Rites of Renewal

This past week players reported to camp at Fort Myers for Red Sox spring training. It’s an annual rite of passage, and for many northern New Englanders, the first day of spring training is an early sign of the warmer months. Even if we can’t be with the team, we see footage of their workouts, and we can imagine ourselves in the warm Florida sunshine. We feel a little lift, a little relief from the winter blues. The cycle of renewal that leads us out of the post-holiday doldrums has begun again.

OA creates in us a similar cycle of renewal. We are led out of the doldrums of compulsive eating and toward a period of growth that leads not only to our personal rejuvenation but also toward a lifetime of better days. The Big Book tells us that when we do the Steps “we are reborn.” From the point at which our adventure in OA begins, we sense the hope emanating from those in our meetings who have experienced long-term recovery. Like a ballplayer whose previous season was ruined by injury, we realize that the slate can be wiped clean, and we can start over. We let others coach us and guide us so that we can tap new and heretofore hidden resources inside us. We do the legwork, the drills, the stretching because we are ready to go to any length for success.

Steps One, Two, and Three represent something like those thirty spring exhibition games that precede opening day. In them we are building the foundation on which an incredible journey will be taken. We round ourselves into willingness the way a player rounds into midseason form. Where the ballplayer is getting down his timing at bat and his footwork in the field, we are getting used to attending meetings, calling OA friends, taking a sponsor’s suggestions, reading OA literature, and becoming action-oriented instead of passive victims of our disease. Where a baseball player restores his confidence through spring repetition, we gain confidence in a Higher Power through the repetitions of OA actions that separate us from food and draw us closer to the solution.

The fullness of rebirth will come from Steps 4 through 9 where we will fully develop a relationship with a Higher Power that will solve our problem on a permanent one-day-at-a-time basis. This is like the long baseball season. Baseball plays every day, and it rewards those players and teams able to keep their focus on the day ahead, not on what other teams are doing or on where they will travel next week. We stick to the twenty-four hours ahead of us, and we work at the middle steps diligently. Unlike a baseball player who knows when the season is over, we don’t know when our window of willingness will close. Our disease is in the background, cunningly telling us that OA won’t work or that we don’t really need it after all. By working the Steps and continuing to attend meetings and use the OA tools, we keep this voice at bay long enough that God can change us from the inside out.

But unlike baseball, our season never ends. We are reborn, and then every day thereafter, we are renewed. Of course, we work at that daily renewal. We use Steps 10, 11, and 12 to stay in the spiritual game. When we fail to use them, when we allow the clatter and clamor of life to distract us from them, we feel it. So we keep at it. But it’s not such a grind. Ask anyone who has experienced long-time recovery, and they’ll tell you that trading a few minutes of prayer and meditation each day is entirely worth it. They’ll also tell you that working with others is one of the joys of their life.

There’s one other important difference from baseball. In OA there are no winners and losers. We are all winners so long as we keep coming back. No one is the MVP of OA or the world champion. Well, actually, perhaps God is, however we each define God for ourselves. But among the humans in our rooms, we are all just another player on the roster, each trying to recover and help others do the same.

So as reports from Florida drift in, you’ll hear that such-and-such is in “The Best Shape of His Life” or that so-and-so’s fastball looks faster than ever. It’s the hope of Spring. In our rooms, we get to listen instead to the reports of members who are experiencing renewal each day after their harrowing experiences with the ravages of this disease. True reports that give hope rather than project it.