Love and Tolerance Is Our Code

“Live and let live.” If everyone in the world applied this 12-step slogan throughout their daily lives, we’d all be a lot better off, addicts or not. But we addicts use this slogan for a reason. We find it helps us to avoid eating compulsively.

We OA members seek comfort in food or food behaviors. We want to avoid the painful feelings of our day. Sometimes what we see in a situation is real. Sometimes it’s a product of our thinking. In either event, our diseased minds use these situations to kill us by eating compulsively.

In the “Doctor’s Opinion” in the Big Book we are told that the cycle of addiction begins with feelings of restlessness, irritability, or discontent. In other words, with a thought or a feeling. This activates the obsession of the mind before we take the first bite. This means that our thinking and emotions are the trigger for our compulsive behaviors.

Enter “live and let live.” It is telling us that we should abandon our attachment to the people and events (current, previous, or future) who are triggering us. No matter what they’ve done to us, we’re the ones eating the poison we intended for them. If we simply let go of the situation, we have a shot at not taking that next compulsive bite, and at maintaining our abstinence because we have interrupted the cycle of obsession and craving.

This is true even when it is ourselves that we are angry at. We have to let ourselves off the hook as well. Are we not also people, deeply flawed in the way that all people are?

In its description of the tenth step, the Big Book has some very interesting things to say about this. First it tells us that when faced with the kinds of thoughts and feelings that lead to compulsive fooding, we should turn our thoughts to others and how we can be helpful to them. By doing so, we give our minds a break from whatever loop of anger, pride, fear, or self-pity it’s running, while putting a little spiritual deposit in the bank by doing right action. Right action, estimable acts, lead to self-esteem and connection with God, both of which are important to our recovery.

“Love and tolerance of others is our code,” the book also tells us. If we live and let live, if we love people despite their flaws, tolerate the same kind of utterly human behaviors that we commit, and seek compassion for them, we will be the ones who get the benefit. We will gain some softness in our heart, some insight into how we can help others, and some more bankable spiritual moments.

We often eat because we haven’t developed yet the capacity for tolerance, compassion, and love. It’s been said that while alcoholics stop growing emotionally in their teens, food addicts stop growing around age five. Our substance is freely available at an early age. That means that we may need the emotional growth suggested by the Big Book in a deeper way than even it had considered. Many faith traditions place heavy emphasis on either or both of good works and compassion. Doing for others and trying to walk a mile in their shoes makes us better, deeper people. We can feel for others instead of always making it about ourselves inside our heads. We can grow emotionally as we were meant to do.

What an idea! But also what a journey.

We won’t get there overnight. This is a lifelong process of prayer, meditation, spiritual action, listening to others, helping others, and having our own limitations in mind at all times so that we can avoid repeating the patterns that got us here. Love and tolerance will make us feel better and eat better. It will calm the pounding urge inside to eat, and it will give us a pause in which we can ask our Higher Power to help us before we do our usual, death-wish thing.

After all, we find in our inventory that God has loved and tolerated us. If God can do that for us with our flaws, why shouldn’t do the same for others?

Tradition of the Month: Tradition 10

10. Overeaters Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the OA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

Imagine this scenario:

May 25, 2016

Overeaters Anonymous, the nation’s largest food-addiction support group has entered the increasingly divisive debate around whether sugar is addictive. OA’s World Service released a statement which indicated its position. “A vast majority of our members claim sugar as one of or the major food substance to which they are addicted. We are sympathetic with those who argue for increased attention to its addictive qualities.” Sugar industry representatives called the statement “irresponsible,” and one shrugged off the statement, wondering whether OA would have the government classify sugar with cocaine or heroin. Medical and nutritional leaders told reporters that the organization was overreaching its mandate by commenting on the controversy and suggested that OA’s recovery program is not scientifically based.

In this entirely fictitious scenario, we can understand the motivation for OA issuing a statement about sugar like this. It would raise awareness of the problem, provide an avenue of hope for those who read it. It would be a way to carry the message to those who are suffering.

Our fifth tradition tells us we have one primary purpose, to carry the message, and anything that might keep us from that purpose is probably a bad idea. How could telling the world about the addictive properties of a substance that many of our members know to lead to compulsive eating damage our primary purpose?

For one thing, internally, OA is not exclusively composed of people who identify as sugar addicts. By sending a message to the world about what part of our fellowship experiences, are we excluding others? Would that affect our OA unity (tradition 1)? Why would we even want to find out?

For another, once we enter any fray publicly, we are stepping into advocacy. When we take a side, we tell others they are wrong. Wouldn’t that possibly limit our ability to attract newcomers?

As the scenario above suggests, when we take a position, we also open ourselves up to being stigmatized by others who have a differing agenda or those who are simply ignorant of OA’s program and principles. Many people and organizations in the world are far less principled than OA is, and when we oppose them, we are providing opportunities for them to spread misunderstandings. Clearly, negative press coverage or publicity could inhibit our ability to carry the message of recovery to those swayed by news reports.

Perhaps most importantly, getting involved in controversy takes our focus off of recovery. If we are busy debating the merits of OA’s position on an issue, we aren’t busy getting better or helping others get better. If we are busy crafting position statements, we aren’t busy setting up workshops and other valuable events. Then there’s the whole issue of managing public relations in the face of public position statements. What a vortex of time, work, and personality!

The whole point about controversy is that it separates people. If, as Bill W. wrote, we are an ever widening circle of peace on Earth and good to will toward our fellow man, then why would we allow divisiveness into our fellowship? Even if it seemed like it was for a good cause.



Step of the Month: Step 10

10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Steps 10, 11, and 12 are often thought of as maintenance steps or walking-around steps. With them we live the OA program on a daily basis and keep away from food. They give us structure for our days and guidelines for our conduct. In particular, step 10 keeps us out of trouble and from worsening the sorts of self-made predicaments we addicts put ourselves into.

There’s no sugarcoating it. Even after doing steps 1 through 9, we will still be prone to behaving selfishly, dishonestly, and fearfully with self-seeking tendencies. That’s be because we are flawed, imperfect human beings. Our inventories showed us that. So it’s good to be reminded in step 10 that we have to be vigilant. We have to watch out for our old ways of thinking and acting. They will pop up again, and they can still cause harm to ourselves, our relationships with other people, and to our relationship with God.

So we watch for them carefully. The Big Book is very specific about what we should do when we see them recur:

When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code. (84)

In other words, step 10 is steps 4 through 9 all rolled into one. We are recognizing and admitting our shortcomings, asking to have them removed, and making amends for their results.


Here’s what we don’t do. We don’t stew on our shortcomings and tell ourselves that we’re bad people…or that the other person involved is. We don’t endlessly ask ourselves how this could happen to us as recovered people. We don’t worry what another person will think of us. Those are old ways of thinking that got us sick and kept us that way. Step 10 shows us a new way to be: mindful of our own behavior, willing to take action on it, and quick to remedy it.

There’s this part of step 10 that might seem foreign to us. The part that begins “when we were wrong.” Many of us have one or both of a deadly pair of long and tightly held beliefs: one, that we were never wrong, and/or, two, that if we were wrong, we should never let it be known lest we lose face! This is, of course, pridefulness. Many of us have enjoyed running others down for these very faults, yet we ourselves did the same things.

Step 10 tells us to put an end to it.

We saw in step 4 that resentments often affected our pride. We got puffed up with it when angry, or another’s actions or words would shoot it full of holes. It often connected with harsh judgments of self and others, with mistreatment of others, and with a rigidity that perversely robbed us of our joy and dignity. But as we worked steps four through nine, we found ourselves gently humbled. God showed us right-sizedness, and we realized that our lack of humility and self-centeredness was killing us. God also showed us that being wrong wasn’t so bad—after all we did it a lot! In fact, it was utterly human to be wrong. The problem was actually with us and our fears about what it meant to be wrong, the story we told ourselves about it.

So now, in step 10, we allow ourselves to be wrong and be human. We find it hurts much less to admit our wrongness than to hide it. Even with little things and especially with big things. As our relationships improve, we find that people like us better for admitting when we’ve been wrong. The admittance actually strengthens our relationships. By being wrong and admitting it, we gain the credibility with others that we had so long feared losing. It isn’t always easy and doesn’t always feel natural. Sometimes the admittance comes quickly, sometimes slowly, sometimes late. But never too late. It’s never too late for the tenth step…but we should try to be prompt about it.

So as we walk around, being human and trying to be better humans, we have step 10 in our pocket. It’s ready to pull out at any moment, the ultimate Swiss Army knife for spiritual living.

Announcing Our November Workshop on Steps 10-12

Seacoast OA is excited to announce our next workshop! On November 15th, we’ll be hosting a free workshop on Steps 10, 11, and 12. Everyone is welcome. We ask that you please register in advance so that we can reserve the right sized room. Be sure to bring pen and paper as well as your OA 12×12 (optional).

Share this  flyer with your home group!

To register by email, click here and give us your first name and last initial. Or call 603.418.4398 and leave your first name, last initial, and your email address.

Here’s all the details:

Steps 10, 11, and 12 Workshop
How do Perseverance, Spiritual Awareness, and Service help us maintain our recovery?
Sunday November 15th
1:00 to 4:00 PM
Portsmouth Community Campus
100 Campus Drive
Portsmouth, New Hampshire 03801

Directions to Portsmouth Community Campus from I-95:

  • Take Exit 5 for the Portsmouth Traffic Circle
  • Exit the circle for Route 1 South and travel 2.7 miles
  • Turn right onto West Road (across from Corpus Christi Parish Church) and follow as it becomes Campus Drive
  • Community Campus will be on your left, please use the front entrance.