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Sunday, February 28, 2010

OA Convention

Playing in the background: The closing ceremonies

Let it be known I missed two full days of Olympic coverage and very nearly missed the Climactic Hockey Game to attend Dallas Metroplex Intergroup's annual convention. Called the "Texas Twelve Step," this confab featured about 150 of my OA friends old and new, meeting at a hotel not too far from Dallas.

What happens at an OA convention, you may ask. Well, I'm going to tell you. A whole bunch of us gather together and have what's basically a really big meeting that goes on for three days. We had a fantastic speaker by the name of Harlan G., who lectured on what he called "Big Book Boot Camp." (In case you're not familiar with the vernacular, the Big Book is the book called Alcoholics Anonymous, which started it all back in the 1930s.) Harlan mentioned that he thought the century we just passed out of would be remembered for three things; the dawning of the nuclear age, humankind's first ventures off our planet and into space, and the Twelve Steps. Holy carp, that's a lot for a single book to live up to.

The Big Book, just incidentally, was the first time it had ever been posited in a major publication that addiction of any kind was a physical and mental illness rather than some kind of weak will or moral failing. (In fact, the doctor who posited that asked that his name be removed because the American Psychiatric Association had yet to take that position and he was afraid of losing his job.) Harlan spent a lot of time talking about the doctor's opinion. He referred to addiction as a physical allergy as well as a mental obsession. In describing an "allergy," he meant an abnormal physical response to a given substance. The analogy (and I thought this was great) was if you fed ten people nothing but chocolate ice cream for a week, you'd end up with nine people who never wanted to see chocolate ice cream again and one person who said, "Okay, then, can I have yours?" I'd be that one. So would your average alcoholic or drug addict. Same disease, different substances. So for me it's food. Big deal, it could have been booze. I just never got far enough into it.

I've always been mildly jealous of recovering alcoholics. In a way they have it easy. They can't drink alcohol, so all they have to do is look at a bottle and if it says, "Contains alcohol," they don't drink it. Easy. On the other hand, everybody has to eat. How do you know which foods are going to trigger the abnormal reaction, the physical allergy and the mental obsession? Tough answer: Trial and error.

For me it's stuff that's extremely sweet, like Krispy Kreme doughnuts, white cake with white icing (or cream cheese icing), certain kinds of pastries and cookies and things like that. However, there's lots of other sweet things that don't seem to do me any harm at all, and don't know why. Examples: Frozen yogurt, brownies, chocolate cake with chocolate icing, most kinds of pies. I can have a few bites or none of those and then I forget about them. If I had to hazard a guess I'd say that sugar is the equivalent of cocaine to my brain. But not just any sugar. Only certain kinds of extremely sweet uses of sugar. If I could freebase the stuff I'd be in big trouble.

Anyway, it was a great convention. I feel a lot more serene than I have in a couple of days. I think the physical allergy explanation helped. And yes, I caught the Climactic Hockey Game. And it was awesome, even if we didn't win. Hey, a silver medal at the Olympics is nothing to be ashamed of. Back to the closing ceremonies now...

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