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One Thing I Did Right

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I’m sorry to say I’ve had many relapses during my twenty-two years in program. But the last five years have been much better: back-to-back abstinence based on putting together a program that uses all the OA elements. My program reminds me of my first relapse, how I got into it and how I got out.

I had come into OA and gotten nine months of pink-cloud abstinence, nice and easy. I was thrilled! I did whatever I was told because I had run out of ideas. Attend at least six meetings to learn the many ways OA can help me? Check. Get a sponsor? Check. Turn over my food daily and write the thirty questions (a writing exercise used back then to work Steps One, Two, and Three)? Check. Lead meetings and offer to sponsor once I had thirty days of abstinence? Check.

Everything was fine until I went on vacation. I remained abstinent until I reached an airport lounge on the way home. Nauseated, I medicated myself with an apple. Not too dangerous, you might think, but not on my food plan.

That set off a nine-month relapse, leaving me baffled and demoralized. I kept attending meetings but didn’t know how to change my situation. Finally, I realized I might be in relapse.

I remembered someone at meetings who had been thin and was now heavy. I called her, thinking maybe she was in relapse and could tell me something about it. She told me she’d recently emerged from relapse. She invited me to have coffee after our meeting that night.

After the meeting, she explained that when she was struggling and in relapse, an OA friend told her, “You have the whole OA program here. Why don’t you just do the program?” I heard her message, and it reminded me of the “kit of spiritual tools” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., pp. 25 and 95). So, what could I do that I wasn’t already doing? I was attending two meetings a week. It occurred to me to attend more meetings.

At one of the meetings, a speaker talked about emerging from relapse. She had had a good period of abstinence, then a relapse, and now nine months of clean abstinence. She agreed to sponsor me. She suggested I attend all the meetings of a new OA group she had helped start.

The group had five meetings on three different days (a beginner meeting on Wednesday, followed by a speaker meeting; a Traditions meeting on Saturday, followed by a Step meeting; and a Sunday meeting using Big Book and Brown Book readings). The idea was for most group members to attend most meetings. The members would note if you weren’t there, and someone would call you.

I attended the meetings and got involved in service. I worked the Steps under her direction. I started making three OA calls a day, and I got abstinent. That was good, but not good enough for me to keep consistent abstinence over the years. I had much more to learn about honesty and humility. I had to work the Steps many times and add other elements to my program: prayer, meditation, and a nightly written Tenth Step. These things enlarged my spiritual life. I had to figure out how to put OA first, keeping my head in the program and maintaining conscious contact with my Higher Power.

I made many mistakes before I got things working as they do now. But I did one thing right: I kept coming back. I couldn’t think of where else to go. No other answer existed. Eventually I worked enough structure and support into my program to stay clean. I prayed for surrender, which God gave me. I plan to take the program actions daily. They work and I like the results!

— Susie, Glen Allen, Virginia USA

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