Passport to Unity

PassportUnity

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

 

What if I don’t believe in God?

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.

Every day.

One day at a time.

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

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

Willingness

A speaker at an OA convention once shared that he would have been willing to sit naked on a fireplug and hand out leaflets if that was what his recovery required. Fortunately, our program requires no single act of daring. Instead, we are shown a path to follow the rest of our lives.

For those of us who sought a magic pill or diet to cure our overeating, the “fireplug program” might seem easier than practicing the principles embodied in the Twelve Steps. Our program tells us that through “the process” of working the Steps daily, sanity and abstinence will be found. We who have followed that process for a time, and then became distracted from it, have found that sanity and abstinence are hard to maintain without it.

This program promises real and amazing recovery. Hopeless bingeing is replaced by healthy eating. Excess weight disappears without diets, purging, or excessive exercise. We can live free of the obsession with food and eating, day after day, for years at a time. But none of this is automatic. We have to be willing to live the Twelve Steps daily, in order to keep our recovery.

~ Excerpt From: Overeaters Anonymous, Inc. “Voices of Recovery: A Daily Reader. pg 328”

Dishing Up for Others

Holidays have always been a difficult time in my family. My earliest holiday memories revolve around eating very large quantities of food. I still remember the treats my mother bought and hid in the dishwasher so my father wouldn’t nd them and confront her. Sometimes it is hard to unlearn habits that date back to child- hood, but I have discovered it’s not impossible.

A few years ago a friend asked me to help prepare a holiday dinner at a local charitable organization. The meal would be shared by many people who had no family dinner to attend. It was a lot of fun preparing the food in assembly-line fashion. Laughter and merriment were present in large measure, and the spirit of fellowship and love was palpable. But the best part came when it was time to serve the food. It was a chance to personally greet and serve each person and offer best wishes for the New Year. They expressed their gratitude and appreciation freely.

Serving others was better than eating any of my favorite holiday binge foods.

In short, I completely forgot that once upon a time the holidays would have meant overindulging and hating myself for it afterwards. Serving others was bet- ter than eating any of my favorite holiday binge foods. It was just the gift I needed!

— Terry, Pennsylvania USA