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Which Word

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I didn’t focus so much on the word “abstinence” in the March Lifeline Ask-It Basket until I read a Share It in the August issue that expressed a strong preference for the word “abstinence” and explained why.

I, a longtime OA member, have always struggled with the word “abstinence.” It took me several years to come to terms with that word. In fact, coming to terms was part of my process of finding serenity around food and eating. So when I read the answer to the Ask-It Basket query, I wished that writer had already heard or read about one speaker’s words at the 1995 World Service Convention: it isn’t true that AA members simply have to stop drinking, because all humans must drink; rather, AA and OA members both must decide what is poisonous for them and then avoid those poisons.

I take words very literally and often have shared in meetings that I translate “abstinence” as “serenity around food and food behaviors.” I am abstaining from unhealthy behaviors around food.

I’ve often heard other members say abstinence is the most important thing in their lives without exception. I would not use those words. Serenity and my relationship to Higher Power are more important—and I do realize that my recovery, abstaining from unhealthy food behaviors, brings me that serenity and closeness to Higher Power.

I am encouraged to read this kind of Ask-It Basket question and the trustee’s answer to these concerns. It gives me hope and inspiration that perhaps the wording might change. I don’t know if “moderation” is the word I would choose, but I want to contribute my voice to this discussion. Yes, I’d like to see an alternative to the word “abstinence.”

— Lynne S., Eugene, Oregon USA

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