What do we do when we slip?

A slip is not the same as a relapse or a binge, but it can become one. When we slip, we may have eaten something that is not on our food plan (such as a trigger food) or engaged in a food behavior that we eschew as part of our plan of eating (such as eating standing up). We hope they are relatively minor, one-off type events by comparison to full-on binge eating or a relapse.

The question is how to keep a slip from becoming something worse.

First off, what’s the number one thing that a slip does? It reintroduces a substance or way of thinking and acting into our lives that is known to cause major issues for us. If we ate a trigger food at a meal, for example, we are not doomed to eat it or any other unsafe foods again. God is more powerful than this disease after all. But we need to recognize that we are in danger, and over the next several days, we may feel things we haven’t felt in a while:

  • food-relations changes: cravings, food thoughts
  • physical changes: low energy, sleepiness, aches and pains, gastro troubles or headaches
  • mood changes: depression, anxiety, highs, lows
  • mental changes: confusion or fuzzy thinking, laziness
  • spiritual changes: a sense of distance from our Higher Power or our OA group.

What we do when these crop up determines whether we will return to our former compulsive-eating ways or whether we will simply resume with our abstinent way of life. An analogy that’s often mentioned at meetings is that of driving on the highway. If we get a little sleepy or distracted in our program, a slip is akin to hitting the rumble strip. Like any driver, we want to turn the car back toward the road, but we are in danger of that old thinking that says “I’m doomed!” and then fulfills the prophesy by turning the wheel straight into the ditch.

The ditch isn’t where it’s at for us OA members.

Instead, we can look toward the support we have in our meetings, our network, and our literature. We can talk to others and listen for helpful suggestions. We might ask ourselves questions such as:

  • Have I cut back on meetings recently?
  • Have I cut back on service recently?
  • Have I been honest with my sponsor recently?
  • Am I jammed up with resentment or fear?
  • Has my thinking moved away from OA principles and toward self-centeredness?
  • Am I in gratitude or am I in attitude?
  • Have I been passing the message of OA onto other suffering compulsive eaters?

We can ask God to help us answer these questions (and many others) honestly and openly. Because the substance or behavior is in our system once again, we may find the answers cloudy or difficult to locate. Talking with others can help us since they will have a more objective, outside point of view.

Whatever the answers are, we can safely skip over any kind of repetitive thinking that centers on the “If only…” of the situation leading to the slip, the kind that says “I’m so stupid…,” or the kind that says “I’ll never get my abstinence back.” These lies are the foundations that binges and relapses are built on. They are merely different flavors of the thinking that lead us to compulsive eating in the first place. We can’t go back to the moment before our slip, we needn’t judge ourselves harshly for being humans with a disease, and we cannot afford to seed the future with the junk from our past.

Instead, we can remind ourselves of some helpful slogans:

  • “Don’t eat no matter what; no matter what don’t eat.”
  • “Easy, easy, easy.”
  • “One day at a time.”

In addition, we should not tarry on taking action based on whatever answers we find. Stopped going to as many meetings? We can start going to more, immediately. Stopped taking effective inventory at night? We can start again. Never worked the steps? We can ask a sponsor right now for help. While the substance is in our body or the remembrance of the eating behavior remains fresh, we are in gravest danger. We can’t wait until the substance has washed out of us again, we must take action to prevent worse food lapses.

No matter how long we have been abstinent, a slip smacks us right where our pride is located. It triggers our fear of others’ opinions, our fear that we aren’t good enough, our fear that OA won’t work for us, and our fear that all that abstinence we had is no longer valid. This last point is especially insidious. It is helpful to remember that whether we had three days, three weeks, three months, three years, or three decades, every day of abstinence is a gift from our Higher Power. Just because we slip does not mean that our abstinent time wasn’t good enough or can’t return. It only means that we have some action to take to resume our abstinence. God hasn’t gone anywhere, we just need to remember how to get in touch with our Higher Power.

If we slip, a lapse, relapse, or collapse is not inevitable. Not if we can let a slip become a teachable moment. Humility is the idea of being teachable, and humility is one of the principles embodied in our steps. If we ask our Higher Power to show us what we need to know and do after a slip, we can resume the safe, sane, and useful lifestyle that abstinence gives us without first ending up in the ditch.

Tradition of the Month: Tradition 7

7. Every OA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

There’s nothing like money to spoil a perfectly good program of recovery. Its accumulation, handling, and dispersion lead to more fights in society than nearly anything else. Look at how marriages dissolve over it, how towns can be factionalized by it, how companies can be ruined by it. Multinational money crises occur all the time with countries demanding certain reforms of other countries, pitting peoples and countries against one another.

In other words, money divides people and institutions. That’s a big problem for a fellowship like ours. Our individual recoveries, says the first tradition, “depend upon OA unity.” Luckily, we also have a primary purpose, courtesy of the fifth tradition:  “carrying the message of recovery to those who still suffer.” The 7th tradition, therefore, shows us how to deal with our fellowship’s monies in a way that avoids disunity and helps us move our funds in the direction they are needed.

When we pay the rent or buy the literature for a meeting, it’s obvious what the money is going to: our primary purpose. Rarely do matters such as these cause any friction in the least among our members. In fact, they seem sometimes so utterly mundane that we might wonder why we stayed for the business meeting to begin with. Meetings in the Seacoast area are, however, quite small. Consider a group from a big city that might take contributions in one night that our bigger meetings receive in one month. These meetings could run considerable surpluses, and if so, what do they do about the money?

Luckily OA’s service structure and 7th tradition work together. OA’s World Service, which performs numerous crucial tasks related to carrying our message (especially, creating literature and operating OA.org), depends upon contributions from OA’s Regions. The Regions, which coordinate the activities of the Intergroups within them, in turn depend upon donations from their Intergroups. Finally, the Intergroups depend upon donations from their local meetings. In order to continue to enjoy the benefits of OA’s World Service, meetings are encouraged to only maintain a balance sufficient for operating expenses. The rest goes to the Intergroup, which either spends it on workshops and other ways of carrying the message or sends the money onward. Because our fellowship has taken a vow of poverty, because it ultimately depends upon local contributions, we need never keep extra funds on hand at the local level. To do so would curtail OA’s primary purpose. So we pay our group’s operating expenses, then send the rest on.

When we follow these suggestions, we rarely or never have to negotiate matters such as:

  • Which bank is giving the best rates?
  • Is the money safe with that institution?
  • What kind of account should we open?
  • What do we do with the interest money or dividends?
  • Who in this group do we trust to handle all this money?

We avoid suspicion of profit motive, hysteria about whether to buy or sell an investment vehicle, and worry about the liquidity or illiquidity of our money. We also have reassurance that the money is being used in a way that benefits people who need help (us!) rather than sitting idly without a primary purpose.

Money is often said to be the root of all evil. That may or may not be true, but it brings with it a host of decisions and consequences that can distract us from our primary purpose. Just like our food plans give us freedom from food obsession by structuring our relationship with food, the 7th tradition does the same for our meetings around money. We are free to think about how we can help others find abstinence and recovery instead of ever thinking about the status of our funds.

Step of the Month: Step 7, Independence Day

  1. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

What better occasion to talk about step 7 than Independence Day weekend! That’s because step 7 is where we gain true freedom in recovery.

We learned a lot about how broken our thinking and conduct were as we wrote our 4th step inventory. We discovered new attitudes of humility and trust as we read that inventory aloud in step 5. Now understanding how our disease and our own minds enslave us in the bondage of self, in step 6, we became ready to be changed by our Higher Power. Now, finally, in step 7 we ask God to get rid of all the crap that’s kept us shackled to compulsive eating and to a way of life that doesn’t work and that is ultimately futile and fatal.

We recently compared steps 4 and 5 to a thorough house cleaning. To refresh and extend the metaphor:

  • Step 3: We call God and ask God to bring a dump truck that will take all our junk to the dump so we can be free of it.
  • Step 4: We carefully make a list of everything that can go.
  • Step 5: We show the list to a friend and God, and after God backs the dump truck up to the house, our friend and God help us put all the trash in the hopper of the truck.
  • Step 6: We take one last look and ask ourselves if we’re ready to let God drive the refuse away.
  • Step 7: We tell God to drive it away, please.

Once the junk is gone, we can walk back into our house and see the beauty of our lives again. Instead of goat trails full of dark reminders of our past piled floor to ceiling like old newspapers, we see the spaciousness of our lives, the pictures of family and/or friends on the walls that had been obscured by the piles of junk. We feel gratitude for the soundness of the construction of our home—and for that matter for our home itself. From here, from this now repaired home base, we can return to our daily lives free of the encumbrances of our past.

Will everything be perfect? Nah. Some of the walls will need repainting, or the plaster may have cracked behind all those old newspapers and junk. But we’ll be up to it. Will we be reminded of the bad old times? Of course, but the burning pain of them has been taken away and replaced with perspective. Will some new junk pile up? It could, but we’ll have the means to deal with it through OA’s twelve steps, twelve traditions, and nine tools.

And what truly comes of the 7th step? But freedom from is just one half the story. When our HP gives us freedom from compulsive eating, we gain freedom to eat sanely and safely. When we are granted freedom from our past, we gain the freedom to move on, to draw a line in the sand between our old selves and our new selves. The freedom to help others comes when we gain freedom from “helping” others in order to stanch the aching need for acceptance or validation. When we feel freedom from sticky enmeshment with others, we get the freedom to be in honest, two-sided relationships based on trust and love. As OA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions tells us, once we have worked step 7,

When we make a mistake, we acknowledge that fact without claiming that we ourselves are mistake. From now on, we cease telling ourselves we are always going to be dishonest, selfish, abusive, stupid, or bad people. Instead, we repeatedly affirm to ourselves the truth about ourselves—that we are becoming honest, caring, nurturing, wise, and effective human beings as we practice our new behaviors, day by day. (64)

The day we first complete step 7 is our independence day. It is the day when we officially let God change us. As we do step 7, we step out of the drivers seat and let God into it. We get out of the way and stop trying to life our way. In return, we are given the freedom we’ve longed for from the broken thinking that has led us to hopeless compulsive eating.