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

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


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


Ask-It Basket – Service

Q. How can we encourage members to do service? Many take the view that they can’t do service before they recover!

When we first come into Overeaters Anonymous, we want recovery to be about us; then our sponsor mentions service. Service gives back to the program and helps us too. In order to keep what we have, we have to give back what was so freely given.

All members, newcomers and longtimers, are encouraged to do service to help their recovery. Newcomers can set up chairs, carry the literature for a meeting or the key to a meeting. Some meetings have coffee, which newcomers can set up. They can also make outreach calls to other members, participate in readings at meetings, make announcements, and visit their intergroup.

I was encouraged to go to intergroup by my sponsor. I didn’t need to be abstinent to go and see what an intergroup was all about. I went as a meeting rep. There were all kinds of things I could do without any abstinence requirements at all, like helping plan recovery events. I was good with computers, so I made flyers. I was able to place flyers and pamphlets in our local libraries and hospitals. My service helped carry the message to the still-suffering compulsive overeater. When I did reach required abstinence times, I was voted in as Secretary of our intergroup. I also became the region rep for our Region Eight assembly.

My love of service and OA took off from there. I served in many positions on the intergroup board and in my region. Here I am today—an OA trustee.

I love the journey of recovery. I meet so many people I never would have met otherwise. Doing service means we can trudge together that “Road of Happy Destiny” the Big Book mentions (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p. 164), and carry the message to other compulsive eaters; it is our primary purpose.

[Another trustee answers:]

Your second sentence, “Many take the view that they can’t do service before they recover” captures one of the many paradoxes in our program. Those who wait to be recovering or abstaining before they give service miss the fact that many who do service are gifted with recovery/abstinence along the way.

We can remind members that Service is one of our Tools of recovery; it can also be included in another Tool: Action Plan. A sponsor can request that all his or her sponsees do some level of service. When encouraging members to do service, include many ideas: members can help set up chairs and put them away at the end of meetings (they will undoubtedly share with others while doing this service). A newer person can become a “speaker getter” for the group, or be the group’s literature person. Two or more newer members can work as a team to do a service—this practice generates support and helps with commitment, and service becomes fun! All this while, any person who has a dilemma about putting service, recovery, or abstinence first gets to put aside intellectual argument and instead live in the solution.

Always remember that any person giving service can ask their Higher Power to be with them; that way they are working Step Eleven whether they realize it or not. And please remember too that we humans want to be asked to help.


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