OA NEWCOMERS TOPICS REVIEW

The Twelve Steps


The cement that binds us together here has two components.
A. Our common problem with food.
B. Our common solution which is the Twelve Steps.

Our behavior around food can manifest itself as overeating and bingeing, or as bingeing and purging (Bulimia), or as starving ourselves to death (Anorexia). In all cases this is abnormal behavior around food. I don't have the power to deal with my food problem because I always return to overeating and bingeing. Therefore, I have to find the power somewhere else.

I tried to find it in professional people like doctors, dietitians, psychologists, psychiatrists, different spiritual and mystical teachings, diets, medications, hypnosis, and anything else I could find or think of except bypass surgery which I knew would not help because I knew some people who had that surgery and it didn't help them for long. I thought that maybe mind surgery could help but no one turned up to know how to do that.

I came to an OA meeting about 12 years ago without any real hope of solving my problem, but in the Twelve Step fellowship I found a solution that works. It was the Twelve Steps which I did and applied in my life, and it turned out that this was the mind surgery I was looking for. This spiritual plan of action frees me one day at a time from my problem with food, and has changed my life for the better physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Before I discuss the solution let me discuss my problem. There are certain foods (food substances) that when eaten cause me physical cravings for more. More of the same and if there is not more of the same than more of anything else I can lay my hands on and stick into my mouth. Those cravings are a feeling beyond my mental control. This doesn't mean I cannot fight the cravings. I can for a time but if I continue to eat those certain foods I will succumb to the cravings and binge. This sensitivity to certain foods is called food addiction. Personally I am addicted to sugar, flour and fat. In addition to the foods that cause me cravings I tend to overeat other foods and this is also part of my problem.

The simple solution for people who have sensitivities to certain foods is not to touch them at all. Normal people can do that. I have a friend who is sensitive to diary products. They causes him stomach aches and all kinds of other problems. He solved this by not eating diary at all. So the simple solution for me would be to avoid any flour, sugar, or fat.

If I had only a physical problem I could do it but my problem is two fold. My main problem is in my mind. I obsess about the foods I am addicted to. I think about them all the time and my obsessive thinking convinces me to eat them. So just deciding not to eat them is of no use, since my mind convinces me to eat them. This is the reason why I don't have power to deal with my food problem. As long as I continue to obsess about food I am powerless over it and doomed.

What is it about me that makes me like that? I think that I use food as a crutch to deal with life's problems. Food desensitizes me. It sedates me and helps me cope with my feelings by numbing me to them. Afterwards I feel worse, but I am driven to eat to get a short term relief and I forget the long term devastation. Since I use food to manage my life, I can say that my life is unmanageable since instead of dealing with the reality of my life I bury it under food. So this is my general problem.

As I said, I found the solution in OA and TRG. The Twelve Step program helps me find the power to deal with my problem. Working the steps and applying them in my life frees me of my obsession with food and when I am free of the obsession on a daily basis I can manage my life without the crutches of food. Does that mean that I can eat my addictive foods?

Certainly NOT.

My physical problem is with me to stay all my life.

It means that I don't feel the need or urge to eat my addictive foods and I can deal with the reality of my life without them.

How do I get to this stage? By the actions I do in working the Steps. I may know the Steps by heart; I can discuss them forever and listen to others talking about them; but, as long as I don't do them myself I will remain in my problem. So my best suggestion for you now, is not to wait. If you had cancer you wouldn't delay treatment. Don't delay treatment of your food problem.

I hope that now the problem or disease as we call it in the 12 step fellowship is a bit clearer ... so let me talk a bit more about the solution. The solution is power, since I lack the power to deal with my obsession. The power suggested by the 12 Step Program is a spiritual one and a personal one. It can be anything that I can feel comfortable with. It can be the God of my religion, it can be the power of nature, it can be the power found in a group of people recovering from this disease, It can be another kind of power, etc. The program tells me that I will find that power deep inside myself when I do the Steps.

Personally I can say that the program is right. Finding such a Power is my only hope since I tried everything else to no avail. But it is not enough to just find the Power. I have to do the Step actions in order to connect to it. The program calls it conscious contact and the result of the conscious contact is called spiritual awakening. One of the simplest definitions of spiritual awakening is "A personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from food addiction/compulsive eating."

Recovery is not cured.

Recovery is freedom from the obsession on a daily basis contingent on my Step actions on a daily basis. Cure means I can eat like normal people and will not have cravings. I am not cured. My physical disease is still there. But I am recovered. I am free of the obsession on a daily basis. I don't want or need to eat foods that cause me cravings and I can deal with the reality of my life without using the crutches of food.

Now let us have a look at the steps.

STEP ONE "We admitted we were powerless over food -- that our lives had become unmanageable."
I think I explained that one a bit.

STEP TWO "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."
Sanity here means a whole mind free of obsessive food thoughts.

STEP THREE "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him."
I decide to let this Power take care of me since I don't have the power to take care of myself. The God mentioned here is my personal Power source.

The rest of the Steps are the actions I take in order to carry out my Step Three decision.

STEP FOUR "Made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves."
This is a written inventory of the things that block me from contacting that Power.

STEP FIVE "Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."
In Step Four I find that the things that block me are my negative feelings and actions.
In Step Five I discuss them with a suitable person like my sponsor.
“God” mentioned in the Steps is my personal concept of the power that will solve my problem.
The program works for theists, atheists, agnostics, and everyone else as long as we understand that we are powerless and need help from another power.

STEP SIX "Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character."
I cannot remove the blocks but the Power can. All I can do is be ready to let the Power do it.

STEP SEVEN "Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."
Asking the Power to do it as It sees fit.

STEP EIGHT "Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all."
A list of people I harmed by my wrong actions. Amends means repairing the damage I did in the past.

STEP NINE "Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others."
Doing the amends.

STEP TEN "Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it."
After dealing with the past I continue to apply the steps on a daily basis to deal with the present.

STEP ELEVEN "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out."
Prayer and meditation are tools that help me to improve my conscious contact with my healing power.

STEP TWELVE "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to compulsive overeaters and to practice these principles in all our affairs."
Step twelve says that the result of working all the 12 steps is a spiritual awakening. I explained a bit about spiritual awakening. The message we carry is that working the steps leads to a spiritual awakening.
The step also says that we apply the steps on a daily basis in all the areas of our lives. Some remarks from the book Alcoholics Anonymous which is the basic text that explains the steps and gives specific instructions on how to work them.

  • Page 60 "Many of us exclaimed 'What an order! I can't go through with it'. Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles (Steps). We are not saints. The point is that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection."
    The only solution we have to offer to the eating problems is the 12 Step program. All the other activities like meetings, the loops, food plans, sponsors etc., are aids we use in order to work the steps. They are not an end in themselves.

    So making a food plan and committing it to a food sponsor is fine ... but if I remain at that stage I will return to bingeing. The same situation applies with going to meetings or participating in loops and meetings online. All this may bring some relief and is a good way to prepare myself to the work of doing the steps. But I have to move immediately into the stage of doing the 12 step work.

    An example.
    I participate in a painting and drawing class. We are now at the stage of painting with acrylic paints. So at the beginning of the class I take out my paint tubes and my brushes, my water bowl, and a few rags, and arrange them on the table. I also put the canvas on the stand.
    Those are preparations. But they are only preparations.
    I finish them as quickly as I can in order to begin mixing the necessary paints and applying them to the canvas. If I remain in the preparation stage it will just be a waste of time and effort and there will be no painting.

    Now another comment to those who begin working the Steps and do the step waltz 123, 123, 123 etc ...
    Repeating steps 1,2,3 all the time without continuing with the rest of the steps will not lead us to recovery.
    Here is a quote from the book Alcoholics Anonymous: "Though our decision (Step 3) was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face and to be rid of the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor (food) was but a symptom."
    As you see, we don't go back after Step Three. We have to continue immediately with the rest of the steps.

    Some say "But I return to bingeing all the time. How can I work the steps without beginning repeatedly from Step One if I am not abstinent?? The answer is that abstinence is not a precondition for working the Steps.
    Obsession free abstinence is dependent on connecting to a Power source called God or higher power, or whatever you want in this program. Therefore we have to work the steps whether we succeed in becoming abstinent or not,since working all 12 steps will lead us to recovery and nothing else.
    This doesn't mean that I don't have to do everything I can to remain abstinent, but the results are not in my hands ... only the actions are, and not being abstinent should not detain me from working the steps.

    Another objection that newcomers have is the concept of God or a Higher Power. Some of the objections are something like, "I resent God", "God is responsible for my troubles," "Why should God help me? I am not worthy," "There is no God," etc. The beauty of our program is that we can put all our concepts of God aside and begin anew. In fact I don't have to have any concept of God in order to begin working the steps. All I have to do is to be willing to believe that there is some power that can help me recover; It can even be the power in a group of recovered people. My concept of this power will evolve with working the steps. This is an action program ... not a philosophizing program.

    So I repeat my suggestion to get a sponsor and begin working the steps immediately. It can be a face-to-face sponsor or an online sponsor. It makes no difference as long as the sponsor guides you through the Steps.

    Doing the program alone is like operating on oneself. Every one of us, newcomers and old timers, need personal help and guidance. Personal means from one specific person. That person is a sponsor. A sponsor works with his sponsee in a one to one relationship and guides him or her on how to set his priorities and how to do the program work in the best way that fits the sponsees' abilities.

    So my suggestion is to first get a sponsor and do what the sponsor tells you to do. All the things others tell you, all your questions and confusions, bring before your sponsor. The sponsor together with you will make order out of chaos.

    The next question you may ask is how do I get a sponsor. Maybe you were already given that information but it wouldn't hurt to give it again. A very detailed explanation is given in the following URL:Sponsors.

    For a list of TRG online sponsors write to: Sponsors@TheRecoveryGroup.org
    Tell them that you are a member of TRG and the name of your loop, and ask them to send you the list of sponsors and their bios. After you get a sponsor, tell the sponsor all your problems and questions and you will see that everything will soon fall into its rightful place.

    If at first you don't succeed with one sponsor try another one. Don't give up till you get one you can work with.

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    God, grant me the serenity to ACCEPT the things I cannot change;
    COURAGE to change the things I can;
    and the WISDOM to know the difference.


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