Saturday, October 9, 2010

Using the Tools of Recovery

My name is Charlie, and I'm a compulsive overeater.

::Hi, Charlie!::

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the tools of recovery. I have been abstinent for two months now, and I don't think I could have done it without the clear structure provided by working the H.O.W. program. We have to use the tools... It's built into our abstinence. Anyway, ironically, my reading/writing assignment today was about the tools, so I thought I'd just post it here...

And I would love to hear from you.

What is your experience with using these tools? Are there things you find especially helpful? Any you find difficult to use? Anything you're confused about? Anything you can help me with?

Discuss and reflect upon the seven tools of your daily recovery.


To me, abstinence is the foundation for my recovery. “Our Invitation To You” puts it this way: “Once we become abstinent, the preoccupation with food diminishes and in many cases leaves us entirely. We then find that, to deal with our inner turmoil, we have to have a new way of thinking, of acting on life rather than reacting to it - in essence, a new way of living. OA defines abstinence as “the action of refraining from compulsive overeating.” Since I’m working the more structured H.O.W. program, my abstinence is even more clearly defined. For me, for today, there’s a lot of freedom in knowing exactly what my abstinence entails. 


As part of my program, I make every effort to talk live with at least three OA friends (in addition to my daily sponsor call). Sometimes this is a challenge, for sure. Sometimes it actually raises my anxiety, but honestly, that’s usually when I have not planned well and I save it for the last minute. At its best, and when I use it well, this tool connects me to people who are living this Program out one day at a time, people like me who truly understand this disease and are living in recovery. And it doesn’t really matter how well anyone is doing. If I speak to someone who has longer abstinence, more experience, strength and hope than I do, it’s awesome! There’s so much I can learn! I can ask questions and get advice, I can get feedback on how I’m feeling and what I’m doing to work my Program. If I’m stuck on something, I can hear about how someone else got through it. When I talk to H.O.W. members especially, I can get great advice on the particulars of the way we work the Program: questions about eating in restaurants, weighing and measuring, calling people, food plans and stepwork.

If, on the other hand, I find myself talking to someone who isn’t doing well, someone in relapse or someone who is struggling to hit their stride, I can be a light and a help. And it always helps me too. Sometimes I recognize the disease speaking and can help them see that, and I can always use that as a reminder to me to be vigilant in my Program.


I have never had the privilege of sponsoring anyone, but I am very grateful for my sponsor. I am grateful for the clarity I hear in her voice and the great experience, strength and hope she is able to share with me.


Meetings are the “front door” to Overeaters Anonymous in a lot of ways. (Well, for me the OA website was the front door.) Meetings are a great place to see recovery right in front of my eyes. Just like phone calls… I hear recovery and learn from others. I can also be of service. I think that full meetings are always really encouraging to everyone in the room, so just attending a meeting can be a great service to the people in the room. Sometimes – on a negative note – the meetings probably seem totally confusing and foreign to newcomers. We have a whole language of recovery, a “liturgy” of sorts. We recite things together. We stand up. We hold hands. We read stuff. We “testify.” So I think it’s important to explain things. To welcome people in and walk them through the experience of being new.


I am grateful for the ways that people in the Program have served me. By being at the meetings. By sponsoring me! By writing the literature, developing the website, publishing the materials. By taking my calls and calling me! By reading my blog and commenting and writing their own blogs! By connecting with me on Twitter. Service keeps me abstinent. No doubt in my mind. I want to stay abstinent. For me. For all who have served and loved me. It’s a wonderful cycle. You serve me. I serve you.

Literature (include writing and burning)

For the last 60 days or so I’ve been reading the AA Big Book and 12 & 12 and then answering questions. It’s been an incredibly eye-opening experience for me. And then reading my writing to my sponsor and getting her feedback has been even more eye-opening. She helps me to see the places I’m just a little “crazy.” (She would say she can just hear the disease talking sometimes.) I actually had to look up the concept of “burning.” I guess some people are encouraged to burn their writing when they’re done writing it. I think that’s a little crazy! I really value being able to look back, see where I was and where I am. That may be one of the reasons I love blogging so much. I was a completely different person 2-3 years ago.

As far as OA literature goes, I don’t have a lot of experience with it. I have read through the “Brown Book” several times. When I was the secretary of a meeting in California, we used that every week for our readings. In my current meetings, the leader usually chooses a topic and we read related readings out of “For Today” or something similar. Honestly, though, I prefer some of the more basic material. I think it’s so good, just to go back to the basics again and again. “How It Works” in the AA Big Book. “Our Invitation To You” in the Brown Book. These are classic texts that always challenge and encourage me. The last few meetings I’ve led, I’ve had us reading pamphlets: “Tools of Recovery” and “A Plan of Eating.” I think sometimes we read a lot of touchy-feely stuff (which is good and important), but we ignore the basics and people do not get the chance to hear how the Program actually works.


Anonymity is a challenging tool. I don’t think I completely understand it, but I’m grateful for it. On one level, it’s about my safety to share without fear of being “outed” as a compulsive overeater. On another level, it’s about the fact that in the rooms, we’re all on equal footing. It doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor, trash collector, CEO, lunch lady, lawyer or gas station attendant, we all just compulsive overeaters. On yet another level, anonymity helps us place “principles before personalities.” Our experience, strength and hope speaks for itself. The principles, traditions and steps of this Program are what we follow, not people.

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