Q: Many meetings in my area “suggest” that members have 90 days of abstinence before sharing. I believe this practice discourages newcomers from speaking at meetings. For 18 years I have been a member of another Twelve-Step program where the newcomer is the most important person in the room and is strongly encouraged to share at meetings. Does the WSO condone this requirement?
A: OA has no 90-day requirement to have a voice at a meeting. Have you suggested that these meetings also sponsor a newcomer meeting, workshop or event where newcomers would be free to share, question and participate?
In our Bylaws and Tradition Three, a group cannot require anything for membership beyond a desire to stop eating compulsively. This gives members a voice. If you feel a group does not honor this Tradition, perhaps you should speak with your intergroup or region officers. Trustees are available to speak with groups or to provide “Service, Traditions and Concepts” workshops to talk about these questions.
I am not aware of any 90-day groups in my area. However, we do use the slogan “Bring your message to the meeting and your mess to your sponsor.” People come to meetings for many reasons, including socialization and fellowship. They come in pain, and our meetings’ primary purpose is to work OA’s Twelve Steps toward recovery, to help the compulsive eater who still suffers. When a meeting asks for “positive pitches” or strongly suggests that nonabstinent people close their mouths and open their ears and minds, I believe the intent is to let the solution come forth from within the group rather than listen to the problem, which other members in pain already know too well.
The meetings you describe seem focused on recovery and operating in the belief that one cannot transmit what one does not have; that is, one cannot carry a message one is not living. For me, the message is that there is a solution and this program works. A person “in the food” shows the disease, not the recovery. The only proof I have that this program works is my 65-pound (30-kg) weight loss, deep personality changes based on “huge emotional displacements and rearrangements” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p. 27) and 16 years of abstinence.
But for me, if I had no opportunities to share as a newcomer, I would be disheartened. In 1996 a group composed of mostly longtimers with two, five and 15 years of abstinence asked me to qualify after only 30 days of abstinence. “You want to hear from me?” was my thought, and their collective response was “Yes!” Their attention was a great gift and kept me coming back all these years.
The newcomer is the most important person in the room. I believe your groups want the newcomer to hear the recovery message, stop directing events and start listening to how others achieved 90-plus days without bingeing, purging or restricting. If no groups in your area allow newcomers or nonabstinent people to share without the 90-day requirement, your intergroup should address this. OA is a “big tent.” We can and should provide forums for all to work this program according to their conscience and experience.
— Members of the Board of Trustees provide answers to these questions
Ask-It Basket Archive
Click on the link below to see an archive of previous Ask-It Basket questions and answers. Remember that these answers are the opinions of individual members of the Board of Trustees and others may have different opinions. It’s a good idea to read other OA materials that address an issue and ask around in meetings for more opinions. Also keep in mind that circumstances change and opinions are refined over time.