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Threefold Abstinence

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Keeping things simple is helpful. Using OA’s definition of abstinence, I had to decide what I could refrain from, one day at a time, no matter where I was or what was happening. Two ingredients that repeated in my food inventory were sugar and white flour. So my definition of physical abstinence was simple: no sugar and no white flour. (My food plan contained the details about how much, when, and what for other foods.) Emotional and spiritual abstinence came later.

My compulsive food behaviors included: eating in the car, standing at the sink shoving food in my mouth, dieting only to binge later on, leaving work for an “important errand” only to stop at a convenience store for a snack, and as AA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions says, “ad infinitum” (p. 47). Clearly, I had to refrain from these behaviors too.

As for what abstinence in OA has given me, I could make a lengthy list. Here are just three gifts:

  1. A personal relationship with God as I understand him. This is Priority One. It comes before everyone and everything.
  2. A life worth living. Before abstinence I simply existed; now I am overflowing with gratitude.
  3. A healthy, fit body and only one wardrobe! When I was compulsively overeating and dieting, I had to keep clothes in three sizes to accommodate my fluctuating weight.

I have released 30 pounds (14 kg), maintained a healthy weight, and remained physically abstinent since November 28, 2005; eventually it occurred to me to define my emotional and spiritual abstinence too. Now, my food abstinence is “No sugar, no bingeing;” my emotional abstinence is “No deliberate manufacturing of negativity;” and spiritually, “I refrain from whatever separates me from God.”

— Audra J., California USA

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