First Quarter 2019 | Volume 23, Number 1
To better serve our worldwide Fellowship, this translatable web page replaces the interactive, color PDF version of A Step Ahead, which will no longer be published. A printer-friendly, black-and-white version of A Step Ahead will continue to be available for every issue, and the most current four issues of A Step Ahead will always be available at oa.org/documents under “A Step Ahead Newsletter.” To download and print a black-and-white version of the current issue, click the A Step Ahead image at the top right of this page.
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World Service Business Conference 2019 will be held May 6–11 in Albuquerque, New Mexico USA. This year’s theme, which also supports our Strategic Plan for 2019, is “Growing Our Membership Worldwide.”
Meetings for Delegates
WSBC will offer the workshop “All about Conference,” which will include parliamentary procedure. The Mentor Program will offer an opportunity during the week for Green Dots (first-time delegates) and Mentors to meet and discuss parliamentary procedure and other processes for Conference. Again this year, WSBC will host “Meet the Maker” on Wednesday, May 8, where delegates can discuss and ask questions about Conference motions with the makers of those motions.
The second Conference e-Documents are now available on the WSBC web page. Newly posted documents include the Agenda Questionnaire; the New Business Motions and Bylaws Amendments that were submitted by the December 10, 2018 deadline; the Delegate Registration form; and general information about Conference.
New Business Motions and Bylaws Amendments
Below is a summary of New Business Motions and Bylaws Amendments to be considered at WSBC 2019:
Agenda Questionnaire Deadline
The Agenda Questionnaire is available both as a downloadable PDF and an interactive online survey linked to the WSBC web page. Intergroups and service boards should review the Agenda Questionnaire, vote on the items, and complete the interactive survey or return the PDF version to the WSO by March 7, 2019. This is a postmarked deadline date.
— Cyndy L., Chair of the Board, Region Four Trustee
I want to begin my report with a “Thank you!” to everyone in our Fellowship who pitched in and contributed to OA in 2018. I know this is a sign of how committed you are to our Fellowship and that you can be counted on to come through when times get tough. The Board of Trustees and the World Service Office were able to stay within budget in 2018 and continue to provide OA services, with careful review of what was necessary and ways to cut back or do things differently. I am grateful for the extra income provided by our book sales and new Annual Appeal, as well as contributions to the Delegate Support Fund and just any extra you may have dropped in the basket at your meetings.
I heard in a recent discussion that “we don’t collect the Seventh Tradition to waste it,” so I plan to communicate in my next report all the ways we will be using these additional funds for carrying the message. When we have the income, we are dedicated to using it to improve our outreach to the public, attract new members, and support our growing community as best we can.
Public Awareness and Professional Outreach
Here are some new ideas that might be useful to groups or service bodies who are looking for ways to increase outreach in their area. This type of service is crucial to the growth and health of our Fellowship.
In Region One, intergroups are using some tried and tested techniques to get the word out about OA, such as posting on popular online bulletin boards, placing free bookmarks at the public library, and submitting information to get listed in weekly newspapers. One intergroup is focused on outreach to cardiologists; another has invited student nurses and therapists to sit in on OA meetings. A third intergroup sends reps to a recovery fair twice a year, and a fourth intergroup advertises on a billboard to raise awareness.
Region One also offers virtual sponsorship through its website. Motivated volunteers from a variety of intergroups have taken this on, and more than 150 virtual matches were made in 2018. These matches include people from all over the world, not just Region One.
Virtual attendance is being used by many intergroups to increase participation among outlying groups. This is also handy when inclement weather would otherwise interfere with the intergroup meeting.
In Region Five, outreach committees have been meeting frequently by conference call since March 2018. Their Intergroup to Intergroup Committee is working to grow recovery by strengthening intergroups. The subcommittee hosted its first workshop in Lansing, Michigan USA, using the Intergroup or Service Board Inventory and other questions to help attendees brainstorm how they can increase recovery in their intergroups. They plan to improve that workshop and present it three times next year.
Region Five’s Each One Reach One Subcommittee has been trying to grow recovery through one-on-one personal contact. It has been promoting a “Twelfth Step Within Call-a-Thon” as suggested in the Twelfth-Step-Within Handbook. Next, it plans to begin using the “Carrying the Message” workshop from oa.org/documents to help with individual outreach efforts.
In Region Six, one intergroup posted an ad on an online bulletin board that is especially popular in Vermont USA. The two-week ad campaign dramatically increased traffic to the intergroup’s website.
Another Region Six intergroup visited twenty-five libraries and donated a copy of Overeaters Anonymous, Third Edition to each. A label affixed inside each cover noted that the book was donated and gave local OA contact information. During these library visits, OA members also posted copies of OA’s Public Information Poster. Intergroup members followed up by sending thank-you notes to the libraries, and thirteen people have checked out the book so far.
A third Region Six intergroup created a recorded public service announcement for digital radio and internet and will make the PSA available for other intergroups to modify and use. Finally, a fourth intergroup is reaching out to two local medical facilities, requesting 30 to 45 minutes to present OA to doctors at their staff meetings, with member shares and a question and answer session.
Carry the Message
I encourage every group and service body to do what they can to ensure OA is known in their local area and invite new members to our Fellowship.
WSBC Needs Your Service
My final note is just a reminder: all intergroups and service boards are encouraged to review the Agenda Questionnaire for WSBC 2019 and submit answers indicating which proposed New Business Motions and Bylaws Amendments need to be discussed at Conference. It is our right and our responsibility to support OA in the decisions that will be made to determine the direction our Fellowship takes in the future.
— Bonnie L., Treasurer, General Service Trustee
My name is Bonnie and I am a recovering compulsive overeater, currently serving as your treasurer.
In October 2018, your Executive Committee (the General Service Trustees) met with World Service Office managers to prepare OA’s annual budget. In November, the full Board of Trustees met to review and approve the budget, and as a result, we will implement a 2019 budget of US$1.788 million. That’s the amount it costs to effectively carry the message; print, translate, and distribute OA literature; and staff the WSO. Every contribution you send helps pay those costs, and they are very much appreciated.
We ended 2018 in great shape, exceeding the year’s income target. Two things specifically contributed to budget success in 2018.
The first was your response to the new OA Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Second Edition. We initially projected sales of US$211,000 for this book, but as of November 30, we reached $305,227.94. Your response to this new book has been tremendous!
The other contributing factor to success was this year’s introduction of the Annual Appeal letter. While this initiative got off to a rocky start, your contributions also had a positive impact on the overall budget. The letter will go out to all groups each spring, so you will soon be seeing a letter for the 2019 Annual Appeal.
One task I especially enjoy as treasurer is reviewing applications for the Delegate Support Fund. For World Service Business Conference 2019, we received twenty-one applications. A system has developed where applicants are first referred to their respective regions for funding; regions able to do so provided funding for many of those applicants. As a result, your generous contributions to OA’s Delegate Support Fund provided a full US$13,800 to support the twelve intergroup and service board delegates most in need. These delegates, including those from five service bodies participating for the first-time in WSBC, will be traveling from eight different countries.
We sincerely appreciate your continued support! Together we can do what we could never do alone.
Lifeline magazine was first published in 1965, five years after OA was founded. During its fifty-four-year history, it has created service opportunities for writers and Lifeline reps, anchored the Lifeline Meeting Format, helped expand OA literature, and touched the hearts of OA members worldwide through member-contributed stories of recovery.
In November 2018, the Board of Trustees recognized a pressing need to rebalance Lifeline’s finances. The causes, they found, were a slow but steady decline in subscriptions and monetary inflation.
The price of Lifeline had not been raised since 2009 (when the magazine first went to a full-color format), so the board’s Executive Committee approved a price increase for subscriptions. Beginning in 2019, one-year print subscriptions (ten issues) are available for $30 in the US, US$36 in Canada, and US$45 outside the US and Canada. One-year online subscriptions are available worldwide for US$30. The price for printed back issues, available at bookstore.oa.org, is now US$4 per issue.
A committee of board members has also been formed to determine a future direction for Lifeline: whether Lifeline should continue as a print and digital magazine of recovery or evolve over time to a different format or mission.
The committee is inviting comments about Lifeline from OA members, and the deadline to submit your comment is February 28, 2019. What is your perspective on Lifeline, and what shape would you like to see Lifeline take in our Fellowship? Email comments and ideas to LLadhoc@oa.org.
It’s been a busy and productive three years for OA publications: more than twenty new or revised pieces of OA literature have been published, including three new books. Whenever new literature is approved, it creates a ripple through the OA bookstore since literature references have to be updated and books must be converted to new formats. Plus, our literature-development pipeline is already full with up-and-coming projects.
Recognizing a need to tend to the literature we already have, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees voted in September 2018 to temporarily suspend the consideration and development of new Conference literature. The committee agreed that a suspension is necessary to give the Conference Literature Committee and World Service Office staff time to complete and implement projects already in development. The suspension will last no longer than three years, or until the World Service Office staff gives notice that they are able to take on new work.
The suspension will begin with WSBC 2019 and extend through the 2021 Conference. New literature proposals submitted during this period will be considered at the 2022 Conference. During the suspension, the CLC will focus on projects currently in development, including an initiative to revise and combine some OA pamphlets to eliminate redundancy and strengthen current OA literature. Meanwhile, WSO staff will update OA literature to reflect new language in The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, Second Edition and expand OA’s existing literature into new formats, such as the large-print paperback format.
The suspension does not affect Conference literature projects already in development, such as the body image, relationships, and sexuality publication that many members have contributed to and are eagerly awaiting. That publication is scheduled to be presented at World Service Business Conference 2019. New literature proposals that have already been submitted for consideration at WSBC 2019 will be held by the WSO for consideration at a future Conference. For more information about the temporary suspension, contact the WSO.
— Dora P., Virtual Region Trustee
I am Dora, a compulsive eater from Brazil and your Virtual Region Trustee. I have received the gift of writing about the many new things happening now that recovery through OA virtual meetings is a reality. The first door that opened when I arrived in OA was a virtual door. I am so grateful because those meetings were there for me when I was desperate to lose more than 100 pounds (45 kg). I needed a miracle and OA was my miracle. At virtual meetings here in Brazil, I was always “Dora, a compulsive eater.” Many times, I went on radio or TV and I was “Dora”—not the professional, not using my full name or my face—I was just Dora, a compulsive eater who found a new life in OA.
Problems with Some Virtual Groups
The meetings that we know as virtual meetings were first recognized as OA meetings at WSBC 2014. Now, after four and a half years, we have lots of virtual meetings and many of them are on social media. Overeaters Anonymous must pay attention to the development of meetings on social media and note especially that many groups not registered as OA meetings are using the OA name in violation of OA’s trademark. Of course, OA would like to register all virtual meetings, but some groups don’t want to affiliate with OA.
At the August 2018 Board of Trustees meeting, the BOT approved an action to send a letter to all virtual meetings not yet registered with the World Service Office to let them know that if they choose not to affiliate, they cannot be an OA meeting and must drop “Overeaters Anonymous” from their name. This letter will also address groups posting OA copyrighted literature.
To maintain OA copyrights and trademark and to ensure that newcomers find recovery according to our Twelve Step program, Overeaters Anonymous is obligated to address the actions of these virtual groups. On a simpler level, we also need to take care of our program to keep our Fellowship alive. When I reached out to understand why some virtual groups didn’t want to register to become OA meetings, I received a variety of answers, including “We don’t want to respect Traditions” and “We don’t want rules; we want to tell jokes, talk about politics, and use outside literature.” OA simply cannot sit in silence about this situation, so the BOT is taking action. We ask all of you to help: contact the World Service Office if you encounter a group like this.
Anonymity and Social Media
Another important issue the BOT must address is anonymity on social media. OA’s Statement on Public Media reads in part: “The delegates of the 2016 World Service Business Conference recommend that any OA member, group, or service body using social media for OA public information and public awareness maintain the personal anonymity of OA members. Members of Overeaters Anonymous are anonymous. The Fellowship is not. Members of Overeaters Anonymous using social media are responsible for maintaining their own personal anonymity and respecting the anonymity of other OA members” (Business Conference Policy Manual, 2011a [amended 2016]).
Concerns about anonymity are not limited to “this app” or “that program”; it’s about all social media. For example, I recently discovered that when a user on one social media app subscribes to an OA meeting, all other users in that person’s “friends list” will know that user is part of an OA meeting. This anonymity problem is common, and newcomers might not know about this issue, nor do members who are not familiar with the technology. The BOT is doing its job by making members aware of these situations, but OA can do better.
Now that virtual OA is maturing, we can adopt virtual best practices for anonymity. Even though our Public Media policy statement states that members are responsible for their own anonymity, we need to remember that OA as a whole is responsible for maintaining the anonymity of all members. Virtual Region has submitted a motion to World Service Business Conference 2019 to require virtual meetings on social media platforms to be configured as “secret meetings” (meetings with privacy settings that make the meeting and its member list invisible to anyone outside the group) to best protect member anonymity. The motion has been added to the Agenda Questionnaire to give our worldwide Fellowship the opportunity to discuss the problem and decide on a path for action. This will help us determine how to address anonymity issues and still carry the message on social media. It is a challenge as virtual OA continues to grow!
OA’s Virtual Region was created by vote at WSBC 2018. This new region inherited groups and service bodies from its predecessor, the Virtual Services Conference Committee and now serves eleven virtual intergroups and more than 550 virtual meetings. A Virtual Region board has been formed, and the first-ever Virtual Region assembly will be held January 17–19, 2019!
OA’s Virtual Region was recently incorporated as a nonprofit organization in New Mexico, USA (where Overeaters Anonymous, Inc. is also incorporated and our World Service Office is located). The 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation will reduce taxes and expenses on the contributions made by OA members.
The Virtual Region’s new website is www.oavirtualregion.org. On the website you can find information about the Seventh Tradition, participating in the upcoming Virtual Region assembly, other contact information, and more. The Virtual Region board invites OA members to contact them for service opportunities through Virtual Region committees.
New Pamphlet for Newcomers
Where Do I Start? Everything a Newcomer Needs to Know costs US$2.50 less than the Newcomer Packet it replaces and consolidates key information into one 32- page pamphlet. The pamphlet includes the Fifteen Questions, OA Tools of Recovery, suggested plans of eating, the OA Promise, AA Third and Seventh Step Prayers, and “Welcome Home!” A FAQ section covers common questions about compulsive eating, bulimia and anorexia, OA as a spiritual program, recovery in our Twelve Step Program, and more. Search item #705 today at bookstore.oa.org.
Small Meetings; New Guidelines
Whenever two OA members get together in a room to talk about recovery, that’s a meeting, but small meetings may face special challenges. OA’s Guidelines for Small Meetings: Help and Hope suggests “The challenges of a small town or a small meeting can be a positive incentive to strive for recovery” and offers suggestions to bring good recovery into meetings and provides a sizable reference list of OA resources. Guidelines for Small Meetings can help you meet the challenge. Find the PDF at oa.org/documents under “Guidelines.”
Updated Treasurer Guidelines
OA’s updated Treasurer Guidelines is a great resource for anyone new to the treasurer position, offering an organized list of tasks that treasurers typically handle and a sample treasurer’s report that can be adapted for local use. Download this resource today to help recruit your next treasurer or tighten up your service body’s procedures. Find it at oa.org/documents under “Guidelines.”
C.A.R.E.S. Guidelines Revised
Give service and hope to incarcerated compulsive eaters by writing to them through the C.A.R.E.S. program. Read the OA C.A.R.E.S. Correspondence Program Guidelines and contact the World Service Office to sign up for the program. Find the OA C.A.R.E.S. Guidelines at oa.org/documents under “Guidelines.”
New Edition of the Courier
The Professional Community Courier is a professional outreach tool written by doctors, nurses, therapists, and others; it demonstrates how OA can complement professional care and provide ongoing support to their patients and clients. We can use the Courier to encourage professionals to refer compulsive eaters to OA. A new issue of the Courier is now on the OA website at oa.org/documents under “Courier.” (This evergreen issue combines top stories published in previous issues of the Courier.) Download the PDF and use it when you carry the message to your doctor, dentist, or other health provider.
New Workshop: Recovery Roadmap
Explore roadblocks and landmarks found on the road we trudge together in OA’s newest workshop (ZIP file). Meet Recovery Road Travelers who share about perilous places like Diet Desert, Isolation Island, and Self-Pity Falls, and show serene sites such as Footwork Trails, Higher Power Service Station, and Acceptance Airfield. Learn how the Steps, Traditions, and Tools helped these travelers achieve and maintain recovery. Open sharing, a Q and A, and personal mapmaking follow. Bring a recovery roadmap to your next event: download the workshop at oa.org/documents under “Workshops and Skits.”
Translation Fund Applications due February 1
Money is available to help translate OA literature into other languages. More literature means more meetings and a growing Fellowship, and that means more recovery. Help OA grow in your language. To apply for funds, complete the Translation Assistance Fund application and send it to the WSO. You can download the application from the Literature Translations page found at oa.org/site-map. To receive funds, recipients will need to create a PayPal account.
To learn more about OA’s translation policies, see Guidelines for Translation of OA Literature and Materials on the Groups/Service Bodies “Guidelines” page.
To make a designated contribution to help carry our message worldwide, visit oa.org/ contribute and select “Translation Fund” in the designation menu.
Secretaries: Update Your Meeting Info at OA.org
The WSO wants to hear from you! Update your group’s meeting details and secretary contact information by going to Edit a Meeting at oa.org. The WSO uses the information you provide to keep Find a Meeting current so that members in recovery and still-suffering compulsive eaters can locate a meeting in their area
Apply for Professional Exhibits Funds
The Professional Exhibits Fund has US$11,700 available to help your service body participate in a trade conference or a convention for professionals who may refer patients and clients to OA. Take a look at the application to see what expenses OA funds can help cover. Applications are reviewed monthly, so talk to your service body about local opportunities and apply! Find the application at oa.org/documents under “Public Information Suggestions.”
Q. Our group was discussing concerns about how the Steps and Traditions include the word “God” and describe God as a male figure. I am a therapist and a longtime OA member. I have referred many clients to OA and have had about 10 percent refuse to go when they hear that “God” is part of the package, regardless of my attempts to alleviate their fears or discomfort. Some have been willing to try it only after much coaching regarding this issue. I imagine this has been brought up before now: would OA consider rewording the Steps and Traditions if it might be best for the greater good?
A. You are correct that this question is brought up frequently. If a group or a member made such changes by themselves, it would be against OA’s Twelve Traditions and OA’s Bylaws. Meetings are not autonomous in this matter. Tradition One states: “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon OA unity.” Tradition Four reminds us that “Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or OA as a whole.” Changing the Steps does affect OA as a whole.
At OA’s founding, members requested Alcoholics Anonymous’ permission to modify its Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions for use in OA. AA graciously granted that request, permitting OA to change the wording only in Steps One and Twelve and in the Traditions to reflect Overeaters Anonymous and recovery from compulsive eating. Further, OA Bylaws Subpart B, Article XIV: “Bylaw Amendments,” Section 1 (e) states: “Amendments to Article I (Twelve Steps) and Article II (Twelve Traditions) of Subpart B of these bylaws may only be adopted if, in addition to (d) above, they are ratified by three-fourths of the registered Overeaters Anonymous groups responding within six months of notification, provided at least fifty-five percent of the registered groups have responded.” This has proven to be a high bar to reach by the many people who are bothered by the word “God” or the gendered pronouns in the Steps.
I hope this answers your question, though I doubt it allays your concern. I thought and felt the same thing when I first came into OA thirty years ago, but very early on I decided to “resign from the debating society” (AA Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 26). When I read or recite the Steps and Traditions, which I do almost daily, I think of my own understanding of a Power greater than myself, which Step Three allows me to do. I consider the words as written to be historical and honor them as such, and I’m very grateful that the earliest (white, male) alcoholics in AA had the sense to include as we understood Him in Step Three.
Congratulations and welcome to our newest OA service bodies registered with the World Service Office:
Comite De Companeros De Apoyo OA Mex AC (CCAOA MEX) Intergroup
Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico
Registered November 12, 2018
R9 WhatsApp Group Conscience Committee (GCC) Virtual Intergroup
Registered November 26, 2018
Generally Speaking Write on any topic you find meaningful.
Sponsorship Day Sponsorship Day will be celebrated August 17–18, 2019. How has being or having a sponsor made a difference in your recovery? How did you find the right sponsor? How has sponsorship helped you with honesty in your program? What are your sponsor’s words of wisdom? It’s All in the Footwork How have you worked a strong program? Did you make any practical discoveries that took your recovery to a new level? To what lengths did you go to reach a recovery goal? Break it down—what does doing the footwork mean for you.
It’s All in the Footwork How have you worked a strong program? Did you make any practical discoveries that took your recovery to a new level? To what lengths did you go to reach a recovery goal? Break it down—what does doing the footwork mean for you?
Call for Topics 2020 Send us your topic ideas! What do you want to read about in Lifeline in 2020?
Maintaining Abstinence through Illness Your fellow OA members have asked for stories about maintaining abstinence when illness, whether long- or short-term, is a threat. Give service and hope by sharing your story about staying abstinence during illness, HALT, or a similar challenge. Saving Grace: Help from a Higher Power How has your Higher Power made its presence known in your life? Was a prayer answered in an unexcpected or amusing way? What miracles have happened that led you to believe a Power greater than yourself is available to bring you to your personal recovery. Send your stories to email@example.com with subject “Lifeline.”
Saving Grace: Help from a Higher Power How has your Higher Power made its presence known in your life? Was a prayer answered in an unexpected or amusing way? What miracles have happened that led you to believe a Power greater than yourself is available to bring you to your personal recovery?