Loner No Longer

“I never have to be alone again . . .”

It was June 1989: I was powerless over food and my life was unmanage- able. I had just lost forty pounds (18 kg) again and quickly gained ten pounds (5 kg) back. I was on my way up the scale and full of anger and rage. I felt totally helpless, hopeless, desperate, and alone. My highest weight was around 213 pounds (97 kg), and I thought my problem was a moral issue: I was the only one who ate like this. I was a glutton. I was a “foodaholic.”

On June 16, 1989, I attended my first OA meeting and for the first time ever felt at home. I belonged; I was “a part of”! I heard, saw, and felt the strength, hope, and recovery that this wondrous program offers. I listened to people who used to do what I did with the food, but they’d found a solution. I was no longer alone!

I did not get abstinent initially, but I started recovering that day and kept coming back. I did not get a sponsor right away, but I kept coming back. I went to three or more meetings a week. Meetings were the only times I felt at peace, so why wouldn’t I keep coming back? But since I’m also a loner (as a military brat, I moved locations every three years and learned never to trust or let anyone inside), I remained apart and distant.

After six weeks, I finally got a sponsor, someone who would give me the discipline and flexibility I needed, guide me through the program, and love me until I could love myself. Because of her, I learned I could not remain a loner in this program. I had to learn to trust and be willing to be part of the OA family to recover. This was my first introduction to being an active piece of the OA puzzle.

I’ve learned many things through my years in program. I slowly realized that one of my assets, my piece of the puzzle, is my ability to appreciate and gently welcome newcomers who might not want hugs or who want to be left alone. I can also lovingly and gently welcome people who are returning. This role is simple: I say, “Welcome back. I’ve missed you,” and remind them to keep coming back.

There is no one way to work this program and no one way to recover. Because of the Steps and certain mentors, I have learned that I am enough, the way I work my program is just right for me, and I always have an opportunity to help someone else recover. I am no longer a loner, nor do I want to be. Today I am grateful to be a piece of the OA puzzle, sharing and giving to all who share my compulsion.

~ Tina C.

You Are a Piece of the Puzzle: Part of the Mosaic

We all belong! We all belong! We are like pieces of a puzzle individually coming together to form one picture, not because of our differences, but because of what we share—compulsive overeating.

Most of my life I didn’t feel as though I fit anywhere. I was a fat child suffering the indignities of what today would be called bullying; then I was a young adult watching others live their lives but not living mine. Even when I had a good job, a husband, and a child, I never felt accepted by the world. After years of this, I went to my first OA meeting on January 11, 1992. Everyone welcomed me at that meeting –  they even talked to me – but I didn’t trust this group that talked about gratitude and a Higher Power. They were happy, though, and said what they had to offer me was the gift they had received: a place of acceptance.

It took a very long time for me to believe them, but I found value and self-worth through working the Twelve Steps. OA has no requirements for membership other than a desire to stop eating compulsively. We are more than just the meetings we attend, or the members we know – we are so much more than that. We all belong to the mosaic of OA. No matter how we work our programs, the basis of all is in the Twelve Steps, Twelve Traditions, and Twelve Concepts of OA Service. With the nine Tools of recovery as a guide, we begin to feel a part of something. I am a piece of a magnificent picture: Overeaters Anonymous.

Note: OA’s 2017 Strategic Plan includes a focus on growing OA unity worldwide. Region chairs and members of the Board of Trustees are contributing articles on this theme.

~ Karen C., Everett, Massachusetts USA


Spiritual Principle: Integrity in Recovery

Integrity: We continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past. We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. (Big Book, p. 84)

One of the hardest things to admit is that we have lied to ourselves.

Lied about our eating or our food behaviours. How many of us have binged and then “forgot” just a day or so later? We think we have the flu or food poisoning or we didn’t sleep well. In reality, we make ourselves suffer physically when we binge, restrict or purge. Like any other addiction, compulsive food behaviours are a form of self-abuse. The dishonesty we have around our food behaviours is also self- harming. It destroys our trust in ourselves.

Step 5 asks us to “admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” The underlying spiritual principle to this step is integrity. The courage to be this honest, to act with integrity going forward, is the cumulation of doing a Step 4 Inventory and sharing it honestly with our sponsor or another trusted person in Step 5. We face our behaviours, our fears, our resentments, our self-seeking and other character defects squarely. We acknowledge our past. We face the truth about what we are like and how we got to this point in our lives. As the 12 & 12 text says:

In steps four and five we learned courage and integrity as we faced the truth about our defects of character. Applying these principles in all our affairs means that we are no longer ruled by a fear of admitting our mistakes. We have the integrity to show the world our true selves. No longer needing to appear to the world as perfect people, we can live more fully, having the courage to face up to our mistakes and test our strengths in the challenges of life. – OA 12 & 12, p.104

Have you ever realized what goes on in your head does not match what the outside world sees? Many times, I’ve heard at a meeting a fellow acknowledge feeling “fake” or like an “imposter” sometimes. If people knew what you are really thinking sometimes, would they be shocked or appalled? In completing Step 5, telling someone what you have done, what your resentments are, how they affected your life, what your part is, what you fear, how you have distorted relationships – all these things help in the process of aligning your thoughts with your behaviors. This realignment requires integrity.

When we move forward in our recovery with integrity, we embrace the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; a spiritual uprightness in our daily lives. We are now in a state of being whole and undivided.

No longer do secrets – big and little – haunt us. We have made peace with our past. We are ready to move forward, whole. There may still be wreckage in our past to clear – that’s what we have the amends process for in Steps 8 and 9. But in taking Step 5, we commit ourselves to acting honestly and with integrity, not just in the eye of our High Power, but in our own mind’s eye and that of our fellows.

Step 10 encourages us to maintain this place of honesty and integrity daily. We continue to take personal inventory and when we are wrong, promptly admit it. A nightly inventory keeps us honest:

When we retire at night, we constructively review our day. Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid? Do we owe an apology? Have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once? Were we kind and loving toward all? What could we have done better? Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life? … After making our review we ask God’s forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken. – Big Book, p.86

The Big Book assumes we are sober when doing our nightly inventory. In OA, we add “was I abstinent today?” to the inventory. If not, we honestly acknowledge our relapse to ourselves, to our Higher Power and another fellow. We look at our behaviours and rework the Steps. Am I willing? Do I surrender? Have I asked for help? What “corrective measures” do I need to take? Integrity demands we ask ourselves the hard questions. We are only as sick as our secrets.

Need to add to your plan of action on integrity? Some members use an AEIOU method to take their inventory daily: was I Abstinent? Did I Exercise? WhatdidIdotodayformyself?WhatdidIdotodayfor Others? What Unfinished business or Underlying issues do I need to deal with? YAHOO!!! What 5 things am I grateful for today?

Others find it helpful to use a recovery app on their phone, like the free 10th Step app on iTunes or My OA Toolkit app (iTunes or Google Play). Still others use pen and paper, in a journal or with a template such as this OA Daily Worksheet. or these Step 10 & 11 Worksheets.

OA Region 1 also sells a daily program journal that some people find helpful. Any of these tools can help us work The Steps. The only important thing is that we have the integrity to work our program daily. You got this. You’re worth it.

~ Jennifer S, North Vancouver


Sponsorship: Are you doing it right?

I had been feeling really confused about being a sponsor recently, not sure about whether I was doing enough, whether I was helping the fellows that I was working with in their recovery. I felt that the sponsees that I had didn’t stay in program; those that did, I wasn’t sure I was instilling ‘the message’ of recovery. In short, I was restless, irritated, and discontent regarding my ability to sponsor. I thought I should stop the service of sponsorship, because I wasn’t doing it right.

I needed help, but I didn’t know where to go. The people I talked to said I was doing a good job, but I didn’t want to believe them—I’m willful that way. And my sponsor told me to give it up to my higher power and let the response be my guide. I realize now that I had listened to her, but I didn’t hear her. So I kept on going in this funk, letting myself (and my program) suffer because of this self-doubt. One day, my sponsor’s words over the preceding weeks and months finally sunk in, and I decided to ask my Higher Power for help. Finally, I was willing to hear advice from my Sponsor, and when I was willing to do the next right thing, the answer came from my Higher Power.

I remembered the Sponsorship Kit I got when I was first asked to take on this service by my sponsor. Reading through the instructions and advice in the kit, I realized that I was indeed a sponsor; but there was more that I could do, with specific ideas and instructions to make sponsorship easier and more effective for all involved. It’s an amazing tool to use, and I recommend it.

If you are thinking of sponsoring, please give it a try after a good check-in with your sponsor and your higher power. If your meeting has a need for sponsors, remember that anyone can sponsor to the level of their ability… the Sponsorship Kit not only taught me that, but reminded me of that as well. Many fellows have different opinions about this, but I think that any member who has completed the fearless moral inventory of Step 4 to the best of their ability and is abstinent can sponsor newcomers in the program to help them understand the first three steps. I put myself up as a temporary sponsor for the first time before completing my first set of steps. No one asked me to be their sponsor, but I know that the change in me, in my willingness, helped my program.

~ Tim C.

Face Time

I went to a meeting the other day and was walking in with a friend (we squeaked in barely on time) when I noticed, down the hall, someone sitting alone.

I asked, “Are you looking for OA?” The answer was yes.

The newcomer had never been to that particular meeting before. I had just gotten the meeting started when two other folks walked in — they had never been to any meetings in town either. I think there was a total of six of us that day. Maybe folks were out of town or busy with holiday plans (though we all know we cannot aord to give our recovery a vacation).

I am grateful that phone and online meetings exist. I am sure they benefit many folks’ recoveries. But when I was a newcomer, I would not have made it with so few members in the actual rooms.

Please consider coming to meetings as a major and important part of service. Please consider giving back to newcomers the kind of face time you got when you started in OA. It’s such an important way to be freed from isolation and a valuable tool of recovery. Face-to-face meetings are a life-enriching experience.

~ Mica W., North Carolina USA

How Step Study Groups Benefit Our Recovery

The Shaughnessy Meeting in Vancouver is forming a new Step Study group to start in mid to late September. They will be using the new OA Step Study Guide. The date and time is to be determined. They will likely meet at the Fairview United Church at 1708 West 16th Avenue (near Burrard). If you are interested, please contact Robert S at rspersonal@rsctele.com by early September.

After the Intergroup renewal workshop, six of us in the same home group decided to start a step study group In March, using the Twelve Step Workshop and Study Guide which is new OA literature. Our breakout group decided we would share the benefits of being in a step group to hopefully reach all newcomers and those that may be struggling with their recovery.

Our step study involves reading, reflecting, writing, discussion and, of course, action! In addition, participants are expected to also attend their regular OA meetings, make outreach calls and work with their sponsors. We have taken turns in leading in order for each of us to have an opportunity to give service.

As we are all from the same OA home group, we knew each other fairly well but because of this Step study we now find ourselves very much closer to each other and all have a renewed commitment to our recoveries. The support to each other has been wonderful and we have all had lots of ‘Aha’ moments and broken through some barriers and resistance.

There are lots of available Step study guides. Our particular group met before the first session and mutually decided which guide to use. In a Step Study, we work the Steps rather than just study or read them. As a result, we can grow and change and become more and more willing to recover. We learn that only the first half of Step One has anything to do with food and compulsive eating. The rest of the Steps all deal with living.

For us, working the steps has been our path to recovery and given each of us truly fabulous partners in recovery. I know for myself that I always ate to feel better but ALWAYS felt worse. I learned that any permission giving or justifying is my disease talking. One bite of an addictive substance is suicide for me. Working and living the Steps along with walking hand in hand with my Higher Power has been the solution for me. First, I had to have complete acceptance that I am a compulsive overeater and then surrender to a new way of life.

Are you interested in starting or joining a step-study? A good way to get started is to speak during a meeting’s “any announcements” time. State you are either looking to join a step study or interested in helping start a step study. Consider inviting newcomers personally after the meeting and explaining what a step-study is. Find a location that allows privacy. Set a time to have your initial meeting to mutually decide which step- study material to use, time/day and duration of the sessions. Currently our group has six members meeting twice a month on Sunday afternoon from 4-6 pm with the location of the meetings alternating between two members’ homes. We are covering two steps per month (step 4 was six weeks) and will meet until the early fall.

If you are interested in knowing more about how to start or join a step-study, please ask within your home group as many people have been involved in them and would be happy to share their experiences. -MJ and LC

Editor’s Note: if you are starting a new step study group, please let us know at seatoskynews@gmail.com so we can put a note in the newsletter and other interested fellows can join you.

12StepGuideThe OA Step Study Guide is designed to be used with the Big Book, OA 12 & 12, the daily readers, etc. and includes a leader’s script for each session as well as pages to be photocopied for all group members for “homework” between sessions. Copies can be purchased through Intergroup. There is also a popular OA Big Book Step Study by Lawrie C, available for free online at www.oabigbook.info.

A Token of My Esteem

To me, our Responsibility Pledge in OA means more than an arrangement to do something.

In Spanish, the word ‘compromiso’ (commitment) can also mean ‘pledge’ or ‘token.’ A pledge is a thing that is given as security, a guarantee of completion; it is liable to forfeiture in any case of non-completion. From OA, I received an awareness of abstinence and with it a new perspective of who I am.

Today, thanks to the unconditional support of my fellows in recovery, I am a better version of myself. Now I know my limits but do not try to fix myself; I understand that I am part of something greater than myself that I cannot explain – but which will help me overcome.

Now I know my strengths and I feel a deep respect for them; I am very proud of myself. Now I live love and I can share it without fear. Why would I not pledge my life itself if it were necessary?

I am a lover of OA, and I do not have to say anything, just extend my hands and my heart to all who still live as I lived before.

— Anonymous