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World Service Business Convention Report - 2016

The Conference In Brief:

437 FA Members registered for our convention this year. We came from seven countries, including: Australia, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Taiwan, and the United States. Members from thirty-two states were in attendance.

Business sessions included a general overview of FA’s structure, one motion, opening and closing remarks, our treasurer’s report, acknowledgement of outgoing chairs, election of the 2016-2017 World Service Board, highlights from the Maine Chapter, the Western Area Intergroup, the Eastern Area Intergroup and several WSI Committees, a special 12th Step session that outlined the work they have been doing to reach members On The Frontier, and FA Sharing Sessions.

Other events included the recording of four new qualification CDs, WSI committee meetings, and the 3rd Annual Mocktail Party and dance.


  • Please mark your calendars: The next FA World Service Business Convention will be held June 2-4, 2017 in Danvers, MA.
  • The next FA Fellowship Convention will be held October 28-30, 2016 at the Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa, Florida. Please be sure to register before August 20!

On behalf of the Board, I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to every member of this life-giving organization. Together we ensure that our program will continue to be available for every food addict who desires to stop eating addictively. It’s wonderful to work with all of you. Thank you so much for the support and service you have given the fellowship this year.

Yours in service, Dave I., WSB Chair


Practically speaking, the World Service Business Convention fulfills our legal obligation. As an international non-profit organization, we are required, for instance, to meet annually to provide conference members with a financial report and an opportunity to elect board members.

Spiritually speaking, each year’s convention helps us keep FA strong and helps us further our efforts to reach the newcomer. This practice is working. Since our incorporation in 1998, we have grown from less than 100 members then to over 6,000 members now, collectively attending more than 600 meetings worldwide.

It is important to know that structurally, FA is a “bottom- up” service organization. World Service, Inc., or WSI, is here to help reach the newcomer by serving FA as a whole and by supporting intergroups. Intergroups support chapters and meetings, who in turn support the most important entity--the individual FA member. WSI officers, committee chairs, and committee members are not here to exercise power or authority. It is just the opposite. Our role is to humbly serve and support.

To be useful to the overall fellowship, WSI needs some amount of formal organization. This includes a board made up of four officers and nine committee chairs. The specific committees are Bylaws, connection, Convention Planning, Literature, Office, PI, Service Group Support, Traditions Review, and 12th Step. Forty subcommittees support these WSI standing committees.

Six additional committees–finance, personnel, design, inquiry response, board motions review, and book–support the board. Each year, if needed, the resolutions committee and the emergency new business committees are available to support the conference with main motions.

  • The office manager, Norma Mullan, was hired
  • Successful conference calls for improving Frontier support
  • A new website for connection magazine; Digital subscriptions now available
  • Several website upgrades; Website Additions:
    • German literature
    • Informational pages in Mandarin and Hebrew
    • The large-format FA Book
  • Re-registration of all FA meetings was completed
  • New Meeting Guidelines documents were developed and posted online
  • A Meeting Health Person description of responsibilities was added as a new meeting service position
  • PI Materials (Banners and Tablecloths) were distributed to all designated service area groups by the FA office
  • 18,929 copies of FA Book have been sold overall
  • Launched the FA Survey


Good morning. I am Jamie, a food addict.

When I think way back in my life to all of the cumulative events, thoughts and feelings that brought me to this program of recovery and to this convention today, I think I have to start with my nose. I know that sounds crazy but I will explain why. I was raised thinking I was smart and pretty and adored by my parents. At the age of eleven a couple of things happened which I feel played an important role in leading me towards feelings of insecurity and discomfort. The first thing was that I suddenly noticed my nose was a bit crooked and longer than Karen Brown’s cute turned up nose and a song came out by the Castaways called “Liar Liar”. The line from the lyrics, “Liar Liar, pants on fire, your nose is longer than a telephone wire”, I was certain was about me and that every time anyone heard the song, they would think about my nose! There was the ugly but certain dawn of my own self centered fear, and to compound it my body started to pop out in all sort of unexpected areas. I developed thighs and a chest and a big rear end. Where was the pretty, adored girl going and why were my parents divorcing if they loved me so much?

That is when I started my journey of fear, discomfort and insecurity that I learned to masquerade with an attitude of snobbery and false bravado. I always had a great circle of friends, thank God, and together we marched through the ravages of puberty and then middle and high school, just those were enough to drive one to the refrigerator. Those new and uncomfortable feelings brought me to thinking about and using food as an anesthetic rather than just fuel or a tasty treat, food started to serve a brand new and necessary purpose. When life got really uncomfortable and unhappy it ultimately manifested into food addiction. The suicide of my brother, moving away from friends and family, a marriage and childbirth (richly rewarding, but new and scary) then two adolescents to raise, a mother with lung cancer, the death of my father and my nose was still there! The face that was supposed to grow into it, as I was promised grew, but so did the nose! By this point the food addiction was out of control, I wanted to get a divorce but would never do that to my kids, I wanted to be hospitalized, I wanted to stop taking care of myself and everyone else in my world. I wanted to stop being God!

And thank you God my prayers were answered, a friend told me about FA, I took Step One and asked a stranger, but a fellow food addict, to help me out.

My life was saved, my marriage was saved, my kids grew up, my dreams came true and I still had my nose. I have the same things, the same insecurities but everything is better, not always and not perfect but I am content and ever grateful for all of the blessings that I have. How did this all change? It changed because someone did the service of staying abstinent and reaching out to me to tell me that there was a solution. Some one stood at the door to welcome me, someone offered to sponsor and give away what they were given, someone set up some chairs and found a meeting location and paved the way before me. This is what we are here for today to support the activities that help a fellow food addict find their way out of their disease into recovery.

I happened upon a piece of writing by Sam Shoemaker, a member of the Oxford Society and a person influential in establishing some of the basic tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous. He titled it “I Stand By the Door: An Apologia for my Life”.

He explains that he stands by the door to be there, in position, ready to guide the person who is seeking God; to the God he cannot see. He writes, “I stand by the door. I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out. The door is the most important door in the world - It is the door through which men walk when they find God.

He acknowledges that the person has to open the latch to the door themselves, we cannot do that for them but we can welcome them and guide them to recovery, we can do that service. We are here today to see how we can help the person out there find the door; we are here to welcome them.

When I asked myself, and God, “what do I want to talk about?” I came up with 2 very clear answers. The first one is that of ‘service’, what it means to us as individuals and what it means to us as a group? What it means when we are striving for our personal recovery and wellbeing and for the addict who is still out there trying to find an answer to this heartbreaking and dangerous disease of food addiction.

The other question was how do we do our work to reach the food addict who does not yet know there is a solution? I vividly remember going to an event at my son’s high school and the theme was about drug education. There was a panel of young adults who were recovering drug addicts. When asked by the moderator, “What is the one thing that keeps you clean and sober today?” they each answered very clearly and emphatically that it was service. I had just come into FA and was just beginning to see evidence of that in my own recovery. At the time I didn’t have the spiritual foundation that I do now, I didn’t have the strong fundamental belief that what I was doing would carry me through in times of need but I was starting to feel the tangible rewards of doing service. I had been attending our local Western Area Intergroup meetings and had joined the 15-member 12th Step Committee, I had taken on a few service positions at my meetings, I made calls and received calls from my fellow food addicts and I was staying abstinent. I didn’t, at the time, realize that through this service I was participating in my recovery and finding my higher power. Yet, I was beginning to sense that what I was receiving I had to give away and that there was something to that that was fundamental to keeping my recovery.

We are here this weekend to accomplish many different things. We are here to carry on the business of FA, to put into practice the goal of reaching the still suffering food addict. We will be, as a group, approving the new publication, Living Abstinently, which is a guide to our tools. The tools which collectively help us to remain abstinent, they are the distillation of our practices which help us to achieve and maintain our abstinence. These tools represent the collective wisdom of our members, with long-term abstinence, who are living a life free from addictive eating. We will be meeting in groups during the convention to join the various World Service Board Committees to learn about reaching the food addict on the frontier, or the food addict who will hear about recovery from a health care professional or spiritual leader. We will have a chance to learn how we do service and the ways to participate in discussions and activities. We will learn how to write for the connection or how to strengthen our meetings through the Twelve Traditions.

There are so many ways we can do service and it always reminds me of something I once read about Geese and their interdependence upon each other. When geese fly in a flock, in a V formation, the flapping of their wings creates an uplift that increases their flying range by 71 %. If we stay in formation with those headed towards where we want to go, we actuate recovery. Geese also communicate their encouragement to those in front to keep up their speed and to keep up with each other. I feel as though, like the geese, that we travel further on our recovery journey, away from the pull of our destructive disease, when we work together. When we speak out our encouragement to each other we all benefit. I have had some dark times in my recovery, full of fear and dread and joyous times, happy and grateful and at the core of these vastly different emotions there has always been the fundamental urge to do service and to connect with God. To me, I believe that they go hand in hand. If I am giving away what I have, I benefit!

The reading on April 17th in the 24 Hours a Day book means so much to me and clearly illustrates this point

And I paraphrase it in the interest of brevity:

Every time we go to an FA meeting, have a quiet time at the start of our day, we are paying a premium on our insurance against taking the first bite. Every time we help another food addict we are making a very large payment on our insurance, we are making sure that our policy does not lapse! We are building up an endowment in serenity, peace and happiness.

This gathering to do service, at this Business Convention, is a time together when we collectively reap the benefits. When I go home I know I am going to be filled up with a drive to give, to pass on the gift that has been given to me. I urge you all to take advantage of this gathering, to strengthen your recovery so that when God gives you a chance to “pass it on” you are able to. I hope you will stand by the door with me!

TREASURER’S REPORT (Holli N., WSB Treasurer)


  • Guiding principles for FA finances: to carry the message
    • Concept 12: use prudent financial principles & have “sufficient operating funds, plus an ample reserve”
    • Corporate poverty:
      • Be self-supporting (Tradition 7)
      • Use FA funds wisely (Concept 12)
      • Keep focused on our primary purpose (Tradition 6)
      • Keep a prudent reserve (Concept 12)
      • Pass on extra funds to support more FA work (Tradition 5)

How WSI Manages its Funds

SUMMARY Fiscal Year 2016:

July 2015 – June 2016

(FY2016 actual through April, plus May & June forecasted)

Beginning Balance: $ 305,000 (incl. inventory & temp liabilities)




$ 191,000



Operating Expenses



$ 169,000


$ 152,000


$ 100,000

Convention (Business)

$      65,000


$      58,500

Convention (Fellowship)



$      10,000

Projects (Web&Design, PI)



$      96,000

Total Income & Expense

$ 408,000


$ 434,000


*Individual donations are up! Thank you!

2016 Net Income (Income – Expense) $ -26,000

Projected FY2016 Year-End Balance: $ 279,000 (incl. inventory & temp liabilities)

BUDGET Fiscal Year 2017:

July 2016 – June 2017

(FY2017 based on moderate estimates)

Projected FY2017 Beginning Balance: $279,000





Operating Expenses

$ 181,000


$ 171,000

Publications (includes E-Book)

$ 141,000

$ 101,000

Convention (Business)

$    70,000

$      60,000

Convention (Fellowship)

$    60,000

$      38,000







$      80,000

Total Income & Expense

$ 452,000

$ 450,000


Total Net Income (Income – Expense) $ 2,000

Budgeted FY2017 Year-End Balance: $281,000 (Bottom Line)


The 2016 year-end financials have been completed, and there were a few material changes to the projected information that was reported at the 2016 Business Convention.

The 2016 net income for the year was $4,700 instead of -$26,000. The difference between these two amounts was due largely to a reduced expenditure for projects. Donations were also up over what was projected. The net difference in income over the projected amount increased our overall year-end balance to $309,000 instead of the projected amount of $279,000.

The complete year-end report is available to any WSC conference member by request.



(PRESENTED BY Jen N. and Abigail H.)

The Literature Committee moves the 2016 World Service Conference approve the “Living Abstinently” pamphlet as FA Conference-approved literature for distribution to the fellowship and, specifically, to place it on the literature table at meetings for sale as well as for use in “Tools” meetings.

After three years of much hard work and feedback, the motion to accept the “Living Abstinently” pamphlet as conference-approved literature was presented before the conference by Jen N. and Abigail H. The addition of the wording “as conference- approved literature” to the motion was suggested by our parliamentarian. There were a few comments in favor of the motion and a few comments expressing a problem with the Literature Committee’s communication with the fellowship concerning online access to the pamphlet. The motion passed with few dissents.


Retiring Board Members

  • Dan B., Canada Traditions Review

Board Members Running for 2nd Term

  • Dave I., Canada Chair
  • Jamie M., CA Vice Chair
  • Marti M., CA Bylaws
  • Ebony F., CA Convention Planning
  • Margaret H., NY Office


  • Dave I., Canada Chair
  • Jamie M., CA Vice Chair
  • Marti M., CA Bylaws
  • Adrienne P., CA connection
  • Ebony F., CA Convention Planning
  • Margaret H., NY Office
  • Patty R., ME* Traditions Review

2016-2017 World Service Board

WSI Officers

  • Chair Dave I., Alberta
  • Vice-Chair Jamie M., CA
  • Secretary Allison G., CA
  • Treasurer Holli N., NC

WSI Committee Chairs

  • Bylaws Marti M., CA
  • Service Group Support Paul B., MA
  • connection Adrienne P., CA
  • Convention Planning Ebony F., CA
  • Literature Jennifer N., MA
  • Office Margaret H., NY
  • Public Information Annie H., CA*
  • Traditions Review Patty R., ME
  • 12 Step Paula K., NY*

* Indicates new board member


Maine Chapter Report (Shirley H., Chair)

The FA Maine Chapter was established by members of the first Maine FA meetings because they wanted a boots on the ground service group to pool resources and carry the message of recovery.

The Goals of the Chapter are to:

  • Further the FA Program in accordance with the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of FA
  • Maintain a communication center for FA groups
  • Educate the public about the FA Program

The Chapter began in 2002. Today we have 22 meetings affiliated with the Chapter, which includes two meetings in Southern New Hampshire.

The Chapter facilitates communication between meetings through:

  • Monthly Chapter meetings where fellows gather to share experience and coordinate service activities
  • Chapter Highlights, which are emailed monthly to meetings. The Highlights provide information about resources and service activities and opportunities. Along with the Highlights meeting contacts receive a Chapter-wide 12th Step list and an up to date Meeting Directory
  • In April the Chapter hosted the 9th Annual Meeting Support Day. This year it evolved into a Fellows gathered to share the gifts of service and their experience in carrying the message of FA recovery to Health Care Professionals and the Press.

This year the Chapter body helped educate the Public about FA by:

  • Maintaining a phone line to receive and respond to inquiries about FA
  • Maintaining a phone presence in phone directories throughout the Chapter
  • In our region, print media is still an important way to communicate. The Chapter placed adds in 6 major newspapers, which ran for 10-14 weeks. These adds along with calendar listings helped people find their way to FA.
  • Individual meetings offered 11 information Three more are scheduled for this month.
  • The Chapter supplies meetings with Health Care Professional Brochures, Information Booklets and Meeting Directory racks to educate providers and raise awareness about the existence of FA in their

The Chapter PI Committee helped coordinate and support:

  • Participation in 5 Health Fairs
  • 2 Radio Interviews
  • 2 Television interviews
  • Lunch and Learn Sessions for:
  • 12 Staff members at a Bariatric Center
  • 12 Family Practice Residents at a Residency Program in one of Maine's largest Hospitals
  • Fellows also shared their stories and information about FA Recovery with two eighth grade health classes at a middle school


Twelfth Step Committee

This past year our Outbound Sub-committee sent out 200 letters to Drug and Treatment Centers, and rehabilitation facilities to inform them of FA and let them know we would be available to anyone needing help.

Public Information Committee Community Outreach Activities:

Jesse Bethel HS, Vallejo, CA, Psychology class presentation; Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 22 Health Fairs attended; College, Community and Corporate

1 Lunch and Learn at Lifelong Medical Center, Richmond, CA 3 PI sessions at San Francisco Public Library branches

1 PI session at Zuckerberg, San Francisco General Hospital, Obesity Clinic

Health Fair events also took place in Calgary, Canada; Austin, Texas; and in Southern California Office Committee

Supports and maintains Web information for 222 meetings.


  • As of April 1, 2016, there were 331 registered EAI meetings in six countries: Canada, Germany, Israel, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • In the U.S., there are registered EAI meetings in the District of Columbia and 21 states.
  • (Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin.)
  • Our purpose is twofold: to serve meetings, individuals, and newcomers within our area and to facilitate meetings and local service groups in carrying out their own service efforts.
  • Committees
    • Financial Aid & Resources
    • Service Group Support
    • Office Services & Support
    • Public Information
    • Teens & Twenties
    • 12th Step Committee (connection committee)
  • A high priority continues to be supporting service outside of the Boston area.
  • Our biggest annual project is the Service Support Weekend. We hosted approximately 190 FA members (a new record!) from 17 states and Canada at the 15th annual Service Support Weekend on November 7 and 8, 2015.
  • The 16th annual Service Support Weekend will be held November 12 & 13, 2016.
  • The Service Support Committee reports that local service groups are functioning in the following areas: Charlotte, NC; Washington DC; Southeast Michigan; Cleveland, OH; Rochester, NY; Ithaca, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Owensboro, KY; West Michigan, MI; Metro Atlanta, GA.
  • This year’s biggest technological/frontier-focused innovation involved offering individuals and service groups 2+ hours away the opportunity to participate in our body meeting using GoToMeeting. This was arranged by the Office Committee.
  • Additionally, we are moving forward with implementing a cohesive plan for electronic file sharing and file storage.
  • Eastern Area Intergroup has continued to focus on specific themes in our body meetings, such as a tour of the FA website, a walk-through of Convention registration.
  • Service Conference Calls:
  • EAI Quarterly Call led by the Vice Chair, with support from Chapter & Region Support, Financial Aid &Resources, connection, and 12th Step.
  • Four committees—Chapter and Region Support, Connection, Public Information, and Teens & Twenties—offer a conference call dial-in option for members who are 2+ hours away from Intergroup who wish to participate remotely in committee meetings.
  • We have implemented a monthly invitation for a person who doesn’t have 90 days of abstinence to do a reading from As Bill Sees It, Writings from AA’s Cofounder.

12th Step Committee

Thank-a-thons, road trips, hospital visits, home meetings, connection sessions, conducting EAI orientation, and being the “welcoming committee,” posting signage and enlisting greeters.

PI Committee  

We continue to support the Frontier in their efforts to get the message out to the outlying areas for spreading the message about FA. We have shared best practices, assisted with literature requests, the deployment of the FA books for local libraries and hospitals. We have shared the best practices around conferences and PI sessions and have assisted in getting the outlying areas the information they need to be successful.

  • Hospitals/Newsletters: We are making slow progress
  • Conferences: Eric continues to update us on conferences that he is targeting for FA to participate and also providing feedback on the turn out and needs to support the conference and the follow up.
  • FA Book: We continue to support the effort to fund books in the territories that require assistance to get the message out to the field.
  • Tri-folds/Racks: Kevin continues to support sending anyone literature to support their efforts for outreaches and conferences. He also manages the banners and other materials for a large conference.


Office Committee (Margaret H., Chair)

A comprehensive new section of frequently asked questions (FAQs) was added to the FA website at www.foodaddicts.org in June 2016. The WSI Office Committee encourages FA members to look at the FAQs before calling or emailing the office with questions. Choose the “For Members” tab on the home page. Select the “Member Home” tab on the next page. The FAQs are the first item on the drop down menu for that tab.

Convention Planning Committee (Ebony F., Chair)

2016 Business Convention

  • On June 3-5, 2016 we hosted our 15th annual World Service Business Convention in Danvers,
  • Four hundred forty-two members attended from Australia, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Taiwan, and the United States, and thirty-three of the United States.
  • Business sessions included a general overview of FA's structure; opening and closing remarks; our treasurer's report; one motion; acknowledgement of outgoing chairs; election of the 2016-17 World Service Board; highlights from the Maine Chapter, the Western Area Intergroup, the Eastern Area Intergroup, and several WSI committees; an update on the Frontier; and an FA Sharing Session that focused on two topics: “Reaching the Still Struggling Addict” and "Living Abstinently…and using the tools to do so." There was also a session called "Sometimes Quickly, Sometimes Slowly," by members with 20 years or more of continuous abstinence in FA. Other events included the recording of four new qualification CDs, art and writing workshops for connection magazine, WSI committee meetings, and the 4rd Annual Mocktail Party and dance.

2016 Fellowship Convention

  • We are looking forward to hosting the 2016 Fellowship Convention in
  • Dates: Friday, October 28 - Sunday, October 30, 2016 * Location: Tampa, Florida at Saddlebrook Discount Code: FA Fellowship
  • Pricing: $145 / night (one bedroom suite); $229 / night (two bedroom suite) * For more information please check out the Fellowship Convention section of the FA

Upcoming Business Convention Dates and Location:

  • 2017: June 2-4, 2017 at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Danvers, Massachusetts

12th STEP COMMITTEE (Paula K., Chair)


During the 2016 Business Convention, the 12th Step Committee delivered a presentation, to give an overview of the work the committee had done in response to the requests and concerns brought up at the 2015 Convention. The FA Board and 12 Step Committee took the task of increasing support to people who are living on the Frontier and implemented the following initiatives:

Frontier Support Calls

The Frontier Subcommittee sponsored two Support Calls. The first was held on October 18th, 2015 and the second was held on February 21, 2016. Approximately 100 members participated on each Support Call. FA members who live or had lived on the Frontier shared their experience, strength and hope on each call. The topics covered included: 1.) Building and maintaining a fellowship 2.) Attending in-person AA meetings 3.) Doing service and living on the frontier 4.) Why service is important to recovery.

Frontier Tab on FA website

The Frontier subcommittee also created a new web page on the FA Website to help link FA Frontier members to available resources which support them. There is a new link (“No Meetings in your Area?”). That link takes them to a new webpage that contains links to program literature, the Frontier Phone List, Frontier Sponsor List, Universal Language List, individual stories and articles, Highlights/Summaries from Frontier Support Calls, and Public Information resources. The page is: http://www.foodaddicts.org/living-on-the-frontier

Gratitude in Action Newsletter

Gratitude in Action (GIA) is a free, quarterly email publication of the WSI 12th Step Committee, offering tools and resources within FA to inspire members to do service. The newsletter has recently changed its format bringing a new look and feel to this publication.

Experience Strength and Hope

Members who currently live, or who previously lived, on the Frontier were invited to come to the microphone and share experience, strength and hope about living on the Frontier. Topics discussed in this sharing session included: the difficulty of language barriers; the use of the phone to build a fellowship; attending AA meetings; traveling to surround themselves with recovery.

Members were reminded that FA has grown enormously in the last few years, and like other 12 Step Programs, it will continue to grow. As the AA Big Book “They will approach still other sick ones and fellowships of [Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous] may spring up in each city and hamlet, havens for those who must find a way out.”


The Committee emphasized practical ways to do service for those on the Frontier and those who do not live on the Frontier.

Suggestions of service for those on the Frontier:

Join a committee at the World Service, Intergroup or Chapter level; attend the Business Convention and Fellowship Convention, and ask about service positions; write for connection magazine and the Gratitude in Action newsletter; be a model of recovery at your AA meetings; join the Frontier Sponsor List or Universal Language List; do Public Information about FA and most importantly, “We do service by staying abstinent.”

Suggestions of service for those not on the Frontier:

Answer the phone and return calls; make calls to people on the Frontier - use the Frontier Phone List; join the Frontier Sponsor List or Universal Language List; host people who come from out of town; encourage members on the Frontier to get involved in service; encourage people on the Frontier to visit areas with meetings and fellowship; participate in FA Information Sessions outside your area.


  • New digital connection subscription is available!
  • New connection subscription prices, both nationally and internationally:
    • $20.00 - digital, $25 print -10 issues per year
  • Volumes 13 and 14 of connection Collection now available (years 2014- 2015)
  • connection is looking for articles written about living abstinently on the Frontier, (specifically pertaining to the challenges of being an area without any FA meetings or fellowship). We are hoping to start an ongoing section in the magazine that focuses on the experience, strength and hope of those who have been, or still are in outlying areas.
  • Please subscribe and submit art and articles
  • Thank you for all your ongoing support and interest!

Concluding Remarks • 2016 Business Convention Dave I., WSB Chair

My name is Dave. I’m a food addict.

Being chair isn’t always the easiest job in the world. Sometimes I get calls from members of our program expressing a gloomy state of affairs in our growing fellowship. It’s a little tough to know what to say to them. So what helps me, is to remember looking out over this vast and unified sea of people who are doing amazing work in and for this fellowship. Everyone must agree that we FAers are unbelievably fortunate people; fortunate that we have suffered so much; fortunate that we can know, understand, and love and work together so supremely well. These attributes and virtues are, in the words of Bill W., the “true origin in our kinship born of a common suffering and a common deliverance by the grace of God.” When I am restored to a sense of personal gratitude, I can then be available to assist members who are struggling with internal issues.

I get a deep sense of appreciation and connection when I think that we all ended up here with the same problem and are working together with such devotion and enthusiasm toward a common solution. What I experience here with you is what I sought after all of my life. But I never found what I was looking for in food. How could I possibly get, in boxes, bags, and bowls, what I get here? I never remember knowing what enough felt like. I felt stuffed in those days, but I never felt full – the way I feel amidst this group.

Where was I on a Sunday morning when I came here nearly twenty years ago? I was alone, depressed, and full of rage, fear, insecurity, and self-pity, with my drapes drawn during a weekend of binging and purging. But today, I’m here with you. I am a part of something bigger than just myself, and I am growing and learning. I owe my life to this program that saved me from myself.

We all, when we arrived, were on the same path to our respective trash heaps. And we all get the same results from our recovery - in proportion to our dedication and perseverance. It’s astonishing if you stop and think about it.

As I stand here, I am filled with a sense of indescribable awe, appreciation, and fulfillment that cannot possibly be explained in words. It can only be articulated by the imperceptible language of the heart.

As I send you off to your respective homes around the planet, three important messages come to mind that I want to emphasize:

#1. Let’s remember our roots. When I came into FA, there were only two of us in Canada. We lived almost three hours’ drive from each other. Back then there were no such things as conference calls or phone AWOLs or Skype and barely the internet. What there was, was a group of courageous members in the New England area who understood that, for us, food is an addiction and that recovery and freedom from this disease was actually possible.

And I reached out to these people to get their guidance, despite what were at the time exorbitant international phone plans.

I also saved up and travelled to Boston, to meet these early members personally. I stayed with them. I watched how they worked their program. And I attended meetings with them.

I got lost on more than one occasion in the Boston subway system, but I eventually got to those meetings. Those trips to Boston were a pilgrimage for me.

My sponsor always put me to work when I came, and insisted that I lead the meetings that I attended. I was so inexperienced and nervous then that at one meeting I shared for over an hour. At the end of the ten-minute break it was time to go home. No body criticized me nor did they tell me how wonderful my story was. They just told me to keep coming back.

What I learned from these early members was the importance of getting out of the house and going to any length to find strong and supportive AA and NA meetings.

Eventually, I was encouraged to start an FA meeting. It did me good to find a space for a meeting, photocopy posters, and take them around to bulletin boards in grocery stores, laundry mats, and doctors’ offices, and to find a location where I could go and get recovery. Some of my early FA meetings were spent sitting by myself, reading the format, and listening to a story on one of those cassette tapes of early members. But I did my part to get out of the isolation of my house and take my seat on the recovery train – where it’s direction, not velocity – that counts the most.

With guidance and support from my sponsor and other early members, I worked with the press and health care professionals. And people eventually started to come. I was scared, but I got help from those who walked before me, and, in my own imperfect efforts, the fellowship gradually began to grow around me and – at times I am sure – with all my defects of character - in spite of me.

What I learned from this is that there is no endeavor without error, that all my efforts were merely imperfect actions that took me along a path of recovery.

I frankly haven’t felt comfortable at the beginning of any service position I have been asked to step into in this program. But I have learned here that confidence is not a prerequisite. Confidence is an outcome of walking toward that which is frightening and uncomfortable. Willingness is the requisite, and prayer brings the power. I am learning the meaning of devotion and perseverance, and that courage is simply fear attached to a prayer.

Although at a distance, I was here at the conception of FA in 1998. There were no founders, but rather a score of courageous members who, over a previous period of 20 years, understood the nature of food addiction and who had found, from the strength of their experience, a path of recovery. They were willing to listen to truth and had the courage to follow the divine direction that came through group conscience. I relied on these early members who formed the roots of this program, who guided me through my young days of recovery and into my own experience of God.

Today there are hundreds of options for people struggling with food. What I value about this program is that it has given me what AA has given to recovering alcoholics, [to paraphrase the words in the Big Book of AA, page 85], an entirely new attitude toward food… without any thought or effort on our part… That is the miracle of it. We are no longer fighting food, neither are we avoiding temptation. We have been placed in a position of neutrality – safe and protected… so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.

Where else in the world can you find this promise of complete freedom and neutrality around food? No more cravings! This all came from our roots – those early members who paved the way for me and the rest of us - with fundamental spiritual principles of recovery from food addiction.

#2. Let’s remember to keep our program simple. Dr. Bob, in his last speech to the AA fellowship prior to his death in 1950, said this: “Let's be sure to not louse all this up - with Freudian complexes and things that are interesting to the scientific mind, but have very little to do with our actual AA work.”

I am grateful to have been given a simple program when I came in, with simple disciplines, and a simple approach to understanding and applying the 12 Steps to recovery from food addiction.

When I was less than a month abstinent I thought I was smart enough to re-write the meeting format, re-write the disciplines, along with the 24 Hour A Day book, and while I was at it, I wanted to re-write AA’s Big Book…

Good thing I had a sponsor to straighten me out.

What I know now is that I have to change myself to fit the program. If I change the program to fit me, I’m in trouble. The program will last, but I might not. It’s me that needs changing. Not the program. The program is just fine the way it is. I can’t afford to mess with it.

I was taught, again by those early members, that our Twelve Steps, when boiled down to what truly matters, advise me to let go of self-will, find a Power beyond myself, and get my rear end out of the house to do service.

This program gave me order and discipline, and taught me how to walk through very difficult situations – with a little more grace, ease, courage, and an absence of self-pity. I continue to walk with my dear brother through his cancer journey. I am currently supporting my wife whose mother no longer has much memory, and her brother, because of a stroke and heart attack, who needs assisted living. I grandparent, and support my two younger daughters in college. I keep a business afloat. I show up for service on the board and in my local fellowship, in my own imperfect way, just as we all do. Some days I find myself sitting in my quiet time or in the arms of my wife, sobbing. But the pain passes. Each day, I put my food on the scale, call a newcomer who needs some encouragement, and continue to walk with joy through this life. This program is the constant, amidst the vast variable of changes in my life.

#3. Remember the two most important words in the Twelve Steps. The first is the word decision. The day that I made a decision to come into this program, to go from being “around” it to being “in” it, was the day that my life changed forever. Last night, the decision I made as to what I would be eating today, made this day a day worth living. A decision to replace self-pity with gratitude will change my whole outlook. A decision to let go and let God take care of the results in my life opens a door to a new existence. I’ve learned here, that a single decision can change the course of your life.

To this day I have kept a note written to me more than fifteen years ago by one of my daughters when she was in elementary school [she’s now in college]. I came into program when she was in pre-school. I think she had unknowingly picked up on some of my self-criticism and guilt, and in response, left me a note on my desk one night upon return from a meeting when I had missed one of her soccer games. I have kept this note all these years, hoping one day it may be valuable to someone. Here is what she wrote:

“I understand, Popsidoodles, that you miss my soccer games because you are learning to be a better person. If you came to my soccer games, but missed your meetings, you would be mean, nasty, and NOT a very good person. Food makes you grumpy if you eat too much unhealthy stuff. I love you very much and I hope you don’t change. Love, Hayley.”

My two youngest daughters grew up in a recovery family. My oldest daughter was sixteen when I came into program, so now experiences my living amends. As for the two youngest, they saw that I had made a decision to put my recovery first in order to take care of those I love. These two daughters are now two young ladies who live lives of integrity. They can be counted on. They are honest and, to a large degree, unselfish. They are trustworthy, women of strong character. They live by the same principles that their father has been taught in this program. They were of course also given their foundation by an amazing mother. But they were raised by a father who, though far from perfect, made a decision to live a life of recovery, and who was therefore able to set an example of honor and of putting first things first. By the grace of God and FA, I have been able to break the cycle of addiction, depression, and rage that I inherited from my upbringing, and model strong, imperfect character for my children and grandchildren. Breaking that vicious cycle will always be what I consider to be the greatest accomplishment of my life.

Certain abilities belong on a resumé, and certain virtues belong in a eulogy. If you stop and think about it, it’s the qualities written in a eulogy that are the ones that truly matter and the ones that we seek to develop in this program. As we learn in the 24 Hour A Day book [May 2], we “must be, before we can do. To accomplish much, be much. In all cases, the doing must be the expression of the being. It is foolish to think that we can accomplish much… without first preparing ourselves by being honest, pure, unselfish, and loving” - all eulogy virtues. And all this starts with a simple decision. . .

Since coming into the program I have asked my share of why questions: Early on, I would ask questions, like, “Why are there so many different food plans? Why don’t I get to eat ‘those’ kinds of vegetables and proteins? Why don’t they return phone calls? And more recently I have been asking why there are so many factions now that tear away at the unity of our program. Why are there so many different kinds of AWOL formats? Why can’t we stay closer, as a fellowship, to our roots?

In response to my recent inquiries, a relative newcomer gave me a great piece of advice about the consequences of why questions in this context. “What I’ve learned,” she said, “is that whys lead to whining, and whining leads to self-pity.”

Good advice indeed. Make a decision to work the kind of program that you know is right for you and keep the focus on your own plate! “God bless them; God change me.”

The second most important word in the 12 Steps is, in my mind, the word care. We are turning our life over to the care of the God of our own understanding. Note that it doesn’t, in Step 3, talk about the judgment or criticism or punishment of God. No, Step 3 uses the word care. None of us would be here today if somebody hadn't taken time to carefully explain things to us, to give us a little encouragement, to care enough take us to a meeting or two, to carefully do numerous little kind and thoughtful acts in our behalf.

Care helps me experience the promise of this new kind of happiness, which is actually not happiness at all, but joy. In program, I learned the difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is getting what you want. Joy is giving it away. Happiness is buying a new wardrobe that we can fit into. Joy is wearing it out with the people that matter to us. Happiness is getting food added to our food plan. Joy is not caring whether or not we get it added. Happiness is being loved. Joy is learning to love. Happiness is fleeting. Joy lasts, and lasts, and lasts.

Being in recovery opens my heart and teaches me about how to care. By practicing care, which means clear boundaries, clear principles, and an open heart – with all friends and family in our fellowship - I have been able to walk with my brother Hal through the horrid journey of brain cancer: cleaning him, shaving him, helping to feed him, gently massaging his feet and his hands, and helping him make the transition from his bed to his wheelchair. These have been difficult tasks, but I have found immense joy in simply being there with him and for him. Learning to truly care and love someone is what I am learning here – by putting six ounces of vegetables on the scale, taking phone calls, and getting to committed meetings - even when I don’t feel like it.

We are all doing the best we can, ladies and gentlemen, with where we are, and patience and kindness – care - is required. We are all, in recovery, enjoying the blessings of an imperfect life.

Just last week I got a text from a brand newcomer from China. “I am nervous for talking in English,” she texted me, “cause my Oral English is poor. I read your story in the FA book. Ur story encourage me a lot. I admire that you stick to eat according to food plan even when u were pregnant and dehydration…”

This is beautiful! A willing, humble newcomer on the frontier, reaching out for a connection, despite language differences, in her own imperfect, human, and honest way – as we all are - and connecting with the language of the heart.

From the BIG BOOK of Alcoholics Anonymous [page xxii] we read, “In spite of the great increase in the size and the span of this Fellowship, at its core it remains simple and personal. Each day, somewhere in the world, recovery begins when one alcoholic talks with another alcoholic, sharing experience, strength and hope.”

The governing body that is present in this room is what Bill W. referred to as the Guardians of our fellowship. The way that we exercise that guardianship begins by taking care of our own individual recovery. We are all – each and every one of us - in the lifelong business of relapse prevention.

With this commitment in mind, we are bound to have a vital interest in the permanence and well- being of FA itself – because we depend upon it for our survival.

Easy does it, everyone, in your travels home and in the transition back to your families, communities, and friends. Always remember: The problem in front of you is never as great as the power behind you.

I want to thank you, once again, for this opportunity and the privilege to serve and grow in this position.

Be safe, and may God be with you until we meet again.