3 questions about whether we’re spreading hope when we share

Think back to the moment we first walked into an OA meeting. We finally gave up outwitting or toughing out our disease. Our eating discouraged us. The shape of our body discouraged us. So did our emotional health. 

We come into OA on a losing streak. None of us thought that, gee, OA might be a fun place to meet friends and network. We came because our lives, as we were living them, were pretty lousy: chained to food like a slave to their master. None of us had the foggiest idea what to do, we just wanted a place that could help us where no one else could before. So when we went to our first meeting, what were we looking for? Why, hope of course! All we wanted was a tiny glimmer, a glinting of shining hope. Half a ray of hope, even an eighth of a ray, would have been infinitely more hope than we walked in with.

But how do newcomers (or current members) get that hope? In our first meeting, we were probably confused by all the terminology chucked around: abstinence, food plan, Higher Power, unmanageability. What’s it got to do with stopping the uncontrollable urge to eat? Then we hear someone describe their journey. We hear in them what’s familiar: the obsession, the physical need for our binge foods, the fear and self-doubt. We hear in another’s words the lonely secrets of our food behaviors.

But the problem isn’t the only thing we need to feel hopeful. If everyone shared only about the problem, then it’s just talking. What we felt and heard was that OA has a solution. We didn’t necessarily know what “Twelve Steps” means, but we hear people talking about how their compulsive eating has been arrested. We see that they have achieved some physical recovery. And we imagine ourselves in their place. “If they were like that before, and they are getting better, then I can too!”

If we heard hope, then we probably left our first meeting with some lightness in our hearts. Finally, we’ve stumbled into a path forward.

But what if we hadn’t heard hope? What if we didn’t hear that there was a solution? What if we mostly heard about the problem? Or sharing that’s mostly retellings of the difficult problems of the past week? Would we have stuck around?

Just as newcomers need to hear hope, current members, no matter where we are in our journey of recovery, need to hear hope too. Even more important we desperately need to share hope. Step 12 tells us that we are to carry the message of hope to those who still suffer. The Big Book tells us explicitly and implicitly that we must share what happened (the problem), what we did (the solution in OA), and what we’re like now (how we’ve been changed by OA). This isn’t optional, it’s foundational to maintaining our spiritual condition. It’s mirrored again in Tradition 5 that tells us that the primary purpose of any OA meeting is to carry the message to still-suffering compulsive eaters. It’s not about us, it’s about others. It’s about hope!

As practicing OAs, we can ask ourselves three important questions about our sharing:

  • What percentage of our sharing is about our problem with food? With non-food life problems? Or is a retelling of events of the past days or week?
  • What percentage is about how we are working toward the solution?
  • Are we remembering to describe how our lives have changed for the better through OA?

Or we can ask one big question: Do I consistently share so that I feel better or so that someone else in the room feels hope so they can get better?

These answers make all the difference to us as well as the newcomer. If we hear ourselves talking about the solution, we may be more likely to continue reaching for it, reminded of its daily importance to us. Just as the still-suffering compulsive eater may be more likely to stick around and reach for the solution they hear hope from us.

Hope is a diamond for the newcomer, each of our recoveries are its facets, and our Higher Power is the light that sparkles through it.

Venue change for this Saturday’s 8:00 AM York meeting

Due to a schedule conflict this weekend, the 8:00 AM York Hospital meeting will gather in the Mulville Room next door to the cafeteria.

A competing event, a road race, will also take up parking spaces in the Hospital lot, so they recommend parking near their Hancock Building (entrance off Village Drive) or at the York library (about a block away).

This will not affect the 9:00 AM meeting or the Intergroup meeting, which will meet in the usual location. The 8:00 AM meeting will resume its normal venue next week.

OA Getting Started Guide

Just a quick note that our latest meeting list now includes an OA Getting Started Guide. This one-pager is designed to help newcomers start making their way into recovery. It’s also potentially valuable for anyone in the program as a quick reminder for themselves, a handy reference for working with newcomers, or something to share with sponsees.

Remember that if you make copies or print out the meeting lists for your group that this is now a double-sided document.

12 Abstinence Strategies for the Holiday Season

holiday handsThanksgiving and Christmas are bad enough for compulsive eaters. But in between them are five weeks of office parties, boxes of holiday candy, cocktail parties, and more. OA’s Steps, Tools, and Traditions are our keys to success. Here are 12 specific ideas for using them to get through the holiday season.

12. Use Step One: Remind yourself that you are powerless over food, of the pain, suffering, and unmanageability of your life when you eat compulsively. Abstinence is sweeter than any holiday confection.

11. Live One Day at a Time!: Don’t think about getting through the entire holiday season, instead focus on staying abstinent until you go to sleep tonight.

10. Sponsor and Be Sponsored: Turn to your sponsor for support and then check in with any sponsees to see how they are doing.

9. Make a 12th Step Within Call: December 12th is OA’s 12th Step Within Day. Get out of your head by calling someone you haven’t seen at a meeting lately or drop in on the 12th Step Within Day phone marathon.

8. Assess Your Abstinence: If you’re worried about whether you can make it through the season, take a look at OA’s Strong Abstinence Checklist for suggestions that are proven

7. Inventory Any Slips: If you do stray from your plan, use OA’s Been Slipping and Sliding to learn how you can avoid a future slip.

6. Ask Other Members for Help: If you don’t have a sponsor, get one. Even if you do, ask other OA members how they cope with the holidays.

5. Don’t Forget Service: At your meetings, raise your hand for any service opportunities available and do them cheerfully. Read the Promises, put away chairs, order the literature: It’s a holiday gift that you’ll want to keep on giving.

4. Take Some Quiet Time: Whether as part of your daily spiritual activities or right before a holiday get-together, take some quiet time, relax, read some program literature, and get into a frame of mind where your Higher Power can help you.

3. Make Meetings: Don’t let them slip away. If the holiday season is messing up your meeting schedule, supplement with phone meetings or online meetings. Or attend one of OA’s holiday phone marathons.

2. Talk to the Newcomer: Nothing so ensures immunity from compulsive eating as working with newcomers. Greet them warmly, make them feel welcome, and give them a buzz during the week.

And the most important support for abstinence during the holidays or anytime:

1. Trust and Rely on God: As powerless people, we must seek the power to abstain from a source greater than ourselves. Ask your Higher Power, however you define It, for ease and comfort, the willingness to avoid compulsive eating, and to focus your attention on how you can bring others good cheer during this season.

Support for Getting Through Thanksgiving

keep calm and stop eatingWhile normal eaters plan what to eat on Thanksgiving Day, we compulsive eaters plan what not to eat. And we need a Higher Power to help us turn that plan into action. That can be a tough order if we go it alone, but we have two opportunities for support here in the Seacoast.

Seacoast OA’s annual Thanksgiving Day meeting

Join us for our annual face-to-face meeting in Portsmouth for a great start to an abstinent holiday!

9:00 AM to 10:00 AM
Thanksgiving day
North Church Parrish Hall (site of Thursday evening Portsmouth meeting)
355 Spinney Road, Portsmouth (corner of Spinney and Middle Road)
Enter through back door
Contact: Eric (207) 361-7032

OA Thanksgiving Day Phone Marathon

This all-day phone marathon features hourly meetings beginning at 8:00 AM East Coast time and lasting through 12:00 midnight. These are national phone meetings so you’ll be able to enjoy hearing from members in other areas. The marathon theme is Count Your Blessings.

8:00 AM to 12:00 AM
Thanksgiving day
Call-in number: (712) 432-5200
Conference ID number: 4285115 followed by # sign

Additional holiday phone marathons will be conducted on other holidays, including:

  • Veteran’s Day (November 11th)
  • IDEA Day (OA’s International Day of Experiencing Abstinence, November 15th)
  • OA 12th Step Within Day (December 12th)
  • Chanukah (December 17th)
  • Christmas Eve Day (December 24th)
  • Christmas Day (December 25th)
  • Kwanza and Boxing Day (December 26th)
  • New Years Eve Day (December 31st)

The call-in and conference ID numbers are the same for each. For more information, including the themes of these marathons, please click here for the 2014 Holiday Marathon Schedule. This schedule will also be posted on our front page and on the Meetings page of this site.

“Is our meeting in trouble?”

circle of chairsIt’s very exciting that our popular new Thursday night Portsmouth meeting is helping a lot of members. On the flip side, we are also saddened by this week’s closure of the Saturday morning Rochester meeting.

When we see our meeting struggle, is there anything we can do to turn it around?

Find out the truth

First off, we need to recognize declining attendance before it dwindles to two to four people. Next, we need information. Without information we’re just guessing why the meeting is struggling. While there’s still a committed group, we can take helpful, informative actions such as:

  • ask former regulars to honestly say why they left—and listen closely with an open mind
  • review the Twelve Traditions to see whether our meeting is keeping to them
  • attend a thriving group and ask what their members find helpful about it
  • assess our meeting through OA’s Strong Meeting Checklist
  • take an honest and thorough OA Group Inventory.

These actions will tell us much about how and why our meeting struggles. As we perform each, we might pray beforehand so that our higher powers can show us the truth. We might not like the answers we get, but by being entirely honest with ourselves and our fellow members and by trusting and relying on our higher powers, we might discover that this process strengthens our personal recoveries too.

Making change

Once we know the why of it, what do we do about it? We look back at our group inventory and at the information we’ve gathered. What are the main themes in it? What are the specifics people didn’t get from our meeting or objected to? If we’ve been honest and thorough, the information we’ve gathered will show us the way. We should also ask members at other meetings what experience they’ve had in righting a struggling meeting. Most important, we should ask our higher powers for guidance. We may need to change the day, time, location, room, format, focus, or our attitudes.

As we change our meeting for the better, we can find opportunities to invite back former regulars, conduct a public information campaign in our meeting’s area, and trust the process will bring about the right situation.

We are willing to go to any length to recover from our disease, so we need to ask ourselves what lengths we are willing to go in helping our favorite meeting flourish. If the answer is “not very far,” it’s OK to let a meeting close. But if the meeting is truly important for us, then we need to take action.

Visit SeacoastOA’s Meeting Resources page or OA.org’s Group Support page for a wealth of helpful information and tools.