Home Abstinence Understand, Appreciate, Implement, Reflect

Understand, Appreciate, Implement, Reflect

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I came to understand abstinence initially by doing what I saw other recovering OA members doing. This included: weighing and measuring food; following a food plan created by a registered dietician who tailored it for my body’s needs; avoiding sugar and wheat products; doing OA outreach phone calls; attending meetings; doing service; reading OA and AA literature; journaling daily; studying and practicing the Principles of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions to the best of my ability; and experiencing spiritual practices regularly to make conscious connection with a loving Higher Power of my understanding.

In time, I gained a better appreciation of abstinence by studying OA’s definition: “Abstinence is the action of refraining from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors while working towards or maintaining a healthy body weight. Spiritual, emotional, and physical recovery is the result of living the Overeaters Anonymous Twelve-Step program” [Business Conference Policy Manual 1988b (amended 2011)]. Higher Power and OA have given abstinence to me freely. Working with a registered dietitian; using a plan of eating; working with a sponsor and sponsee; and using a locally produced “abstinence kit” with scales, cups, and measuring spoons helps me implement actions daily that keep me healthy, after I surrender my will and life to the Higher Power of my understanding in Step Three. Trying a variety of foods within the scope of my plan of eating allows for flexibility and nutrition so that I can—Higher Power willing—continue to enjoy freedom from compulsive overeating and a simple, beautiful, purposeful life one day at a time.

Abstinence has given me the physical gifts of improved cholesterol levels and the ease and joy of wearing comfortable, appropriate clothes that fit year after year. Abstinence has given me freedom from chafed, raw, red inner thighs and discomfort in my lower back at the end of the workday. It’s given me the ability to hike, swim, run, bicycle, row, backpack, and practice yoga and qigong with more physical and emotional freedom than I ever experienced in my youth while I was compulsively overeating.

Abstinence has given me freedom from physical cravings for food. Before I worked with a registered dietitian, I’d repeatedly try food plans I read about in books or brochures, but I would “cave in” within three to fourteen days and overeat compulsively. In recovery, I learned I have a relatively fast metabolism, so the meal plans I’d tried to use from books didn’t provide enough food for me. No wonder I had difficulty sticking with food plans that worked for other people! They weren’t made for me. Help from a professional allowed me to see this pattern and experience compassion for myself. In recovery, I began taking care of what I ate with meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal preparation prior to mealtimes, rather than using food addictively to quell myself emotionally.

Abstinence has made it possible, a step at a time, to grow emotionally and spiritually in all areas of my life. Before I put down the food and food behaviors I used reactively and addictively, I couldn’t get out of unproductive patterns in life. Abstinence gives me a chance to look at these patterns and surrender them, one at a time, to HP. I can change voluntarily with HP’s help and with open, honest, willing work with other compulsive overeaters in recovery. When I falter emotionally, reflecting on abstinence gives me hope about surrender and change in all areas of my life. Thank you, OA.

— Anonymous, Rome, New York USA

For Discussion

In “Understand, Appreciate, Implement, Reflect,” the writer’s abstinence journey includes observing abstinent OA members, reading about abstinence, trying different plans of eating, consulting a dietary professional, and coming to recognize physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits. What has been your abstinence journey? Has it been similar to or different from this writer’s journey? How would you explain your abstinence journey to a newcomer to help them understand abstinence?

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