instead of peacefully together. I began praying to stop comparing, to accept people as God’s children, and to see that we all have gifts, each special and worthy. The turning point came when I started to work with others in the program. We were teammates, compatriots, survivors, and soul mates. It wasn’t about comparing; it was about sharing. What a revelation!

I’ve found that by opening up my true self to others in OA, I am more open to life in general. When I meet someone, I no longer measure myself against him or her, but instead seek our common ground. It’s all about connecting.

Thanks to abstinence and Steps Six and Seven, I pray today to humbly share—not hopelessly compare.

~ Lucy R.F., Palo Alto, California USA (from eLifeline, October 2015)

OA Found Me

Prior to entering Overeaters Anonymous in September 2004, I was a 25-year-old woman who could not break free of the binge and starve merry-go-round.

My troubled relationship with food began at an early age. During my early teens, my food restriction was progressive. I was already fearful of my capacity for eating enormous amounts of food. This culminated in a bout of anorexia during my early twenties and a subsequent diagnosis of osteoporosis at age 21. Then, almost overnight, it was as though a switch had been flipped, and I embarked upon a terrifying cycle of uncontrollable binge eating, starving, and obsessive exercise. Consultations with psychologists, counselors, personal trainers, and general practitioners could not rid me of my compulsion. Eventually, brought to my knees, I found OA. Or, perhaps OA found me.

In the OA rooms, I found human beings who shared their battles with food and weight. Men and women alike admitted to experiences similar to mine, such as hiding food in sheds, eating out of rubbish bins, abusing laxatives and exercise, stuffing themselves to bursting, and being unable to put the food down. I was dumbstruck, and I was relieved.

While I do not wish to deny that my visits with medical practitioners and health experts were beneficial, it was in OA that I learned I could not pass the solution to my disease to another person. Acknowledging and managing my disease was, and remains, up to me. I’m thankful OA’s Twelve Step program equips me to do just that.

From my experience, OA is a program for life. True, it and other Twelve Step fellowships deal with addictions and compulsions, but this Twelve Step program provides an awesome blueprint for any individual who seeks a spiritual approach to life.

I am abstinent today and blessed with continual abstinence since October 2004. It works if we work it.

~ Nikki, Australia (from eLifeline, January 2016)

Ready for the Journey

I am a 58-year-old male. I have been on the “diet yo-yo” five or six times in my life. Each time, I lost weight and kept it off for about a year; then I gained it back plus more. I’ve learned this is a progressive disease.

Before OA, I was full of despair and frustration. I was hiding in my apartment, bingeing and isolating. At 5 feet 6 inches (168 cm) tall, I weighed 277 pounds (126 kg). I could walk only one block and then had to rest because my back hurt so badly. I was having trouble doing my job. My next step was to become housebound or have a heart attack.

I was never into organized religion, but I knew there was a Higher Power; good and bad things happened in the world, and people had no control over them. That was as far as it went for me.

After coming to OA, I learned that OA is a physical, emotional, and spiritual program. I heard a story from OA literature about a woman who did not feel spiritual. OA members told her to think and act spiritually, and the feeling part would come. I tried that too, and it worked for me. I now trust in a Higher Power who runs things. Thank you, OA.

Before OA, I had not heard the word “abstinence” or given sayings like “easy does it” and “one day at a time” much thought. I now understand OA’s definitions, and the sayings help me a lot. When I’m having a bad day at work or someone is trying to give me a hard time, I re-read the passage on acceptance on page 417 from the Big Book (Alcoholics Anony- mous, 4th ed.). When I am impatient about being at my ideal weight, I reread pages 510–511.

In 1989, I went to an OA meeting and ran out of there. (Me have an eating disorder? You’ve got to be kidding!) I did the same thing in 1994. On October 31, 2014, I started my diet. On January 28, 2015, I went to an OA meeting, but this time I stayed and never left. It only took fifty-eight years to admit to myself that I had an eating disorder and was a compulsive overeater.

Today I attend three or four meetings a week. I do lots of service. I’ve lost 100 pounds (45 kg) and do a lot of reading. I am open to learning new things and am thankful for the Tools.

I know everything in my life happened just the way it was supposed to, in order to lead me to where I am right now. Thank you to OA, the Big Book, and the Twelve Steps for giving me my life back.

Like the Big Book says, “true happiness is found in the journey, not the destination” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed.,p. 511). I am ready for the journey.

— Anonymous, Phoenix, Arizona USA (from eLifeline, January 2016)

What Hasn’t Changed?

Spring of 2015 was the turning point. I had to get my x of food no matter the cost. I maxed out my credit card, took from savings, ate in secrecy, and filled crevices of the house and car with my stash. I even ate frozen cauliflower.

It struck me that I had a problem when I bought my first pair of size 14 jeans. I had been a size 10 just two years earlier. Questions consumed my mind: “How did it get this bad?” “How could I let myself go like this?” Next came the nicknames I gave myself: fat, stupid, ugly, worthless.

Preceding each binge, I promised my husband and myself that tomorrow would be the day I would stop. The next day I would wake up confident that nothing would stop me. By noon, I would convince myself I had “failed” the strict regimen I had planned the day before, and a binge would commence.

Despite the increasing severity of my illness, I was convinced I knew what I was doing, and maybe it wasn’t an illness. “It’s just my depression,” I said to myself. “I don’t have an eating disorder.”

In late April, I was at ground zero emotionally and physically. My psychologist told me to look up Overeaters Anonymous. That night, after a pint of dessert, I went to the OA website and found a meeting. The contact person was easy to talk to and told me the next meeting was on May 7.

I was excited, nervous, terrified—every emotion possible. I pulled up to the building and had to convince myself to stay, thinking, “You don’t need this. Go binge and try next week. This will be a waste of time.” Despite my anxiety, I went to the meeting. The group was small and very welcoming. I felt at home, at peace, and like my Higher Power had brought me here. I listened to their stories and then shared mine. I could relate so much; I wasn’t alone. I wanted to cry because I had found the help I so desperately needed. Was it comfortable? No, not at all. But I needed to do it no matter how uncomfortable it was.

On May 9, I found a sponsor. Finally it sunk in that I did not know what I was doing and I needed help. I have been abstinent from bingeing, by the grace of God, since May 26, 2015. I cannot begin to say how grateful I am. I can, however, list the positive changes that I credit to OA:


  • I love myself; I am not perfect and that is okay.
  • I am overweight, but I’m still beautiful.
  • I have an excellent support system and resources beyond my wildest dreams.
  • I am living, not just existing.
  • I can live without bingeing; in fact, I prefer it that way.
  • I am not afraid to try new things.
  • I am much closer to my HP.


I am hopeful; I look forward to my future!

I will never be fully recovered. This is a lifelong battle, and I’ve learned you have either good days or learning experiences. My goal is to become a sponsor and a lifetime member of OA. God’s not finished with me yet.

~ Dorothea B. (from eLifeline, January 2016)