Home Abstinence Key Specifics

Key Specifics

5 min read

In all my seventeen years in OA, I’ve regarded “abstinence” as an ambiguous term—and I’ve blamed that ambiguity for my relapses. Focusing on ambiguity made it easy for me to erode my abstinence. My epiphany occurred when my sponsor, who has forty-two years of abstinence, said, “Abstinence doesn’t have to be ambiguous.” That gave me pause for thought. The pause turned into weeks, during which I couldn’t stop thinking about the implications of what she’d said. Abstinence doesn’t have to be ambiguous.

I came to realize that I had defined my abstinence, and for some reason, I’d defined it ambiguously. Ambiguity isn’t inherent in the term—I’d put it there! But if I’d put it there, I could take it away too; I could define my abstinence specifically.

To a degree, I had begun making it less ambiguous already. My abstinence included a plan of eating that is three meals a day with nothing in between. That’s specific: no ambiguity there. I knew what sized portions I could eat and listed the foods on my plan. I started writing everything I ate in my food diary. By adding how much and when I ate, I could increase my honesty and make my concept of abstinence even less ambiguous.

Then I saw it: my problem was honesty, not ambiguity! By making my abstinence definition specific and recording my eating, I was putting myself in a position to increase my honesty. In “How It Works,” the Big Book says that those who do not recover are people who are “constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p. 58). My relapses, which I had blamed on the erosion of my program, were self inflicted. I had set myself up to fail by being nonspecific about abstinence. I could convince myself that I wasn’t breaking my abstinence (though I really was) because my ambiguity blocked me from an honest awareness of myself.

When I started recording in my food diary what I’d eaten for each meal of the day, I also marked the end of that meal, so I could no longer kid myself that the fruit I ate three hours after my lunch was just a dessert I’d forgotten to have. I was, in fact, eating all day long while saying I was eating only three (long) meals a day. Likewise, until I started recording in my diary the amounts of the food I ate, I could pretend my serving sizes were not creeping up, even though they were. I saw that for me, specificity was the key to honesty. And honesty was the key to abstinence.

Jerry A., Beaverton, Oregon USA 

  • My Abstinence Kits

    When I first came to OA forty years ago, my idea of a plan of eating was a diet. OA member…
  • Ten Thousand Miracles

    I had prepared a salad and was fully enjoying the two sources of protein in it when it occ…
  • Simple Plan

    Following a simple fill-in-the-blanks plan of eating has been so helpful this past week wh…
Load More Related Articles
  • Low-Tech Outreach

    I am on my intergroup’s public information committee. We make flyers with a tear-off porti…
  • Available to Everyone

    Here are a few ways I carry the message to other compulsive overeaters. I print out OA’s C…
  • Radio-Active

    I was listening to a commentary about obesity on our local radio station. The commentator …
Load More By admin
  • Spiritual Growth

    By the time I reached Overeaters Anonymous in December of 2005, I weighed 110 pounds (50 k…
  • Steps to Abstinence

    Abstinence is the most important thing in my life. The OA program and the spiritual Twelve…
  • A Change of Purpose

    When I came to OA, I heard “We are not a diet-and-calories club.” “Oh really?” I thought. …
Load More In Abstinence
Comments are closed.

Check Also

Low-Tech Outreach

I am on my intergroup’s public information committee. We make flyers with a tear-off porti…