Member Experience #5: How I Maintain My Abstinence

SeacoastOA member experiences provide experience, strength, and hope anytime. Sharing our experiences also strengthens our own recoveries. Click here to share yours.

I’ve been in OA for over 34 years and have had my share of relapses during that time. I now have 18 years of back-to-back abstinence, and I’d like to share how I am maintaining that. Each relapse reinforced that I had to be willing “to go to any length” to recover.

First, I need to say that “God does for me what I cannot do for myself.” This clearly means that I need to maintain contact with my HP through daily “quiet times,” prayers that I can say throughout the day, which come to mind quickly (i.e. the Third Step Prayer and the Seventh Step Prayer) and practicing conscious contact with God. I also silently say to myself different “slogans” that have helped me through the years to get through the “ups and downs”: “This too shall pass”; Live and let live”; First things first”, etc. These help me to regain perspective and provide comfort if I’m troubled or distressed throughout the day.

I have worked the Steps through many different processes…and personally, have found that the Big Book Step Study Process has been the most thorough and “life transforming” for me. I was able to thoroughly look at my part in my resentments and specifically do the “turnarounds” that helped me see exactly what had triggered the resentment. The “turnaround” piece of the inventory has provided me with a tool I can use when new potential resentments arise.

I also work the program like my life depends on it…because I really feel it does. I have a “cunning, baffling and powerful” disease and left to my own devices, the addiction always wins. When, in the past, I worked the program with “half measures”, I found that I would always eat again.

I commit my food daily to my sponsor and also have sponsees who do the same with me. I try to make an effort to call my sponsor if I have a food change. Although I have a flexible food plan (no sugar or alcohol), I also find it very important to commit my specific food plan daily including the amounts, which I weigh and measure when I’m home.

I attend meetings…. I try to go to three a week but sometimes only make two. I will supplement with more phone calls if I’m unable to go to three meetings. Phone calls are important because they keep me connected with others who are walking this path and gets me out of myself and my own problems. I also do service in other ways and find this is an essential part of my recovery. As the Big Book states: “Nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.” I’ve done service on all levels (local, region and world service), and I find that the members of OA who give the most service generally stay in recovery. I try to say “yes” when asked to do anything in OA, if possible.

Another important part of my program is to practice gratitude! This, for me, means specifically identifying at least three things a day that I’m grateful for. This really helps me keep a positive perspective and decreases negativity and depression.

Member Experience #4: What About the God Thing?

SeacoastOA member experiences provide experience, strength, and hope anytime. Sharing our experiences also strengthens our own recoveries. Click here to share yours.

I did a lot of research about OA before I walked in the door of my first meeting. The God thing had me worried because I had finally shaken off my religious upbringing. I considered myself a committed atheist. In reality, I was an atheist who should’ve been committed.

I knew some 12-Step folks, and they told me, to a person, that I didn’t have to worry about the God business. Later I learned this was a gentle way of saying don’t let your pride and your prejudices get in the way of a joyful recovery. Soon, you all showed me that it didn’t matter what my belief about God consisted of, so long as I believed three things:

  1. There was a Power great than myself
  2. This Power had the ability to change my food behaviors for me
  3. This Power would do so, if I created a relationship with It.

Nothing there about beards, lightning bolts, or afterlives. Nor anything about my character or that I had to fear punishment. Nor anything about any appointed person I had to go through in order to seek this power. In fact, the three points I learned told me that this Power loved me and wanted a direct relationship with me. Perhaps most important: I could believe anything else about a Power greater than myself that I wanted to and that helped me recover.

It took me about six or eight months to fully comprehend this idea, but when I did, OA opened up for me in an amazing way. Abstinence wasn’t something I had to fight for, it was something that I asked for, participated in, and gratefully received. It took me another year before I comfortably used the word God, but it’s faster to say than “Higher Power.” It took me a little more time yet to be willing to capitalize the G in God. I do so now because it reminds me that God is a real thing, and because It has helped me, so I owe the respect of an uppercase letter. A small thing? Yeah, but for a former atheist, a huge change.

In the end, I suppose that the organized religion of my youth might yet consider me an atheist because I don’t believe in its concept of god anymore. That’s OK with me nowadays; everyone has the right to their own beliefs. And today I believe in a concept that works for me and keeps me out of the food and in OA. The God thing worked out just fine. recently added a page to its site called To Atheists and Agnostics which is well worth a moment to read.

Member Experience #3: The Rewards of Service

SeacoastOA member experiences provide experience, strength, and hope anytime. Sharing our experiences also strengthens our own recoveries. Click here to share yours.

For me there are two types of Service that I enjoy. One is helping at meetings with either setting up or cleaning up: dealing with pamphlets and books and chairs. This takes me out of my “I think I gotta rush” mode and keeps me in the present and grateful for the space and the other efforts of those who create meetings and/or make them successful. The personal outcome for me is usually one of greater connection to my Self, feeling good and happy. This reminds me, a recovering competition hound, that service does not have to be about creating thunder and being noticed, but quietly being helpful.

The other service is being available for phone calls and sponsorship. One does not necessarily preclude or exclude the other. The telephone may ring at an inconvenient time, and by answering it, I stay in gratitude for my own program and bless those who have made themselves available to me at various hours of the day. Answering the call says God must need me now—God must want to show me something about myself. When I help another I am helped, always. When I even think that the call is inconvenient, I pause and ask God for help ahead of time. I listen slowly to the person on the phone, I speak slowly to the person on the phone and try to listen to the Voice inside that may need to be repeated outwardly or just taken into my heart and pray for both of us, the caller and me. This too never fails to strengthen my personal walk.

I think it is important to do the service that edifies. If I am not enjoying doing it, then I have no cause to do it, because where there is the slightest resentment God cannot be present. These are things that help me grow and help me be free from “the bondage of self.”

Member Experience #2: Nothing Tastes as Good as Abstinence Feels

SeacoastOA member experiences provide experience, strength, and hope anytime. Sharing our experiences also strengthens our own recoveries. Click here to share yours.

I had been coming to OA meetings for about four months. Although I had not found abstinence yet, I had somehow been controlling the wildest of the bingeing that brought me to OA and had consequently lost about 15 pounds.

I spent a great deal of time in those early months unsure whether I belonged in OA or not. You know what they say about denial. In any event, by the grace of God, I kept coming to meetings. 

Leaving a meeting one evening, I suddenly decided it would be a good idea to hit a drive-thru window, and not just for the scintillating conversation. This would be a transgression of a self-imposed bottom line, but that didn’t seem such a big deal at the time. I ordered and ate with no real satisfaction. As I finished the last of the bag’s greasy contents, I had a moment of truth. And I saw the truth. I had eaten a bag full of empty calories, without my own permission. It was in that moment I decided I want what you OAs have and was willing to go to any lengths to get it. 

I called a fellow OA member the next day, put together a food plan, and committed to abstinence. I’ve been able, through the tools of the program, the support of fellow OAs, and the grace of God, to maintain my abstinence on a daily basis since then. I can’t say I’m glad I hit that drive-thru, but if that’s what it took to bring me to what I have today, I certainly don’t regret it. And nothing tastes as good as abstinence feels!

Share your experience in 2015!

Reach out, share your experience

You have to give it away if you want to keep it.

This year, SeacoastOA wants to hear about your OA experiences! We hope to post OA member experiences as frequently as possible in 2015 to help as many compulsive eaters as we can. You can help by sending us a little nugget of your experience!

We’ve made it easy to share. We’re looking for quick, inspirational experiences, not whole stories. These will be completely anonymous, no names attached. This is open to our local members as well as anyone in the OA fellowship who stops by our site and wants to join in. We’re glad to hear from all those joining us on the road to happy destiny!

Here’s all you have to do.

1.) Pick a topic—Here are some suggestions:

  • Getting Abstinent
  • Staying Abstinent
  • Why I Keep Coming Back
  • Step of the Month
  • Tradition of the Month
  • My Favorite Tool
  • Sponsoring
  • Being Sponsored
  • The Rewards of Service
  • The Power of the Fellowship
  • one of your own choosing.

2.) Write 300 to 600 words—One side of a piece of paper or both.

3.) Send it to us whichever way is most convenient:

  • Email—
  • Snail mail—Seacoast OA, Box 666, York, ME  03909
  • Hand delivery—Eric C. or Barbara B.

4.) Relax and take it easyWe’ll proofread it carefully, and we will safeguard your anonymity by withholding your name.

That’s it!

If you enjoy it, send us another! There’s no limit on how many of these little nuggets we’ll accept from one individual.

If you have any questions at all, drop a line to Member experiences are the most popular kinds of content on our website, and we hope that in 2015 we can provide many more of them. Ideally, we would share one a week, but even one fortnightly or monthly will help a lot of people.

We have to give our recovery away if we want to keep it, and sharing is one of the most basic ways we do service. It helps your recovery, those of our local members, newcomers, and those outside the Seacoast region who visit our site each day (and they do!). Please share what you’ve learned with others.

Thanks in advance for your service,

The team at


Member Story #1: He Stood at the Turning Point

bill and bobToday we present our first member story, “He Stood at the Turning Point.” We’ll be archiving it in the Our Experiences area of the site so that you can read it at any time.

We offer this story and others forthcoming to help newcomers who may not yet be familiar with OA literature, such as The Brown Book, that share members’ stories. We also offer these stories to help current members who may want to read a story from someone closer to home.

Identifying with someone’s story and glimpsing the promise of recovery in it are powerful. As AA’s Big Book says,

We hope no one will consider these self-revealing accounts in bad taste. Our hope is that many [food-addicted] men and women, desperately in need, will see these pages, and we believe that it is only by fully disclosing ourselves and our problems that they will be persuaded to say, “Yes, I am one of them too; I must have this thing.”