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

Holiday Tools

I am a grateful compulsive overeater, abstinent since I walked through the doors of OA fourteen years ago. Thank you, God!

I am maintaining a 33–35 pound (15–16 kg) weight loss, one day at a time. I have greater emotional and spiritual fitness than when I came. I live a life that is happy, joyous, and free; it’s a miracle I’m not obsessing about what to eat or about my sleeves being too tight around my upper arms (although they aren’t anymore). It’s a miracle I have conscious contact with a Power greater than myself, and I pray every day in thanksgiving.

OA literature reminds me that as the holidays approach, I need to return to basics and do what I did to stay abstinent during my rst holiday season. What worked for me then will work for me now: using the Tools. My food plan has changed throughout the years, and will continue to change as I age and my nutritional needs change, but I’ve always had a food plan.

I must always go to meetings and read literature, just as I did when I first started. As my emotional and spiritual needs change, I choose Step or Big Book meetings. As my responsibility to carry the message of OA becomes evident, I choose to attend Traditions meetings. Sometimes I need to hear the experience, strength, and hope shared in speaker/qualifying meetings too.

Members at meetings said that during the week leading up to Thanksgiving, they made more phone calls; some even called people on the day itself, and those people were glad to hear from them. I’ve tried it, and it’s true. People are glad to be remembered and glad to be reminded we’re in a Fellowship that helps us get through everything abstinently. I’m going to do it again this year. It will be the message I carry when I call a newcomer, my sponsees and sponsor, and at least one person I haven’t seen in a while.

At my first meetings, members told me that because holidays are few, we don’t get as much practice at being abstinent on them as we do every other day. People shared their imperfections and how, through their Higher Power, they found the willingness to continue their recoveries instead of going back out there
to eat. They told me that OA is the only place they continue to recover from their mental obsession. The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous says, “Another power, stronger than ourselves, had to be found to relieve us of it, if we were to stop eating compulsively and stay stopped” (p. 3). I learn best when I see something demonstrated. The people at my first meetings showed me the only way to continue to recover was by “passing it along,” and they did, one day at a time.

“As the holidays approach, I need to return to basics and do what I did to stay abstinent during my first holiday season.”

Is this not an awesome program? To think that I can continue to learn, grow, and recover by just showing up. I wish you all the willingness to show up this holiday season.

— Lisa D., Salem, New Hampshire USA

Good IDEA

IDEA Day – International Day for Experiencing Abstinence: the Coquitlam meeting is hosting a workshop on The Difference between Abstinence and a Plan of Eating on Saturday, November 18th from 10 am until 2 pm at the King of Life Church, 198 Falcon Drive in Coquitlam. BRING YOUR LUNCH! The program is based on World Service’s materials. For more information, contact Mikayla at 604-949-0747. Need a ride from the Skytrain? Call Maureen at 604-785-2236. See you there!

International Day Experiencing Abstinence takes place the third Saturday of every November, i.e., right before the amateur overeating season known as “the holidays.” Last year on IDEA Day, ten people braved their way through a snowstorm to hear about ideas valuable to abstinence. (Quoted material below is from Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed.)

  • Compulsive eating is a disease, not a moral issue, and weight is only a symptom. It’s an obsession of the mind plus an allergy of the body. It’s progressive, incurable, and potentially fatal.
  • Food is only nourishment for our bodies—it’s not love, comfort, reward, or a solution. For some people, extra food, certain foods, and certain behaviors are drugs. Addiction can happen to anyone—no matter how smart, knowledgeable, strong, capable, or stubborn.
  • “The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed” (p. 30). Like other addicts, we are absolutely unable to stop compulsive behavior “on the basis of self-knowledge” (p. 39). “Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves” (p. 45).
  • We can each use our own conception of a Higher Power, whatever that may be.
  • When we take a sponsor’s suggestions regarding food, we’re surrendering and taking Step One. We turn our will, life, food, weight, and body image over to the care of a loving Higher Power. We don’t have to believe in God—we just have to believe that we’re not it. HP is the pause between the food thought and the action, a protection and shield. A Higher Power is one hundred percent love and one hundred percent honesty.
  • Our disease lives in the extremes—all or nothing, black or white. Our recovery is in balance—doing something in shades of black, white, and gray.
  • Self-care may be the opposite of self- will. One day at a time, one moment at a time, just don’t eat compulsively. We cannot make ourselves abstinent (if we could, we wouldn’t need OA), but we can make ourselves ready to receive the gift of abstinence from our HP.
  • Abstinence is a gift from God, dependent on the spiritual condition, so start each day with “I can’t. God can. I will let God.”
  • Abstinence is freedom.
  • Abstinence is being full of faith and an attitude of gratitude.
  • Nothing tastes as good as abstinence feels.
  • Use the Steps and Tools throughout the day to maintain abstinence. Thank HPeach night.
  • We never need eat compulsively again.
  • We are all abstinent right now.

Edited and reprinted from Out of the Cocoon newsletter, Milwaukee Area Intergroup, Jan/Feb 2016

 

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

 

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.

Fallen Star

I was the self-appointed poster child for OA: I had physical recovery, I performed a lot of service, and I had several sponsees. My phone rang day and night. I was asked to speak at marathons and retreats. I wasn’t anonymous, and I didn’t want to be anonymous – I was a star.

I was lacking in self-esteem, and OA offered a platform where I could succeed and show my worth. When I attained a normal body weight and performed more than my fair share of service, recognition came my way. People looked up to me! I was finally perched on a higher rung of that imaginary ladder of worth. Self- righteousness only strengthened my grip.

Members began to look my way whenever a service position needed to be filled. By then, my life was full to bursting with service, family, work, and the fixer-upper home I’d purchased.

Then at one business meeting, a question hung in the air, needing an opinion. I always had at least three opinions on the same issue, but this time I didn’t oer any of them – I leaned back in my chair and remained silent, letting someone else take the lead. It was the start of humility.

Building a persona at meetings takes a lot of energy. I imagined myself better than others because that was the only way I felt good enough. Imagine the effort it took to keep up such a sick standard! How you continued to love me defies all reason, but you did.

When the inevitable fall came, I tossed away my abstinence and sank into a three-year, 70-pound (32-kg) relapse. I continued to come to meetings, fearing what would happen if I didn’t. My shame must have been palpable to others in the group, and it took every last shred of courage to show up. Ironically, the only member who ever sneered at my relapse was the other “star” in the group. The rest of you loved me through it.

When I see other OA members repeating my mistakes, I appreciate their willingness to give, and I hope they learn balance before they fizzle out and fall away from our Fellowship, unable to sustain endless service commitments and perfect back-to-back abstinence. I am aware that some members (the “experts”) want to influence decision-making based on the length of their membership. I only know because I did that too.

We can only love the stars blazing in our meetings, make our own decisions, and keep our “expertise” to ourselves. We all have one voice and one vote, and none is more substantial than another. We are all trusted servants, not self-appointed leaders. I’m grateful that OA taught me the difference.

— Cynthia W., Wickenburg, Arizona USA

Honest-to-Goodness

I love reading and learning about the Steps and Traditions through our Twelve and Twelve literature (I am brand-new to any Twelve Step program). When I read Step Five for the first time, this sentence really stood out for me: “Honesty is a key factor in our recovery from compulsive eating, and so we will want to develop this trait” (The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, p. 51).

To fully understand that honesty is a key factor in recovery and something that I need to develop, I need to look at my past to see both when I was honest and when I was dishonest. I am amazed when I think about just how much I lied — to myself, to my Higher Power, and to those around me.

For today, I am learning how to react to current situations in a mature, honest way. Self-honesty has opened a new door in my life. It has given me relief from anger, resentment, and other emotions that were completely in my head.

At work, I used to lie to potential customers about why I did not finish their proposals, hoping they would relieve me of the trouble I would be in for being late. I did it again and again and again. If I had just told the truth about why I was late, they would have had more respect for me and understood me a little better. Then I would not have had the internal guilt and shame that led me to binge again and again and again. Let’s face it … addicts are the world’s best liars. We have been doing it for so long that we should be considered professionals.

Sure, I can be honest about what I ate today, but to be completely honest in everything I do and say is a tad bit scary. I am not used to living this way. I do not even know how to do this yet. Honesty is a new experience I embrace with an open mind every day. Since beginning in OA, I have found that the more honest I am – with myself, my Higher Power, and others — the better I feel and the happier I become.

It has been difficult, but the times I have spoken honestly, I have felt extreme relief. If I use the Tools laid out for me, I can succeed.

Keep coming back. It works when you work it, and you are worth it — so work it!

— Edited and reprinted from OA Today newsletter, St. Louis Bi-State Area Inter- group, May 2016