Serenity at the Beach

OASV Blog Editor

January 19, 2023

Serenity at the Beach

I came into OA in February 1989. I stayed for twenty-one years through periods of abstinence and relapse, my wedding, jobs, having children, and the death of my father. I shared my problems and my willingness to work on my program. Eventually, I’d realize that the problems I obsessed about were solved. I’d move forward with a renewed willingness to take action by following my sponsor’s suggestions and working on their assignments.

I left the program in September 2011 to pursue a daytime job. That decision was not because I thought OA didn’t work for me; my daughters were young and I was not willing to change from day meetings to evening ones. I experienced other changes over the next nine years, especially the death of my husband. During this absence from regular meetings, the compulsive overeating returned, and I gained weight, especially over the holidays. The insane, obsessive fears attached to my weight gain were intense.

After I retired in 2020, I returned to OA on Zoom. However, whether or not I attended regular meetings, I always made time for the annual OASV Serenity Retreat. It was the one gift I continued to give myself. Attending the retreat in the early Spring gave me the shot in the arm I needed. I listened to great speakers, saw friends, and ate the abstinent food that was provided. The retreat allowed me to stay “clean” and connect with others even if it was just for the weekend. I escaped the insane busyness of my life as a single mom to two teenage daughters. I connected with my spiritual side and maintained my belief that OA could work for me.

As we embark on a new year, I am eagerly looking forward to the OASV Serenity Retreat 2023. Every year, my stress melts away as I drive towards Del Mar Beach and arrive at Villa Maria Del Mar. I have an annual ritual of going to the main building and climbing the stairs to the second floor where the Meditation Room overlooks the beach. I open the windows, sit in a chair, and breathe. I renew my belief in a Higher Power. How can I doubt the existence of something greater than myself helping me live my life as I look at the ocean view? Something had to have created such a beautiful and vast body of water teeming with sea life.

While I see OA friends at local meetings, I see other friends once a year at the retreat and enjoy catching up with them. I meet people who are newcomers to OA and/or to the retreat and connect with members from other areas whom I’ve met through Zoom. Sharing a table at meals allows me to sit with friends and get to know other attendees. Sometimes we catch sight of dolphins or whales. Sailboats and surfers add color to the waves. I love it when the leader of the retreat brings an entourage of OA friends with them. There is strength in numbers. This was especially true in 2022 at the first in-person retreat since the pandemic started. I could once again hold hands or link arms and join in the closing. It felt so good to see and hug people!

Over the years, a variety of retreat leaders have covered various aspects of recovery along with their stories. I find hope and awe in hearing how far people have come in their recoveries. The peace they exude while talking about their varied experiences with food, weight, body image, and self-esteem has been so inspiring. The one thing they have in common is faith in a Higher Power and freedom from compulsive eating. I enjoy and get a lot from participating in small breakout groups where we share our experiences with half a dozen people and during group shares during the meeting sessions. God often speaks to me through others.

I also look forward to our Saturday afternoon break before dinner. Sometimes I need a nap. Other times, I take a walk on the beach. One time, I went to dinner in downtown Santa Cruz to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Another time, I rode a bike ride down to the wharf and got lost on my way back. I called a friend at the retreat to rescue me. That was a bit more adventure than I counted on at the Serenity Retreat!

Saturday nights are also a highlight. In the past, we held bonfires and singalongs on the beach, played games, or participated in arts and crafts activities in the main room. I also enjoy chats with my roommate or quiet evenings reading.

Before the end of every retreat, I write a list of things I want to surrender to the retreat’s God Box. I love the ritual of going outside with the retreat attendees and witnessing the emptying and burning of the lists that were in the God Box. That closing circle creates a special bond with the whole group that carries me as I go home and share the highlights of what I gained over the weekend at my regular meetings. The Serenity Retreat is a special way to strengthen my connection with my Higher Power, bond with others, and focus on recovery in an amazing, spiritual setting.

OASV Serenity Retreat 2023
“Big Book Bootcamp”
April 21-23, 2023
Villa Maria Del Mar in Santa Cruz
Registration at

~ Judy M.