When you arrive at a meeting, you will find men and women who share a common malady — compulsive eating — and have found a common solution: the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous. You will see anywhere from three to 30 or more people at the meeting. An average meeting has about nine. Many members attend more than one meeting a week. You will be warmly welcomed.
The meeting usually opens with the Serenity Prayer, and you may hear a reading called “Our Invitation to You,” which describes the disease of compulsive overeating and the Twelve-Step solution. Meeting formats may vary, but all OA groups are the same in that they seek recovery on three levels — physical, emotional and spiritual — through the Twelve Steps, and the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively.
Although meeting formats vary, you may hear a speaker open the meeting and speak for 10 to 15 minutes about what life was like before OA, what happened, and what he or she is like now; or someone might read from OA or AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) literature. Other members will share their experience, strength and hope. You will have an opportunity to introduce yourself as a newcomer, if you like. You will find that you are not alone, that there is a way out of your desperation. Because anonymity is a critical principle of the OA program, you are assured that what you share will be held in confidence. This provides the safety you need to share your experiences honestly.
You may recognize your own story when you listen to others share. Listening will help you find others who have what you want, whether it be weight loss, clarity, joy in achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight, or freedom from the obsession of self-destructive eating behaviors. You may want to ask someone you can identify with to be your sponsor. A sponsor will share the experience, strength and hope they’ve found in Twelve-Step recovery and may help answer the questions you have about the OA program. Please don’t hesitate to ask anything. You may need to attend several meetings before you find a sponsor.
When members share, you may hear them refer to a Higher Power or to God. OA is not a religious program and does not subscribe to any specific religious ideology. It is a program that practices spiritual principles, and members individually approach these principles with a Higher Power of their understanding.
A list may be passed around for all to sign their names and phone numbers, so people can offer each other support between meetings. Someone from the meeting you attend may call you to answer any questions you may have about the program, and you will also have an opportunity to get phone numbers yourself to reach out for help. The telephone is an important tool in OA for getting and giving support and reminding you that you are not alone.
Meetings usually last between one and one and a half hours. Before and after the meeting, feel free to ask questions and pick up some OA literature to help you learn about the program. The Questions and Answers pamphlet may provide answers to your specific questions. It is included in the Newcomers Packet you may receive. By asking for help, you are taking an important step toward recovery.
Because OA is self-supporting through member contributions, a basket will be passed for donations which are used to pay rent, buy literature and help support OA’s service bodies.
You will notice that some members volunteer to help keep the meeting going, such as the group secretary, the treasurer and greeters. Members find that doing service in OA helps keep them from eating compulsively. Service is important to their recovery and allows them to give back to the Fellowship that has saved their lives. Service opportunities exist in all levels of the Fellowship, from setting up chairs at a meeting to being on the Board of Trustees.
The meeting usually ends with the OA Promise, “I Put My Hand in Yours,” or a similar closing. If you find that the meeting you attended does not feel right, try a different group at another time and location. It is a good idea to attend at least six meetings to learn the many ways OA can help you. If your area doesn’t offer a large number of face-to-face meetings, you are welcome to attend online or telephone meetings.
What you WON’T find at OA meetings are weigh-ins, packaged meals, dues, fees, “shoulds,” “musts” or judgment.
What you WILL find at meetings is:
- Acceptance of you as you are now, as you were, as you will be.
- Understanding of the problems you now face — problems almost certainly shared by others in the group.
- Communication that comes as the natural result of our mutual understanding and acceptance.
- Recovery from your illness.
- Power to enter a new way of life through the acceptance and understanding of yourself, the practice of the Twelve-Step recovery program, the belief in a power greater than yourself, and the support and companionship of the group.
If you decide that you are one of us, we welcome you with open arms. Whatever your circumstances, we offer you the gift of acceptance. You are not alone anymore. Welcome to Overeaters Anonymous. Welcome home!