We celebrated Overeater’s Anonymous’ 54thbirthday the weekend of January 17-19 in Los Angeles. John K opened the gala announcing that the founder of OA, Roseanne had passed away the day before. With appreciation for all her efforts as well as celebration of our own recoveries, we forged on carrying the message about having a lifelong, chronic illness that is definitely treatable. It takes following directions in the path of those who’ve walked out of this addiction. OA is not about uncovering the “reasons” for our overeating, a quest I was on the first thirty years of my life as I became an addiction’s pioneer to “figure it out.” OA helps us learn new behaviors for the present and future which help us feel better about ourselves so we can give up self punishing lifestyles. Without help, it is a difficult task. As my friend Andy shares at my morning meeting, “There’s good news and bad news:
The good news is, the illness is treatable and help is available. The bad news is…..
That weekend I led a marathon meeting on Step one…..honesty. Getting honest about what and how we eat is just the beginning. Then we learn how to develop more rigorously honest lifestyles. We just don’t play certain games anymore. This makes us into slight freaks in the culture, walking to the beat of a different drummer, getting off the acquiring, pushing American treadmill. That’s why we continue to hang out with like minded fellow sufferers walking this path. Saturday evening, I enjoyed seeing longtime friends from my early days as I participated on the “Longtimer’s Panel.” I used that forum as an opportunity to insert a bit of my “flexitarian” message which deviates slightly from the more rigid ideas of some OA groups. I reminded that at the celebration when OA became 21 years old, I said, “We are now adults. It is time for us to use what we’ve learned from our daddy program (AA) and add it to our own experience as gifted experts in the weight loss field to develop our own new pathways.” There are so many similarities, but also differences in how we can negotiate our recoveries. Trying to mimic AA experience has caused some to lapse into dishonesty and showboating. That only promotes regain of lost weight.
Both these presentations are now mp3 freebie downloads.
In February, I spent some quick, unexpected time in South Africa. Earlier, at my New Year’s Eve Buddhist ceremony I’d wished for 2014 to bring me more focus on forgiveness. Little did I know that within a month, I’d be in a nation steeped in forgiveness forging a new path for the future and facing difficulties much like ours of the 1950’s. Think of the film and book THE HELP. Our twelve step literature focuses a lot on our asking forgiveness for our woundings of others. But, there is also a great deal of work to do about forgiving those who’ve wounded us. We’re told that resentment is our number one killer, so we have to find a way to move on from what was done to us and even embrace those people and experiences. If not, as Mandela told his followers, “We will be imprisoned.”
Leading by Following
March brought me back to Los Angeles, invited to speak at the memorial for Rozanne. I remembered my first “service” job was literature chairman for my home meeting. In those days, OA headquarters was operated out of Rozanne’s kitchen where she had stacks of pamphlets piled on her kitchen counters. She was frantic and hurried and so, so dedicated. I didn’t encounter her until more than a year later when I had already opened the nation’s first eating disorders unit. I went to the L.A.100-pounder’s meeting and someone approached me with, “Wow, I heard about great things you are doing down in San Pedro. How is that treatment center doing?” I started to shake. There was something about the question that felt scary. Then I got it. I told the woman nicely, “Please don’t ask me about my work. At OA I need to wear another hat and just be here for my own recovery.” She understood. I was advised to consult Rozanne so she and I could commiserate about the joy and ego buzz from helping so many others, but about the necessity to keep ourselves teachable. I was lucky that I could separate work from recovery. I could present one professional image in the media as a “treatment pioneer” and the next day trundle off to my ladies meeting and fall apart. As Rozanne became known as “founder” in OA, there were fewer and fewer places she could find her own vulnerability. We made her into a symbol and a teacher. We all know that the flavor of sharing is different when we are giving a “you” message versus an “I” message. We all face this obsessive illness daily and if we don’t keep ourselves in the “seeker” mode we will not get our own needs met. “Oldtimers” are especially vulnerable and need to make sure we are not placed on pedestals by others and that we keep ourselves teachable. Audio freebie here.