My First OA Meeting (or Celebrating A Friend’s Milestone)

About a month or so ago a friend of mine invited me to check out Overeaters Anonymous with her. Since the group is anonymous and my friend has asked me not to share her name, I’m going to refer to her as E. (that’s not one of her initials so don’t start going through my old posts trying to figure out who E. is).

I wasn’t able to go with E. for a while, but then she asked me again recently. This time, she asked me to attend a particular meeting because she would be celebrating her 1 year mark with OA and wanted me to be a part of it. I was honored to go, so even though I’ve had my reservations about going to OA in the past, I wasn’t going to miss this meeting.

This meeting was held in the valley right after rush hour. So if I was going to attend meetings in the future, it probably wouldn’t be this one (it took me over an hour to get there). But I got to the meeting early enough to get to hang out with E. and catch up a bit before we went inside.

I didn’t know what to expect, but I’ve done group therapy before. It was a major component of the RFO diet that I did in the past. So I’m used to sharing with a group and getting feedback from fellow members. But OA was very different from any other group therapy I’ve done before.

In all the past group therapy I’ve done, the entire time was spent letting people talk about their problems/victories/concerns and letting other people respond and give advice or encouragement. In this particular OA meeting, the meeting was an hour-long but over 30 minutes of that was doing going over rules and other administrative items such as reading the 12 steps and traditions of OA as well as a member sharing her story (she has been in OA for decades). Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just not what I expected. E. told me that there are several meetings that are over an hour just so there is more time for talking.

After all the administrative talk at the meeting, it was time to celebrate people’s anniversaries with OA. E. got a candle to celebrate her 1 year mark and there were some other women celebrating 3 years. I was so proud of E. for many reasons. She’s stuck with something for a year, and that’s so tough to do. And she was open to sharing this with me, which is also incredibly tough to do. I remember when I wrote about my eating disorder on here for the first time I cried for about 3 hours and almost didn’t publish that post.

Next, people had a chance to talk. But they are only given a certain amount of time (I’m not exactly sure of the time limit, but I think it was about 4 minutes). There is someone at the meeting with a timer and they let people know when their time is up. Again, this is not something I’m used to. In other group therapy, we could easily spend 30 minutes on one topic with multiple people chiming in. But perhaps with the time restrictions on the OA meeting, they’ve discovered that they need to keep people on time so they can do everything that needs to be done.

One of my biggest concerns and reasons I hadn’t checked out OA in the past was the issue of God. I don’t believe in God (and I don’t want to start a debate on here about that). But when I looked over a lot of the information about OA, it talks about letting a higher power guide you and things to that nature. While I do believe in putting things out into the universe, that’s not to have the universe guide me. I guide myself.

This particular meeting was very “God-ish” as E. and I put it. But she told me that most meetings weren’t this way and this particular meeting was one of the most “God-ish” that she’s been to.

Overall, the meeting was some of what I expected and a lot of what I didn’t expect. After the meeting, E. and I talked in my car for a while about it and she listened to my concerns and addressed all of them (including telling me about meetings that are longer than an hour and how this meeting seemed very “God-ish”). I’m not 100% sure that I’m going to check out another OA meeting soon, but I’m so glad I went. I got to see what it was all about and I did meet some really great people there (I wish I could tell you about them but that would defeat the “anonymous” part).

Sorry if this post seems scattered (it feels that way to me when I’m reading it and I’ve edited this several times now). The OA meeting wasn’t super recent. I waited to share this for me to gather my thoughts a bit more about it. If any of you attend OA and are ok with sharing your thoughts, I’d love to hear them. But I also understand if you don’t want to “out” yourself. It’s not an easy thing to do, but I’m so glad that E. “outed” herself to me and I was able to share in one of her victories.

4 responses to “My First OA Meeting (or Celebrating A Friend’s Milestone)

  1. I was in OA for a bit – I actually made it to 6 months at one point – and I might go back for sporadic meetings, but the reason I had a problem with it is that the vibe is so depressing. One of my friends from OA who also had experience with AA said that the vibe of AA meetings was so much more hopeful and upbeat – like “You can DO this!” Whereas in OA it’s more people sharing their struggles and feeling down about it. It’s hard to feel like you can make a change when everyone around you is so down.

    As for the God stuff – that totally depends on the person and on the chapter. If you read the Big Book (which is basically Alcoholics Anonymous – but all 12-step programs use it), there’s a chapter on atheism. I heard a story once about an atheist at a meeting who “didn’t believe in a higher power” and the leader said something like “It doesn’t have to be something shee-shee, frou-frou – just something that’s bigger than you are. It can be anything.” So the atheist looked up at the ceiling and was all “Hey, the ceiling is bigger than me, and keeps stuff from falling on my head. And it’s literally higher than I am – my higher power is the ceiling.” And so the atheist used the ceiling as a stand-in for a higher power. 🙂 I’m not an atheist, but I’m not comfortable with the spiritual angle either – then again, a big part of my problem is that I DO feel like I have to “do it myself,” and that’s a trap. Because if we COULD do it ourselves, we WOULD have a long time ago, right? A lot of that is stubbornness and not wanting to ask for help. The Higher Power – the way I see it – is the power of the group when it all comes together. Acknowledging that you need to fall back on the group for support precisely because you CAN’T do it on your own. It has nothing to do with God, but it DOES have to do with surrender, which is really difficult.

    Anyway, the reason why I feel like I might give OA another shot is that 1) I could really use the support – and it’s free. 2) I may not have been happy with the chapters I attended, but I’ve heard about other, great ones that people love, so I should try those. I’ve never gotten to the point where I got to actually work the steps with a sponsor, and I feel like THAT’S where the real meat is. That’s what I need to get to and try before I decide it’s not for me. I had one sponsor (in that 6-month stint), but even though our private meetings were great when we had them, our schedules didn’t match, so we ended up having to “break up.” The second person I approached as a sponsor I quickly realized wasn’t completely done resolving their own issues in other 12-step groups and was in no condition to help someone else, so that ended pretty quickly.

    Anyway, I have the Big Book and the 12 steps book and other reading material if you’re ever curious. And if I start going again, I’ll let you know. It might be good to check out what a regular, non-special-occasion meeting is like? Or not. 🙂

    • Thanks for your information (and honesty)!

      It’s funny you mention about the atheist and the ceiling being her higher power. E. told me the exact same story when I mentioned to her about the God thing.

  2. Heh. That’s probably the standard story all the leaders tell new members. 🙂

  3. interesting post . thanks for sharing. would you consider meetings with a structure like that , if there wouldnt be the God-ish part ? i am not familiar with any of Anonymus groups , but last year i was invited to a Business referral network that worked like that. strictly business, same agenda every meeting and mandatory restricted talk time for everyone. at the end i didnt join them for various reasons, but i liked the focused structure.

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