Posted by: innerpilgrimage | January 14, 2014

And They Shall be Called ‘The Fellowship of the Dinner Plate’

      I went to an OA meeting yesterday . . . Hooray!

      No, I’m not being sarcastic. I am deeply relieved I did go. The number one program tool I take for granted is that fellowship, and I get off-track so easily. It’s a slippery slope. I stop meetings, and I rationalize. I stop reading the literature, and I rationalize. I stop journaling the journey, and I rationalize. I basically cut myself off from the spirital part of recovery with those three things, and I am left floating in-between. Recovery limbo. Crap, being in recovery limbo sucks.
      So, which of the nine tools of OA recovery did I retain, and which did I abandon?

A Plan of Eating
A Plan of Action

      Hm. Well, this actually isn’t too hard. I rarely used the telephone (or email or SMSing, ie. one-to-one contact with individuals in 12-Step). I once did service, but I overcommitted and felt like I was being taken for granted. That’s a CoDA issue, right there, and I wholeheartedly admit I ended up caring about my personality more than program principles. Sponsorship . . . I have had terrible luck with sponsors. I think I’m in a position where I would do better with a Recovery Buddy. Together, we can progress toward becoming sponsors. Those three never were really part of my recovery, and I had trouble with them from the beginning.
      The next three (Meetings, Literature, and Writing) were discarded after I faced challenges. I had some great recovery in OA, which led to nearly none in SLAA, CoDA, and ACA. All I saw was more piled on, and I was overwhelmed. So, that’s why I’m back to OA. In ACA, the Big Red Book talks about handling other addictions before reaching in to the core and nurturing the injured inner child. I understand completely. I dug deeper when I wasn’t ready, hoping core footwork would help what was above. I hate the idea of “peeling the onion”, but that’s how it goes. With OA, however (and with an awareness that I chose compulsive food control and compulsive bingeing to keep from dealing with the romantic obsession, the social-emotional anorexia, and the enmeshment), I think I can get a stronger OA recovery and bring to fellowship what I gained from CoDA, SLAA, and ACA–depth to my own shares through honesty and openness and willingness (HOW) and courtesy toward others’ shares through the practice of mindful listening. Attending ACA taught me that I can’t short-cut recovery. Attending SLAA taught me that addictions are sometimes hiding under other addictions. Attending CoDA taught me the foundation 12-Step etiquette. I love the CoDA Table Tent, because it was right in front of me, to remind me how to be a member of a truly safe meeting (Downloadable PDF of CoDA Table Tent HERE):


I use “I” statements when sharing. (I feel; I believe)
I use my own experience, strength, and hope–no one else’s.
I refrain from commenting on what others share.
I share for three to five minutes, keeping the focus on myself.
I help myself and others by being emotionally present and honest.
I let others experience their own feelings; I keep my advice to myself.

      I personally believe CoDA works the best emotional recovery because I had opportunities to practice courtesy toward others and courtesy toward myself. My emotional heath really comes from that dual journey of accepting my voice has a place in the meeting rooms and that others’ voices deserve my undivided attention. I confess here and now that I am an in-meeting “share planner”. I will ignore others’ shares yet try to appear like I’m listening. That is why I bring a meeting journal with me.
      I will put it away if asked to, but my meeting journal actually helps me practice giving my complete attention to others who are sharing. I have gotten some of my best “Aha!” recovery moments out of the rooms (which I have said here more than once), and if I ignore others’ shares, I lose those serendipitous moments when I get a key to unlock personal lessons which advance my own recovery. Unfortunately, once I leave the room with this gem of recovery wisdom (and sometimes long before), I forget. Then, I get to struggle with that part of recovery. I get most of my insight about my own recovery from the shares of others in fellowship, and listening intently to a share then making a note of it for my own use, later, helps me evolve in program and can help others evolve in program as I share my own recovery BECAUSE of that gem of wisdom dropped into my lap at meeting.
      As for the general courtesy, I have personally experienced setbacks when I’ve felt emotionally hurt and humiliated and dismissed in rooms. A handful of times, I’ve share honestly in rooms and was responded to by others who had helpful intent but who just don’t understand how addiction manifested in me. Sharing with that kind of brutal honesty is terrifying; it’s Fifth Step levels of fear-of-being-judged. When I give a brutally honest share, however, it’s so cleansing. I feel the weight of the secrets lifted; it’s such a deeply emotional and mental and spiritual cleansing that it manifests as a physical experience. Now, I understand we are all in the process of evolving from addicts to recovered persons. This is an opportunity to be grateful for the seemingly bad. I can practice forgiveness, and I can practice gratitude that I was given awareness about what can trigger me into wanting to act out my addiction. I also know I will benefit from practicing being a safe member of any fellowship I attend, even if I have to toss my journal into my bag in order to be courteous toward others. The rooms are the safe environment where I develop the ability to function in the real world without my addict substances or addict coping mechanisms, and I have a responsibility to maintain the safe environment so others can be brutally honest in their shares and enjoy the relief of having their secrets lifted (and still being accepted). I want to grow out of using my addict substances and behaviors to self-medicate. I want to participate in my own life, not watch my life from the sidelines and regret that I never chose to thrive.
      The OA meeting I went to addressed crosstalk and advice-giving and listening with intent, and that’s why I put up the information about the CoDA table tent in this journal entry. Every 12-Step meeting I’ve been to discourages crosstalk. In the CoDA meetings I’ve attended, other rules like not making faces when someone is talking (non-verbal crosstalk, I suppose) and not rescuing people when they’re emotionally overwhelmed (The Tissue Issue) is also helpful. I would rather work others’ recovery than my own, enmesher that I am. Working others’ recovery distracts me from my recovery, and that’s when I relapse into the addicted mentality.
      Well, the final three (Anonymity, Plan of Eating, Plan of Action) are okay in terms of recovery. Curious I would have one emotionally-recovered part and both of the physical recovery parts. Then again, I do sometimes share those “Aha!” moments in the journal here. Inspirational stories. I don’t mention who, but I’m not sure if I have been strong in Anonymity. Only time will tell, I suppose. However, I have maintained physical recovery even as my mental and emotional and spiritual states deteriorated. More than once I was ready to abandon my food plan. Even now, I do play with the food restricting–though not purposefully. Stress reduces my desire to eat. Hell, stress can make me nauseous at the idea of eating at all. However, my food plan has a floor and I need to respect that floor. So, I guess if I’m not playing games but truly am having emotional issues which make me want to restrict, it’s the mirror image of having emotional issues which make me want to binge. Unfortunately, because restriction is considered a positive trait in our culture and bingeing is considered a negative trait, I have a harder time with conscientiously choosing to eat for my health’s sake (when I don’t want to)–as opposed to unconsciously bingeing (when I don’t want to). OA, however, is about my addiction to food in all of its forms . . . my addiction to trying to avoid mental and emotional and spiritual suffering by distracting myself with how I abuse food (be it overeating or undereating).
      So, I held on to my physical recovery. It didn’t make me happy. Actually, the mental stuff got worse. The body dysmorphia definitely has gotten worse. This morning, I looked at myself in the mirror and didn’t have so much hate on myself. I definitely didn’t see myself at 100 lbs. heavier, which I normally do. This morning was better because I went to meeting and had fellowship and heard my story quilted together in the stories of other people. It was better because I had to conscientiously practice a share of experience, strength, and hope. That’s difficult when I’m having trouble with emotional and spiritual recovery. I want to babble and ramble. So, in my head, I have to consider what’s important, and although I do get sidetracked, I can bring it back around by telling myself to move to the next element to the share. A pretty normal ESH share, for me, looks like this:

[E] I have had problems with this-and-that relating to my compulsive behaviors relating to food and to my body and to my health. I am grateful that whatever power greater than myself guided me to keep to my food plan. [S] Attending this one meeting has reminded me that the OA fellowship is how I maintain my connection to reality. Out of the rooms, I become nostalgic about the addiction . . . even though I know that my addiction was no comfort. [H] Recovery has taught me that addiction covers up what I don’t want to face. When I practice recovery, what I don’t want to face gets addressed. Recovery helps me process the buried traumas and the unresolved grief that I would binge and restrict over without program. Because of program, I can heal. I’d rather be in a rocky recovery than back in full-blown addiction, and being in the rooms again reminds me that I can recover.”

      It’s not a bad fallback ESH share, to be honest, though my spoken shares aren’t so neat. I prefer to communicate through writing, not oration. So, it’s usually more wandering, more babbling, more attempting to purge the things that I worry I’ll obsess on over the following week.
      Well, I’m off to do real life stuff. Oh, and eat lunch late. It’s not a perfect plan, but a time-based plan would be worse. I am working on respecting and actively listening to my body’s messages about hunger, about food, about my internal conflict over thin-versus-healthy.
      But at least I returned to the rooms, and I met some wonderful people. That’s a good day in recovery. A very, very good day indeed.


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