Friends you keep

OA friends are like few others in our lives. We may know one another only a short time yet feel as though we’ve known one another for years or decades more. It only makes sense. We watch one another get better. We ask one another for help. We share a number of intimate secrets with one another.

Perhaps most importantly, we hear our OA fellows talk about our problem in the same way that we’ve thought about it. We thought these incessant, dishonest, and overpowering thoughts and feelings belonged only to us. We thought that somewhere, sometime, our circuits got fried, irreparably damaging us, and we knew we couldn’t tell a soul. Yet when we arrive in the halls of OA, our story gets told to us time and again. Oh, the details differ, but we recognize that it’s nonetheless, the same tale of woe and misery. That is, until our new friends tell us about the solution they’ve found in OA’s 12 Steps.

Our pals show us that the impossible is possible. We believe them because their experience matches ours. Their renewal shows us that a new path can open up for us if we care to follow them on it.

As tough as things seem at first as we struggle toward abstinence and do the Steps, it’s when things go awry that we find out how much our OA friends come to mean to us. If we stumble in our program, we discover more helping hands extended to us than we could have thought. Sympathetic ears lean toward us. We learn more about the experiences of others than ever and know that if they’ve skinned a knee on the broad highway and are still walking, so can we.

If it is our new friends, instead, who miss a step, we discover the power of listening to and helping others. We feel honored by their willingness to confide in us, and this increases yet again the tightness of our connections. When they rise again to their feet, we rejoice with them, clap them on the back, and admire the courage they’ve shown. Because we know: this thing ain’t easy.

The OA fellowship is powerful. It is not a foundation stone of recovery, instead it is the cement between the stones. While it is not enough to get us abstinent, nor keep us abstinent, it helps us to see how each stone fits into the ongoing work. It helps us stay together if some pieces loosen.

In all of our lives, friends will come and go. OA will always be here, and we can be assured that our OA friends, new or old, will understand us and help us in a way that few others in the world can.

3 Questions for Finding a Higher Power

OA makes no bones about it. You’re gonna need a Higher Power if you want to recover from compulsive eating. Why? Simple, because if we can’t do it ourselves, and if no human being can do it for us, then by process of elimination, we need something more powerful than we are to do the heavy lifting for us.

Notice, we didn’t say God in that last paragraph? That’s because we needn’t define a Higher Power in those terms if we don’t want to. For some of us, it’s best if we don’t because that word rankles us.

On the other hand, for those used to religious worship, the term Higher Power may feel unspecific. Folks with a current conception of a God figure might well want to stick with it.

In OA we don’t have a horse in the gods race. Or lack of gods race. It’s about getting us through the 12 Steps so that we can enjoy a happy, joyous, freedom filled life. That’s why we encourage every member to define their idea of a Higher Power on their own. This is a program of action, and when you boil it down, a Higher Power must have just two attributes:

a. A willingness to free us from our obsession with food.
b. The ability to do so.

Of course, for us to get better and stay that way, the program instructs us to trust and rely on our HP for everything, not just food. So in reality, we need to add another trait to the mix:

c. Trustworthiness and reliability.

But we probably also need to add another ingredient. None of us wants to count on a crumb-bum Higher Power of dubious merit. We don’t want to get in with a HP that’s just doing tit for tat and wants us for its own creepy gains. Just because It can help us and does, doesn’t mean that Higher Power is worth following. So a fourth attribute would be

d. Worthiness of following.

After that, our concept is up to us. What do we want “a God personal to us” to be like? Here’s a few questions that can help us track down the answers.

1.) Do I already have a Higher Power in my life that I’m comfortable with?

We might have spiritual practices in place that can help us. If so, great! We will soon find that we can access this HP more than ever, once we have unblocked ourselves via abstinence and the 12 Steps. If not, we move on. We don’t want to get stuck in this spot. Feeling shame or guilt because we think we should believe in a certain Higher Power that isn’t comfortable for us will retard our progress. We have to keep asking questions.

2.) Am I OK with an anthropomorphized Higher Power?

In other words, do we want to picture God in our lives as having a human-like presence, or appearance? If so, we might ask ourselves additional questions such as

  • Do I need to know exactly what this Higher Power looks like to relate to it?
  • Does it need to be gendered for me to accept It?

If we aren’t interested in a human-like Higher Power, we can ask ourselves this: Am I OK with the idea of any kind of Being as a Higher Power? If so, we might ask ourselves the same two questions we just mentioned.

But if neither of these concepts works for us, then we need to get to the bottom of things. It’s not prohibitive for recovery if our HP isn’t a Being or even isn’t precisely sentient. Here are examples of Higher Powers we’ve heard about in meetings that had a decidedly non-standard flavor:

  • The fellowship of OA: When we choose the fellowship as a Higher Power, we may be able to relate when members use the G-word by in our minds hearing an acronym such as Group Of Drunks or Good Orderly Discipline.
  • An ideal such as truth or love: We may believe that universals like these or others are shared by us all and can lift us from our misery if we can tap the energy behind them through the Steps.
  • Nature or the universe: Thinking of the amazing vastness of our universe or the incredible living diversity, many of us can’t help but feel awe, wonder, and a sense of power that can help us.
  • “The Force”: While we don’t necessarily adopt this Star Wars idea for our HP, many of our members do use a similar idea, namely that we are bound to one another and the world and the cosmos through a positive, animative energy source that may not have intelligence but does possess great helping strength. We can then use the OA program to focus its healing power on our illness.

This question of what a Higher Power is or isn’t can also be a trap, if our stinking thinking gets wrapped around its axle. So some members have simply thrown up their arms and said, “I don’t know! But I believe!” They’ve considered what the minimum attributes for their Higher Power are and then let that simply be enough. The so-called “God of my not-understanding” can be an effective way out of analysis paralysis.

3.) What other traits do I want in a Higher Power?

Once we have an idea of what sort of Higher Power we will work with, we can consider the characteristics we want in our God. This is when we imagine ourselves looking through the God Catalog.

A plan for every single thing that is happening in the world? We can have that in our Higher Power. Or we can have a Higher Power that keeps its hands out of things.

Logical, rational, and consistent? Those are all available. So are sympathetic, cheerleaderly, and parent-like.

Talkative or intuitive? Leading or nudging? Whispering or shouting? If we’re going to listen to our Higher Power, how do we want to do so?

And just like how the typical American changes jobs seven times and careers three times during their working lifetime, we OAs are likely to amend, update, revise, or overhaul our concept of a Higher Power during our journey through recovery. The important thing is that we develop a conception that works for us. Because after all, if we can’t work with our Higher Power, how will our Higher Power work on us?

Tradition of the Month: A race to the bottom

6. “An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.”

In a speech on November 13, 1969, then Vice President Spiro Agnew opined that “Bad news drives out good news.” His theory said that the news media prefer to cover salacious, scandalous, or confrontational news because the excitement it generates sells papers. And monotony doesn’t.

Agnew stated a “race to the bottom” argument. We observe this same line of reasoning used in many other fields. For example, when seemingly artistically principled musicians make an album designed for wide appeal, they are called sellouts. The same holds for filmmakers who appear to be trying to make a hit rather than a cinematic statement. Folks or organizations in any industry or endeavor that has important, mission-oriented goals or publicly places high value on quality is vulnerable to this kind of accusation.

What do people say about those accused of engaging in race-to-the-bottom tactics?

  • They are appealing to the least common denominator.
  • They lost their integrity.
  • It used to be about the music.
  • They put the bottom line ahead of quality.
  • I can’t trust them anymore.
  • I might as well buy anything in their market now.
  • I wish they’d go back to doing what they used to do.

If there’s a common theme underlying all of these complaints and others like them, it’s an adaptation of Agnew’s line: Bad money drives out good money.

What’s this got to do with us in OA? When it comes to Tradition 6, everything! Because when it comes to our primary purpose virtually any money is bad money.

 

Greed is one of the deadly sins, warned against in every culture. Like our inhuman compulsion toward food, greed can transform well-meaning people into money monsters by playing on our fears and our self-esteem. It is a defect of character, and it has the ability to tear people apart. Tradition 1 tells us that OA unity is crucial to our recoveries and our ability to carry the message. Money can disrupt that unity very, very quickly. Alarmist? Perhaps, but consider that in recent history, a high-ranking OA treasury official in our region made off with the funds under their control.

So we have a duty to keep money out of the fellowship except as a carefully guarded tool for reaching sufferers. That goes for the money we donate as well as money from outside enterprises. We don’t want to be engaged in competition or cooperation with diet programs, food rehabs, or any other kind of organization lest we get dragged into a race toward profitability. Once that happens people will start talking about us, too:

  • What’s the difference between OA and one of the diet companies that never worked for me anyway?
  • I remember when OA was about recovery.
  • Gee, whatever happened to OA, anyway?

Step of the Month: 12 Big Fat Lies Compulsive Eaters Tell Themselves

We compulsive overeaters are dishonest by nature. Really! For decades, our brains have been telling us lies about our eating to keep us eating. The truth about compulsive eating is that it is an illness. We are not like other people. We have a physical allergy to food that creates systematic cravings, a mental obsession with food, and a downward spiral of our spiritual well-being. But some of us are so wedded to our lies that we either don’t realize they are lies or are too afraid of failure to address them.

Here are 12 of the lies shared retrospectively by people who have experienced recovery. Lies that keep us stuck in our disease when we accept them as truths.

  1. I’m a bad person because I can’t stop eating compulsively.
    We’re sorry to burst this bubble, but we aren’t bad people. What we are is people with a chronic, progressive illness that we cannot control.
  2. I don’t care anymore. I might as well keep eating.
    If we truly didn’t care, we wouldn’t be preoccupied with our bodies and the pain the disease causes us. Experience shows that we eat precisely because we care desperately.
  3. If I could eat like a normal person, everything would be better.
    An insidious lie if there ever was one. What we’re really saying to ourselves is that we wish we could eat as much as we wanted and not gain weight so that we could keep eating compulsively and not face any consequences.
  4. I’m only hurting myself.
    We bury feelings with food, and in our more lucid moments, we recognize that the people who love us are deeply concerned by the slow suicide our food behaviors appear to be.
  5. All I have to do is eat in moderation.
    Sure, and while were at it, we can build a time machine, be in two places and once, and bring peace and harmony to the world with one magic word. Controlling our food is no longer possible for us. By the time we learned about OA, that ship had sailed a long time ago.
  6. Life wouldn’t be worth it if I couldn’t have my favorite foods.
    Really? And how’s life going with those favorite foods?
  7. Depriving myself of my favorite foods is just a way to punish myself.
    Perhaps abstaining from those foods is a way to give ourselves the gifts of freedom, joy, and happiness?
  8. I’m just an emotional eater.
    Maybe true. If so, try this experiment just to make sure: Put a serving of your favorite food in front of yourself, but keep the rest of the contents of its original container within arm’s reach. Now sit in front of that one serving and see if you can not eat it. Try it for 5 minutes. 10 minutes. An hour. Try it a couple days in a row. In our experience, few if any compulsive overeaters can keep themselves from not only eating that serving but from getting into the rest of the container as well. It’s because our emotions are only a trigger for our eating, not the root cause.
  9. I eat because of what someone else did to me or how they treated me. You’d eat too!
    In other words, we take the poison we intend for the other person.
  10. I know myself, and I can’t change.
    Do you really know yourself? What we find out in OA is that underneath the highly-defended face we present to the world is a person we don’t know very well. We haven’t let anyone, including ourselves, get close to that person for years, perhaps decades, because of pain and fear. We’ve discovered that our outward behaviors can indeed be changed if we let go of what we think we know about ourselves and adopt an attitude of rigorous honesty, openness, and willingness to try what millions of others have used successfully to arrest this killing disease one day at a time.
  11. I just need to get through ____, and I’ll OK.
    In our experience, addiction doesn’t care what’s going on in our lives. We can eat over a broken shoelace, a broken heart, a broken arm, or a broken home. There’s always some reason to eat.
  12. I’ve tried everything else, and OA won’t be any different.
    OA isn’t like anything else. Come in, stick around, you’ll see.

THE Cause versus Because

Here’s an obvious statement: We OA members eat over our feelings. Our program literature tells us that the cycle of addictive behavior begins with a thought. We are activated before the first bite. A primary emotional trigger for addicts of any stripe is resentment.

The Big Book describes resentment as “the number one offender.” We eat because we are pissed off at the world, at people, at situations. When Bill Wilson and company put together the Big Book in the 1930s, they very carefully selected their words. They knew that the addicted brain manipulates us by turning our feelings into powerful language. So when they wrote down how they inventoried resentment, they used precise language that doesn’t give our brains wiggle room to make excuses.

Look at page 65 in the fourth edition of the Big Book. It lays out the first three columns of resentment inventory (the fourth column, or “turnaround” appears in the middle of page 67). The first column is headed “I’m Resentful At.” The second: “The Cause.” Notice they didn’t say “BEcause” but rather “The Cause.” There’s a world of difference.

Our addict minds are like little lawyers, always seeking to parse language in ways that justify or excuse our behaviors and let us keep eating. Among trial lawyers, there’s a well-known axiom about questioning a witness. Never ask why [unless you’ve personally coached the witness’ answer]. Lawyers frequently ask leading questions that begin with WhatWhoWhen, Where, or How. These are all closed-ended questions with a single answer: “I saw Joe”; “I was cleaning the barn”; “8:19 PM”; “He opened the door with a lock pick.” But why is open-ended. It allows a witness to pontificate and deflect blame elsewhere. It allows opinion to enter the record. It may also give a witness license to build sympathy when sympathy is the opposite of what you want to elicit.

In a similar way, “because” is a weasel word for us addicts. We use it as a way to keep on destroying ourselves with food. Why do we eat? Because blah blah blah. If someone asked us why we were burnt up, we’d give them a litany of because statements. Insidiously, what because” does is shift the blame to someone else.

Because Mom said I was fat, I am resentful.

This is far different from the language the Big Book recommends in that second column: “THE Cause.” To get grammatical for a second, “the” is the definite article. It indicates singularity or specificity. It reduces confusion and ambiguity. To use it in a sentence related to resent would sound like these examples

The cause of my resentment is Mom’s saying I was fat.

 

We can see that when we use “the cause” instead of “because” we turn a statement of blame into a statement of fact.

Here’s a big difference between these two ways of talking about resentment. “Because” creates slippery slopes. We’ve all heard someone talk about how their mind will create a chain of because statements that leads to eating:

Because Mom said I was fat, I must not be good enough. Because I’m not good enough, I feel pain. Because I feel pain, I need to get rid of it, so I eat.

The struck out text is a reminder of how over time our brains skip over the “reasoning” and go straight to the food. But “THE cause” doesn’t easily lead to that slippery slope.

Mom said I was fat, so I must not be good enough….

Here we can see that when we put “because” ahead of Mom, she bears the blame for our believing her. If we put “because” instead of “so” it wouldn’t even make sense. When we put “so” in front of “I,” we start to see that we are taking someone else’s words and turning them into a reason to eat. Why should we believe that we are not good enough just because Mom says we are fat? Unless we, of course, we, ourselves, are complicit in that belief?

We don’t have to be linguists for OA to work. But the folks who wrote the Big Book used “The Cause” instead of “Because” because they knew from personal experience that blaming the rest of the world for their drinking predicament didn’t work. We have to own our part of things. We’re the ones holding onto the hurts, big or tiny. We’re the ones eating ourselves to an early grave. After all, it’s our inventory, and no one else’s.

Tradition of the Month: Keeping OA Simple

6. An OA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the OA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

Tradition Five says that we have but one primary purpose, and that’s helping compulsive eaters get better. That’s it. But we are all flawed human beings, and many of us are very sick people, so Tradition Six gets specific on how to stay focused on our primary purpose. And it boils down to this: Don’t let the outside world in.

Of course, it’s us who lets the outside world in. We keep our own vigil. The world isn’t a hoard of angry barbarians storming our ramparts, just as food isn’t hurtling into our mouths under its own power. Instead, our brains convince us to shove in another bite. Similarly, outside influences arrive in the form of our own best intentions. That’s why these were Dr. Bob’s last words to Bill W.:

“Remember Bill, let’s not louse this thing up. Let’s keep it simple.” (Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers, p. 343)

Tradition Five is simplicity itself. Our only job is to carry the message. Dr. Bob was warning Bill, a man of energy and ideas, that once things get complicated, our attention to simplicity wavers. You can’t take back the acorn once it’s grown into an oak.

Imagine an intergroup that actively courted outside relationships. Think how quickly the tangle of outside issues would consume it:

“We’ve got to keep the money coming.”

“We can’t say something our business friends will take offense to.”

“Can we give the company a few minutes to speak at our workshop?”

“This will be so good for our intergroup. The papers will run with it.”

“I don’t care if that meeting doesn’t like him, the candidate is promising us funding!”

“We should offer them a seat on our intergroup.”

Complicated? Heck, yeah. Even if this intergroup had a powerful leadership team that could keep the outside influences at bay for some time, the toll would be complete exhaustion for them and a weakening of everyone’s ability to remember the still-suffering compulsive eater. Eventually, a weaker leadership team would come along, and these once carefully managed outside relationships would come to dominate the intergroup. Think of the countless hours of meeting time and personal time this kind of thing would require.

It’s not difficult to imagine those lost hours because whether at the meeting or intergroup level, discussions like these already occur. Have you, for example, had a meeting where a member has asked about having outside literature on the table? Or inviting a non-member to provide a service? Or about a member who wants to donate a service their business provides? If so, how did that meeting go? Experience suggests that these topics tend to elicit a great deal of discussion, usually heated, even for simple yes/no questions. Now multiply that by many orders of magnitude, and you can see how quickly the outside world can derail us from our mission, how members could be turned off entirely from OA, and how nasty it could all become.

So keeping it simple isn’t just a way, it’s the only way. We constantly remind ourselves of the need for complete autonomy from the outside world. Here we are food addicts, out there we are consumers, members of demographic subgroups, or an opportunity. The only opportunists we can afford to have in OA are those who see a chance to recover from the killing disease of compulsive eating.

 

Step of the Month: Step 6

  1. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

To do Step 6 effectively, we need to know what a defect of character actually is. After all, how can we get rid of something if we don’t know where to look for it? As the AA Twelve and Twelve tells us, our defects are simply natural drives that have been taken to extremes in the course of our illness. That’s good news since it means that we suffer the same defects as every other human being. But it’s a challenge because we don’t remember a time when those drives weren’t so overpowering that the considerable abilities of self-reflection and self-control that all humans have been granted could be used to tame them.

The same AA Twelve and Twelve uses as a framework for discussion the seven deadly sins, or PAGGLES: Pride, Anger, Greed, Gluttony, Lust, Envy, Sloth. In the early 1950s, these provided a very familiar set of defects. Today, with fewer of us identifying as religious, these characteristics may feel alien. For the moment, however, we can draw an important inference from that list. We might notice that none of them is a verb. We don’t see Judging, Yelling, Hoarding, Eating, Whoring, Shunning, or Lazing for example. Defects and effects are two different things.

Defects are traits, characteristics, or states of being. They are descriptors. That list of actions, however, are the behavioral results of our defects. The Big Book suggests that, for each resentment, we examine where we have been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, and afraid. Those four items represent our core character defects. All our addiction-centered behaviors and attitudes can ultimately be filed under them, especially under self-seeking, which is what we did to get what we wanted or feel better.

So moving away from the seven deadlies, especially for those of us without a strong religious identity, we can identify our character defects as those traits inside us that lead to our worst behaviors. And the Big Book helpfully reduces them to selfishness, dishonesty, self-seeking, and fear.

  • Selfishness: What did I want? Or, an overwhelming drive that I couldn’t control.
  • Dishonesty: What was the lie I told myself? Or, an untruth I used to justify my behavior.
  • Self-Seeking: What did I do to get what I wanted or feel better? Or, the actions I took that resulted from a willingness to indulge my selfishness.
  • Fear: What was I afraid of? Or, what fear motivated my selfishness, dishonesty, and self-seeking in the first place?

To demonstrate the difference between defects and effects, we might think about an action such as gossiping. Gossiping, itself, is not a defect of character. It is a self-seeking behavior. We were willing, for example, to indulge our underlying fear that someone else was getting ahead or acting against our interest, so we gossiped about them. The same goes for cruelty, hitting another person, or compulsively eating. They are all behavior responses enabled by our character defects.

When, in Step 6, we become ready to let God remove all our defects of character, we may want to take a moment to consider what that means. It’s not just that we want HP to make us stop binging. It’s that we want our Higher Power to remove or remedy those conditions inside us that have proven over time to lead inevitably to overeating. We want not merely relief but total change. If those defects are on-ramps to compulsive-eating, we want God to close those entrances and reroute us to the superhighway of an abstinent, spiritual life.

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!

Step 3, One Day at a Time

This week a long-time member guest posts about their experience with step 3.

As I became acquainted with the steps, the more I began to feel anxious about step 3. In some ways, step 3 is the first step to as a commitment from me. What does it mean to give myself and my life over to the care of God? To me, it didn’t really matter that it was a god of my understanding. The bottom line was I was pledging to leave the actions and decisions of my life to someone or something else. The lack of control—which as a child I experienced as painful and humiliating—was something I vowed never to endure again. Not in a job. Not in relationships. And so I went about my merry way—only it wasn’t too merry.

So, when I allowed myself to even contemplate the third step, the first image that came to me was of a mostly deflated balloon, with no direction. Without the helium of my personality, who would I be or become? I felt as if the third step was asking me to rid myself of everything I was or knew (as if that would even be possible!) and allow the program to brainwash me. Was it a cult, as I ‘d read online?

In time, I began to see that the third step was not the first step in becoming a humorless automaton but an invitation to become an active cocreator in my emotional and spiritual healing. What I was saying yes to was not deprivation and loss but real power to conduct the life I was meant to live—full of integrity, meaning, joy, sorrow, compassion, and love. I was agreeing to do the right thing, and I’d be given the necessary power if only I asked. My childish “wants,” which were mercurial and unending, were put aside until it was clear whether they were important or just distractions or illusions. Nothing I needed was kept from me, but lots of things I thought I needed were examined.

I am slowly (and I mean really slowly) becoming disciplined. I can see that discipline equals freedom. Discipline with food, discipline around not acting out my mercurial feelings, discipline around fulfilling obligations to others and myself.

Step 3 is necessary to work the steps that follow. But I also see that I have step 3 work to do when I bristle at doing something I don’t want to do or when I want to eat something I shouldn’t. Yes it is a step I take before I being making my moral inventory, but it’s also a step that I can take each and every day.

Tradition of the Month: Tradition 8

8. Overeaters Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

While our small Intergroup has no particular need of special workers, that doesn’t mean that we don’t adhere to tradition eight. There are two halves to this sentence, two sides of a coin. On one side, we don’t hire out for any job that relates directly to carrying the message of OA to compulsive eaters. On the other hand, we might hire people for jobs that only indirectly relate to carrying the message, if it is necessary.

Both the AA and OA Twelve and Twelves tell us the same thing. That we cannot expect to function long and effectively in this world if we don’t pay our bills, review our correspondence, and do the other niggling tasks required to keep OA going. In our area, those tasks are manageable by us because we are small. It is not necessary to hire professionals. We can handle both the administrative tasks and carrying the message. Not so in many places with significantly larger intergroups or within the broader service structure.

On the flip side, however, we can never, ever hire someone to do our twelfth step work for us. We do not pay workshop or retreat presenters for their time (though we do, rightly, reimburse their legitimate expenses). We do not pay our sponsors for their help. We don’t earn chits at the OA store for speaking up at meetings. There is no quid pro quo in carrying the message. That includes our time spent organizing events that carry the message.

Our payment is much greater than mere cash: staying in recovery, connecting more deeply to our fellowship, and seeing the newcomer change into the kind of person their HP wants them to be.

Monetary rewards would cheapen what we do. God does not appear to do business in dollars and cents, but rather in hearts and minds. Everyone who has ever paid for a diet system can understand why the lack of profit motive is vital to our ability to help others.

Tradition eight ties together with tradition seven to give us a working philosophy we might describe as DIO: Do it ourselves. We pay our own way no matter what. Similarly, we do all the work ourselves until it affects our ability to carry the message. Then we pay someone to help us, so that we can continue our twelfth step work unabated.

Like with so many things in life, tradition eight may not seem like much on the outside, but its spiritual significance lies just beneath its somewhat mechanical phrasing.