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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!!

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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!!

Easy Breezy Step 8!

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(This is my precious Magnolya who I found compulsively eating catnip.)

It was brought to my attention that I haven’t posted on Step 8 (nor on Step 9, but this post is going to be on 8 only) yet. I apologize for that, as it wasn’t intentional and both of these steps are extremely important to recovery. “The Promises” read in AA meetings, and sometimes read in OA meetings, are discovered in the AA Big Book after Step 9 (AA Big Book Pg. 83-84). Therefore we can see that emotional freedom and spiritual growth are found from these steps. They are essential for longterm, quality recovery. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s look at Step 8!

Newcomers are often frustrated when they read the 12 Steps and see that two seemingly daunting writing activities are suggested of us to work the program. These two lists of which they cringe are the rigorously honest inventory of Step 4 and the list of persons we have harmed in Step 8.

Even I exclaimed, “No way! Two freakin’ lists?! #%*^+$!!”

Alas, my sponsor soothed my fears, for out she pulled the AA Big Book and read the following quote,

“We have a list of all persons we have harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends. We made it when we took inventory.” – AA Big Book Pg. 76

Step 8 is not as daunting a task as we imagine that it is. If we have completed a rigorously honest 4th Step then we are well ahead of the game for the remainder of our step work. Hoorah!! Our 8th step list is our 4th step list!

This is sometimes confusing, for how can my list of those whom I resent also be a list of those whom I owe amends? Let’s not forget that when we felt offended, hurt, or were upset by people, and we wrote them on our 4th step, we ususally found that we played a part in the situation. Somehow, someway, we always seemed to play a part in every resentment we carried. Let’s see what the Big Book says about this idea.

“Selfishness-self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate.” AA Big Book Pg. 62

So, relax! Instead of two lists, the program only asks us to write one.

Phew!!!

I love you guys and gals! My friends and family in recovery rock! 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!!!

Bringing Sexy Back

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(This is my uncle, getting ready to fly a little plane. He’s bringing sexy back!)

Woah! Who is bringing sexy back and where can I get some for me?!

I used to think “sexy” was everything except for myself. I saw my friends hanging out, partying, enjoying the night-life and social events, acting all flirty, as if they were having the time of their life…and I smiled and laughed, too, but secretly I was lonely and miserable inside. Worse, I felt ugly and unattractive. My body was no vessel for communication. It was a hindrance. I felt trapped in my body.

The 12 Steps offer me a new perspective on life, especially how I relate to food, people, places, things, memories, regrets, dreams…well, about everything!

Freedom from my emotional bondage gives me the opportunity to live in my own skin without self-loathing. I am finally able to participate in life and enjoy it. I can go to parties and be involved with the people there (instead of worrying what they think about me). No longer am I stuck in self-hate…I get to be present for life. I get to be me.

Today, I don’t have to be a certain weight or size to love myself. I’m not bound to sugary foods in my thoughts and daily behaviors. By living in recovery I am bringing sexy back!

See you at the next meeting! Thank you for my recovery!

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!

Freedom from Bondage

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“We ask especially for freedom from self-will, and are careful to make no request for ourselves only. We may ask for ourselves, however, if others will be helped. We are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends.” -AA Big Book Pg 87

Woah! Not pray for myself?! What are they talking about?

My early prayers in the rooms of recovery sounded something like the following:

“Dear God, In all seriousness, please make me skinny. I don’t know what is going on with my WeightWatchers program, but it is all crazy and I’m not losing any weight. I want to feel sexy and like my body. At least for once, God, will you please just help me drop some of this weight? I’ve been working really hard at this and if you would just this one time help me…”

The OA program of recovery suggests that I abstain from compulsively obsessing over weight, body image, and food. It was a shocking moment for me when I realized that I obsessively asked God to remove my excess body fat in nearly every prayer I prayed.

OA suggests that if I change my actions my thoughts will follow and those, too, will change. What, then, is an appropriate prayer to be said by a food addict like me?

“Dear God, please help me follow your will today. Remove my obsession over diets and weight management. Make me a vessel of your will today so that I can be free from my mental bondage of compulsive food thoughts. Thank you for helping me. Thy will, not mine, be done.”

Thank you, brothers and sisters for my recovery! Keep coming back! See you at the next meeting!

Recovery Is Not A Diet

Today is a great day to reflect on the truth that no matter how much abstinent time I have acquired in OA, no matter how many steps I’ve worked, friends I’ve made, or weight I’ve lost (or, respectfully, gained), I will always have the compulsion to act out in my food allergy. Most days this concept baffles me. While my lingering compulsion is abstract and easily deniable, some things smack my face right back into reality. For example…

I couldn’t even believe my email ‘inbox’ this morning! It was the most perfect reminder that my life outside the rooms of OA is unmanageable and…well, crazy. It’s totally and perfectly nuts. Here is the list of emails in my inbox as of 1/9/12:

  • BIGGEST LOSER: Ashley lost 183 lbs! The next Biggest…
  • WeightWatchers.com: PointsPlus® 2012 is here! Come back…
  • Atkins Special Savings: Dear Lauren L, Where have you been l…
  • No-Diet Weight Loss: Loss 30+ pounds with no diet and no e…
  • The Dr. Oz Diet Plan: This week you can re-join for FREE and…
  • The ACAI BERRY Diet Works: An amazing little fruit that only grows…
  • JennyCraig.com: Mariah Carey lost weight with Jenny C…

I mumbled, “Wow.” That was all the response that I had for having an inbox filled with those emails. It made me sick to look at them. I felt a sensation that I hadn’t experienced in quite a long time. It was a blend of defeat, bitterness, loneliness, and desperation. Worse, those were all the feelings I often experienced when cycling through diet after diet, sometimes being successful and other times flunking right from the start. Regardless, the weight always seemed to come back and, no matter how skinny I got, I never once liked my body. I never could figure out why I was plagued by horrible nightmares of yo-yo diets and negative feelings – and I even hated myself for hating myself.

I started deleting the emails like a clicking maniac. One, after another, after another…click click click. And then, I saw one other email, right below all the diet advertisements that (for the record) I had voluntarily signed up to receive before I started working the OA program. And that email was from a woman who attended a meeting with me just last week. Hope and awe entered me and with a swiftly beating heart I opened that email. It read:

Lauren,

Hey, girl! How are you? Thanks for what you said at the meeting. I agree that my spiritual fitness is totally everything. It trips me out, like, when I think about all the dieting stuff I ever tried. I feel so free today. How cool is it that recovery is not a diet and yet, thanks to the program, I’m successful at losing weight and I’m happy? Haha! I love OA. Let’s get coffee soon.

Love,

[Anonymous]

Thank you, my brothers and sisters in OA! You keep me abstinent and teach me how to trust my Higher Power. I love you all so much! The promises of OA are true and real! Thank you for my recovery!!

Holy Partially Hydrogenated Corn Syrup, Batman!

Few but the members of OA know the depths of insanity that our thoughts can travel, especially when it comes to justifying one little morsel of our favorite trigger foods.  Our thoughts are often something like, “Well, I’ll only have one…and one won’t hurt me…I’ve eaten only one before…and I’ve been so good, not having any for so long…it’s not a big deal…I can start over tomorrow…no one will know…I can even workout for longer at the gym to make up for it…besides, it’s normal for someone to treat themselves…today has been so great/bad that I deserve it…jeez, it does look good…(sniff, sniff)hmmm, and it smells really good…what’s the harm in having just one…little…smidge…of a corner…of one…”

Talk to an OA and they will likely tell you what they told me, saying, “I had times when I could, literally, eat just one.  However, the times that I did that were few and far between.  I always, always intended to eat a normal amount of [insert preferred white flour or sugar based food here] but, as OA helped me understand, something inside of me clicked on – like a switch – and I was done.  I ate more than I intended to eat and what followed that event was guilt and remorse.  The cycle of eating would begin and I’d find myself feeling defeat, shock, and terror.”

For many OA members, these thoughts don’t totally just up and disappear while in recovery.  Many members report that they occasionally have temping thoughts over trigger foods (the foods they abstain from eating) even after a lengthy amount of continuous abstinence and working the OA program as suggested.  We, as a fellowship, are humbled and grateful to have 9 Tools at our disposal to assist us when these obsessive food-thoughts start driving us crazy!  And what is this particular tool?  The telephone!

At the onset of my insane thinking of justifying to myself the ingesting of foods that have a history of trouble for me, I pick up the phone and call someone in my network.  Talking to another person in recovery is an almost 100% guarantee that I will not eat the food that I am considering eating.  Why is this?  Because when I reach out to someone who is also in recovery I am telling on myself.  I am saying to my support group, “Please help me.”  And help is always there.

If I call my sponsor and say, “I’m thinking about eating one of my trigger foods,” then she can talk me through that bite.  The OA program leaves it up to me in the end.  Am I going to binge or am I going to abstain?  Am I going to try and be in control or am I going to give it to God?  Am I going to eat something to have a mood altering experience from the yummy taste or am I going to look at whatever is really going on with me?  Am I going to work the OA program or is my disease going to work me?

 

Thank you all for my recovery!  See you at the next meeting and just keep coming back! 

Meetings

If you follow my blog at Rainbow Recovery Club then you have already seen this picture of my two most precious angels…isn’t it awesome?! Fellowship is important to many creatures, not just OA members. On to the post…

Sometimes newcomers ask me, “How many meetings a week should I attend?”

I reply, “I try to attend as many meetings a week that I used to obsess over food, dieting, exercise, or my weight. Which days of the week were you active in your disease?”

This is the moment when jaws hit the floor and eyes bulge from heads. Often what is exclaimed by the newcomer is, “But, that’s EVERYDAY!”

Meetings are one of the 9 Tools that OA suggests as a way to remain abstinent. Abstinence is of top importance to me today because I know that once I ingest that sugary substance I will crave more and more and more. I won’t be able to stop. It is proven that quality long-term recovery is found inside the rooms of OA. Therefore, one of the best ways to ensure that I am going to be living my recovery is to attend the meetings.

I believe the saying, “Meeting-makers make it.” I believe this because people who attend meetings get to hear the message of hope that OA promises. They get to see the OA Promise work through people – our brothers and sisters who once suffered alongside the pained and hurting newcomer.

Every time I attend an OA meeting I am returning home. They all ‘get’ me. They all know who I am, what my disease feels and looks like, and they all care about me. It is the one place I am safe, for each person in that room only wants me to succeed in my recovery.

Thank you for my recovery! I love all of you – my brothers and sisters! Keep coming back! It works!