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 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 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

Always a Beginner

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over food – that our lives had become unmanageable.

When I came into OA, I met a long-timer I particularly admired. She was slender and energetic. She shared wisdom and love with everyone in the rooms and had an irresistible sparkle about her.

When we passed around the phone list, though, she did something that confused me. In the “Comments” column, she wrote, “Always a beginner!” Why on earth, I wondered, would she claim to be a beginner when she clearly had it all together?

Now, ten years later, I think I understand. We never have it all together in OA. We are always powerless over food and this disease. I can never control it, and I can never manage my life, at least not by myself. The best thing I can do for my recovery is to keep being teachable and follow instructions, like a beginner.

From the example of this member and others, from working the Steps, and from using all the Tools, I’ve learned that a beginner’s attitude as expressed in Step One is a very good place to be. When I remember I am powerless over pretty much everything except my own response in this moment, I can stay abstinent. Here’s how I use Step One every day:

  • Every morning when I wake up, before I even open my eyes, I pray Steps One, Two, and three to remind myself of my true relationship to life and my HP.
  • When something doesn’t go my way or when life hurts, I remember I’m powerless over it. I am not supposed to control it, so I don’t need to be frustrated or disappointed when I can’t.
  • I ask for help and support from anyone at a meeting, no matter how long or short their time in program.
  • In OA, I’ve walked through drastic changes in household income, going back to work after twenty years, raising kids, my father’s dementia and death, and kids moving out—all abstinently— by remembering I am powerless.
  • As I write this, my elderly Labrador seems to be dying—he hasn’t eaten in days. Since I’m powerless over this, instead of trying to force him to eat, I am doing what I can to make him comfortable. He is peaceful, and I get to feel my sadness and grief without eating over it.

When we pass around the phone list at a meeting, I often write the same thing as that longtimer did, because it works for me:

I am “always a beginner.”

~ Joan P., Mountain View, California USA

Learning to Listen

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

My first Step sponsor told me I could begin to practice Step Eleven early in my OA program. I did not need to wait until I had worked the preceding ten Steps.

Prayer for me, until then, had just been asking God for things I thought I needed; basically “God, please give me _____.” But my sponsor had me stick with the basics each morning. I prayed the Serenity Prayer and prayed the prayers for Steps One, Two, and Three—preferably on my knees. Sometimes it was just “I can’t, God can, and I think I’ll let God!” The third Step Prayer also became crucial. “God, I offer myself to Thee . . . . May I do your will always!” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p. 63). My sponsor had me focus on one idea every week from For Today or Voices of Recovery and discuss the changes in my relationships to God and others.

Prayer is when we talk to God. Meditation is when we listen to God. I became curious about how I could add meditation to my program, and I found answers right after the famous Ninth Step promises (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th. ed. pp. 83–84). Many twelve steppers read these promises (and the suggestions through p. 88) daily, since our daily reprieve is based on maintaining our t spiritual condition.

I attended a session of guided meditation in which we learned to sit quietly and use the Tool of writing. After pouring our hearts out to God, talking to him as we would our best friend, we were asked to listen silently. As ideas came into our minds, we jotted them down quickly.

We sat still for about five minutes, which can seem like an eternity to beginners in meditation. At the end of the session, we went around the circle, and people shared the messages that perhaps God had sent. A key suggestion was that some thoughts may arise from our own self-will, so it is best to share our writings with a sponsor or another person who can be objective to help us decide whether to act on any guidance we receive.

Soon I fell in love with my morning time spent with my Higher Power. It became a time I longed for on the days I missed it. It gave me incredible peace and serenity as I dealt with death, loss, illness, and pain. It has not been my willpower or self-discipline that enabled me to go from 300 pounds (136 kg) to 140 pounds (64 kg) and stabilize at this weight. My healing has been a miracle from my Higher Power. He has spoken to me through my many wonderful sponsors and through OA-approved literature. The prayers my wonderful OA family said for me have made a tremendous di erence in my life.

Thank you, God, and thank you, OA, for saving my life. I will be eternally grateful.

— Mary A., Austin, Texas USA

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.

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)

New Twelve Step Study Guide!

Imagine working all Twelve Steps in just fifteen weeks!


Now it is possible with OA’s new Twelve Step Workshop and Study Guide, which features everything you need, including scripts for workshop leaders, Fourth Step Inventory Worksheets, and hand-selected references from OA approved literature.

Written as a leader’s guide, this 120-page, spiral-bound book is an ideal tool to lead a group through the Twelve Steps. The book can also be used one-on-one as a Step work guide between sponsors and sponsees.

OA’s new Twelve Step Workshop and Study Guide debuted at the recent 2016 World Service Convention and sold out within hours! Find out what all the buzz is about. Purchase your copy today and get ready to walk a steady, guided path to recovery through our Twelve Steps.


UPDATE – OAs new book is sold out. Thank you for making the Twelve Step Workshop and Study Guide a break-out success. New books are on order and expected mid-October. Watch for a WSO News Bulletin announcing the book is back in stock or check the OA bookstore.