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No Wrong Door

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“In keeping with Tradition Ten, Overeaters Anonymous has no opinion on bariatric (weight-loss) surgery. In the spirit of Tradition Three, Overeaters Anonymous welcomes anyone with a desire to stop eating compulsively, including those who have had bariatric surgery or are contemplating it” (Business Conference Policy Manual, 2018b).

When the delegates to WSBC 2018 voted to adopt this policy statement, I was thrilled on a deeply personal level because I am a long-term, abstaining member of OA who has undergone bariatric surgery. Before this vote, many like me had grown tired of feeling ashamed in OA about our choice. We also had no desire to suggest that our choice is right for anyone else. My desire instead is that the choice I made, done with the support of my physician, my family, and some of my closest OA friends, does not serve to diminish the quality of my recovery when I relate my experience, strength, and hope for others.

Just as it is inappropriate to give an OA member unsought opinions for any other medical or psychological ailment, it is inappropriate to tell someone it’s a mistake if they’ve undergone or are considering weight-loss surgery, which can be deemed by a doctor to be medically necessary. But I’ve been told I made a mistake. And I’ve watched people leave in a huff when, during a qualification, I’ve stated that my recovery path included bariatric surgery. I’ve been told that if I had a better relationship with my Higher Power I would have made a different choice.

Maybe I did make a mistake. Maybe I would have made a different choice. That changes nothing; but if I had less experience in Twelve Step programs, these judgements could well have driven me from the rooms of OA!

The Twelve Steps are the solution. Bariatric surgery is a tool. Many members use tools other than OA’s nine Tools of Recovery, including therapy, exercise, crafts, snuggling with children or pets, or other activities to help redirect negative thinking and reprogram addictive behaviors. If you don’t use the same tools I do, it doesn’t make you wrong and me right. If you don’t follow the same food plan I follow, it doesn’t mean I’m abstinent and you’re not.

Tradition Three states, “The only requirement for OA membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively.” It says nothing about excluding someone who chose surgery to help them find a lasting recovery from compulsive eating that works for them.

Is bariatric surgery itself an outside issue? I’m not sure. What is definitely an outside issue is any endorsement or disparagement of such surgery. That would be a promotion or denigration of a personal, medical choice, and such statements could draw OA into public controversy.

There is no “wrong door” to use to get to recovery from compulsive eating. When we follow our primary purpose, we cannot close our minds or hearts to anyone just because he or she may have taken a different path to our rooms.

— Karen B.

Written and published at the request of OA region trustees.

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