Report from the March 19–21, 2010 SOAR 8
Recovery Convention and Business Assembly
from SOAR Reps Mary Anne and Neill
The theme of the convention was “Walking in Memphis:12 Stepping Away the Blues.” The recovery convention sessions were organized around the steps with popular song titles representing each step or pair of steps. For example, step 1 was represented by “The Thrill is Gone.” step 6 and 7, by “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” and step 11 by “Stairway to Heaven.” Men and women from around the region shared their experience strength and hope with recovery from binge eating, severe obesity, anorexia, and bulimia. It was inspiring to meet at least dozens of ordinary sized people who had once been morbidly obese.
- WSO not only has website templates for intergroups that do not have websites and need help for setting one up, but also has domains available—sub domains of the WSO site—that are free to the intergroups that want to use them for their websites.
- Although we have been talking for some time about designated downloaders for meetings, WSO is strongly encouraging that each intergroup also have a designated downloader whose job is to download and make limited copies of materials for those members who do not have computer access or skills. The purpose is to save money and make OA more environmentally conscious by increasingly sharing materials over the web, but not to leave anyone out who is not yet able to move to paperless communication.
- Please promote the following OA publications: The Courier—the OA newsletter by and for the health care professional and A Step Ahead about the WSBC Board, which is basically the best source of information about “what’s going on in OA”—were particularly recommended for downloading.
- Committees were re-structured to keep the same number of funded standing committees while creating a new Unity in Diversity committee (incorporating the former Young People’s committee into this group which will also address diversity in ethnicity, gender, language, and sexual orientation) and a new “Technology/Web Site” committee, elevated from previous sub-committee status. Although Atiya M.’s Publications Committee is no longer extant, she was unanimously elected to the chair of the new “ Bylaws/Electronic Documents” committee.
- SOAR will purchase a new laptop computer and appropriate software for use by the SOAR chair.
- Procedures for electing additional delegates from SOAR to WSBC were clarified
- Qualifications for members of the SOAR Board were brought into line with WSBC requirements including maintenance of a healthy weight for 1 year before and throughout the term of office.
A full day-by-day description of the assembly/convention events follows.
Early Recovery Workshops
Because the Recovery Convention began at 4:00 pm on Friday and the Business Assembly did not begin until 7:00 pm, we were able to catch the first two workshops. The first focused on asking experienced convention attendees to share about what previous conventions had meant to them and new attendees to share about their hopes for the convention. People shared about the inspiration they had received, their hopes for re-vitalization of their programs, and trusting HP to take care of their fears and remove their character defects so that they could get the most out of the convention.
Some of the highlights from the Step One workshop that followed the opening were:
“My sponsor told me that when I shared about how my life was unmanageable when I first took step one, not to forget to also share about how my life is unmanageable now!”
“Every time my friend recovering from relapse comes back to the meeting, it helps me to stay abstinent.”
“My life is unmanageable by me, but not by my Higher Power.”
Business Assembly: Opening Session
Like our own intergroup meetings, each business session began with the serenity prayer and the reading of the 12 steps, 12 traditions, and 12 concepts. They also included the reading of the day’s page in both For Today and Voices of Recovery.
Following the readings, this session of the business assembly, and all subsequent meetings including returns from lunch and returns from break, began with a roll call of intergroups in which the Region 8 secretary determines the number of people in the room, and the number of eligible voters in the room. Although the count varied from session to session, with 43 eligible voters on Friday night, there were in general 47 voters representing 24 intergroups. There are a total of 56 intergroups in the region (representing 672 affiliated groups), not to mention 126 unaffiliated, registered groups. Thus, 42.9 percent of the intergroups in the region had one or more delegates in attendance at the conference. Three of North Carolina’s five intergroups were represented. (The other two represented were Piedmont and Triad. Western Carolina and Coastal Carolina were not represented.)
The first order of business was a motion to change the order of the agenda presented in the conference packets. In the original schedule, the Region 8 standing committees would meet in the morning and voting on the resolutions before the assembly would come in the afternoon. However, three of the resolutions to be addressed involved the re-structuring of the standing committees. Thus, it would be more productive for the committee meetings to take place after it was clear what, if any, changes would be made to them. The motion passed by voice vote.
Stephanie D., “Action is the magic word,” our regional chair, began by reminding us of the purpose of Region 8: (1) To promote abstinence; (2) To spread the message; (3) To help the compulsive overeater who is still suffering; and (4) to support the intergroups in Region 8. Representatives were then asked to break into small groups to discuss ways in which the assembly could be made more attractive and effective.
Here is a list of suggestions from the group brainstorming. Some of these are things that are already being done; but perhaps the intent is to strengthen these efforts.[Neil, I am sure this is incomplete. I hope that you can fill in from your notes.]
Increase e-mail sponsorship
Maintain a speakers list
Maintain contacts with the unaffiliated groups
Continue the work of Public Information/Public Outreach (PI/PO), 12th Step Within Committee and outreach to young people
Continue funding representatives to SOAR from intergroups/service bodies that cannot afford to send them
Continue funding additional delegates to world service
Region 8 board continue to travel to intergroups for service workshops
Step up program of sponsoring intergroups
Help local intergroups with Assembly and Conventions
Hold strong meetings workshops
Facilitate communication within the region through website and newsletter
Serve as a link between intergroups and WSBC
Well-scripted agendas and committee work are already working well.
Re-organize count of eligible voters by using scanable representative badges and a bar scanner at the entrance to the assembly room to eliminate the need for repeated roll calls.
Begin the assembly packet with an executive summary
Put the new business (motions to come before the floor) in the front.
Send the minutes from the last assembly shortly after that meeting. Do not include it in the packet for the next assembly.
The gimmick in this assembly’s package—to find the words “I love service” on three pages of the packet for the chance to win a prize—was a good way to stimulate people to read the package.
Power strips for tables to permit all who wish to take notes on laptops.
Improve the website with more forums, adding a Frequently Asked Questions page and making it more interactive. Perhaps add a direct link to ask-it-basket.
Provide more scholarships and/or partial scholarships
Support fund raising by intergroups in the region
Support more publicity for OA in the region
Let people volunteer for committees rather than assigning people to committees.
Facilitate committees meeting by telephone with agenda
Increase use of Google groups and other means of sharing work/communicating between assemblies
Develop a “How To” guide for intergroup representatives.
Business Assembly Joins with Recovery Section
After the opening session of the business assembly, both halves joined to watch a skit by the local Greater Memphis Area intergroup in which a skeptical businessman interviewed potential sponsors as if they were applicants for a job in his firm. This amusing piece poked gentle fun at some of the more extreme styles of sponsoring as well as some of the fears and unrealistic expectations of newcomers seeking a sponsor, but it carried a serious message about the need to both sponsor and be sponsored in order to get and keep recovery.
The skit was followed by three speakers on the theme “The Road of Happy Destiny (without Trudging!).” Each shared moving, sometime funny, sometimes touching stories of their road of daily recovery. Neil recalls the following highlights.
L.: I came into OA in 1991. I joined in college after seeing a sign “OA loves you” at school. I lost my abstinence when my sponsor moved away, as I had made my sponsor my HP. I was in and out of the rooms of OA for 10 years. I moved from a large area with many meetings to an area with few meetings, giving me an excuse not to attend meetings. The closest meeting was over an hour away, and I wasn’t yet willing to “go to any lengths”. Finally, I was tired of being in relapse, and I realized that going to any lengths meant doing service. I became involved in re-establishing the Memphis IG, putting on a SOAR assembly, and becoming a Region 8 committee chair.
R.:When I am asked to do service, I don’t say no. I have done a lot of service at the Region level. Part of my recovery is to give back, and in this way I find a niche. The Road to Recovery is service and that is where I find my path. I started coming to meetings with my fiancee and realized that I belonged in these rooms also. I was eating abstinently as an “unmedicated food addict, OA’s version of a dry drunk. When I went on a trip and started to weigh and measure foods that were not good for me, I realized that I was in trouble. I came back willing to go to any lengths, and began to do service. Service keeps me abstinent. I find jobs that love that are worth me staying abstinent so that I can do the work.
L.: I came into OA in 1989 at 230 pounds. I was disgusted with myself. I had heard some AA stories and said, “that’s me, except I don’t drink. I eat.” I was a real people-pleaser, and stayed abstinent for a while because I didn’t want to disappoint my sponsor. I took a finger full of food after an Easter party, and that led to a relapse. I gained 50 pounds. I had to let go of my ego and tell my sponsor that I had relapsed. I got abstinent again, but gave it away when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and my husband ended up in a coma after a motorcycle accident. I got up to 310 pounds. When I got abstinent again, I decided that I didn’t want to lose it.. I realized that I needed to do service. Service has led me to accepting a SOAR 8 committee chair.
One of Mary Anne’s favorite lines from this sharing was, “The tools will keep you abstinent until you can work the steps.”
For first-time, green-dot, delegates, Saturday started with a 7:30 meeting with Gloria, Region 8 Vice Chair and Judy, our parliamentarian. Gloria went over key materials in the “Green Dot Manual” for newcomers to the assembly including a review of their obligations as representatives to SOAR. Judy provided a clear and succinct overview of the process for addressing the meeting and for business as a whole. Most importantly, they provided an opportunity for new delegates to ask questions and receive answers. Green dots were also assigned a mentor to sit beside during the assembly to whom they could ask clarifying questions by using notes.
The full day of the business assembly began at 8:30 with the serenity prayer, readings and roll call, adoption of the standing rules of the assembly, and approval of the minutes from the previous assembly in Tampa.
The parliamentarian gave a brief lesson on the “myth” of the friendly amendment and reviewed procedures for amending motions.
The treasurer’s report (handout available from either of our delegates) included the information that more than $1,000 was raised for the “Walking in Memphis” fund to provide 3 full and 5 partial scholarships to the recovery convention. Board reports were in the packet and were not presented orally to allow more time for business.
Announcements from WSO:
WSO not only has website templates for intergroups that do not have websites and need help for setting one up, but also has domains available—sub domains of the WSO site—that are free to the intergroups that want to use them for their websites.
Although we have been talking for some time about designated downloaders for meetings, WSO is strongly encouraging that each intergroup also have a designated downloader whose job is to download and make limited copies of materials for those members who do not have computer access or skills. The purpose is to save money and make OA more environmentally conscious by increasingly sharing materials over the web, but not to leave anyone out who is not yet able to move to paperless communication.
The Courier—the OA newsletter by and for the health care professional and A Step Ahead about the WSBC Board, which is basically the best source of information about “what’s going on in OA”—were particularly recommended for downloading.
Charles A., our outgoing Regional Trustee gave a brief but powerful farewell message. He said that the most attractive thing about being a trustee was working with 15 other people who were all giving so much of themselves to carry the word. He said “WSBC changed my life.” He also reminded the group of a saying about service which was repeated several times during the weekend, “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.”
Three of the six motions before the assembly were designed together, by the board, to modify the committee structure. The purpose was to create new committees that were needed for new directions in OA without increasing the budget—including the funding of chairs to attend the meeting—by keeping the total number of committees stable. The three motions (original motions 2, 3, and 4), all of which passed, accomplished the following alterations in committees.
- The committee previously known as “The Publications Committee” (chaired by our own Atiya M.)was renamed “The Bylaws/Electronic Documents Committee,” and the committee previously known as “TheBylaws and Policy and Procedures Committee” will now be under this committee as theBylaws subcommittee and a designated downloader subcommittee will also be formed in addition to the existing subcommittees of the former publications committee. This committee will take the place of the publications committee on the defunding hierarchy. (This refers to the plan in the bylaws that decrees the order in which committees can have funding support removed if the Region falls drastically short of budget.)
- A new “Technology/Web Site” committee was formed from a previous subcommittee of the now defunct Publications Committee, and assumes the position of the now defunct Bylaws committee in the hierarchy.
- A new “Unity in Diversity” committee was formed. It replaces the Young People in OA committee in the hierarchy, and “Young People” becomes a subcommittee of the Unity in Diversity committee.
The fourth motion, which passed with substantial amendment from the floor was designed to clarify the procedure by which Region 8 will choose the additional delegates to WSCC it is allowed to fund. (WSBC allows SOAR to send up to 5 additional delegates if fewer than 40 per cent of intergroups in Region 8 sent delegates to the most recent WSBC conference.) The motion’s essential intent was to clarify the procedure for nominating delegates, their qualifications, sending applications directly to the board rather than channeling them through the Intergroup Outreach Committee(IGOR) as had been done previously, and funding them based on the availability of money for this purpose in the SOAR budget. Ratified Region 8 Trustee Nominees will have first priority as delegates because SOAR is already funding their travel to WSBC.
The fifth motion passed was to buy a laptop and software (based on recommendations and guidance from the new “Technology/Web Site” committee) for use by the Regional Chair. It is necessary for the chair to have capacity in both hardware and software to share documents with the secretary and other officers whose documents she must review.
The sixth motion, which might have been expected to be somewhat controversial, passed easily. That was an amplification of the qualifications for the region 8 board, specifying general qualifications (2 years in fellowship, 2 years of service above the meeting level, attended at lease 2 previous assemblies as a voting member, one year of continuous recovery as evidenced by 1 year of continuous current abstinence, maintenance of a healthy body weight for at least 1 year and “emotional and spiritual growth as a result of incorporating into their lives the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions as a new way of living.” ) The motion goes on to specify that at the time of application the nominees for board member must have worked through all 12 steps, declared themselves as practicing the 12 steps to the best of their ability, committed to the 12 traditions, and aware of and understanding the 12 Concepts of OA Service. It goes on to require a commitment upon election of adherence to the 12 steps, traditions, and concepts; abstinence and maintenance of a healthy body weight through the entire term of office, and compliance with all the terms and provisions of the SOARBylaws. (Each person is to be the judge of his or her own recovery including abstinence and maintenance of a healthy body weight.) The passing of this motion brings the requirements for membership on the SOAR board in line with the requirements for the WSBC Board.
Neil continues to serve on the 12th Step Within Committee. He has submitted his committee report to Intergroup in a separate e-mail.
Mary Anne was assigned to the newly createdBylaws/Electronic Documents Committee. The new committee’s accomplishments at the assembly, as listed in the report from our chair were:
- Named by acclimation – Atiya as chair
- Reviewed subcommittees for two merged committees
- Assigned committee members to subcommittees
- Sander chosen as chair of new subcommittee: Motions: Review & Compliance
- Named by acclimation – Kat as vice-chair
- Discussed relevance & purpose of newsletter
- Brainstormed ideas for subcommittees / responsibilities
Work that will go on between now and the next assembly, again as reported by our chair):
- Write subcommittee purposes / responsibilities (each subcommittee chair)
- Prepare motions to modify descriptions in P&P for submission prior to next Assembly (each subcommittee chair)
- Prepare newsletter (Arik)
- Promote Lifeline Rep & Designated Downloader positions to region intergroups (Gertie)
- Create/maintain a Lifeline (and possibly designated downloader) display (Gertie)
- Review submitted motions in accordance with standard timelines (Sander & Judy)
- Assist region secretary with responsibilities (Kat)
- Edit and update our committee’s motions, the newsletter and other official region documents as needed (Atiya, Kat & Mary Anne)
- Maintain effective communication through e-mail
- Promote recovery in region 8 through practicing the principles in all our affairs (all committee members).
Final Assembly Meeting
The Suncoast Intergroup (Tampa Bay) gave the final report from the November assembly including the information that they had netted $5,078.54 which was split between the hosting intergroup and SOAR. This did not include money from boutique, t-shirts, and other fund raisers that go entirely to the hosting group.
The Baton Rouge Intergroup—dressed in green and sporting alligator head gear of various descriptions made their bid for the March 11-13, 2011 Assembly: Serenity on the Bayou: Finding the Road to Recovery.” They showed a Power Point presentation on the beauties of Baton Rouge and tossed plastic alligators to the crowd. The bid was accepted, but a question from the floor asked that they try to bargain with the hotel to have the internet access, for which there is a charge, made complimentary for conference attendees.
The final business was to address 1 procedural motion and 3 budget override motions, all of which passed. The procedural motion was to modify the policy and procedure manual to have all new motions submitted directly to the SOAR 8 secretary. Prior to the motion, the procedure is for motions to go first to theBylaws committee to make sure that they are not in conflict with OA or SOAR bylaws. However, as that committee has been folded into the newBylaws/Electronic Documents Committee as a subcommittee, the new procedural motion will streamline board attention to/review of the motion.
The first budget override motion was for $55 for the former Young People’s committee (now subcommittee) for postage and business envelopes to send out packets to the intergroups. The literature has already been purchased and is ready for mailing. The other two motions were $217.71 to theBylaws/Electronic Documents Committee and $145.53 for printing of the logo design contest flyer. Both of these overrides were necessary to cover expenses that had been incurred in the previous year, but were not billed to SOAR until after January 1.
Recovery Events on Saturday
Both lunch and dinner on Saturday included speakers who told moving stories of recovery from different aspects of our disease. The lunch speaker was a man who had lost over 300 pounds and the dinner speaker was a young woman recovering from bulimia. Both shared the solution they had found in working the steps that had literally given their lives back.
After the dinner speaker, the region presented a gift to outgoing Trustee, Charles A. and announced the winning design from the logo contest—a design of red butterflies and leaves incorporating a list of the countries and US states in the region, produced by our past regional chair, Geri H.
Entertainment was provided by a musical group from the Memphis area (neither Neil nor Mary Anne can remember their name). All of the members are in some 12-Step recovery program and they perform song parodies about the joys of recovery, but also the quirks and foibles of the people we are in the rooms. For example, “The Great Pretender” who always says things are fine even if he or she is slipping; 13th stepping, and the person who “won’t budge” to accept any new ideas.
Except for meetings of the Intergroup Chairs and the Board and Funded Chairs, Sunday was entirely dedicated to the recovery side of the meeting.
The 8:00 workshop focused on the promises with a speaker from Mississippi who told of her struggle as a massive binge eater and how each of the promises had come or were coming true for her as an even greater miracle than her recovery from severe obesity to a normal weight.
The second session began with the skit called “The 12-th Step Within Roadshow” which some of you have probably seen. It makes the serious point of the need to reach out to members in relapse or slipping away from the group, and the dire consequences that relapse can have. However, the comedy hit of the skit, according to Mary Anne was our own Neil M., with his hair turbaned in a towel, but his beard clearly visible, playing the sweet, drawling waitress Molly. After the road show, there were short shares from people in the rooms. Everyone who shared, including all three people there from our intergroup, was maintaining a large weight loss and shared on the message we carry and the importance of giving hope to those still waiting for the miracle we have experienced.
The closing session included a plug for the 50th Birthday celebration in Los Angeles in August from our Chair, a powerful story from a Florida woman who shared recovery from relapse despite tragedies in her life and the distribution of chips from multiple years down to a lot of white chips.