Member Experience #6: Trying Hard and Hardly Trying

SeacoastOA member experiences provide experience, strength, and hope anytime. Sharing our experiences also strengthens our own recoveries. Click here to share yours.

OA is full of paradoxes that make sense only when you have experience. For me, one of them is that in recovery I’m trying hard to be hardly trying.

Trying hard means that I’m doing the footwork that OA recommends. I attend meetings regularly. I work the Steps daily. I do service. I sponsor. I use the Tools. I try hard to make the program a part of my daily life. Most important, I don’t eat no matter what, and no matter what I don’t eat.

That last sentence is where hardly trying comes in. It means that I don’t need to be obsessing about how much or how little I’m eating, about my food plan, or about the results. This is because I now have a Higher Power. OA shows me that instead of trusting my powerless self to keep myself abstinent, I need trust HP to change me and make it easier for me not to eat. So I try hard to have a relationship with God so that I don’t have to try as hard with my food.

There’s another meaning to “hardly trying” as well. We’ve all heard of someone with a trying personality. They are a pain in the butt, always wanting it their way or trying to be the center of some drama. By trying hard to work the program, I am also taught that I’m not so important that I need to be trying to those around me. The program tells us that we need to learn to be humble, and humble people don’t act out. Whenever I’ve acted out in my life, the victory was short-lived, and soon I’d be eating again over that crisis and whatever crisis I was next brewing up. When I’m hardly trying, I find out that God will sort things out without my needing to make a scene. That’s better for me and everyone around me, and it reduces the number of feelings I might want to eat over.

I learned this through experiences: by talking with my sponsor, by doing the Steps, and by acting as if. I’m changing, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly, into less of a trying person and more of someone who is OK in their own skin. Best of all, I don’t have to eat like crazy anymore or beat myself up for doing so. I’m trying hard and hardly trying thanks to OA.

 

Member Experience #5: How I Maintain My Abstinence

SeacoastOA member experiences provide experience, strength, and hope anytime. Sharing our experiences also strengthens our own recoveries. Click here to share yours.

I’ve been in OA for over 34 years and have had my share of relapses during that time. I now have 18 years of back-to-back abstinence, and I’d like to share how I am maintaining that. Each relapse reinforced that I had to be willing “to go to any length” to recover.

First, I need to say that “God does for me what I cannot do for myself.” This clearly means that I need to maintain contact with my HP through daily “quiet times,” prayers that I can say throughout the day, which come to mind quickly (i.e. the Third Step Prayer and the Seventh Step Prayer) and practicing conscious contact with God. I also silently say to myself different “slogans” that have helped me through the years to get through the “ups and downs”: “This too shall pass”; Live and let live”; First things first”, etc. These help me to regain perspective and provide comfort if I’m troubled or distressed throughout the day.

I have worked the Steps through many different processes…and personally, have found that the Big Book Step Study Process has been the most thorough and “life transforming” for me. I was able to thoroughly look at my part in my resentments and specifically do the “turnarounds” that helped me see exactly what had triggered the resentment. The “turnaround” piece of the inventory has provided me with a tool I can use when new potential resentments arise.

I also work the program like my life depends on it…because I really feel it does. I have a “cunning, baffling and powerful” disease and left to my own devices, the addiction always wins. When, in the past, I worked the program with “half measures”, I found that I would always eat again.

I commit my food daily to my sponsor and also have sponsees who do the same with me. I try to make an effort to call my sponsor if I have a food change. Although I have a flexible food plan (no sugar or alcohol), I also find it very important to commit my specific food plan daily including the amounts, which I weigh and measure when I’m home.

I attend meetings…. I try to go to three a week but sometimes only make two. I will supplement with more phone calls if I’m unable to go to three meetings. Phone calls are important because they keep me connected with others who are walking this path and gets me out of myself and my own problems. I also do service in other ways and find this is an essential part of my recovery. As the Big Book states: “Nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.” I’ve done service on all levels (local, region and world service), and I find that the members of OA who give the most service generally stay in recovery. I try to say “yes” when asked to do anything in OA, if possible.

Another important part of my program is to practice gratitude! This, for me, means specifically identifying at least three things a day that I’m grateful for. This really helps me keep a positive perspective and decreases negativity and depression.

Member Experience #4: What About the God Thing?

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I did a lot of research about OA before I walked in the door of my first meeting. The God thing had me worried because I had finally shaken off my religious upbringing. I considered myself a committed atheist. In reality, I was an atheist who should’ve been committed.

I knew some 12-Step folks, and they told me, to a person, that I didn’t have to worry about the God business. Later I learned this was a gentle way of saying don’t let your pride and your prejudices get in the way of a joyful recovery. Soon, you all showed me that it didn’t matter what my belief about God consisted of, so long as I believed three things:

  1. There was a Power great than myself
  2. This Power had the ability to change my food behaviors for me
  3. This Power would do so, if I created a relationship with It.

Nothing there about beards, lightning bolts, or afterlives. Nor anything about my character or that I had to fear punishment. Nor anything about any appointed person I had to go through in order to seek this power. In fact, the three points I learned told me that this Power loved me and wanted a direct relationship with me. Perhaps most important: I could believe anything else about a Power greater than myself that I wanted to and that helped me recover.

It took me about six or eight months to fully comprehend this idea, but when I did, OA opened up for me in an amazing way. Abstinence wasn’t something I had to fight for, it was something that I asked for, participated in, and gratefully received. It took me another year before I comfortably used the word God, but it’s faster to say than “Higher Power.” It took me a little more time yet to be willing to capitalize the G in God. I do so now because it reminds me that God is a real thing, and because It has helped me, so I owe the respect of an uppercase letter. A small thing? Yeah, but for a former atheist, a huge change.

In the end, I suppose that the organized religion of my youth might yet consider me an atheist because I don’t believe in its concept of god anymore. That’s OK with me nowadays; everyone has the right to their own beliefs. And today I believe in a concept that works for me and keeps me out of the food and in OA. The God thing worked out just fine.

OA.org recently added a page to its site called To Atheists and Agnostics which is well worth a moment to read.