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Fostering Harmony

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My very first OA meeting demonstrated the Principle of unity.

The OA website provided me with info about a local meeting and a contact person’s phone number. When I called, she invited me to a 10 a.m. meeting and also to a book study group that met half an hour before. I thanked her. On May 28, 2017, at 9:25 a.m., I showed up.

Five women were seated around a table. I was welcomed and handed a little white book: For Today. The book study opened with the Serenity Prayer; I knew it and joined in. Someone read the For Today passage for May 28 and the corresponding question in the For Today Workbook. Each member shared briefly on the question “Leaving the results to God, what actions can I take today to be of service to someone or to take care of myself?” (p. 78). I listened attentively. Then I was invited to share, if I chose. I looked at the gentle faces around me and said, “I came here today to take care of myself. This is my first OA meeting.”

A few more members joined us for the regular meeting. I shared that reading the pamphlet Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight had led me to seek out OA. Members gave me a Newcomer Packet and a copy of the group’s meeting format. I bought my own copy of the little white book. I knew it was valuable. I was given a card with phone numbers, hugged, and encouraged to keep coming back.

From my very first phone contact and first meeting, I felt the unity that another member writes about in Overeaters Anonymous, Third Edition: “In a room full of strangers who were similarly afflicted . . . Serenity filled the air . . . Hope was restored. Guilt and shame were released. I had a solution” (pp. 54-55). Afterward, a member left me a very nice welcoming message. I kept coming back to that meeting, then and now.

From the beginning, I learned I contribute to group unity through respectful, attentive listening at meetings and simple acts of service, such as displaying our OA literature and setting up chairs for the meeting. I began to share about my use of the Tools of Recovery, instead of using the meeting as a forum to air my problems. I met with another member before our book study to foster fellowship.

As I listened to others share, I realized I could identify with the feelings every person expressed. In the past, I’d judged anorexics as vain and obsessively concerned about appearance. Now I realize they have a compulsive eating disorder, just like I do. At times when I was full of anxiety, fear, and anger, I had no appetite—maybe they felt that way all the time? Compassion replaced judgment: I learned I can no longer judge myself or others by size, shape, or weight. Tradition One fosters harmony and unity, not comparison and judgment.

For OA unity, the group connects with Overeaters Anonymous as a whole when we use only OA-approved literature, follow OA guidelines for our meeting format, and use only OA podcasts at our meetings. We can also participate in OA activities outside our own group: We can announce online groups, OA workshops, and retreats. Our members can enjoy workshops hosted by other groups and attend other OA meetings. Recently, my group joined with other groups to start a new OA meeting in the evening.

“The First Tradition of unity reminds us of an important truth: We are not alone. We are connected to our fellow human beings. Our emotional and spiritual health depends on the health of our relationships . . . we are learning to connect with other people in ways that nurture all of us as we recover together” (The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, Second Edition, p. 97).

I feel as if my OA journey has only just started. Every day, I humbly pray to my Higher Power, asking to be nourished physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I am grateful that my journey is intertwined with my sponsor; the members in my meetings; and with those who create our podcasts, write our literature, and give service to OA at so many levels. I am grateful for every person who has walked this way before me. With my fellow OA members, I am grateful to be making footprints of our own for others to follow.

Mary Beth S., Florida USA


For Discussion and Journaling: In “Fostering Harmony”, the writer shares how the Principle of unity was evident at her first meeting. As we prepare for Unity Day on Sunday, February 24, 2019, at 11:30 a.m. local time, reflect on examples of unity that you have encountered in OA. How have these instances helped further your recovery? What part can you play to maintain unity in OA?

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