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Beautiful Paradoxes

If you can’t read the text, this busted car says, “Life is beautiful.” 

The longer I am abstinent, attending OA meetings, and work my steps…the more I realize that I will never ‘graduate’ from 12 Step programs.  This is one of the many paradoxes uncovered in recovery.  Some of the other paradoxes are

  • I must pass along the message of recovery to keep the message of recovery.
  • By abstaining from certain foods and eating behaviors I free myself from the bondage of food.
  • Although a feeling, serenity is not birthed from my emotions but from my actions.
  • Surrendering will win the war.

That last one used to drive me up the wall!  For such a long time I battled with diets, food, working out, body image, restricting, you name it and I have probably tried it.  Luckily, I learned at my first meeting that I wasn’t the only person who had such terribly perplexing emotional turmoil when it came to fighting the good fight.  Every single person in that meeting knew exactly what I was talking about when I described my compulsive behavior, emotional discontentment, and spiritual emptiness.

 I love my meetings…and I love all my sisters and brothers who make OA the wonderful family that it is!  Thank you for my recovery!  See you at the next meeting!

 (And a quick shout-out to Murphy for turning 33 today AND being sober and abstinent!  You are a miracle!)

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The Lifeboat

“Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the compulsive overeater who still suffers.” – OA Tradition 5

Sometimes I venture out in a boat on Tampa’s glorious bay and enjoy the beautiful scenery.  Although my trips are lovely and spiritual, I seem to have a strange compulsion to peer over the side of the boat and into the water…and fear falling out to a doom of shark-bait madness.

Is there any reason for me to fear falling off the side of the boat and dying?  Is some strange and mystical wind going to come and shove me off the side and plop – fall directly into the mouth of a vicious shark?  Doubtful …but I still insist upon staying near the center of the boat, lest I forget myself and slip and…whoosh!  Over the side of the boat go I!

Recovery is like that for me, too.  I like to stay in the middle of the boat for fear that I might clumsily forget to pay close attention to my program and find myself flailing about in the murky waters of relapse.  My safety is found when I pay close attention to the direction of my program, when I focus on my relationship with God, when I attend meetings, and use the tools provided to me in OA.

Tradition 5 provides OA groups with this very same degree of safety.  It retains the singleness of purpose at an OA meeting – which is only to pass the message of recovery.  If we did not have this tradition we would have complete chaos.  Meetings might have beauty consultants, dietitians, or other unrelated-to-recovery professionals granted access for purposes other than recovery.

See, the reality of recovery is that a person “who still suffers” isn’t necessarily a newcomer.  It could very well be the OA member who has the longest amount of abstinence in the meeting.  So long as the group adheres to Tradition 5, anyone and everyone who attends will receive the message that recovery is real and does work.

…which is something you have all done for me.  Thank you for reading my blog!  I love you!  See you at the next meeting! 

OA Spirit

A few more thoughts on Tradition 4…

“Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or OA as a whole.” –OA Tradition 4

Tradition 4 goes hand-in-hand with Tradition 1.  It is an extension of the 1st Tradition, which states, “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon OA unity.”  -OA Tradition 1

All OA groups have certain things in common.  Examples of these commonalities are the 12 Steps, 12 Traditions, the OA 12 & 12, the OA Tools, and all the various literature that has been approved by the entire group-consciousness of OA membership.

These approved suggestive recovery materials are workable and functional methods that promote our common welfare of abstinence.  They provide us with helpful insights on how to work the steps and traditions in our daily lives so that we can personally experience recovery.  Abstinence often begins by literally removing from our lives those foods and eating behaviors that cause us suffering and anguish.  But, is that all that is abstinence?

No!  Recovery is three-fold…just like how the disease of food addiction it three-fold.  Abstinence is spiritual, emotional, and physical wellness.  Tradition 4 provides an open forum for any and all OA members to create an OA meeting with their preferred format, time, and location…so long as the commonness of the OA spirit of unity is present.

Autonomous For The People

“Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or OA as a whole.” –Tradition 4

The recovery program of OA is filled with paradoxes.  Autonomy is another one of them…and so I shall do my best writing about it without my head exploding.

We each have individual autonomy in OA.  That means that I can choose to work the steps of OA as suggested or we can try to make up my own way – which I have actually done before – something of which I now call “Lauren’s Anonymous”.  I did not stay abstinent for very long – maybe a week?  Probably less than that – it wasn’t pretty.  I don’t suggest “Lauren’s Anonymous” to anyone.

Anyway, every person gets to do whatever they are going to do in OA and is allowed to do that until they directly affect other people in the program.  This is when members who have long-term abstinence and have worked the steps will jump in and explain the function of autonomy.

The same goes for each individual group.  For example, the Saturday Serenity meeting is at 10AM and the Monday Focus on Abstinence is at 6:30PM and they are two separate groups.  Each autonomous group voted on these two different meeting times.  They did this completely independent of each other.  (I’m not sure why that is relevant but I hope you come to both meetings.)

The paradox is that we all have the right to be individuals in OA and each OA group deserves that same freedom…MY HEAD IS ABOUT TO EXPLODE…and so we can do whatever we want to do…ABOUT TO BLOW…until it impacts others and their rights regarding autonomy.

Okay, I made it.  Phew!  I’m not sure why this tradition is so difficult for me to write about.  After a couple years in recovery I started to scratch the surface at genuine comprehension of this tradition.  It is all about love, forgiveness, freedom, and change.  It seriously makes my head nearly explode to think about the depth of this tradition.  See, no person can force another person to get recovery.  A genuine willingness to surrender is essential to genuine recovery.

I love you all!  Please comment on this if you are willing to talk about Tradition 4!  I love hearing back from everyone.  You help me grow and evolve so much…see you at the next meeting!!

Group Purpose

“For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority – a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscious.  Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.”  – OA Tradition 2

The first time I ever entered a 12 Step meeting I learned all about Tradition 2.  I went to the restroom only to find it had no toilet paper.  I returned to the common area of the club house in search of toilet paper and asked, “Who’s in charge around here?”

The stranger I asked literally said, “A loving God.”

WHAT???

Ha!  True story!  Don’t worry, though.  I did find the toilet paper and all was right in the world again.

The 2nd Tradition of OA is all about the “group purpose”…and in all reality the group purpose is simply to pass the message of recovery.  That’s it!   So, whoever is collecting the donation basket, or ordering literature, or replacing the toilet paper is doing so voluntarily and in a role of a “trusted servant”.  That sounds like utopia, right?  Eh…

The sticky part is the “group conscious” area of this step.  Sometimes people want the meeting run this way and not that way, or at this time and not that time, or whatever.  For this situation I would like to refer to the OA 12&12 because it does a great job of breaking down how the collective individual needs come into being the consciousness – or awareness – of what is best for the group as a whole.

“The group conscious is not the same as majority rule.  This conscious is an expression of the group unity spoken of in the first tradition, a common bond which grows among us as we each let go of self-will.” –OA 12&12 p. 120

The Traditions found in 12 Step Recovery is the method of WHY the groups work so well.  Tradition 2 asks each of us to put aside our selfishness and remember that OA gives us a chance to recover from compulsive food behaviors.  And with something like that in my mind, why wouldn’t I want to seek for answers that would benefit everyone there?

I love you all so much!  Thank you for giving me recovery.  See you at the next meeting!!

It’s Official…

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THANK YOU TAMPA BAY OA FOR REPRESENTING STRONG AT THE OA STATE CONVENTION!!!

A special shout-out for my girls and guy: Anner Bananer, Natalia, Rump Shaker Shana, Jen M, my sponsor Erin, Alexis, Melissa, Jen W, Millie-Vanillie, Andrea, Judith, Stan, Whitley

See you at the next meeting!!!

Support Network Post

I had an amazing experience the other morning.  Before attending the OA meeting (Sat 10 AM Rainbow Recovery Club) I met up with several of my OA friends at the local Starbucks and we did something amazing:

We sat, talked, laughed, and loved each other as if we were all sisters.

Isn’t that great?!  Now, let’s get real for a minute, ‘cause I know what some of y’all are doin’ right now…

Surely, a couple of my readers (Yes, I have read your emails!   Thank you for contacting me!) are thinking, “Oh Lord, not more hokey ‘We-covery’ stuff.  I can’t take it.  Doesn’t Lauren L know that I am suffering over here?!”

Yep, I sure do know that!  I suffer sometimes, too.  Guess who it is that lifts me out of my murky mire when I don’t have enough humility to call upon my Higher Power?  That’s right.  It’s my OA family.  Just with a single smile and a hug they pass to me the message that recovery is possible.

You know, it’s true that I am all about my recovery network.  They keep me abstinent and they keep me honest.  If you haven’t come to an OA meeting, or if you have come and then rushed out before meeting anyone, please just keep coming back.  The promises are true and they can come true for you, too.  Together we can do what we could never do alone.

See you at the next meeting!

The Weight of Meetings

Meetings are a very important part of recovery in OA.  It is a tool that members use to connect with other members.  Usually, I make 2 meetings a week.  The other days I spend at my AA groups.  This week I wasn’t able to make my 2 OA meetings…and I can really feel the difference.

I’ve received some emails from people asking what, exactly, my reasons for being in OA are.  I’ve been asked, “Are you bulimic?  Anorexic?  Are you morbidly obese?  What ARE you?”

Well, lucky for me, the 3rd Tradition of OA states that, “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively.”

No, I am not bulimic.  Nor am I anorexic.  Nor am I obese.  Seriously, folks, I got to the rooms of OA because I am an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous.  In 12 Step groups, the 10th Step is a daily personal inventory.  By doing my personal inventory in AA, I realized that I was exhibiting some abnormal and unhealthy behaviors revolving around sugary foods.  So, I stopped doing all the diets I was trying and I went to OA.

In the rooms of OA I learned that my obsession to try different diets to lose about 20 pounds wasn’t normal.  It was compulsive behavior.  I realized that once I ate sugary food, I always went back, even if I was trying to avoid eating more of it.

Therefore, I went to OA.  Since then I have been abstinent from those sugary foods.  For the record, my abstinence is truly a gift from my Higher Power, the Fellowship, and the rooms of OA.

So, to answer the question of weight loss:  Yes!  I have lost weight!  But, weight is only a symptom of wellness or sickness.  My weight, though lower, is not what OA suggests I focus on.  OA suggests that I look at whether or not I am in right relations with my Higher Power.  Do I love me?  Yes.

Thank you, OA, for helping me learn how to love myself!  See you at the next meeting!     

Our Common Welfare

In Voices of Recovery (which is one of the OA approved daily refection and morning meditation books) the January 5th entry really moved me.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about the topic.  It was about Tradition 1 of OA, citing, “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon OA unity.”

The entry discusses how every person has their own recovery program in OA and that OA needs to remain respectfully individual because everyone has individual triggers.  A certain food that might jump-start my compulsive eating might be okay for you to eat, just like how a certain food that might harm you is okay for me to eat.  Our commonality is not based in a blanket abstention; it is based in our common compulsion and our common solution – the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of OA.

Who am I to judge what is right or wrong for my OA fellows?  It is not my place to carry ‘my message’.  I am to carry the OA message of recovery.  Thankfully, “The program is broad enough for all of us to do whatever is necessary.” – Voices of Recovery, Pg 5

I love all of you!  See you at the next meeting!