OA - my experience & Abstinence
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Are you a member of OA? Have you ever tried it? Do you think it's crazy or wouldn't work for you? I did. It took 20 years, several failed attempts at joining, and urging by a good therapist, for me to finally give it a fair trial. Unbelievably to me, I'm a member still, 14-mos after giving it a go for real for the first time.
One of the reasons I hesitated was that OA seemed more extreme than I was capable of--I mean, going to meetings every week, multiple times, following some rigid food plan and never eating the foods I lived for-yeah right. And then there's the whole god aspect all throughout the literature. God talk got on my nerves. And, I'm not a 'group' person, so I told myself OA just wasn't for me. But when for the 2nd time I reached 220 pounds and was DESPERATELY depressed (nearly committed for it), I became willing to try OA for real. And this is what I found when I finally decided to work the program and the steps:
OA *can* work for me. I don't think OA is the only answer, but it is one very real solution. Perhaps no single solution works for all, but I am a tough case, and OA is working for me. I can hardly imagine cases more imbalanced than mine (though I know they exist). When OA doesn't work for someone, it often is because the person is unwilling to work the program. It is a program that requires much: an open mind, a hard look at one's self, time and effort, and acceptance of its principles. It's not an easy or quick fix.
Abstinence is one gift of working the program. The tool of a food plan is meant for all who choose it in Overeaters Anonymous, but the definition and the creation of a food plan is the decision of the individual, and there are nearly as many different abstinences as there are people in OA.
Abstinence is more than a food plan, but it does include one. For me, abstinence is made up of all of the healthy boundaries I create around eating. For example, I can eat pecans, but if I grab a bag and mindlessly graze them while distracted, that just isn't abstinent behavior. So I eat an ounce or less at a time, always, before considering the next bite.
Firstly, I gave up my #1 binge food, the food that guaranteed I would binge when I ate it. I could only surrender this food one day at a time. But I also use the principles of eating when hungry, stopping when full, striving for 3 meals and 1-2 optional snacks. It helped me to decide what luxurious foods I would continue to include in my daily food plan (like cheese). I eat these luxury foods consciously, measured if necessary, to be sure I'm eating roughly a serving. I can eat more, if roughly measured, but I must eat consciously. At times, I pray to get through a craving or desire for more.
Now, I have to say, even though I didn't have a religion or a personal 'god' before OA, and was very skeptical of the whole idea when I first attended meetings, that defining my own higher power and calling on it in times of difficulty, as well as frequently listening to the stories of others, has made all the difference in my ability to be abstinent.
I will never forget the first time I walked into a store WANTING chocolate *badly* but because my sponsor told me to just *try* praying when such a time came, even though I didn't believe it would help, I said out loud "God, help me do your will." --and wouldn't you know it, I *forgot* the chocolate. **And I DONT forget chocolate** but I am 8+ months abstinent today, with some learning and adjustments to my food plan and a very few slip moments, in spite of going through a divorce, cross-country move, job search, and a number of additional major life changes. Praying doesn't always do the trick right on the spot, but it does more often than I'd have ever imagined. And when it doesn't, I have 8 other tools on my tool belt to help.
If I were in to my main trigger food and not in OA, I wouldn't have made it to this place today. I'm certain of that. I don't even think I'd be divorced (and the divorce is a good thing in my case). I was existing in the misery of the marriage because I didn't have the strength to change. Once I started OA, the strength came. Two months into my OA journey, I found the fortitude to face the end of my marriage. But it would be another 4 months before I would become abstinent. Still, I started the 'spiritual work' immediately and the dividends started paying out even before I found abstinence.
Possibly the best gift of the OA program is that I have started to live in a way that honors my need for spiritual growth and brings about real life results. OA has also given me community and is helping eradicate the isolation and shame of my binging life-style. And the side-effect, apart from currently being 45 pounds lighter than my highest weight, is that this truly is NOT about the weight. The weight loss is a side-effect of living sanely. I --NEVER-- believed that possible. Weight loss was number one, and numbers 2 through 10 out of 10, in my book. But now, weighing less is just a consequence of the gift of sanity that working this program daily affords me.
If you're curious about OA, well, it took me nearly 20 years of curiosity and dipping my toe in, before really deciding to dive in and actually work the 12 steps and the entire program (I'm still only at step 4). But, if you're curious, check out OA's website (oa.org) for live phone meetings, or pre-recorded podcasts, and check out the meetings in your area. Live meetings are best, but the online presence is phenomenal and people are recovering every day who have never set foot in a live meeting. Still, there is something about the unity and community support of in-person meetings and relationships that I would miss out on, if I were unable to attend live meetings.
If there are no or limited meetings in your area and if one were so bold, it is possible even to attend AA meetings as an overeater. With the change of one word, it is virtually an identical program. This is perhaps not ideal, but could be a start. If you decide to give OA a try, I encourage you to get the workbook and work the steps with it, all the better with a sponsor. But, whatever works for you, I wish you ONLY and ALL the best, and would love to hear what works for you.