In a Word: Miracles

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the founders of AA used the miracle frequently. Why wouldn’t they? They saw many of the most hopeless drinkers recover, and quickly, through the application of spiritual principles. Even those who didn’t believe in a religious God, or necessarily any God, received this miracle.

Miracle has several related definitions, some of which don’t include divine operation. Here are three from a simple Google search for “definition miracle”:

  • A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.
  • A highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.
  • An amazing product or achievement, or an outstanding example of something.

These three usages encompass a lot of possible Higher Powers. If we bring a particular religious sentiment to our OA program, the first definition has application for us. The latter two definitions allow other members to interpret the word in a way that works in the system of belief they have arrived at during the Steps.

Miracle has its roots in Latin from the word for wonder. And wonder we do at the good fortune that OA brings us. As we work our way through the journey of recovery, we come face to face with the miraculous each time we look in the mirror. We may see the difference in our eyes first, as the food fog lifts and our minds clear, the sharpness returning to our gaze. Soon we see the physical change in our faces and shape that has allowed us to live in a normal sized body. Eventually, we see the spiritual change reflected not in mirror glass, but in the eyes of others as we live a more peaceful and loving life.

At each of these stages, we sense that something “highly improbable” has happened within us, and that its occurrence is, indeed, “very welcome.” If we take a moment to pause and make a quick count of the behaviors we’ve been relieved of, we can see rapidly just how amazing the change in us is. We never thought we’d be able to shed our compulsive food behaviors and the cravings that accompany them. Nor our hair-trigger eating response to even our least potent feelings. But they no longer dominate us as they once did.

It is important for us to remember, however, that we have been given this miracle, by whatever spiritual mechanism we understand. Yes, in the Steps we make some decisions, write some inventory, speak it out, make some amends, but we remain unable to actually change ourselves. After all, if we could have done so all along, we wouldn’t need OA. Whatever our Higher Power is, we asked for recovery, did a little work, and then the miracle just happened to us. It is not of our making, but it does require our participation and acceptance.

We are walking miracles, but let’s not get cocky. We’re still human beings, and we still have this chronic disease. It continues to worsen while we continue to grow in OA. To keep this miracle alive, we must stay in touch with the program and continue to cultivate a deeper relationship with the our HP. If we do so, then we will stand as examples for those who need help with compulsive eating. By helping them, our recovery will be further strengthened!

So we needn’t every worry whether we will receive the “welcome consequences” of OA. Each one of us is a miracle. Each one of us, no matter where we are in recovery, represents one more person whose life is not claimed by compulsive eating while in ignorance of its solution.

Tradition of the Month: Keeping OA Homey

9. OA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

As OA members, the organization of our lives comes from the actions that are suggested we take each day to stay on the beam:

  • Pray and meditate in the morning, and keep in touch with our Higher Power throughout the day (Step 11)
  • Review our conduct in the moment and at night and be ready to set right any wrongs (Step 10)
  • Do our best to keep in mind how we can be helpful to others, and then actually help them
  • Help others, carry the message to those who still suffer from compulsive eating, and live the principles of the 12 Steps as fully as we can
  • And of course, not eat compulsively.

But beyond these overarching ideas, OA doesn’t get specific. We addicts with our controlling ways love to make rules, get angry when others break them, and then break other people’s rules to boot. There’s no need for all that fuss. After all, our HP will gently show us how to live, provided we relax our grip on the world and our life.

Like its individual members, for OA to stay on the beam it too needs some little bit of organization, but not too much. Who has time for niggling rules when the important business of helping others is afoot? We can’t be waylaid on this mission by protracted discussions of who does what and when. And why. And how. And by whose authority. And how many votes it takes to make that authorization. And how to remove people from authority whose actions we don’t like.

In this way, organizations are somewhat like houses. Perhaps we start with a comfy, cozy little home. We decide to add onto it to just a little more space. But we need permits to do that. We need to be careful of the easements for our property, and also where the sewer, water, and gas lines are buried. Oh, and we’ll need to ascertain whether our circuit breaker can handle enough of the additional load or whether we need a bigger box. We’ll need to figure out the plumbing if we want a bathroom, and code may demand one if we increase to a certain square footage. Of course, our taxes will go up what with the additional room in the house and all making its assessment go up. Things get complicated fast. Now imagine taking care of a mansion. All seventeen rooms need upkeep. Just cleaning them all would exhaust a person. The gardens need tending. Make it big enough and a home turns into a house.

OA is our home. The more we put additions on it, the more we’re going to be dealing with the management of organizational structures. We’ll spend time worrying about how to keep nonessential things going to the detriment of our one primary purpose: Carrying the message to compulsive eaters.

We can look to our current or former workplaces for further examples. Most people at some time complain about the bureaucracy of their workplace. It takes so long to hire someone due to the layers of approval. It takes so long to get product to market because of design-by-committee. There’s too many managers and not enough people to do the actual work. Everything has a required form. Can’t just go across the hall to ask a colleague to help with something without first asking their boss who then has to ask their boss….

So OA as a fellowship needs to keep it in the day just as we members do in our daily lives. We have no choice. If OA were to fall apart, so would we. We need the support of the fellowship, and we need to support the fellowship in order to stay alive. We’re just a bunch of food-drunks trying to stay free from compulsive eating, we’re not organizational geniuses. It’s like Dr. Bob’s said the last time he saw AA cofounder Bill Wilson: “Remember Bill, let’s not louse this thing up. Let’s keep it simple.”

Step the Month: Everyday Amends

9. Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

We are often inspired to hear the stories of difficult amends made with the courage that comes from our Higher Powers. Families reunited, large sums repaid, hatchets as big as a house buried, friendships resumed, feuds resolved. We hear about these from our fellow OA members, and we hope to do as well by those we have harmed as they have.

But like so many things in recovery, size doesn’t always matter. Quality matters as much as quantity and consistency matters as much as that one big moment.

We cannot undo the past, but in making amends, we commit to taking responsibility for the messes we’ve made. Maybe we haven’t done something as “glamorous” as getting arrested or maiming our selves or others. Maybe, instead, we’ve slowly eroded relationships with others through the million paper cuts we’ve given them in our addiction. And the gallons of lemon juice and tons of salt we’ve added to those wounds.

So instead of comparing our recoveries to others’ experiences with amends, we can compare our own befores to our own afters. What was our home life like before we began making amends to our loved ones? What is it like now? What was our work life like before we began making amends? What is it like now? Same goes for any relationship we are in, even our relationship with the world at large.

But notice the phrasing there: “before we began making amends.” In many respects, we are never done making amends. To amend something is to change it. When we make amends, we don’t merely say I’m sorry. We tell the other person that we’re changing our behavior. And then we trust and rely on our HP to help us live in a changed manner and to become the changed person we commit to.

That means that each and every day, we are making amends simply in how we conduct ourselves. If we used to passively watch as our spouse did everything around the house, we pick up a sponge and start doing the dishes. If we gossiped and schemed our way through the work day, we cease self-serving conversations and ask how we can help a coworker. If we used to ignore our far-flung family, we pick up the phone. These are everyday amends. The little things we do.

Those around us may or may not be impressed that we’ve lost weight and stopped filling our faces. But they know us, and they know that if we don’t change as people, our compulsive eating will return, just as it always has. These folks have been on the receiving end of a lot of our anger, isolation, depression, and/or volatility. Skinny or fat, they know the score with us. They know we’ve never been able to change. We can’t prove them wrong. Only our Higher Power can. Like the Third Step Prayer says, “Relieve me of the bondage of self/that I may better do They will/Take away my difficulties/That victory of them may bear witness to those I would help…”.

But just because we ask our Higher Power to work through us doesn’t mean we just sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. We do things for others, we help where we didn’t used to, and we fake it it until we make it with HP’s help. Because while the big things make great stories and are very important to our healing, it’s the little everyday amends that, moment to moment, help us stay on the broad highway of recovery.