Tradition of the Month: Serving our primary purpose

5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the compulsive overeater who still suffers.

Here’s an OA slogan that is often understood incorrectly: “Service is slimming.” It is not slimming for us. Only an abstinence supported by the Steps and Traditions is slimming for us. But you know who it might be slimming for? Everyone else in OA.

This sounds paradoxical, but like many OA slogans, it requires us to shift our perspective to see a simple truth. Tradition Five tells us that our job as a meeting is to carry the message. Service in OA provides the people power for carrying that message. When we each do our part to help our meetings carry the message, more food addicts can hear it and begin their journey toward recovery. Therefore, by doing service, we are helping everyone else get slim by finding the solution we’ve found.

Carrying the message is also part of Step 12, which is vital to maintaining our recovery. But if it comes at the end of the Steps, what good is it for those who haven’t gotten there yet? Plenty good! The Steps are there to change our perspective. Our self-centered impulses rule us. Even if we show codependence, we can recognize that as a kind of self-centeredness. But service doesn’t come with guilt, compulsion, or as an I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine. Service in OA is freely given with the knowledge that it will help someone, somewhere, sometime. It is also given freely out of gratitude for what has been given us: a path to recovery. If we aren’t yet at Step 12, giving service helps open our hearts and minds to the idea of being others-centered.

When we do service, we may be pleasantly surprised by the subtle change in attitude we feel. Whether working alone or with our fellow OAs, we find that we want to do a good job not because we’ll look good or get accolades or win friends. Instead we may, in some cases for the first time in a very long time, do something because we can feel in our spirits that our actions are helping others in some small way. Our Higher Power can use that little spark to crack open long closed-off reservoirs of sympathy, empathy, and joy, which each nurture our recovery and make us useful and purposeful in ways we may never have known before.

In most cases, service is easier than we think it will be. At the meeting level, we may raise our hands for a position such as treasurer or speaker-seeker. These turn out to be far less time-consuming or complicated than we thought they would be. A phone call here or there, adding up the money and giving the rent check to our host location aren’t going to suck us dry of time. Though our sickened minds might tell us otherwise. Tasks such as setting up chairs, carrying the meeting’s bag, or being the key carrier give us the chance to support carrying the message in nuts and bolts ways. If our meeting doesn’t require many service positions, we can even make one up! Does the meeting have a greeter? If not, we might ask to be one and then greet members as they come in.

Our local Intergroup is EXCLUSIVELY about providing service for carrying the message. An Intergroup’s function is to help meetings join at a broader level what they cannot do themselves. Creating special events, informational campaigns, and strategic plans for getting the message out to the community all require service by many individuals. Anyone can provide service at the Intergroup level. Even if we don’t currently meet the requirements for an Intergroup office holder, we have many talents and experiences that can be helpful. Special events may need someone with design talent to create flyers. An initiative aimed at educating the medical community might benefit from those in the fellowship who have worked in the field. Project-management skills are always helpful for executing on any kind of long-range plan.

So if we want service to be slimming, we might need to think of someone else’s waistline besides ours. We might need to consider the idea that raising our hand for service is

  • changing our mindset to be less self-centered, which supports our Step work
  • taking out insurance on our own recoveries (Step 12)
  • giving back freely to the the fellowship that so freely gave us recovery
  • ensuring that OA is around in perpetuity for folks like us.

Let’s carry the message!

The Force Is With Us, Always

This weekend, the new Star Wars movie has opened with as much fanfare as perhaps any movie ever. One of the chief ideas driving the story of the Star Wars saga is “The Force,” an invisible spiritual energy that binds the universe together and gives people powers they wouldn’t otherwise have. Those who believe in it will give one another the benediction, “May the Force Be with You.”

In OA, we are also granted special powers beyond our own abilities. The Force is with us! This is most outwardly obvious in our relationship to food and our physical recovery. The first Step tells us that we are utterly powerless over food. We can’t control it whatsoever. Our bodies usually indicate this whether we are fat or too skinny or bouncing in between. The second Step tells us that we won’t be restored to any kind of normalcy around food without a Higher Power. For the Star Wars inclined, we must use The Force. Or more accurately, let it use us.

Of course, that’s not all there is to it. We are also powerless over our feelings and emotions. Our literature tells us that our physical compulsion to eat actually begins in our minds. We first obsess about food in reaction to our feelings. The disease centers in our minds, and we are activated before the first bite is taken. We need a Force to help us here as well, and the Steps show us how to call upon that Force when we need help conquering the fears and emotions that drive us to hurt ourselves with food. Because we obviously can’t cope with those things ourselves, or we would have done so already.

Of course, this all means that we have also had a spiritual sickness. We have shunned God and left the idea of a Higher Power to die on the vine. We need the Steps and the guidance of someone with experience to help us find our Higher Power and tap into Its amazing flow of positive energy. In the original Star Wars movie, Luke Skywalker’s mentor Ben Kenobi says things to him such as “Feel the Force,” “Let go of your feelings,” and “The Force will be with you, always.” Sounds pretty familiar, right? Our sponsors and the program are telling us to feel the presence of a Higher Power; to let go of what troubles us and give them to God; and that our HP will always be there for us, no matter how grave the situation. Whether the crisis occurs in a galaxy far, far away or just behind our eyes, the answer is the same! Spiritual principles are the same everywhere: Trust and rely on God, whatever your concept of God is, whatever you might call God, no matter what the situation is. That’s what OA tells us that the essence of spirituality is. An idea that is shared through virtually every spiritual or religious concept out there.

Finally, the Jedi in the Star Wars saga use their Force-given powers unstintingly to help others. That’s exactly what OA asks of us. Think of others, ask God how we might be helpful to someone besides ourselves, and let our spiritual discoveries lead us to new ways to bring peace and goodwill to the world.

Hey, it’s fun to see incredible aliens, watch spacecraft hurtling through the stars, and enjoy the thrill of evil enemies meeting their match. But right here, in our own lives, we get to enjoy the benefits of a Force if not “The Force.” We aren’t granted superhuman powers, but rather the amazing power to be merely human. To walk among people with our chins up, meeting the world on its terms, and living happy lives instead of turning back to the dark side that our disease has chained us to for so many years. The Force is with us. Always!

Announcing two exciting Seacoast OA events!

Seacoast OA is excited to announce events in May and June that can help us all make progress with our programs. Everyone is welcome!

Sponsor training

First on Saturday, May 16th, we’ll be offering our first ever sponsor training workshop. This one-hour session will cover the basics of sponsoring. You’ll hear from two local members with experience sponsoring, receive official OA literature on sponsoring, get time time for  questions and answers, and more. The session is free and does not require advanced registration.

Who should attend:

  • People who want to start sponsoring
  • People whose sponsors have suggested they begin sponsoring
  • Sponsors and their sponsees
  • Anyone who wants to sharpen their sponsoring skills

Details:
Saturday, May 16th
10:30 to 11:30 AM, immediately following the 9:00 York meeting
York Hospital Medical Office Building, 16 Hospital Drive
Basement conference room
Please share this flyer with your groups

Workshop on Steps 4 through 9

Following up on our popular March workshop on Steps 1 through 3, this afternoon workshop takes us through the “action Steps.” Learn about what the 4th Step inventory is and how to give it away in Step 5; why the 6th and 7th Step are crucial to our recovery; and how to make amends to repair the relationships in your life. Bring a pen, a notebook, and your copy of The Big Book because we’ll be doing this important work together!

This workshop is free, but we ask that you register ahead of time so that we have a headcount for the room and any materials.

Details:
Saturday, June 13th
1:00 to 4:00 PM
Portsmouth Community Campus
100 Campus Drive, Portsmouth, NH
Directions are on this flyer, which we encourage you to share with your groups
Register by email

We’ll see you in May and June!!!

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.”

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.

What Do You Want Seacoast OA to Look Like in the Future?

By Eric C.

Do you ever think how lucky we are to have OA in this area? Me too. And when I think about keeping it strong, I think of OA’s responsibility pledge:

“Always to extend the hand and heart of OA to all who share my compulsion; for this, I am responsible.”

We’re all in this thing together, and our 2014 Year of Abstinence has proven how powerful that togetherness can be when we’re working toward a common goal. We’re accomplishing a lot! Our new Thursday evening meeting, two workshops (register for “Freedom Isn’t Free” here!), the new website, and more.

But what happens in 2015 when a new group of intergroup officers takes over? It doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be on their shoulders alone to keep the momentum going. What if, instead, all of us in Seacoast OA could find a way to suggest a direction for future intergroup officers to go in? Good news: together we can!

Together we can draft a plan that guides future intergroups’ activities toward a shared goal of a growing OA in the Seacoast, ensure it thrives, and making us as effective at possible in getting the word out about recovery. Remember the survey we did last autumn? It’s a basis for planning ahead. The survey told us that abstinence was the number one thing our members want help with. But it wasn’t the only thing. They wanted more about the Steps. About sponsoring. About how to live a food-sober life. We can take that information, all the feedback we’ve gotten this year, OA’s own strategic plan, and the principles of our program to create a long-term strategic plan that supports out current groups and members and helps newcomers find the recovery they want.

Our intergroup has begun drafting just such a plan. Click here to download it for your own review. But this plan shouldn’t only be from or for our officers. It’s from and for all of us. That’s why we need your input—because it’s your intergroup.

This is really important stuff, and it’s great service too. I know it sounds abstract, that words like “Strategic Plan” aren’t sexy. Especially when we’re taking things one day at a time! But as many a sponsor says: Failing to plan is planning to fail. We need your help. Here’s what we’re asking you and your home group to do.

1.)   Schedule your August business meeting or a special ad hoc meeting before the August 9th Seacoast Intergroup meeting.

2.)   Before that, download and review the draft of the Strategic Plan, think about it from the point of view of your own recovery, from the perspective of a newcomer, and from the perspective of an intergroup officer attempting to bring that plan to life.

3.)   At that next home-group business meeting, discuss and give your collective feedback to your intergroup representative. They will bring those thoughts to the next intergroup meeting. (If you don’t have an intergroup rep, please elect one, or send someone in a temporary capacity on August 9th.)

4.)   If you have additional feedback you’d like to provide the intergroup with, attend the August 9th meeting or speak with one of the officers before then (Eric C., Chris M., Madeleine J., Robbie L., or Nancy K.).

Together, we will provide future intergroup officers with direction to match our primary purpose. It is not up to one of us but to all of us to help our own recoveries and others’ by making our intergroup as effective as possible at carrying the OA message.

Thank you for your service!

What’s an Intergroup rep do, anyway?

Bill W. knew about the perks of service.

Bill W. knew about the perks of service.

“What does an Intergroup rep actually do?” We hear that question a lot, so we have created a new, downloadable description of the role. It’s now avaialble in our meeting resources area.  But right now, let’s answer the question.

First, though, why should you want to be an Intergroup rep?

  • It supports abstinence via the Service Tool.
  • It sustains your recovery as part of the 12th Step (“…we tried to carry this message to compulsive eaters”)
  • It gives back to the program that’s saved our lives.
  • It helps others like us who are still suffering.

And what’s the Intergroup do? In a nutshell it coordinates with area meetings to support them and carry the message of recovery to those who still suffer. That includes these actions:

  • providing basic services such as meeting lists, telephone hotline (603.418.4398), and this website
  • giving financial assistance to new meetings and helping struggling meetings with group inventories when asked
  • ensuring 7th Tradition money flows to Region and World Service
  • organizing special services such as recovery workshops and events, initiatives such as 12th Step Within drives, and public information beyond the group level.

Our current Year of Abstinence initiative is a blending of these services.

So, finally, what do you do as an Intergroup Rep do to support these valuable actions?

  • Attend your home meeting regularly, note what’s going on there, and alert members to upcoming Intergroup meetings
  • Attend the monthly Intergroup meeting, bring any issues or agenda items, make notes to share, vote on behalf of your home meeting, and participate in discussion.
  • Return to your home meeting and inform members of the important news that comes out of it so that they can get the benefits of what the area meetings are doing together.

Simple! And incredibly valuable to our recovery and those of others around us.

Every meeting in Seacoast Intergroup is entitled to a rep and an alternate. Please volunteer at your home group’s next business meeting. If you have any questions, drop an email to SeacoastOA@gmail.com.