AA vs. OA: 12-Step Dysfunction

by Bill Brenner on August 3, 2010

The folks you find in Overeater’s Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous often mix well. But when they don’t, well…

Mood music: “Dead End Justice” by The Runaways:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8jhAzSZYfg&hl=en_US&fs=1]

I’ve noticed lately that there are more folks coming into OA that have also been in AA. Some of them have been sober for more than two decades. Now they need OA because in the process of putting down the booze, they developed a food addiction.

I know how it is. I’ve gone in reverse. I stopped the compulsive binge eating and at first started to use wine as a crutch. When I realized how much I was starting to need a drink every day, I stopped that, too. But I still like my cigars and can’t exist without caffeine. The cigars will have to go at some point. I know it in my heart. But not today. Caffeine I won’t be giving up anytime soon.

Anyway, I’m mixing with the AA crowd a lot more these days, perhaps because one of my sponsees has been in AA for decades. We have the big things in common. We developed addictions that made our lives unmanageable. Having found recovery, we latch onto each other pretty tight.

But something’s different.

In OA, there’s a tight fellowship in meetings and on the telephone. But the AA crowd really sticks together. It’s more like a gang. Recovering addicts often live together, several in a house. Not a halfway house. They just live together, watching out for each other.

It’s cool to see. But I’ve also found that there are some real animosities among the AA crowd. One of my sponsees, an OA drop-out for now, spent a lot of time telling me about how I shouldn’t trust this person or that person because one likes to tell lies and the other likes to steal money. The lying part didn’t shock me. All addicts lie. wine_bottle_face.jpg

There seems to be an extra level of paranoia that comes with being a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. I understand. Those addictions tend to go hand in hand with getting arrested and spending time in jail.

If anyone has ever gotten arrested for getting junked up on food, I’d love to meet them.

I don’t write this stuff down to complain, or to act high minded. There’s plenty of dysfunction to be found in OA as well. If we weren’t dysfunctional, we wouldn’t need a 12-Step program in the first place. There are control issues and grating personalities aplenty.

But the AA crowd? There’s more of an edge.

I’m not complaining. I learn a lot from them.

There’s a lot of love to be found among the AA crowd. Those who have recovered are among the strongest people I know.

So to hell with it. I’m going to accept it — just as other people have accepted my own brand of dysfunction.

I’m going to start doing a 12-Step Big Book study soon, so I’m going to be spending a lot more time with these people.

I’d better get used to it.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Dogo August 3, 2010 at 3:02 am

Thanks for your post.
They are helping me to understand some aspects of my problems. I had serious anxiety problems and now I am addicted to benzo.
It’s very difficult to share some things, but it helps to mitigate the sensation of being alone or freak.
Best regards.

Christy August 4, 2010 at 9:18 am

Hi Bill,
I have heard that supposedly sugar addiction and alcohol addiction are similar in that the alcohol turns to sugar? It seems to make sense.

Jorge Lazaro Diaz August 5, 2010 at 2:13 pm

An addicts and addict. It’s a battle to find an addiction that isn’t completely self destructive until the spiritual side takes over and maybe someday even lifts them away from us. I’ve seen people get into long distance running or exercise until their knees or backs give out from the excess.

It’s all about Step 7-Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. “Yeah, and I want it now.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Keep a handle on your spiritual walk that in addition to all the behavior changing actions are key. If you are Catholic (and I figure you might be since I found you on Linkedin’s Catholic Professionals Group), I run a weekly podcast reflection at http://PurelyCatholic.com. YOu can also find me on iTunes.

I don’t refer to my Al-Anon background in the program, but it occassionally bleeds through in my reflections.

Bibiana February 18, 2013 at 8:45 am

I feel that OA members definitely have less of an edge. I cannot speak for OA as a whole, but the meetings in my area really lacked recovery. I also feel that much of the OA literature is not strong enough or to the point. I am a returning OA member who is sticking to phone meetings that stress the Big Book.

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