Practicing the Principles: Finding Recovery in Fiction

OASV Blog Editor

September 29, 2023

Practicing the Principles: Finding Recovery in Fiction

Reading program literature is an essential tool of recovery in Overeaters Anonymous and other 12-step programs. Alcoholics Anonymous, aka The Big Book, is an essential guide to recovering from addiction in all its forms. Overeaters Anonymous recommends replacing “alcohol” and “alcoholic” with “food” and “compulsive overeating” when reading AA literature. The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions from both OA and AA contain guidelines and recommendations for learning about and practicing the principles of the program in all our affairs. At meetings, we only refer to “conference approved literature” to ensure a consistent approach to discussing our individual recovery paths.

One of the gifts of freedom from compulsive eating and the obsession with food is having time to enjoy life in all its aspects. Once I put down the food, in addition to working the program, per se, I need activities to fill the spaces left by abstinence. After I stopped eating nearly constantly, I discovered that my hobbies keep me busy and provide plenty of food for thought, forms of meditation, put me nose-to-nose with character defects, and help me heal deep-seated emotional wounds.

Recovering the time and energy that used to be consumed by food-related thoughts and activities lets me enjoy a range of hobbies that support my recovery. For example, I love to read and have read voraciously since I first discovered the magical relationship between symbols, sounds, and meaning. Fiction, primarily, provides joy in the clever turn of dialog, the magic of beautiful settings, the intrigue of a well-crafted mystery, the intricacies of relationship, and the knowledge embedded in the unfolding of imagined characters and events set against historical backdrops.

Occasionally, authors weave recovery-related philosophy and wisdom into their plots and characters. I recently ran across a stunning explanation of the damage caused by resentment: …their grip on grievances was so tight, it strangled reason. They’d give up sanity before giving up these injustices. This passage goes on to explain that …resentment chains the person to their victimhood. It gobbles up all the air around it until the person lives in a vacuum where nothing good can flourish.

This was true for me. When I first came to OA, I was chained to my victimhood caused by childhood damage and a subsequent abusive relationship. No matter how much I long for full recovery, it’s very difficult to move beyond Step 2 when resentment continues to “strangle reason.” I was struggling with Step 9 when I heard a speaker say (something like), holding onto resentment is deliberately blocking a piece of my heart from the fullness of my Higher Power. My Higher Power led me to realize that the antidote to resentment is forgiveness. I made a decision to let go of the regret, self-pity, and self-righteous anger over what happened in the past. I worked the steps, used the tools, and created a workshop on using the program to process and let go of resentment.

While practicing the principles in all my affairs, I especially love finding my Higher Power in a fictional character!

A gentle disclaimer:

I am a recovering compulsive overeater with 30 years in OA. These comments are based on my personal experience, strength, and hope gained through working the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions and using the tools of the program.  ~Julie T. 2023

Call for articles:

How do you practice the principles in all your affairs? Please send your blog submissions to We look forward to hearing from you and to sharing your story of experience, strength, and hope with others on this amazing journey of recovery from compulsive eating through the Twelve Steps.