Starting again in OA—rebooting from relapse

When our computer or device gets hung up, the first piece of advice we get usually goes, Did you try restarting? Rebooting causes programming to refresh itself, which typically relieves whatever bugginess has cropped up.

In relapse, we can feel as though we have gotten hung up too. We are frozen in a pattern of compulsive eating, and we can’t get to the next screen. But unlike an insensate device, we have to reboot ourselves to get our OA program back online.

We can’t rely on anyone else to hit the power button for us. OA is a program for people who want it, not people who need it. We’ve got years of experience at resenting others for telling us what to do. You aren’t the boss of me has rattled around our inner monologue more than a few times. Even if another person told us they’d drive us to meetings and help us do the work, we’d say no or get no benefit. As the ABCs on page 60 of the Big Book remind us, “probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.”

It’s up to us to take the actions required to gain or regain food sobriety. The recovery is ours, not the next person’s.

If we are ready to get back into the swing of OA, we might ask ourselves, What have I learned from this experience with compulsive eating? Could be we’ve learned some hard lessons about things such as:

  • I can’t stop eating compulsively once I start, and I can’t stop from starting.
  • My food plan wasn’t enough by itself to prevent me from eating compulsively.
  • My disease is worse now than when I first arrived at OA.
  • I can’t work this program without a sponsor.
  • I need to take my sponsor’s suggestions.
  • This disease uses my own thoughts to kill me.
  • I can’t do this halfway.
  • I need to do the Steps.
  • I’m totally screwed without OA.

These are just a few things we may have learned, there are so many others. We can take what we’ve learned and use it as a stepping stone toward recovery. We know that eating in isolation is likely to kill us with a heavy dose of misery before we lose our life. we need the fellowship of OA.

  • Luckily, OA’s nine Tools are designed to help us make maximal use of the fellowship. Meetings, Telephone, and Sponsorship place us in direct contact with other local compulsive eaters who can help us.
  • Literature gives us insight from OAs around the world.
  • Writing helps us get those lessons mentioned above onto paper so we can remember them and talk about them with other OAs.
  • Food plan helps us restore boundaries to our eating and provides an opportunity for accountability.
  • Service helps us stay connected to OA.
  • Anonymity frees us from shame with the knowledge that the public isn’t invited to know our story.
  • Action Plan gives us a framework for understanding how each element of our program supports our abstinence and recovery.

Of course, we’re going to need more than fellowship with people as the ABCs we referenced above tell us. We need a Higher Power. That’s a big lump in some of our throats, but less difficult to swallow than we imagine. All it takes is a willingness to believe something might be out there and a decision to work with that Something for the Steps to work for us.

Here’s a few things we don’t need to restart our program:

  • Guilt, shame, and remorse: These feelings often pull us back down into the quicksand of self-pity and compulsive eating
  • Stubbornness: We know we’re in trouble with food and that others have recovered, so why do we insist on doing it our, failed, way?
  • Denial: If we still think we’re in control or that we’re not like our OA fellows or that we are unique, we’re in for a bumpy ride
  • People-pleasing: We must toss aside our need to be “good” or please others because we have to get better for ourselves
  • Waffling: If we want recovery, we must commit to actions that result in recovery and avoid saying we’ll do something then bailing on it

Honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness are the keys to successful recovery. If we practice their opposites, we’ll get the opposite of recovery.

Finally, the journey to recovery can seem long and difficult when we try to imagine how getting back on track will play out. Yeah, there’s work ahead of us, but we’ve been committed to our substance one day at a time for a long time. Now we can commit to freedom from food obsession one day at a time. In the long run, a little work now will save us a lot of pain and an early death later—or for the really unlucky, sooner.

5 ways to keep it simple

In meetings, OA members often mention the importance of keeping things simple. Why? Because our disease makes things complicated.

Our minds are trying to kill us, and our addiction-addled brains use our thinking against us. Simple decisions such as choosing an outfit suddenly acquire layer upon bewildering layer of complexity:

Is it too flashy?

Or too boring?

What will my coworkers think of it?

Does it look too much like something the boss would wear?

But I need the boss to like me because I need a raise so that I pay off that credit card bill and buy a new outfit that looks better on me because this one makes me look chunky.

I’ll never pay off the credit card, and if I don’t, my spouse will be angry, and that’ll mean yet another fight.

I don’t even know if I’m lovable, especially when my clothes don’t fit, and I’m spending way too much money on food I don’t even want to eat anymore.

And I don’t want to be alone!

We can do zero to doomsday in six seconds or less. What do I wear to work today can utterly paralyze us, and so we turn to food for relief.

The 12 Steps, 12 Traditions, and OA’s nine tools help us learn a simpler way to live. From our food to how we conduct ourselves, we find a way to walk through each day with clarity and purpose, even if our mind tries to make things complicated.

Here are five ways that the program can help us keep it simple so that we don’t drown in complicated thinking.

1. Going to a meeting

The great thing about meetings is that we have nothing to do except sit and listen. Nothing more is required of us. But that seemingly small action makes a big difference. When things are complicated, our mind is committee of people who talk over themselves constantly. It’s hard to even make sense of the chatter sometimes. But when we sit in a meeting and simply focus on what another person is saying, the committee adjourns. In meetings, one person talks. Then another person talks. Then another. No one is interrupted, no one talks over anyone else. Compared to the bustle in the world and the tussle in our minds, it’s downright idyllic. This may be part of the reason why many members report they usually feel better after a meeting than when they arrived.

2. Calling a program friend

The telephone is like a mini-meeting. Dropping a dime and asking someone else how they are doing provides a boost to us, even though we’re not doing the talking. When we think unselfishly of another person and take action, we feel the benefit. Even if they don’t pick up the phone. Once we’ve heard how the person on the other end of the line is doing, we might ask them for help to simplify our thinking. Often another person can cut through the tangles in our mind and help us to simplify our dilemma. If we are willing to listen to them, we may well see through our cluttered thinking.

3. Keeping it in the day with perspective

Does the problem have to be solved today? Is there any action we must take in this twenty-four hours about this problem? The truth is that we don’t know the whole story, nor what will really happen. We can’t travel to the past nor to the future, so perseverating over a complicated issue will not help us. Today, today, today!

4. Asking our Higher Power for the right thought or action

In our example above about choosing an outfit, our disease uses our own cognitive abilities against us. We can’t hack our way out of this mental thicket. But when we ask for spiritual help, we get it. The clothing example above has some basis in reality. One of our members reports having once stood paralyzed by the question of what to wear to work. They debated internally, asked their spouse, and felt increasingly agitated by this everyday decision. They recalled another person living the 12-Step life saying that they had once needed to ask God to help them brush their teeth. So why not this? “God, what should I wear to work today?” our friend uttered. Within moments, the right outfit presented itself.

This technique is practical in any situation. Desperate to find the car keys and feel the repercussions multiplying? Ask God for help. Don’t know what to pick out on a menu? Ask God for help. It really does work, and we usually spot a simple solution in front of us that we otherwise were unable to see.

5. Seeking ways to be helpful to others

Working with others is the cornerstone of our recovery. Step 12 tells us that we must carry the message of recovery to those who still suffer. We have to give it away if we want to keep it. When we turn our minds to helping others we might begin with our sponsees. Would they benefit from a quick jingle? Or would a member whom we know is struggling? But it doesn’t stop with compulsive eaters. When we do the dishes or make the bed or clear the snow or weed the garden without prompting because we know it will help someone else, we make things simpler. We just do what’s in front of us. We suddenly find ourselves focusing on something other than our complicated problems. Answers may well arrive for the problem. It might simply leave our minds. Or we might, without realizing it, feel a profound shift that allows us to feel at ease once more. We will get more out of helping others than they will from us.

Overeaters Anonymous is often said to be a simple program for complicated people. But when we take simple actions like the five above, our thinking simplifies, and that means our day does to. So let’s keep it simple. We can let things go where they will and do what they must without involving ourselves. We can let those worry whose job it is to do so. All we have to do is take action.

Talking about pain to avoid mental suffering

“No pain, no gain” say the gym rats. But we compulsive eaters mean it differently…in our minds. “If only they wouldn’t hurt me, I wouldn’t have to eat, and I wouldn’t be fat.” But the world keeps turning round, and we aren’t allowed to stop it just because we hurt.

The problem with emotional pain is that we addicts tend to carry it around with us, and our society often tells us to suffer in silence. Pain doesn’t become suffering, however, until we give it the opportunity. When we stew in self-pity, pain becomes suffering. When we turn over the same conversation or situation in our mind trying to figure out how to change it, even though we can’t, pain becomes suffering. Until the moment we accept what’s happened, we will suffer.

In OA, we learn several actions to take when we have mental agony that’s about to tip into prolonged suffering. But all of them depend on two factors:

  1. acknowledging that we are in pain
  2. recognizing that our addictive minds want to seek relief as quickly as possible.

The second of these two factors is, in some way, the easy part. Once we acknowledge our pain and discomfort, we have a fighting chance. For us OA members, relief comes from honesty. OA’s Steps and Tools help us cope with the searing or dull mental pain of our lives. When we use the 10th, 11th, and 12th Steps to work through pain, we are taking spiritual actions designed to get us through the tough stuff. When we go to a meeting or pick up the phone, we lean on the fellowship for support. Others can identify, have had the same kinds of feelings and situations in their lives. All of the Tools, by definition, support the 12 Steps and the recovery we find in them. They ultimately lead us back to the Higher Power we connect with in the Steps.

The actions we can take are well documented and have proved out over decades of OA experience and that of other fellowships as well. So let us examine for a moment the idea of acknowledging our pain.

Admitting to ourselves that we are in the grips of emotional pain is very, very difficult sometimes. We may feel overwhelmed so much that we can’t think straight. We may have such singular focus on an issue in our lives that we completely lose the ability to see ourselves perseverating over it. The depression, anger, disappointment may be so pervasive that it descends like a black cloud over everything else in our lives. Our relationships, our work, and our program seem like distant joys.

Even so, many of us have been taught, conditioned by society, to just bear it up. When we ate compulsively, we used denial as a tool to get through each day, and we have years of practice in this bleak art. For males, especially, the popular notion of the strong, silent man brings with it doubts about the appropriateness of even admitting there’s something wrong.

But as one of our local members has experienced, intense relief often arrives quickly after saying out loud that we are in pain. Sitting alone, speaking frankly to our Higher Power, telling HP that we hurt creates an amazing opening in our minds. We will have more work to, which we’ve discussed above, but suddenly our willingness to do that work increases because we receive a moment of hope.

To multiply the power of that conversation with God, we can ask for HP’s will for us, the willingness to carry it out, and guidance in how to do it. We often find that a word or phrase leaps to mind, and that we soon after encounter obvious pathways through our lives that seemed blocked earlier. “God makes simple terms with those who seek Him,” the Big Book tells us.

When we admit to God, and, others, that we hurt, we get honest about our state of mind. We also get honest about who’s in charge, because our perseveration is but another form of control. So when we ask for our Higher Power’s will, we admit, too, that we can’t manage our life. We are as sick as our secrets, especially the ones we keep from ourselves.

Defining our abstinence with OA’s wisdom

It’s all too easy to get tangled up in perfectionism when it comes to our abstinence. Am I abstinent, or aren’t I? Was that a slip, or was my body truly signaling me through hunger to eat? If I change my food during the day, am I not being honest?

Each OA member is different, and, therefore, abstinence differs for each of us. One person’s pastries may be another’s Brussels sprouts. We must each define our own abstinence. Only we know what foods and eating behaviors trigger us.

But we also know that when it comes to food, we are born liars. Denial of our problem was a lie. All the fibs we told others to cover for our compulsive eating were lies. Stuffing bags, boxes, or containers in the bottom of the trash so no one else could see them was a lie. So how do we define abstinence meaningfully and honestly?

OA defines abstinence very simply and broadly so that all members have common ground no matter what food plan or approach they use:

Abstinence in Overeaters Anonymous is defined as the action of refraining from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors while working towards or maintaining a healthy body weight. Spiritual, emotional, and physical recovery is the result of living the Overeaters Anonymous Twelve-Step program.

OA provides four important criteria for abstinence:

  • refraining from compulsive eating
  • refraining from compulsive food behaviors
  • working towards or maintaining a healthy body weight
  • doing all of these things simultaneously (indicated by the words and and while in the first sentence).

This is the most basic definition of abstinence available to us OA members. It does not say that anyone must abstain from any specific foods or food behaviors. Instead, the responsibility for that level of specificity is on us. We must be serious and honest about what foods are an issue and what behaviors are an issue. Then we avoid them.

At the same time, we must also be diligent on the matter of physical recovery. It’s not just about specific binge foods. Eating larger quantities of food than is required to maintain healthy body function is another problem most OAs have in common. That’s why a big reason why we’re fat, after all. Still, within that third bullet point are two traps we must be wary of.

First, we must not use the definition of abstinence as a reason to make physical recovery our Higher Power. The point of OA is not to recover from being fat but to recover our lives and stay recovered. Our physical recovery is but one facet of our program, which the second sentence in the definition of abstinence tells us. We must work the Twelve Steps to find lasting physical recovery.

Second, we must be honest and rigorous about our journey toward physical recovery. Are we eating the right amount to lose weight? Or are we continuing to eat more than necessary and telling ourselves that losing a pound a year fits the spirit of OA’s definition of abstinence? Are we “getting around” to losing the weight or doing it? Do we know objectively or medically what a healthy body weight is for us, or are we letting our diseased minds tell us that a weight above a realistically healthy weight is just fine. Do we even know what the right amount is to eat for weight loss? Or are we just guessing? Are we committed to the idea that being at a healthy body weight is a way to show newcomers that the program works?

OA has no opinion on the details of diet, calories, and similar matters. The specifics of these are outside issues that every member is encouraged to explore with a medical and/or nutritional expert. OA’s only opinions of matter of diet are to avoid compulsive eating, avoid compulsive food behaviors, and return our bodies to a normal size.

There are sometimes reasons why some OA members may not be able to reach a conventionally healthy body weight for their age, body type, and activity level. For example, some members take medications for serious medical conditions with side effects of weight gain, water retention, general bloating, or other metabolic responses. Other members who have lost hundreds of pounds may have extra skin that causes them to weigh more than they otherwise would. (The choice to have this skin surgically removed is a personal matter and for OA’s purposes an outside issue.) For these members, maintaining a healthy body weight may mean something different than it does for members without these complexities.

Our abstinence begins to take shape as we examine what OA’s definition of abstinence looks like for us. Does our compulsive eating increase when we consume certain things? Fats, sugars, salts, flours, alcohol, or any other “red light” foods that always get us in trouble? Are there “green light” foods that have never played a role in our compulsive eating? Are there “yellow light” foods that we’re not quite sure about? How honest are we able to be with ourselves about these foods? Are we willing to let go of those that fall into the “red light” group?

How about compulsive food behaviors? Are certain times of day perilous for us? Certain rooms in our house? Can we dine out safely? Is watching TV or reading while eating an invitation to mindless binging? There are at least as many compulsive food behaviors as there are OA members.

Once we have awareness of these parameters, we can get to work using the OA Tool of Food Plan. There is no one food plan in OA. Everyone gets to create their own, which is best done under the guidance of a sponsor and with help from our Higher Power. Food plans are a tool to gain abstinence, and we may choose to define our abstinence through them as strictly or loosely as benefits our recovery. OA has no opinion on any food plan nor on what within that food plan denotes abstinent food or behavior. That’s up to us.

That said, we may want to avoid all-or-nothing thinking. Are we seeking progress or perfection? Do we constantly worry whether we are abstinent, or are we keeping our mind on how we can be helpful today? Are we placing the power for abstinence in God’s hands, or are we trying to control our food? Are we working with someone else to be accountable for what we eat, or are we using another human being as a Higher Power-like judge of our abstinence?

Ultimately, we can’t have the perfect abstinence. But if we’re staying open to taking action, trusting our Higher Power to guide our food rather than merely doing another diet, and being completely honest about what we eat, we will have the perfect abstinence for us.

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.