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OA is Ready When You Are

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It works if you work it. I’m writing because I’ve been listening and talking to OA members who have been around program for less time than me but have expressed disillusionment; I’ve heard concerns and criticisms about OA, the recovery of our members, and the effectiveness of the program. Comments have gone something like this: I don’t know if OA works because I see people with long-term recovery who are fat and I see people with long-term abstinence lose their abstinence.

I’d like to share that I have not seen one person who has worked all Twelve Steps with a sponsor, and continued to work them using the Tools, who has not recovered and continued on a path of recovery, even if they relapse or lose their abstinence. Relapse has been part of many members’ recovery. I don’t judge my own recovery by the scale, and I’ve gained some weight over the last two years due to a lifestyle change, but I am so, so far from where I was before, both physically and emotionally. Just because I’m not thin does not mean I’m not abstinent or that the program isn’t working for me.

I think we get a combination of what we work for and what God graces us with. I think it’s really important, right from the beginning, to focus on the positive. Success for me today is to follow my food plan, not eat between meals, abstain from my binge foods, and not eat compulsively. I choose to be with people who are enthusiastic about the program and the Fellowship: usually happy, positive, upbeat people who have some success. They’re enthusiastic, not because they have to be, but because they continue to experience real results in their lives. I think it’s a mistake to focus too much on physical recovery. I was there myself at the beginning, so I understand, but for me a focus on the physical that excludes emotional and spiritual recovery is mistaken. It would also be wrong for me to think I know where someone else needs to be. I don’t even really know yet where I need to be.

Before OA I was crazy and unbalanced. Today I am not. I’ve been given the grace to see pitfalls in focusing too much energy on the physical. That was part of how I abused myself in the past: not seeing myself as a whole, multifaceted person, but seeing what I thought the rest of the world saw—someone fat, unattractive, unworthy, unacceptable. Today I know that’s not what the world saw. I never was that person. No one is that person. Those thoughts were created and fueled by my own inability to accept myself. That was the way I chose to see myself because of low self-esteem and self-centeredness.

I know OA works. It continues to work for me and many others. I have compassion and tremendous admiration for my fellow OA members who are not “getting it” yet keep coming back anyway; I pray they keep coming back until their miracle happens. Considering the junk I used to eat and the way I used to eat it, every day of my abstinence is a miracle, and I’ve had quite a few other miracles too: I still love meetings after all these years. I’m not isolating. I don’t have a perfect body, but I can still love and accept myself (and consider myself lovable). I have cleared the wreckage of my past and continue to do so. I am at peace most of the time. Miracles!

Today, I deal quickly and rationally with my fears. (Before OA, I lived in fear constantly because of my life’s unmanageability.) There are times when I’m not very willing, but that is me, not the program, and I get the benefits of the program to the degree that I work it. When I work harder at it, I get faster, more dramatic results. I don’t work my program with the same gusto I used to—I am much busier now—but also, I was so messed up and in such pain when I came in that OA had to be ninety percent of my life back then. When I put everything into reclaiming myself and my life, the work paid off. Today, I don’t need to work so hard to live, but I do have to work to maintain my abstinence. It’s not easy, but it’s easier than anything else I’ve ever done and gives me way better results.

OA has truly given me my life back. It’s given my family back to me and given me back to my family, and it’s given me many friends I’ve met on this spiritual path. I have yet to find a way of living better than this one. I know this program really works because I’m in recovery and I’ve been witness to the recovery of countless others. I’ve seen how many people who leave OA come back. Every time they come back, it affirms to me that I’m in the right place. I’m a low-bottom compulsive overeater and can do a lot of damage in a short period of time. Really knowing this is part of what keeps me coming back—that, and the fabulous results in all areas of my life. There is not one part of my life that this program has not touched and improved.

So please, if you feel discouraged, do not be disillusioned or swayed by naysayers. Just do what others have told you worked for them: get a sponsor, work all Twelve Steps, use the Tools, lean on your Higher Power and your fellows instead of the food, use a plan of eating, go to meetings, and help others. That’s what I did; it worked and continues to work for me.

I don’t think there’s a secret, or anything to “get.” I think there’s willingness combined with God’s grace, and he is ready whenever you are. Latch on, like I did and still do, to people who have good long-term recovery (or even good short-term recovery) and let them help you. It’s what we do.

May God bless you and give you the willingness to be abstinent, work this program, help others, and keep coming back.

— Anonymous, Miami, Florida USA

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