An Interview: One of OA Foot Steps Founders

Q: What is your story with Compulsive Eating?

A: I have always been a compulsive eater. When I was 1½ years old, my mom put these sweets, baked by my aunt, in front of me to keep me quiet while she was cutting my hair. Next thing you know, I was drunk as a skunk as these were actually rum balls! I survived that incident, but grew up in an alcoholic home and it became the family joke that I was destined to become an alcoholic. I knew all about alcohol and took on that persona.

No one realized, including myself, that it was always the food. I was stealing food, sneaking food, always planning around food, and used from a very early age to deal with my emotions and feelings. I did not realize that it was a disorder until I attended an AA meeting when I discovered I had a compulsive personality. I figured I must be an alcoholic because my family said I was, even though I rarely drank. At this AA meeting, there had been a birthday party the night before. They pulled out all of the snacks and piled them up on the table beside me – They said “Help yourself!” I then proceeded to spend the entire meeting calculating how many times all seven, of those present, looked over at me. I was attempting to calculate if each person saw me only eat two items of each, then I could eat fourteen items without raising any eyebrows! When no one was looking, I even managed to sneak a few more in. With my mouth full, I started looking around the room, trying to act as inconspicuously as possible. My eyes read through the various slogans displayed on the walls, and then finally dropped down to view the bulletin board. With jowls like a chipmunk, full of food, I saw a brightly coloured poster with all sorts of delicacies depicted on it that stated, almost like a voice from heaven, “Are you an Overeater?” That was the moment I found Overeaters Anonymous. In that instant, it all made sense to me. It had always been food, and my compulsive behaviours around eating.

Q: What made you decide to start the Intergroup?

A: I didn’t! I never decided to start an Intergroup. It had already started before I even realized what it was. When I started the first meeting, I did not even realize I was starting an OA meeting. We were just meeting three people, Nancy, Jenn and I on April 14th, 2019, seeing each other on Zoom for the very first time! The reading from Voices of Recovery guided us that day. The reading said we were walking in the footsteps of those that came before and leaving footsteps for others to follow. I burst into tears and realized it was us! The name of this meeting was OA Foot Steps!

Within one week, we had 2-3 other meetings on the go, on Zoom. Next thing you know, we were a collection of meetings. I was only seven months into the program and still working the steps at that time, and didn’t understand how all this worked. A more experienced member of OA asked me to register the meetings, and register as an Intergroup. I didn’t understand the official channels to follow, but I soon learned. It was a process of growth. It took almost one year for the Intergroup to become official, by that time we had over twenty meetings and Covid had hit us all hard. We grew exponentially from that point, drawing together lots of people that had different levels of experience and recovery. Together, we grew and became the intergroup that we are today, continuing in the tradition of walking in the footsteps of those gone before us, and leaving footsteps of our own to follow.

Q: What was the most difficult part of this journey?

A: Me! I was the most difficult part of the journey. I still didn’t have my recovery legs, especially at the start while I was still working the Steps myself, learning about the Traditions and Concepts of Service. Principles that sustain our fellowship, that I had little knowledge about in the beginning. I am surprised that Foot Steps has done as well as it has, despite me! I undermined every step of the way because of my own lack of knowledge of myself, program and recovery. This knew knowledge of program and of myself eventually grew, but it wasn’t easy. Through the course of those early years, I caused a lot of damage done to myself and others. I can see the benefits of this journey now, and how its made me into who I have become today, but at the time it was exceedingly challenging for myself and others!

Q: What keeps you going after 4 years of Service?

A: I think the responsibility of service keeps me sane. It’s also been a contributing factor to my insanity as sometimes, I suspect, I have been guilty of too much service. But, it does help keep me on track with my recovery. In the Big Book it says, we can pray for ourselves but only if it benefits others. So for me, service is about doing for myself what benefits others as well. That has become a personal mission statement for everything that I do. I understand that it fits into every walk of my life, whether it’s with recovery or service, my family, my work, my art or my music. My actions, my acts of service, might benefit me greatly, but only if it can be of some benefit to others as well. They go hand in hand.

Q: What inspires you about people?

A: The miracle of recovery and growth inspires me above all else. It’s so easy in this disease to get stuck in what we think we know. Myself included. When I see people stepping beyond what they know into something new, wondrous and wonderful, and seeing new opportunities arise in their lives. It inspires me. Witnessing the authentic selves emerge is truly a blessing!

Q: What is your favorite meeting?

A: It depends on which period of my recovery I am was in at the time. If you asked me me this question during my first year, the Newcomer’s meeting on Sundays was my baby. I loved that meeting! One of the original meetings on OA Foot Steps. Then, there was the Daily Reprieve meetings, at 5am EST. Those were inspirational to me for a long time. That moved through to the Creative Reprieve meetings that I started. Those were really important to me for a while. Lately, what’s been really important for me are the meditation and 2-way prayer meetings. Those are my favorite at the moment. Like doing daily meditation meetings upon awakening. That’s where my recovery is right now.

Q: What is the most satisfying part of the Intergroup for you today?

A: Seeing it run itself. It has grown so much over these past few years! There are so many working parts and my greatest joy is that I don’t have to do all of the parts anymore. I may have done, in the beginning, to get things started. It is so nice to relinquish the reins, and witness all of the committees thrive, seeing the Bylaws and Policies & Procedures in place and working so well. The attendees at our monthly virtual Intergroup meetings are more than one quarter of the size of the World Service Business Conference WSBC which is held only once a year! We may not have always done it well, but we sure are getting better at it as we go along. So, it’s not only watching all these working parts but watching the cogs starting to move together. People come in and they learn new ways, and add new ways. It’s the growth – beyond anything I could have ever imagined from when we first began.

Q: How has service helped your recovery personally?

A: I mentioned this previously. It’s really comes down to my personal mission statement. I find it difficult to find value in making money for the sake of making money. In fact, I shied away from a career or any sort of working situation that did not help others. I have learned in program that making a living in such a way that it benefits others, is what is valuable for me. In recovery, doing service that benefits others is valuable to me. Some of the days where I would have binged, just knowing that I had to lead a meeting the next day got me through that day. I use it as a tool. It may be one of the nine tools but it’s also part of who I am. It’s part of my calling as a human being.

Q: What is one thing, one action you would recommend today to a struggling compulsive eater?

A: Get to a meeting! At Foot Steps, we provide meetings almost 24hrs a day with over 170 meetings a week. Just get to that meeting and sit in that meeting. And if you have to go to the one after that, then go to that one too, and the one after that! It is such a valuable tool that is in place for all of us, to get through the next hour the best we can!

A motivating force from the beginning, for myself, even before Foot Steps, was being able to attend multiple meetings a day. When I first joined Overeaters Anonymous, I discovered a virtual intergroup called: OA12step4coes. This was pre-Zoom days, but they had seven meetings a day on the old mIRC channels. If I needed to go to all seven meetings to get through that day, that is exactly what I did. They were my lifeline then, just as the Zoom meetings on Foot Steps have become for so many!