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Alternative to “Abstinence”

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I object to the word “abstinence” in the OA pamphlet A Commitment to Abstinence. Alcoholics abstain from booze or they don’t. Overeaters cannot avoid eating (unless they go down the rabbit hole of anorexia or bulimia). I know you justify “abstinence” as refraining from overeating or other eating disorders. It sounds fake to me. Would OA as an organization consider the word “moderation” to be valid instead?

Thank you for your thoughtful letter about using the word “moderation” in place of “abstinence.” If you would like the Fellowship as a whole to consider such a proposal, the procedure would be to work with your intergroup to submit a motion to the World Service Business Conference.

In 1995, I was at the World Service Convention in Minneapolis and heard our member A.G. speak. He was a member of OA in its early days and had attended the very first World Service meeting in the early 1960s. A.G. was asked about the saying, “In AA, members slay the dragon; in OA, members must pet the dragon three times a day.” Most people take this to mean something similar to what you said: that members of AA do not drink, but members of OA must continue to eat. I’ll always remember A.G.’s response. He said it’s not true that members of AA don’t drink—all human beings have to drink, just as all humans have to eat. But AA members determine what is poisonous to them, and they don’t drink those poisons. He encouraged OA members to determine our particular poisons, then abstain from eating those poisons.

Based on those thoughts and my own experiences (both in my disease and in my recovery), I personally am fine with using the word “abstinence” to encompass the idea of refraining from compulsive eating and other compulsive food behaviors. But I would be interested to see a motion suggesting an alternative if you’re willing to propose it, to see how the rest of the Fellowship feels about these ideas. I appreciate your concern for our Fellowship and your interest in improving it.

— Members of the Board of Trustees provide answers to Ask-It Basket questions


Does a question about program have you or the group conscience puzzled? Send your question about applying the Traditions or another issue to info@oa.org and an OA trustee will send you a response.

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