Lawrie Q&A from Unity Day 2021

Questions and Answer from Unity Day Big Book Weekend

Questions from Lawrie’s story:

Note from Lawrie: If the specific question you asked isn’t answered in full because of your particular situation, I’d be happy to correspond with you. Just email me at cherns@mts.net.  Because of the number of people who have already emailed me, it might take me some time to respond, but I WILL respond!

  1. I meant if Lawrie is available for sponsoring?

Lawrie is available for sponsoring. Email him at cherns@mts.net. You should know in advance that his method of sponsoring is very hands-off, and that because he has a number of requests he has to set up appointments to meet with sponsees. Often sponsees want more frequent contact, but Lawrie cannot provide that.

  1. What are your top questions that you recommend people ask themselves when they are formulating a plan of eating?
  1. What foods have you ever eaten uncontrollably, wanting to stop eating them but finding yourself unable to?
  2. What foods can’t you imagine ever living without?
  3. What foods do you know, deep down, you shouldn’t be eating, whose location you have memorized in the store, the absence of which have caused you frustration or anger at a buffet?
  4. Are there common ingredients, or combination of ingredients, in those foods (often fat, sugar, salt, refined carbohydrates with no nutritive value)?
  5. What eating behaviors are part of your compulsive eating (purging, restricting, chewing constantly, eating while watching TV or reading, needing to clean off your whole plate even if you’re full, never feeling full)? These are all volume issues that may be completely unrelated to what foods are being eaten.

Answering these questions honestly will go a long way to figure out what to abstain from. In my experience, while you work the Steps through to Step Nine, you should abstain from anything that you aren’t sure of; “when in doubt, keep it out”. Abstaining from certain eating behaviors may require positive action to deal with volume issues. In other words, if you never feel full, or you have been purging or restricting, you might have to weigh or measure your foods to know that you’re getting enough to get to a healthy body weight.

  1. How do I alter my food plan for exercise? Do you recommend consulting a nutritionist?

OA’s group conscience, as expressed by approval of the pamphlet Dignity of Choice, recommends consulting with professionals. I would also recommend consulting with an experienced and recovered OA member to make sure that you’re not using exercise as an excuse to increase your volume more than it needs to be increased.

  1. Can Laurie talk about people pleasing as he does in his Copenhagen talk?

Many of us are people-pleasers—that is we put pleasing people above speaking our truths, or standing up for ourselves, or simply being who we are. When we deal with our defects of character, we often discover that people-pleasing falls into all of the four defects of character:

  • Selfish/self-willed: We want others to like us.
  • Dishonest: We don’t tell the truth when the truth should be told. By omitting to say something, we are perpetuating untruths.
  • Self-seeking: Other people’s opinions of us are more important than our own opinion of us, and then our relationship with our higher power.
  • Frightened: We are afraid of being rejected, of not being liked, of hurting other people’s feelings.
  1. Do you ever start the steps with someone not abstinent? Some say using the steps will help us get abstinent?

My own experience, and a tragic one it is, is having worked with a person who had been so active in AA and knew the Big Book far better than I would ever know it. He said he hoped to become abstinent WHILE working the Steps, but agreed that if someone in AA had said that to him, he would have rejected. I still worked the Steps with him, and he never became abstinent. And a few years later he died by suicide. I tell that story to anyone who suggests that one doesn’t have to be abstinent while working the Steps.

I work with people to help them get abstinent, and sometimes that takes some time. But I don’t encourage them to work the Steps until they get abstinent. I do sometimes show them how working Steps Four through Nine might get them sanity, but I concentrate more on getting through those Steps quickly so that being abstinent while working them is pretty simple because they only have to hold on for a few weeks. I don’t fire sponsees, even though they aren’t abstinent. I try my best to work with them so they can become abstinent and work the Steps. In the end my continuing to repeat myself about finding their solution, and my lack of emotional support for their problems, might cause them either to get desperate and abstinent and work the Steps, or just fire me.

  1. When a newcomer immediately says they want to avoid the “restrictive diet mentality” and that giving up something forever doesn’t appeal to them, do you advise that they try for just one day? how do you show them that this thinking is disease thinking?

This isn’t necessarily the disease thinking for them. Perhaps their only problem is quantities, and they don’t have specific food cravings issues. But either they accept the idea of the physical cravings (can’t stop once started) PLUS the mental obsession (can’t stop from starting) or they don’t. If they don’t, I ask them why they consider themselves compulsive eaters, and whether they consider themselves addicts or simply overeaters. I talk about abstaining (rather than restricting) and say that if they do abstain from that which they know causes cravings, and then work the Steps, they are guaranteed sanity by the time they finish Step Nine, and often earlier, so that they will be able to make a sane choice as to whether they give some things up forever or not. One day at a time helps a lot of people.

  1. Hi can someone’s plan of eating change?  

It certainly has in my case. I have added foods to my list of foods I have to abstain from. In rare cases I have learned that some foods that I have abstained from are okay for me to indulge in—that although I thought they would cause cravings, they actually don’t. As we abstain from some things, we might discover that our bodies want other things that we wouldn’t have thought of eating before. The alcoholic who has only drunk fine wines and abstains from them, might find themselves drinking rotgut liquor as a substitute. This is one reason I suggest strongly looking at ingredients in addition to specific foods. Our bodies change, and our tolerance to some foods might change.

  1. My abstinence was solid, and it focused on behavior issues. My abstinence plan was based on eating moderately, especially excluding any diets. But now I got a lifelong medical diet. What now? How do I proceed, because the diet is completely unsustainable for me …? Is this diet now my abstinence plan?

I think there is a clear distinction between a diet and abstinence. A diet sets out the spectrum of how, how much, when, and what, one eats. That diet may be imposed by medical requirements (diabetes, Celiac, allergies) or by following certain ideas that one thinks might make one healthier (some faddier than others—Mediterranean, South Beach, Atkins, gluten-free, no carbs, vegetarian, vegan, GI Index, blood type), or by choice (environmental impact, locally-grown). A Plan of Eating, which defines our abstinence, works within any diet to see what might still have to be abstained from. I follow, for instance, a vegan diet—no animal products of any kind. But I can’t eat deep-fried battered tofu or french fries or vegan ice cream.

So the first issue is whether, within the medical diet you have, there are still some things you have to abstain from. The next one is a matter of acceptance. If it is absolutely true that medically speaking you MUST follow this diet, then your problem is one of acceptance, not the diet; assuming that diet allows you to abstain from everything that you ought to abstain from (ingredients, particular foods, eating behaviors), then follow that diet and, when you work Steps Four through Nine, include “I have to follow a lifelong medical diet that seems unsustainable to me” as a resentment. As you work on that, you will be able to handle the “unsustainability” of that issue.

  1. Lawrie, can you speak more to exactly what having a desire to stop eating compulsively means?

From the Big Book point of view, having a desire to stop eating compulsively means that one has a desire to be relieved of the condition of the mind that has, in the past, given us permission to indulge in the foods, ingredients, and/or eating behaviors, which have caused us uncontrollable cravings. In other words, having a desire to stop eating compulsively means that one accepts the idea that for them there are some foods/ingredients/eating behaviors which cause uncontrollable cravings, and that their minds have continued to give them reasons for returning to those foods/ingredients/eating behaviors. So the desire to stop eating compulsively means a desire to change the condition of the mind.

  1. Hi, I am new, in the first step, only 30 days abstinent…I’d like to ask, Is Lawrie available to sponsor?

Lawrie is available for sponsoring. Email him at cherns@mts.net. You should know in advance that his method of sponsoring is very hands-off, and that because he has a number of requests he has to set up appointments to meet with sponsees. Often sponsees want more frequent contact, but Lawrie cannot provide that.

  1. What do you say to sponsees who feel they need to make amend to themselves for hanging on to resentments and to live with hanging on to them for so long that’ it has affected their life?

I guess it depends on where they are in their spiritual journey. How do they know before they get to Steps Eight and Nine exactly whom they have harmed? At Steps Four and Five they finally identify what their defects of character are. At Steps Eight and Nine they identify how those defects of character have harmed others.

If they’re starting Step Four, I very much encourage them to put down as “principles” statements about themselves that they wish were not true, so that they might put down:

  1. I continue to hang onto resentments. Living with my resentments has affected my entire life.

But if they are using the Big Book’s approach to Step Four, those very resentments will be the things that they will be writing down, and before they finish Step Four they will be provided with some of the answers to why they continue to live with those resentments and how to get rid of them. So their “amends” to themselves will turn out to be simply getting rid of those resentments and accepting the reality of what occurred to them that caused those resentments.

  1. How do I handle a plan of eating if all my binge foods & drinks include some combination of fat, salt, sugar, & starch – flour, potato, corn?

If the question is how one gets along without those combinations, I guess the answer is that thousands of us do so and are none the worse for wear! There are many, many foods out there which don’t contain these items in large quantities. Of the things you list, we all need fat, and we do get sugars and starch at least from whole vegetables, so it’s not as if your life will be spent eating gruel!

Sometimes we have to be clear if we go out to dinner about what we can or can’t eat, and sometimes it may feel uncomfortable or even humiliating to do so; but consider the situation that people who would die if they ate peanuts or popcorn are in, and use the analogy to deal with your own binge foods.

  1. I would love to know how you pray and meditate and how many hours a day you are in prayer and meditation?

Not a lot. As I said, I practice a “good enough” program. The way I understand Step Eleven is that I spend minutes each evening reviewing my day past, minutes each morning reviewing my day ahead, and seconds during the day, if upset or needing direction, repeating the mantras of “I’m no longer running the show”, “Thy will not mine be done”, and “Please give me a right thought or action”. I spend the bulk of my time on Step Twelve.

Please don’t think that what I do is what anyone else should do. I am not the most spiritual person in the world, and I am very humbled by my mentors in this fellowship who pray and meditate more than I, and are clearly more serene and spiritual than I am. Following their practice is probably much better than following mine!

  1. Here is another question: I feel overwhelmed by the lengthy list of foods I have identified as not being able to eat. I guess the addict in me finds this very upsetting… what would you say to someone who is frustrated that they are not able to have flour, sugar, or high amounts of fat? I have identified that the combinations of flour and fat, sugar and fat, and sugar on its own trigger me. I guess I am looking for some advice for getting over the resistance and negative feelings.

Those are all matters that would be dealt with as “principles” to be put down as resentments in Step Four, and the answers will come through Steps Five through Nine. Once you finish Step Nine, are sane, and are no longer tempted to indulge in those things, you could—if you decide to at THAT point—re-look at your list.

Session 2 Steps 1-4

  1. Question for Lawrie: How do we do a 4th step prayer for principles?

The Step Four Resentment prayers (“X is a sick person. God grant me the tolerance, pity, and patience, I would cheerfully grant a sick friend” and “I wish for X to have all that I want out of life” [page 552] are for people who have harmed us or others, not for everyone on our list (such as people we’ve harmed), or for principles. The Step Four Fear Prayer (“Please remove my fear of X and direct my attention to what you would have me be”) can be used for the fears arising out of the principles as well.

  1. Can Lawrie please go deeper into the idea of dishonesty relating to a resentment.

Dishonest clearly includes lying, cheating, and stealing. Some of us have done that to a greater or lesser extent in our lives. There are two other aspects of dishonesty, however, about which there is no discussion in the Big Book.

One is that we can be dishonest in trying to live in a world in which the things that we resent did NOT happen; it is a fantasy world that we continue to try to create, and we reject the reality of the world that actually live in, where these things DID happen.

The other is that we can be dishonest in our relationships with people by omitting to tell the truth when the truth should be told—by agreeing to do something that we know we shouldn’t do (enabling, for instance), by not standing up for our principles, by not correcting untruths or distortions of truth, by going along with something we know we shouldn’t go along with, etc.

  1. Is one edition of the big book better than another?  Should I get the latest edition?

The prefaces and forewords and first 164 pages of the Big Book have not been essentially changed since the Second Edition of the Big Book was published in 1955. Some of the stories after page 164 have been changed, removed, added, in subsequent editions in order better to reflect the membership of AA; most of the classic stories have been kept. The current edition, the Fourth, is the one I use.

  1. Also, how do we know it’s not us and our ego answering the question “What would God have you be”? Even having worked the steps, I don’t know whether it’s me answering what I think I should answer, or what I want to hear, or whether it’s my higher power.

This question relates to what our higher power would have us be in relation to specific fears. Step Five can be very useful in allowing us to receive feedback from the person we do Step Five with. I don’t think there’s an easy answer to the question. My experience is that if I really concentrate on what my own individual higher power is, I am then in a better position to answer what kind of person I should and can be in relation to that particular fear.

In addition, if we have a sense of what our higher power is, then we would have a sense of how consistent our answer is with our sense of what our higher power is. For instance, it is highly improbable that any higher power of our understanding would want us to be liars, haters, cheaters, toadies, fearful human beings.

The other way we can know better whether our answer is honest is whether we find that we have begun to outgrow the specific fear we said the prayer about, because the Big Book promises us that we will at once begin to outgrow the fear. If we still have the fear, that may be a good indication that we have not completely understood what kind of person we should be in relation to that specific fear.

  1. Can Lawrie share his daily Maintenance practice?

As I said, I practice a “good enough” program. The way I understand Step Eleven is that I spend minutes each evening reviewing my day past, minutes each morning reviewing my day ahead, and seconds during the day, if upset or needing direction, repeating the mantras of “I’m no longer running the show”, “Thy will not mine be done”, and “Please give me a right thought or action”. I spend the bulk of my time on Step Twelve.

Please don’t think that what I do is what anyone else should do. I am not the most spiritual person in the world, and I am very humbled by my mentors in this fellowship who pray and meditate more than I am and are clearly more serene and spiritual than I am. Following their practice is probably much better than following mine!

  1. What suggestions do you have to deal with resentments that seem to keep coming up? Do I need to go more in depth?

I’m assuming you dealt with them in Steps Four through Nine, and that they’re cropping up again. The answer is usually that the resentments that keep cropping up are in fact new resentments, caused by things that repeatedly happen to us, or are done to us. And we deal with them through Step Ten, which is Steps Four through Nine done in the context of recovery. If we find these resentments keep coming up, then one of the “principles” we would put down as a resentment might be “This resentment of X continues to keep coming up” and we then treat it as we would any resentment. This has helped me to deal with relationships in which people keep on doing the same annoying things!

  1. Lawrie, this was wonderful. Do you mind reciting your version of the step 3 prayer please?

The version I say is the same as in the Big Book, because I no longer have any need to translate any prayers. But for those who are atheist or agnostic and feel strongly about the issue, here’s a rewording of the Step Three prayer: “I offer myself to my deepest values (love, justice, truth, beauty, for instance), to build upon my deepest values, and to have my life lived according to my deepest values. I would like to be relieved of the bondage of myself so that I can live my life according to my deepest values. I would like my difficulties to be removed so that my victory over my difficulties can bear witness to those I would help of the power and love and way of life of my deepest values.”

  1. Could Lawrie also go into more depth about the self-seeking quality as well? I think it would be helpful to hear a few more examples of self-seeking behavior in relation to resentments.

Self-seeking is a combination of always making yourself the star of your own movie, and using other people to define how you feel about yourself. Judging from the Big Book’s treatment of it, it becomes “inconsiderate” in the Sex Conduct part of Step Four, and disappears from view in Steps Ten and Eleven (Evening Mediation). It is using other people, objectifying other people, thinking of yourself and not of them.

Here are some examples:

  • Associating with the “right” people not because you like them but because they make you feel better about yourself; this could include your own love relationships.
  • Associating with the “wrong” people not because you like them but because they fit in with your self-image of yourself; this could also include your own love relationships.
  • Judging yourself by what people think of you rather than what you think of yourself and your relationship with your higher power.
  • Using other people for your own ends.
  • Comparing other people’s outsides to your insides.
  1. Do you think that “people pleasing” falls into the Dishonesty defect or the Self-Seeking defect? Or maybe it can fall into both categories?

I think it falls into all four categories.

Many of us are people-pleasers—that is we put pleasing people above speaking our truths, or standing up for ourselves, or simply being who we are. When we deal with our defects of character, we often discover that people-pleasing falls into all of the four defects of character:

  • Selfish/self-willed: We want others to like us.
  • Dishonest: We don’t tell the truth when the truth should be told. By omitting to say something, we are perpetuating untruths.
  • Self-seeking: Other people’s opinions of us are more important than our own opinion of us, and than our relationship with our higher power.
  • Frightened: We are afraid of being rejected, of not being liked, of hurting other people’s feelings
  1. I’m struggling very much with accurately identifying what is affected (security, self-esteem, ambitions, etc.); and, then how to articulate how my core defects showed up.

This is common, so don’t worry!

First of all, are you going column by column down the pages, or row by row across the pages. Doing it column by column will teach you much more, and is what the Big Book says to do.

Secondly, the third column (security, self-esteem, ambitions, etc.) should not be a major intellectual challenge. If you look at the examples from the Big Book, you will see that only a few of these sub-columns are even mentioned. Don’t sweat over them! Fill them out as best as you can, and then move on without doing any more thinking. Your biggest challenge will be in the fourth column, where you try to articulate your own defects of character. BUT be sure you are checking in column three whether each of the bullet points in the second column (NOT the person or principle in the first column) affects each of these points.

Thirdly, let’s define the words used in the third column:

  • Self-esteem: how I feel about myself. Does this particular “cause” of my resentment affect how I feel about myself?
  • Security (pocket books): my sense of safety and security, including financial, but could also include personal safety or the safety of my loved ones. Does this particular cause of my resentment affect my sense of safety?
  • Ambitions: what I want out of life. Does this particular cause of my resentment affect what I want out of life? I should say that if you resent something, then in some way shape or form you are not getting what you want out of life, and therefore “ambition” is almost always checked.
  • Personal relations: clear.
  • Sex relations: take this as broad, including not just physical intimacy but also general relationships in which some physical attraction is involved, so could include rejection, coldness, lack of empathy, etc.
  • Fear: clear.

  1. There is a block in me, and I think you just touched on it, “denial of reality” could very well be what is blocking me from seeing it.

This is true for so many of us. We build up our resentments often because we do not accept the reality of our situation. Only in accepting the reality do we really get some sense of what might be possible in our present and future life. Living in the past of would-have-been and should-have-been and what-ifs leads to anger, frustration, paralysis, and inability to see what opportunities might actually exist.

  1. This was so good.  Was very nice to put a face to the voice I’ve heard on YouTube! Thank you to Everyone for all the work put into this.

Session 3 Steps 4-9

  1. What do I say to sponsees who feel it’s vital she make amends to herself?

I guess it depends on where they are in their spiritual journey. How do they know before they get to Steps Eight and Nine exactly whom they have harmed? At Steps Four and Five they finally identify what their defects of character are. At Steps Eight and Nine they identify how those defects of character have harmed others.

If they’re starting Step Four, I very much encourage them to put down as “principles” statements about themselves that they wish were not true, so that they might put down:

  1. I continue to hang onto resentments. My living with my resentments has affected my entire life.

But if they are using the Big Book’s approach to Step Four, those very resentments will be the things that they will be writing down, and before they finish Step Four they will be provided with some of the answers to why they continue to live with those resentments and how to get rid of them. So their “amends” to themselves will turn out to be simply getting rid of those resentments and accepting the reality of what occurred to them that caused those resentments.

  1. How does one do these steps, feel the confidence of recovering, but maintain humility, in other words, not let the ego take over (and take you out)?

I think that’s what Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve, are all about. We continue to have to do what we did in originally cleaning up the past, because our defects of character are waiting outside the rooms of OA, and they keep cropping up (Step Ten). We continue to have to rely on some kind of higher power to give us a sense of direction, and the more we do that, the more we come to rely on that power rather having to think all that time, so that we are aware that we are not in charge (Step Eleven). And we continue to have to tell our story over and over again, and thus remind ourselves of what we used to be like, and how close we are to going back there unless we continue to tell our story; and often we meet people whose lives just plain humble us, because they have overcome tremendous adversity and are more spiritual than we are (Step Twelve).

  1. Could Lawrie go over what he said about fear is living in the future, what the defects represent?  I missed that.

Resentment is living in the past: the past DID not go my way. Fear is living in the future: the future WILL not go my way. And in the Sex Conduct part of Step Four we realize that we were not living in the present in difficult relationships, and figure out a way to do that.

  1. Please explain again how step 4 and the past, present and future.  Can you give us the wording again?  Or write it in the chat. thanks.

Resentment is living in the past: the past DID not go my way. Fear is living in the future: the future WILL not go my way. And in the Sex Conduct part of Step Four we realize that we were not living in the present in difficult relationships, and figure out a way to do that.

  1. Could he go over what he said about fear is living in future…all the defects of character and what they represent?

Resentment is living in the past: the past DID not go my way. Fear is living in the future: the future WILL not go my way. And in the Sex Conduct part of Step Four we realize that we were not living in the present in difficult relationships, and figure out a way to do that.

  1. I have a question on step 4,  is there anything to fear?

I have never met anyone in OA who has nothing to fear. I suppose it’s possible. But if you consider yourself as an addict with an uncontrollable addiction that is facing a slow but difficult death, then you are probably at the least fearing that. Why join OA otherwise? As well, our resentments usually have an element of fear relating to them, if not the general fear that we will continue to experience resentments.

  1. If I know one of the resentments (frustrations) I have will always frustrate me, other than pray (and I have been doing a whole lot of that) is there anything else you can suggest I look at/do to come to accept what is?

You can live in your resentments or you can live in your solution. It’s that simple. You can put down as a resentment something like: “This particular resentment will always frustrate me” and work that through as another resentment. You have to ask yourself why you keep putting yourself in the position of resenting the same thing over and over again.

Either it is a fact of life which you cannot change, or it is something you can change—the Serenity Prayer. If you can’t change it, then embrace it. If you are forced to be with a person who continually creates situations which you resent, for example, then ask yourself why you have to be with that person. If the answer isn’t “So I can continue to torture myself” but is something like “It is the proper thing to do for that person” (say you’re the only person who is capable of taking care of an unlovable human being), then you focus on the good motives behind the action.

There’s no easy answer to your question, but you will discover the answers not through prayer but through either Steps Four through Nine—if you haven’t yet experienced the personality change sufficient to overcome compulsive eating—or through Step Ten, which is Steps Four through Nine done in the context of recovery.

As well the daily Step Eleven prayers are very helpful. “I’m no longer running the show” and “Thy will not mine be done”, repeated over and over again will eventually calm you down and make you realize that you are NOT running the show and that your job is to be of maximum helpfulness to others and not try to have people come up to your expectations.

It’s a well-known phrase in Twelve-Step Fellowships: Expectations are resentments waiting to happen. If you don’t expect anything, then you have nothing to resent.

  1. Lawrie, I could use some more real examples of how self-will, dishonesty, self-seeking, and fear can show up?

There are so many subtle examples, and I don’t know which ones might be helpful to you. If you go to www.oabigbook.info and download the book that’s available there, you’ll see further examples in addition to the examples found also on that page. The bare minimum of these four character defects are these:

  • Selfish/self-willed: I want my way rather than the way it happened.
  • Dishonest: I have lied to others, lied to myself about reality, not told the truth when the truth should have been told.
  • Self-seeking: Everything is about me, and other people define how I feel about myself.
  • Frightened: that in the future the same things will happen as happened in the past.

If you need specific application to your own situation, please email me and we can correspond.

  1. Examples for backdoor access to understanding how these defects may look and feel; I’ve eaten everything my whole life so I’ve had to rely on hearing others experience so that I can apply it to my own.

There are so many subtle examples, and I don’t know which ones might be helpful to you. If you go to www.oabigbook.info and download the book that’s available there, you’ll see further examples in addition to the examples found also on that page. The bare minimum of these four character defects are these:

  • Selfish/self-willed: I want my way rather than the way it happened.
  • Dishonest: I have lied to others, lied to myself about reality, not told the truth when the truth should have been told.
  • Self-seeking: Everything is about me, and other people define how I feel about myself.
  • Frightened: that in the future the same things will happen as happened in the past.

If you need specific application to your own situation, please email me and we can correspond.

  1. Is it possible to use the forms for daily resentments and fears, not just as a part of Step Four? Thank you so much.

Many OA Big Book people do exactly that. I don’t, but that doesn’t mean I’m right!

  1. How did you get out of this relapse? I have been struggling in relapse for a few months.

From the Big Book perspective, there are only two possible causes of a relapse. Each requires a careful examination of what occurred to cause the relapse:

First, your Plan of Eating may allow you still to indulge in foods/ingredients/eating behaviors which cause you uncontrollable cravings, so that your relapse wasn’t a relapse as much as a continuation of your addiction, the equivalent of an alcoholic switching from fine wines to rotgut liquor. So you have to examine your Plan of Eating to make sure that you are really abstaining from ALL that you should be abstaining from. Using another OA member for feedback could help in that regard.

Second, your mind has sent you back to that which you have abstained from because you haven’t worked the Steps hard enough and quick enough to get through Step Nine in order to get the sanity you need. As well, you might not have developed a good strategy for avoiding temptation while you are vulnerable to temptation (before you finished Step Nine) and have to be even more vigilant.

Relapse is not inevitable, but it is common. The main thing is to learn from your mistakes and do your best not to make them again. Relapse can be the very thing that persuades you how desperately you have to work the Steps—that your life truly depends on them!

In terms of how I got out of my last relapse 28 years ago, it was a combination of two things. First, a loving member of OA confronted me with the reality of my relapse, so that I began a path of surrender and was open to new ideas that could help me. Second, through studying the Big Book I began to understand the two major mistakes I had made in my relapses. These mistakes were: (1) thinking that I could eat anything in moderation, that I didn’t have any trigger foods or ingredients or eating behaviors that caused uncontrollable cravings; (2) thinking that Step Ten meant that I should just apologize for my behavior rather than really analyzing what was going on in my entire life.

  1. What do you say to a sponsee who insists she needs to make amends to herself?

I guess it depends on where they are in their spiritual journey. How do they know before they get to Steps Eight and Nine exactly whom they have harmed? At Steps Four and Five they finally identify what their defects of character are. At Steps Eight and Nine they identify how those defects of character have harmed others.

If they’re starting Step Four, I very much encourage them to put down as “principles” statements about themselves that they wish were not true, so that they might put down:

  1. Lawrie, can you please say the alternative version of the 3rd step prayer – “I offer myself to live up to my deepest values………” thank you.

“I offer myself to my deepest values (love, justice, truth, beauty, for instance), to build upon my deepest values, and to have my life lived according to my deepest values. I would like to be relieved of the bondage of my self so that I can live my life according to my deepest values. I would like my difficulties to be removed so that my victory over my difficulties can bear witness to those I would help of the power and love and way of life of my deepest values.”

  1. Question for Lawrie ~ yesterday Lawrie mentioned a series of questions one could use for their 4th step ~ where would you find them. Thanks!

The questions I was referring to come from the Step Four chapter in the OA Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and are repeated in the Board of Trustees’ publication Twelve Step Workbook. They are NOT the Big Book approach. Step Four in the OA 12 & 12 specifically mentions the Big Book’s approach as being one of the ways people in OA work Step Four, and I work the Big Book Step Four approach. I have sadly seen many people relapse during their Step Four because they have been overwhelmed by the many many questions in the OA 12 & 12 and can’t finish Step Four. That doesn’t mean that the questions are bad—they’re not—or that using them to do Step Four is wrong—it’s not—but the danger of a Step Four that takes a long time is that one can relapse before finishing it.

  1. The speaker mentioned that amends may require breaking up toxic relationships. can he explain it further?

This is a difficult topic, and I use this as an example only. Until you get to Step Eight you really won’t have a good idea of the harms you may have done to others, and therefore what amends you should be making.

But if a person is in a toxic relationship, then continuing in that relationship (unless somehow they CAN change the toxicity, as can happen through counselling, honest and direct talking, etc.) harms both persons in that relationship. Sure, it harms the OAer who’s doing the inventory and trying to make amends, but it also harms the other person, at least to the extent that the other person is, in effect, harming their own being and their own ability to be the best of what a human being can be. Leaving that relationship can be the best way of helping the other person not to do harm to others as well as to themselves.

  1. I very recently completed my ninth step…yes there will be fear but pray, pray, pray to have that fear lifted…completing step nine is an exceptional experience…it is indescribable…each amends I made gave me power and strength to go onto the next amends.

That’s great! That’s the experience of so many of us. Each time we make an amends we feel even stronger and better. That’s why many people recommend that we divide our amends into three columns—those we’re ready to do NOW, those we will do SOMETIME, and those we can NEVER do. If we do the NOW ones, then we find that the NEVERs become SOMETIMEs, and the SOMETIMEs become NOWs. And once we do those, the ones that were NEVERs become NOWs! An example of that can be found at www.oabigbook.info.

  1. In your example, could you please discuss further the benefits of announcing childhood hurts to the family? I’m talking about the worksheet he put up 15 minutes ago.

That is only an example of what could be done, not a recommendation! Such an amends might be appropriate for one person but NOT for another. And sometimes even if it might be an appropriate amends, an analysis will show that making that kind of amends would be more harmful than helpful, so that amends cannot be made.

  1. Should I assume I harm another by having judgmental thoughts about them but not verbalizing such thoughts?  or assume it’s a normal part of being human & imperfect?

My own take, and it’s only my own take, is that if I have neither verbalized my thoughts NOR acted in such a way that my thoughts came out (coldness, gossip, minor retaliation, ignoring the other person, for instance), then I have not harmed that person and therefore no amends are necessary. We often make snap judgements about people we meet for the first time, perhaps on the basis of appearance, for instance, but treat them appropriately, and then quickly find out that our snap judgement was wrong. What harm have we done to them?

In addition, there’s nothing wrong with making moral judgements about people, so long as they’re based on fact in an open-minded way. I have every right to condemn Hitler and other people who have done or are doing evil in this world. That’s part of being a moral person in this world. I have to see them with pity as being morally bankrupt and damaged people, but the actions they have taken are wrong.

  1. Can you elaborate about Amends that are complex, please?

The obvious amends are ones where we apologize for our behaviors, we pay people back if we have cost them financial damage, or we pay our “debt” to society by trying to make up for our gossiping or stealing or such like.

Complex amends are those in which the harm we did is subtle and requires careful analysis. Have we harmed another person by continuing in a relationship with that person? Have we harmed other people by NOT taking action that might have helped them? Have we harmed another person by rejecting their interest in us not because of them but because of our fears and low self-image?

These are not easy questions, and different people working their Steps Eight and Nine may have completely different answers to those questions, each one of which is RIGHT for them even though it wouldn’t be right for another person. Some of my OA friends were, tragically, victims of childhood sexual abuse. Their answers to these questions varied considerably.

These kinds of amends require extensive analysis, perhaps discussion not only with a sponsor but with other experienced Twelve Step people or even a therapist or counsellor. The question comes down to whether you in your heart have come to the conclusion that you have done harm to another person through inaction or through a complex series of relationships.

  1. Is the latest edition of the big book the best to use?

The prefaces and forewords and first 164 pages of the Big Book have not been essentially changed since the Second Edition of the Big Book was published in 1955. Some of the stories after page 164 have been changed, removed, added, in subsequent editions in order better to reflect the membership of AA; most of the classic stories have been kept. The current edition, the Fourth, is the one I use.

  1. I struggle with the term selfish. Please clarify the definition of selfishness according to this program.

The Big Book’s discussion of our wanting to be not only the actor in the production but the director, the choreographer, the musical director, the writer, clearly shows that the word “selfish” is not to be taken as the dictionary defines. The word means “wanting to be in charge” or “wanting the world to go my way” regardless of your motivation. A wish to have the world be free of hunger is not “selfish” according to the dictionary definition, but would be “selfish” according to the Big Book definition. That’s why I am beginning to use the phrase “Selfish/self-willed” to make it clearer.

  • p74 step 5 .. we must not disclose anything that Will  . . .      such parts of story we tell to someone who will understand yet be unaffected.  so maybe more than 1 person hears our story [crime]

Absolutely!

  1. When we reexamine our food plan and make a change, do we reset our abstinence at that point? I find tracking days of abstinence  encouraging…not the main focus of course!

I think we do what helps us carry the message to those who still suffer.

Reexamining our Plan of Eating to see if we should change it is part of what many of us do. Over the years I have added foods to my “trigger” list of things to abstain from, because I have discovered that they have created uncontrollable cravings in me. So long as I don’t breach the guidelines I have drawn up, and those guidelines keep me at a healthy body weight, then I am abstinent from my perspective; changing the guidelines creates new boundaries, but doesn’t affect what I did before the guidelines were changed.

Many OAers talk about recommitting their abstinence every day, and it helps them and helps their sponsees. I don’t talk that way, but my way may not be the best way! I do keep track of my months and years of abstinence, and share that when I tell my story, because I think that gives hope to the compulsive eater who still suffers.

  1. I loan someone a large sum of money and they have not paid me back. My sponsor wants me to make amends because I have called them several times demanding my money. I don’t want to make amends . What should I do?

I have been in this situation, and I don’t think there is only one solution or one action that should be taken. It all depends on specific circumstances and what appears to you to be the best course, after you have separated your own character defects from the situation.

It’s also not clear exactly what amends your sponsor wants you to make. I originally read this as your sponsor’s saying you should go after that person for the money using a lawyer. But perhaps your sponsor is saying that you should apologize to that person for demanding the money? I don’t know.

You also don’t indicate why you don’t want to make amends. You might be right, but I don’t see the reason for it. So I can only set out general observations and invite you to email me if you want a more specific discussion.

The first issue is whether you have done the Step Four Resentment Prayers relating to the person who owes you money. Are you able to see that person as a spiritually sick person who deserves tolerance, pity, and patience? Do you see how that person has harmed themselves in not paying back the loan?

The second issue is whether the loss of that money has harmed other people as well as yourself. If it has deprived other people of what you might have been able to do with that money then that might also be part of the equation.

The third issue is the burden of carrying this resentment on you and your loved ones and your friends. Does it harm them?

Taking all these things into account, what harm have you done to that person? Generally, I would think that the harm was in not forcing that person to repay the money, because the non-repayment of the money makes that person a worse human being. On the other hand, perhaps that person is in such terrible financial shape that repaying that money would cause greater harm. These are issues that depend very much on the facts. The harm that you have done determines the kind of amends you have to make.

And once you decide what harm is done, and what amends should be taken, then you have to figure out (as Step Nine requires) whether making that amends would injure the person who borrowed the money or other people MORE than would be helpful.

Again, without knowing the specifics I really can’t provide a clearer answer.

  1. How do you decide when the truth should be told when addressing self-seeking?

The first issue is to decide whether you have harmed anyone else by not telling the truth when it should have been told. If you haven’t harmed anyone, then I don’t see why you would decide to tell it. If I don’t harm someone I meet by saying to them, “You look so much younger than your age” or “I thought you two were sisters”, then the truth didn’t need to be told.

On the other hand, if I have harmed someone by not telling the truth when it should have been told (examples: “You are hurting our children”; “What you say promotes racism and hatefulness and is wrong”; “This is a relationship which should be ended”; “Don’t think that I agree with you about this issue because I don’t”; “You are dominating this conversation so that everyone else feels stifled”) then telling the truth is the appropriate amends. That is the Step Eight part of the amends process.

BUT you also have to determine whether making that amends would harm the person or others, and that can be tricky. In some cases, for example, I have decided that telling the truth to people who are completely unable to change (say, because of age or mental illness) would be more harmful than helpful. In other cases, I have decided that telling the truth, even if it means hurting someone’s feelings, is more helpful than harmful.

It is important to note that telling the truth when the truth should be told means also telling the truth in a way that it can be understood! There is a big difference between saying, for example, “You’re a racist” and saying “I want you to understand that while I love you, what you just said felt very hurtful to me because it seemed to promote stereotypes and hatred against certain groups of people.”

These can be subtle issues, and discussing them with other recovered compulsive eaters, such as a sponsor, to get honest feedback, is extremely helpful.

In my own experience, when, after getting feedback from others,  I have determined what I should be doing and am wondering whether I should be doing it, I sleep on it. When I and wake up in the morning, I ask for an intuitive thought or action, and then just go with what comes to my mind—either doing it or not doing it, as my intuition tells me. I know that my motives are good, so whatever happens was done for the best, even though the consequences might not turn out to be what I had hoped for.

  1. Does your harm list have to come from step 4? what if there’s not a lot of harms related to that list? for example, stealing from a grocery story may not be a resentment but may very well warrant an amends? same with other resentments that may not have made it to your current inventory, but may still require an amends?

This is an interesting question. Most of the people I have met in OA put down stealing from a grocery as a resentment because they feel bad about having done it, so it’s a resentment that is living in their mind; and that’s been true for most of the most obvious kinds of amends involving repayment or restitution for financial damages. If that’s not the case for some people, then it would probably be good for them to try to figure out why these things weren’t in their minds.

But I suppose it’s true that the harms list doesn’t necessarily come from Step Four. If, after doing Steps Four and Five, you pass the checklist quiz (Are you delighted? Can you look the world in the eye? Can you be alone at perfect peace and ease? Have your fears fallen from you?), and some obvious harms you did were not on the Step Four list, then you should probably still make amends for such harms if doing so wouldn’t hurt others.

I think you should always go for your gut. While the Big Book directions for working the Steps are powerful and have worked for many people just as they’re written, they are guides and sometimes don’t cover all the possibilities of a situation. So my simple answer is that when you’re at Step Eight your job is to make a list of ALL people you’ve harmed, and if some of those people weren’t on your resentment or fear or sex conduct list, but you know that you have harmed them, then you should be willing to make appropriate amends to them (Step Eight) AND make those amends unless doing so would injure them or others (Step Nine).

  1. In protecting a child whose parent was going to turn her child into an agency I thereby betrayed a trust by focusing on the child and telling relatives what she was going to do and I would do the same thing again. Do I owe her an amends??

If you would do the same thing again, you obviously thought that the harm you were preventing outweighed the harm that you were doing. This appears to have been an appropriate moral choice. Perhaps the only “harm” you might have done was not to explain to her in a way that she could understand why you made that choice. If she were capable of understanding that, it might be helpful to her. But the chances are to revisit that incident would only create even more harm.

  1. Is it right to think that “There is a time when we need to ask ourselves, Did I know better?   there are times We do the best with what we Know at the time.

This is certainly true. We usually act according to what we think is the best based on what we know. Sometimes in retrospect we can determine that wrong motives were involved, that our defects of character combined to keep us from seeing things that should have obvious, or accepting things that should have been accepted, and for that we might owe amends. But sometimes we just did the best we could and made mistakes. Whether we owe amends in such cases depends on each one of us and our relationship with our individual higher power. Some people might feel they owed amends, and others might not, and I don’t think there’s a right or wrong to most of these issues, because they’re very subtle.

  1. Please give pages in BB regarding how sponsee is not Higher power. good to know to tell sponsees

The following passages in Working with Others show, I think, that the sponsor isn’t a guru, that the sponsor should not be ordering anyone around, and that the role of the sponsor is to help the sponsee become dependent upon the sponsee’s OWN higher power.

page 89: [N]othing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.

page 90: You should be described to him as one of a fellowship who, as part of their own recovery, try to help others.

page 93:  Let him see that you are not there to instruct him in religion.

page 94: It is important for him to realize that your attempt to pass this on to him plays a vital part in your own recovery. Actually, he may be helping you more than you are helping him.

page 95: You will be most successful with alcoholics if you do not exhibit any passion for crusade or reform. Never talk down to an alcoholic from any moral or spiritual hilltop; simply lay out the kit of spiritual tools for his inspection. Show him how they worked with you.

page 96: Suppose now you are making your second visit to a man. He has read this volume and says he is prepared to go through with the Twelve Steps of the program of recovery. Having had the experience yourself, you can give him much practical advice. Let him know you are available if he wishes to make a decision and tell his story, but do not insist upon it if he prefers to consult someone else.

page 98: Some of us have taken very hard knocks to learn this truth: Job or no job – wife or no wife – we simply do not stop drinking so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on God.

 Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house.

pages 99-100: Remind the prospect that his recovery is not dependent upon people. It is dependent upon his relationship with God.

  1. 12 provocations and how does he use them?

I use the Twelve Provocations to help show how the Big Book’s approach might seem different to a lot of OAers. They are simply what I think are reasonable summaries of what the Big Book stands for. You can find them in the book available for free download at www.oabigbook.info.

Session 3 Steps 10-12

  1. I am wondering if one hears about child abuse currently or in the past  in a 5th step , what is the listeners responsibility there?

These are issues faced by many different people whose job it is to keep confidences—lawyers, priests and other spiritual counsellors, therapists, social workers. They aren’t easy issues, and there are varied responses. For some, if the harms are in the past and there is no chance they will be repeated, then confidentiality outweighs disclosure. For others, that’s not the case. For most, if the harms are in the present or the future, then disclosure outweighs harms. It is always a matter of balancing the harm against the benefit. And that involves a very careful analysis of the SPECIFIC circumstances.

Generally, however, if I am hearing a Step Five, then I am dealing with a person who is seeking to change from what they were to what their ideals call to them, so that their disclosure is part of a journey to change into better human beings. This means that generally THEY will be the ones who will disclose and that I won’t have to do anything.

  1. If I am the partner of a 5 step—and something is being revealed that I find discomforting (child abuse—severe crime). can I interrupt and say. “I am not able to hear this part of your story—can. please tell to another

I think we can always say that in any Step Five. What if someone is telling us something that triggers our deep emotions? Surely we have a right to say that we can’t listen to that for our own safety. There are no rules here, just general guidelines, and we should not take our role as listeners to a Step Five as written in stone. The Big Book does not provide specific instructions for hearing a Step Five, and that is probably because there are so many variations.

  1. I think learning about the differences between steps 6 &7  Wouldn’t reading Steps 6 & 7 in Step 12&12 Step book truly clarifies the differences between 6&7

I don’t go to the 12 & 12 (either OA or AA) in my sponsoring, and very, very specifically don’t go there for Steps Six and Seven. But if you want to, why not? It is significant for me that the Big Book treats Steps Six and Seven as very minor Steps that are clearly done right after Step Five, and are followed by “Now we need more action, without which we find that ‘Faith without works is dead.’ Let’s look at Steps Eight and Nine.” (page 76) So from my perspective, Steps Six and Seven should not be used to delay us from making our amends.

  1. Lawrie was going to mention toxic relationships…can you please remind him?

This is a difficult topic.

If a person is in a toxic relationship, then continuing in that relationship (unless somehow they CAN change the toxicity, as can happen through counselling, direct honest talking, etc.) harms both persons in that relationship. Sure, it harms the OAer who’s doing the inventory and trying to make amends, but it also harms the other person, at least to the extent that the other person is, in effect, harming their own being and their own ability to be the best of what a human being can be; and it might also be harming other loved ones who are affected by the relationship.

Leaving that relationship can be the best way of helping the other person not to do harm to others as well as to themselves.

  1. So is review step 10 or 11? BB says 11.  12 & 12 says Step 10 & does it really matter?

I see Step Ten differently from the way it is described in both the AA and the OA 12 & 12s, where it’s used as a fluid concept to describe all kinds of inventories, including spot check and evening inventories, which are clearly part of Step Eleven in the Big Book. I can justify my interpretation if you wish, but that is how I see it.

So for daily spiritual work, I turn to the description of Step Eleven in the Big Book and see that it requires a before-bedtime (evening) meditation on how I acted in the day that has just passed, and whether any of my defects of character arose and whether I owe an apology and all kinds of other questions, so that I can learn from whatever mistakes I made and do better the next day; and a before-the-day-begins meditation on what my plans are for the day, and spiritual practices to prepare myself for letting things happen without my having to control everything; and during-the-day meditation (spot check) on what I should do when particularly aggravated or confused. You can see all of that in the description of Step Eleven.

I see Step Ten as doing EVERYTHING one did in Steps Four through Nine (writing down resentments, dealing with fears and sex conduct [Four]; admitting to another human being [Five]; being ready and asking to have the defects removed [Six and Seven]; and making amends wherever possible [Eight and Nine]), with the added power of now being a spiritually sane human being, having recovered, and therefore a professional Step Tenner rather than an amateur Step Four-through-Niner.

So Step Ten involves not just the day that has passed, but EVERYTHING that is going on in one’s life that causes any concerns whatsoever. As a professional, I switch from “sex conduct” to ALL relationships. As a professional, I will put down as resentments particular issues I have to make decisions about, whereas I might not have done that for Step Four.

And I do Step Tens whenever I need to, whenever I’m feeling restless, irritable, or discontented. I haven’t done a Step Ten for some time, but I think it will soon become time for one. But there have been very difficult times in my life when I did a Step Ten every week.

  1. What website can I go to find out more information about Dr. Bob.?

I would start with two OA-approved AA books, Dr. Bob and the Good Old-Timers, and Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age. The first is the AA biography of Dr. Bob. The second is Bill Wilson’s recounting of the history of AA in which Dr. Bob, as the co-founder, features prominently. AA Comes of Age is a brilliant book; it also discusses the development of the Traditions and the Concepts.

There is also Not God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous by Ernest Kurtz, which is a brilliant history written as a Ph.D. Thesis.

There are many websites recounting histories of AA. One of the best is www.silkworth.net, which contains a wealth of articles, including many about and by Dr. Bob.

  1. Can you repeat what you said about passion?

I’m afraid I don’t remember what I said about passion. Perhaps I was talking about a higher power and that a higher power is our deepest value, that which we are most passionate about? I just don’t remember. I’m sorry.

Or perhaps talking about compassion? We have to be both tough and compassionate. Toughness means not enabling people, being direct, challenging them to live in the solution of the Steps rather than living in the problem of addiction. Compassion means understanding that addicted people are sick, that they need a sense of safety and love. Balancing toughness and compassion is difficult but necessary. One of my OA mentors used to say, “Honesty without compassion is cruel. But compassion without honesty can kill.” If we simply have compassion for people who are suffering their addiction, then we enable them to continue in the problem rather than search for the solution.

  1. I no longer binge. In fact, 306 days.  However, I still add an extra handful of nuts here or there or an extra something on the food plan…I am at a healthy weight but could stand to let go of 5-8lbs…I have worked all of the steps recently but still have this behavior…do I have to start a day count again?  I am realizing, thru this workshop, this is a still a compulsive behavior…thank you for this amazing workshop.

In terms of starting a day count, I know what I would say about myself, but I don’t know what you would say about yourself. As I said, I practice a “good-enough” program. I strive for progress, not perfection. If I come within the definition of abstinence—maintaining a healthy body weight—then I am abstinent. If I could improve my body weight and choose to do so, that’s not related to abstinence but related to appearance—assuming that it is clear I am at a healthy body weight.

If I really worried about the issue— which I personally don’t—then this would be a “resentment” that I would put down on the Step Four part of my Step Ten, along with any other things that bothered me. As I processed this and other issues through Steps Four through Nine, I would have faith that I would reach an intuitive understanding of whether to start a day count again or not.

  1. Could you repeat the 4 things we have in common?

I was talking about the four things that my mentors and idols in OA, some of whom don’t use the Big Book’s directions, and some of who do, have in common. They are:

  • Accepted that our addiction is a life-or-death addiction.
  • Got abstinent and then worked the Steps.
  • Worked the Steps as quickly and honestly as they could while abstinent.
  • Gave of themselves to others as if their lives depended on it.
  1. Is there a printout on 12 provocations?

They are available in the book available as a free PDF download at www.oabigbook.info.

  1. Where can I get a copy of the 12 provocations?

They are available in the book available as a free PDF download at www.oabigbook.info.

  1. When I first started OA I was told I needed to be desperate to be a part of OA. Do you agree?

The AA 12 & 12 says that only Step One has to be understood as 100% true. I think we need to be desperate to do the things we are asked to do. If we don’t treat our addiction as life-or-death, then we’re visiting OA, not being members of it.

  1. So, how do we change our meetings so that whining is discouraged? BTW, I think that goal is a good reason to not talk about food at meetings.

Every meeting should occasionally and perhaps frequently ask itself in a meeting whether it is fulfilling its mandate under Tradition Five—to carry its message of recovery through the Twelve Steps to those who still suffer. This question can remind everyone of why every group exists, and can begin a process of change.

The simple answer to the question is that that meeting needs more recovered people who can tell their stories of overcoming adversity and recovering from their addiction.

Another simple answer is that each recovered person in that meeting should put down issues relating to that meeting as “resentment principles” in a Step Ten, because they will through doing that Step Ten (Steps Four through Nine done in the context of recovery) will provide them with the answers that would be appropriate for the specific circumstances.

Here are some questions that might assist:

  • Does the meeting emphasize the Steps as the solution? Is it a “how was your week meeting” or does it study the Steps?
  • Does the meeting have a reach-out to newcomers so that newcomers are welcomed and recovered people are able to share about their recovery?
  • Could the meeting change the way in which people are asked if they want to share? Instead of going around the room, for instance, people could be asked to raise their hands if they want to share, and the chair could call on them. Or the members could sit theatre style and have to come up to the podium to share.
  • Could the meeting change its format to emphasize that people who have individual problems should share them one-on-one with recovered OA members, and that sharing should be confined to the topic at hand, not on the past week? There are a number of suggested OA meeting formats at www.oa.org which even have a paragraph in which the chair says that they, as the chair of today’s meeting, have been asked by the meeting to have the discretion to indicate to a member whether they’ve been speaking too long or are off topic, and to ask members to abide by that discretion.

The general aim of these questions is to create an atmosphere in which “whining” is an uncomfortable thing to do because the focus of the meeting is not on “There, there” but “And how’s that working for you today?”

On the issue of discussing food at meetings, the Big Book is pretty clear on that on page 101: “In our belief any scheme of combating alcoholism which proposes to shield the sick man from temptation is doomed to failure.” How can I tell my story of my addiction without telling specific stories of my pigging out? How can I tell my story of developing a Plan of Eating without specific examples of my trigger foods? Talking about general concepts like “sugar” or “fat” can lead a newcomer to believe that everyone has the same trigger issues, and that’s not in accordance with the group conscience of OA. But talking about specific foods gives a newcomer insight into what THEIR particular issues might be.

  1. I read the big book with my sponsees 2-3 x per week. is the reason not to do that just to be able to sponsor more people.

If your sponsees have already recovered, and if you and they are aware of meetings where they could meet people who need sponsors who can’t find sponsors, then why are you doing it? Why are you not carrying the message of recovery through the Twelve Steps to those who still suffer rather than reading the Big Book with those who don’t? I ask those questions respectfully, but directly. Of course, if there are plenty of sponsors available for those who still suffer, then reading the book with others can be good!

  1. Can you repeat the 4 things all OAs who have recovered have in common, no matter how they work the Steps?

They are:

  • Accepted that our addiction is a life-or-death addiction.
  • Got abstinent and then worked the Steps.
  • Worked the Steps as quickly and honestly as they could while abstinent.
  • Gave of themselves to others as if their lives depended on it.
  1. Once taking a sponsee through the steps, if they don’t start to sponsor do we continue to work with them or what should we tell them.

I would tell them my concerns, that Step Twelve is considered essential to continued recovery, that they should do a Step Ten on why they aren’t sponsoring and suggest strongly that if they don’t try to carry the message they run a great risk of relapse. But it is always their decision, and if they want to take that risky experiment, then it’s up to them.

I should say that once a person has recovered and I’ve told them all I know about Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve, I don’t “work” with them anymore. I’m available to them if they want to use me for the Step Five or Steps Eight and Nine part of Step Ten, or to give them any of my experience in helping them work with sponsees, but their job now is to be of maximum helpfulness to others, which is my job too, and that means to help those who still suffer, not those who have recovered. So I don’t spend a lot of time with sponsees after their recovery. That would be stealing from the time we owe to those who still suffer.

  1. Amendment on question…what is your feeling on day counting?

If counting days helps a person while they are working the Steps, then that’s wonderful. If counting days helps to carry the message of recovery through the Twelve Steps to those who still suffer, then that’s wonderful too.

  1. The question is when a sponsee has reached step 12 but doesn’t sponsor and wants to keep talking to us, what should we tell them.

I would tell them my concerns, that Step Twelve is considered essential to continued recovery, that they should do a Step Ten on why they aren’t sponsoring and suggest strongly that if they don’t try to carry the message, they run a great risk of relapse. But it is always their decision, and if they want to take that risky experiment, then it’s up to them.

I should say that once a person has recovered and I’ve told them all I know about Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve, I don’t “work” with them any more. I’m available to them if they want to use me for the Step Five or Steps Eight and Nine part of Step Ten, or to give them any of my experience in helping them work with sponsees, but their job now is to be of maximum helpfulness to others, which is my job too, and that means to help those who still suffer, not those who have recovered. So I don’t spend a lot of time with sponsees after their recovery. That would be stealing from the time we owe to those who still suffer.

  1. Could Lawrie repeat the 4 things we all have in common?

I think it was recovered members

I was talking about the four things that my mentors and idols in OA, some of whom don’t use the Big Book’s directions, and some of who do, have in common. They are:

  • Accepted that our addiction is a life-or-death addiction.
  • Got abstinent and then worked the Steps.
  • Worked the Steps as quickly and honestly as they could while abstinent.
  • Gave of themselves to others as if their lives depended on it.
  1. To Laurie what are the bewilderments?

They’re the bedevilments, not the bewilderments, although the latter is not a bad description as well! They’re found on page 52 of the Big Book:

“We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people – was not a basic solution of these bedevilments more important than whether we should see newsreels of lunar flight? Of course it was.”

  1. Is there a Step 10 form at OABigBook.info? (set out the way Lawrie presented it)

No, because the forms are the same as those used in Steps Four through Nine, because Step Ten is Steps Four through Nine done after one has recovered—at least that’s how I interpret the Big Book. Others interpret it differently, and see Step Ten as being the equivalent of the Step Eleven Evening Meditation.

  1. How about reading Steps 6 & 7 to clearly understand the differences in12 & 12 step book clearly defines the differences

It’s fair to say that most Big Book people, who have been heavily influenced by the Joe and Charlie Big Book Workshops done in AA (and two for OA), would respectfully not agree. The differences between Step Six and Step Seven in the Big Book are clear enough: Step Six asks us whether we’re ready to have our defects of character removed, and Step Seven provides the prayer that we say when we’re ready. And the proof of being ready and of having taken Step Seven is that we go right on to Steps Eight and Nine.

  1. Have you heard the term “imperfectly abstinent”? If so, what does it mean?

I have indeed heard those words, and I must say that even though I think I know what they mean by that, in my opinion using a phrase like that can be harmful to the compulsive eater who still suffers.

Many people who say they are imperfectly abstinent mean only that they have a Plan of Eating—as I do—which doesn’t call for strict weighing and measuring but has other methods of volume control, so that at times they have to look at their weight to see if their volume control has not been accurate. That happens to me at times. I weigh myself once a month to see how my weight is doing, because I rely on “feeling reasonably full” to deal with volume control. If my weight is up, I deal with that to get my weight down. Some would describe that as imperfect abstinence. I wouldn’t, because I am dealing with my volume issues in the ways that my Plan of Eating has set out, and I maintain a healthy body weight according to my doctor. This is the equivalent of an alcoholic who does not indulge in any alcohol but drinks too much coffee.

But “imperfect abstinence” could give newcomers and those who still suffer the notion that somehow it’s okay to have a binge every so often, or to eat foods that they should abstain from. And some newcomers and some long-time members might even be using that phrase to describe that. Our definition of abstinence precludes that. One is not abstinent if one indulges in compulsive (read: “causing cravings”) foods and food behaviors and is not working toward or maintaining a healthy body weight. That’s the equivalent of an alcoholic who generally abstains from alcohol, but occasionally has a sherry.

So long-time members, like me, who might fluctuate in their weight, hovering around their healthy body weight, but not weighing and measuring food, should, in my respectful opinion, NOT use “imperfect abstinence” to describe their actions, because they might mislead those who are looking for excuses to break their abstinence to do so.

  1. I asked for him to talk more about toughness and passion.

I think this asks about toughness and compassion. We have to be both tough and compassionate. Toughness means not enabling people, being direct, challenging them to live in the solution of the Steps rather than living in the problem of addiction. Compassion means understanding that addicted people are sick, that they need a sense of safety and love. Balancing toughness and compassion is difficult but necessary. One of my OA mentors used to say, “Honesty without compassion is cruel. But compassion without honesty can kill.” If we simply have compassion for people who are suffering their addiction, then we enable them to continue in the problem rather than search for the solution.

Print and Mail Donation Form