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Balance in Program

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The week before Unity Day, I made a commitment to call three people whom I had not seen in many months. I left three messages, and one called me back. She was happy to hear my voice, but said, “I just cannot stand to do all the work this program requires: the prep, planning, shopping, and precooking, and the reading and writing— the whole regimen . . . I can’t do OA right now. I need to breathe.”

My first thought was, “Shoot, what program are you working?”

Of course, I did not say that. Instead I said, “Well, I miss seeing you and hearing your shares, and you know you will always be welcomed back with open arms.”

I have been an OA member since 1986. My path includes more than thirty two years of periods of abstinence and relapse, all through which I never left OA or stopped giving service at group, intergroup, and region levels. Recovering physically from my relapses has given me lots of opportunities to grow emotionally and spiritually as I reworked the Steps with a sponsor. Today, because of my commitment to my HP and myself, I am in my fifth year of sustained abstinence and sustained recovery, one day at a time.

I serve as chair for my intergroup. I go to two or three meetings a week. I read Voices of Recovery daily and write in an email group at least six days a week. I sponsor two women. These things do take time, but there’s still room for dance exercise classes, film society, gardening, my household, and my family.

I think back to that lapsed member who was overwhelmed by what she perceived as the restrictions and require ments of her program. Trust me, I am a deep-in-the-gutter, eating-while-driving, bingeing-in-the-night-and-hiding-theevidence kind of compulsive eater, but I cannot work this program with white knuckles and clenched teeth. So, I have a drill, a routine that is imperfect yet is working for me.

I use the Tools, but not each one every day. I stick to my plan of eating 95 percent of the time, and I also have boundaries that 100 percent of the time I never, ever cross. I refuse to let this program—or, better stated, I refuse to make this program— beat me up or tell me I am not enough. My program comes from a place of love, self-care, commitment, and honesty, balanced with loving self-discipline and a heavy dose of HP’s support and reliance.

I do the footwork daily, practicing this “design for living,” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p. 15) as if my life depends on it because it does. Using the Tools, working the Steps, living by the Principles, and making healthy eating choices frees me to have “a life of sane and happy usefulness” (p.130). I live my life, not with gritted teeth and clenched fists, but with open hands, ready, willing, and able to receive all that HP is graciously giving me.

— Margie P., Sanibel, Florida USA

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