9 ways to turn Black Friday into Cyber Monday

For us compulsive eaters, “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” can have very different meanings than for everyone else. One that we don’t like, and one that can really help us.

Thanksgiving might be better termed Amateur Day. All those normal eaters out there have their big turkey feast then fall asleep on the couch while watching the Lions or Cowboys. These normal eaters have seconds and feel as stuffed as the bird they were just consuming. Meanwhile, we compulsive eaters are just getting started. Actually, we probably primed the pump well before company arrived or before we got to our feast destination. Once there, we graze on appetizers, pick at the turkey to get the choicest pieces of skin, take extra helpings of everything, then pile in the pie. By 5:00 while everyone else is groaning about their bloated bellies, we’re thinking about turkey sandwiches.

Then comes our Black Friday. It might begin in the wee hours of the morning, with a sudden awakening to acid reflux. Or maybe we’re so full we never got to sleep in the first place and stayed up berating ourselves for gluttony once again. We get up in the morning feeling lethargic, burping, and wondering whether we’ll ever be able to control our eating. All the while, we know deep inside that we’ll never gain control, but our pride tells us to fight anyway. In this way, Thanksgiving is no different than many other days except in the volume of food at the dining room table.

Over the rest of the weekend we might tell a spouse or friend that we’re going on a diet on Monday. Or maybe after Christmas. Or in the New Year. We just need to get through the holidays. As Friday, Saturday, and Sunday roll by, we feel that familiar sense of failure and remorse, and our misery continues. Thanksgiving dinner didn’t fix it.

Luckily for us, however, we can interpret Cyber Monday in a different way as well. We can see it as an opportunity to look for the solution. We can go online to locate all kinds of OA resources that will guide us toward recovery from compulsive eating! Here’s a few examples for people in different parts of their OA journey.

Prospective members

  • Not sure if you’re a compulsive eater? Take this quiz and find out.
  • Visit this page for newcomers at OA.org to see what happens at meetings and hear podcasts of member’s experiences.
  • Read OA’s FAQ to learn the answers to questions commonly asked by newcomers.

Newcomers and returning members

Members who struggled on Thanksgiving

 

3 ways out of dangerously sentimental food thoughts

“We will not regret the past,” says the Promises that many meetings close with each week. Usually we think of this as referring to the stuff in our backgrounds that we’d rather not remember. But we also need to keep careful watch for sentimentalism, a gateway to self-pity.

Of course there’s nothing wrong for reflecting gladly on bygone days of glee. We rightly and naturally cherish the memories of our loved ones, special moments, successes, happy surprises, challenges overcome. But the disease of addiction is cunning and baffling, and so we must be on guard and monitor our thinking. Instead of keeping it in the day, our illness can turn our thoughts toward matters of food, weight, and body image quickly and almost imperceptibly.

What begins as a pleasant trip down memory lane can turn into lingering thoughts about certain foods or meals. Once our minds reach a place such as this, we can easily slip into self-pity over the foods we can no longer eat. Our disease can begin to tell us that those meals of yore were worth more than our abstinence. The cycle of addiction always beings with a thought or feeling.

So how do we recognize when we’re in danger of romancing the foods of yesterday? And what do we do if we enter that mindspace?

These are some warning signs heard from OA members that signal when we’ve crossed over from sentimental remembrance into self-pity:

  1. “I wish I could eat that again.”
  2. “Ooh, I remember that [holiday or special event]. The [food] was soooooo good.”
  3. “Wow, I can taste that right now.”
  4. “I wonder if that would taste as good to me now as it did back then?”
  5. “Maybe I could have a bite of that? It’s been so long.”
  6. “That food reminds me of my parent/sibling/friend who I miss so much.”

If thoughts such as these rattle through our mind, we’ve got to act quickly and decisively. The longer we polish this turd, the more it looks to us like a jewel. How do we get ourselves out of this tight spot?

  1. Pick up OA’s Tools: The Tools which will turn our thinking back toward our solution quickly.
    1. A plan of eating: Review our food plan to help remember why we don’t eat what we’ve been thinking about
    2. Sponsorship: Call our sponsor to talk about this slide into food-romance or call a sponsee to see how they’re doing to move our thoughts in a more productive direction
    3. Meetings: Get to a meeting quickly to hear about the solution and to be reminded of the hellishness of being in the problem
    4. Telephone: Talking to someone right away about the dishonesty our illness is trying to perpetrate on us is a sure way to be reminded of the solution
    5. Literature: Read any piece of program literature to remind us of the importance of maintaining our abstinence
    6. Writing: Journaling about our thoughts drifting foodward, writing a letter to our Higher Power asking for help, or continuing our 4th Step inventory will support sanity around food
    7. Service: What’s better for redirecting our thoughts than seeing how we can be of service to OA or any group that needs a helping hand?
    8. Plan of Action: Any other action that we regularly take as part of our program can help us keep our OA foundation strong.
  2. Do a 10th Step: Page 84 of the Big Book tells us to watch for selfishness, dishonest, resentment, and fear then gives us specific actions to take when these crop us:
    1. Ask our HP to remove the issue: Go straight to the spiritual source of our recovery!
    2. Discuss the issue with someone immediately: A sponsor or trusted OA friend is the ideal someone who understands how food addiction plays tricks our minds
    3. Make amends if necessary: Especially if our thinking is causing us to neglect other important responsibilities
    4. Turn our thoughts to someone we can help: Getting out of our own heads requires us to put ourselves second
  3. Remind ourselves of the nature of our illness: Our addiction always lies to us, and it even uses truths to deceive us. For example, it reminds us of the fleeting pleasure of food, but blocks out recollections of the daily torture of compulsive eating.

Additionally, we must remember that whatever direction our life in recovery takes, it’s an unfolding adventure that we get to live fully one day at a time. Rather than worry that tomorrow won’t be like yesteryear, we can instead rejoice that today isn’t as painful as our old way of living was. Rather than pining for the “good” old days, we can be grateful for this moment in recovery.

 

5 Ways to Get a Full Serving of OA

We compulsive eaters have never cheated ourselves. A full serving for us means enough servings to make us full…and then some. It means an extra dip of a spoon or scooper into whatever serving dish or container we’re holding. It means mounded measuring cups or eating those last bits because we’d “hate to see it go to waste.” We’d rather it go to our waist than to waste!

So why do we resist a full serving of OA?

What’s a full serving of OA look like? It’s about following an ages-old piece of OA wisdom:

  • Program first.
  • Then family.
  • Then work.

Our members share stories all the time about how our illness degraded or ruined their family relationships. How it made them less productive workers or even got them fired. If we don’t put program first there may be no family or job to return to. This disease kills, so eventually there may be no life to return to.

It’s like that old story about a reluctant OA telling a longtime member, “I’ve always had a problem with commitment.” The OA veteran, not giving an inch replies, “You don’t have a problem with commitment. You’ve been committed to compulsive eating for the last thirty years.” We all have the ability to work this program and to put it first. The question is whether we’re in enough pain to listen to the voice inside us that wants to get better.

Here’s 5 proven ways we can get a full serving of OA!

  • Treat compulsive eating like the killer disease it is: We can’t BS ourselves about the severity of this disease. It will kill us spiritually, emotionally, and physically. It destroys us from the inside out.
  • Keep making meetings: Sometimes we let our minds dictate our meeting schedule instead of listening to our desire to get better. We get “busy” or “tired.” Better to attend a meeting while tired than to be back in the place of being sick and tired of being sick and tired.
  • Get, and use!, a sponsor: If we are truly powerless, then we cannot get better alone. We must ask another person for help. If we have a sponsor and aren’t working closely with them, then it’s time to get honest about why we have a sponsor.
  • Work the Steps: OA is not an intellectual exercise. We can’t think our way out of the illness. The Steps are an action plan that gets us better. Do the Steps seem scary? Perhaps. But aren’t they less scary than the devastation of our disease? Of dying too young? Of a lifetime of physical debilitation, foggy thinking, depression, and enslavement to the likes of Betty Crocker?
  • Raise our hand to sponsor: If we don’t help others, we will eat again. Our literature and experience tell us so. Abstinent but plateauing? Raise a hand to “get someone started.” Done the Steps but feel uneasy about sponsoring? Trust God and raise that hand! Anyone with long-term recovery will tell us that sponsoring is the lifeblood of their recovery.

Get a full serving of OA starting right now!

How to Get Started Sponsoring in OA

Yesterday’s Sponsor Training was inspiring. If you weren’t able to make it, this recap can give you some ideas about your own sponsorship opportunities.

Speaker One: How to Get Someone Started with the Food

Our first speaker focused on step one, and especially on helping a new sponsee define their plan of eating and gain abstinence. Here are three key points that our first speaker made:

  1. Share what you eat and how you created your food plan
  2. Everyone gets to develop their own food plan, and our role is to support them as they implement it
  3. Honesty is the most vital and crucial thing a sponsee needs in step one, and it’s our job to point this out and help them find it.

Speaker Two: How to Guide Someone Through the Steps

Next, our second speaker shared how to guide a sponsee through the steps:

  1. Share up to the level of your experience with the steps
  2. Remind them that this is a program of action and that the steps are the program
  3. Don’t listen to the doubts inside that say “My program isn’t good enough.”

Sponsorship: A Getting-Started Guide

We also passed along a copy of OA’s official sponsoring guide as well as Sponsorship: A Getting-Started Guide. This locally produced collection of Seacoast OA members’  experiences with sponsoring is now available on our Recovery Resources page. Here’s three key ideas from it as well:

  1. Just do it! Get started right away whether you have doubts or not—it’s worth it!
  2. It takes courage to ask someone else for help: Tell sponsees what a privilege it is to work with them and that everything they say is confidential
  3. We’re there to be as helpful as we can, never to judge, chastise, or belittle.

Q&A

Finally, we wrapped up with a wonderful Q&A that everyone in the room contributed their experience to. Here are a few questions, answers, and comments you may find helpful:

Q: How do we best help someone who is slipping?

A: Be gentle, we OAs are filled with enough shame. Tell them that hope is far from lost, and perhaps try offering this OA nugget, “simply resume.” It’s important to also help them trace the root cause of the slip so they can see the warning signs next time. For chronic slips, you might also try working with them on OA’s “Been Slipping and Sliding” worksheet or its “Strong Abstinence Checklist.”

Q: What do I do when a sponsee is constantly making excuses?

A: Remind them that this is a deadly malady that requires us to work hard for the solution. But we must remember that the motivation must come from within a sponsee, not from us. We are there to pass along our experience, not to enforce our suggestions, and everyone arrives at recovery in their own time.

Q: Do we continue to sponsor someone after they have completed the twelve steps?

A: Even when we have worked through all twelve steps, we remain chronically ill people who need the help and support of others. If we are “full” perhaps this sponsee will now require less intensive work, opening some time for you to work with others.

Wrapping Up

Everyone in the room had three things we seemed to all agree on:

  1. We will not be perfect sponsors
  2. Another’s inability to recover is not our fault, and another’s success is not ours to claim but God’s
  3. We cannot play therapist, nutritionist, or doctor to a sponsee—it’s not good for them or us!

If you couldn’t make it, we missed you. We’ll be doing this again in the fall, and we hope to see you then, and hear your experiences, too!

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.

The Action Plan

Footwork of RecoveryAt SeacoastOA.wordpress.com, members who are willing can share their Action Plans to help others create one. Thanks to a plan recently shared by a member, we now have two samples to offer. For more information about the Action Plan, please check out the Tools of Recovery page at OA.org or the pamphlet Tools of Recovery, which is also found in the OA newcomer packet.

The Action Plan is the newest of OA’s nine Tools of Recovery. It can be as simple or as detailed as an individual member needs it to be. The Abridged Tools reading at OA.org summarizes it this way:

An action plan is the process of identifying and implementing attainable actions that are necessary to support our individual abstinence. Just like our plan of eating, it may vary widely among members and may need to be adjusted to bring structure, balance and manageability into our lives. 

The Action Plan is powerful because it can help us see our program at a glance. The Big Book tells us on page 88 that “we [addicts] are undisciplined,” and whether we are newcomers or OA veterans, the Action Plan can benefit our recovery in many ways. As our new sample shows, it can remind us of the actions we find helpful for getting and keeping our abstinence, but it’s also useful for our entire program! The sample plan shows us how the Action Plan helps us remember actions that support living the Twelve Steps in our daily lives as well as those that help carry the message of hope that OA has to offer.