Step Eleven
1996


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STEP ELEVEN ~ PART ONE

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            STEP ELEVEN:  Sought through prayer and meditation to
            improve our conscious contact with God as we understood
            God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us
             and the power to carry that out.

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Hello {{{All}}}.  Welcome to our Step Eleven online study.  My name is Billie
Wilson and I'm a compulsive overeater who is totally in love with recovery.
  Because of Overeaters Anonymous and the Twelve Steps, I've been abstinent
since April 20, 1988 (after a one-day relapse), have maintained a weight loss
in excess of 100 pounds since 1981, and am at a normal, healthy weight (just
confirmed at my annual physical yesterday).  Without abstinence and this
program, I'd be dead -- or wishing I were.  I love my life today.  Every
aspect of it.  And I never dreamed I'd ever feel this way.

Many thanks to {{{Bob}}} for the really great October 10th Step Study and to
all who participated -- either with written shares -- or simply by being here
as we recover together -- doing what we could not (and need not) do alone.

If we have any OA newcomers in this group, welcome!!!  The good news about
Step 11 is you don't have to wait until you've worked the first 10 Steps to
"work" (it's more like play, actually) this one.  In fact, you'd really be
cheating yourself if you postponed the joy and inner peace waiting in this
Step.  My first sponsor told me that the first three and the last three Steps
were to be from the beginning like beloved "bookends" around our day and
our life.

Step 11 is just about my favorite Step.  That's why I volunteered almost a
year ago to help encourage a discussion on the Working The Steps loop on how
this Step has enriched our recovery.

For anyone struggling with, or turned off by, "the God idea," that needn't
prevent you from working Step 11.  Simply substitute for the name "God" any
higher consciousness word that works for you ("Good" was my beginning word).
 Learning how to align our lives with principles of deep personal integrity,
rigorous (but compassionate) honesty, inner peace, harmony, unselfishness,
unconditional love, joy, wisdom, freedom, etc. is the essence of this Step
and the value of a consistent, daily seeking for that can't be measured.

So much of what the Big Book says about Steps 10 & 11 kind of knit both Steps
together in many ways.  So I will begin Step 11 by starting where Bob left
off -- the quote from page 85 of the Big Book which says:  "We are not cured
of [compulsive overeating].  What we have is a daily reprieve contingent on
the maintenance of our spiritual condition.  Every day is a day when we must
carry the vision of God's will into all of our activities.  'How can I best
serve thee - Thy will (not mine) be done.'  These are thoughts which must go
with us constantly.  We can exercise our will power along this line all we
wish.  It is the proper use of the will."

Since Step 11 is about trying to figure out God's will for our lives -- and
since our "daily reprieve" hinges on this -- finding what works best and
gives most for each of us is one of the most valuable uses we can make of our
time.  I don't remember who it was who said this, but I believe it:  "God
doesn't want his will for us to be a secret."  :)

On page 86 are clear directions about how to start our day:

            On awakening, let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead.
            We consider our plans for the day.  Before we begin, we ask
            God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced
            from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives.  Under these
            conditions we can employ our mental faculties with assurance,
            for after all God gave us brains to use.  Our thought life will be
            placed on a much higher plan when our thinking is cleared of
            wrong motives.

            In thinking about our day we may face indecision.  We may not
            be able to determine which course to take.  Here we ask God
            for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision.  We relax and
            take it easy.  We don't struggle.  We are often surprised how
            the right answers come after we have tried this for a while.

When I was new, all of the foregoing ideas were foreign to me.  I didn't have
a clue how to begin.  Formal meditation was a long way down the trail in my
case, and prayer was out of the question.  So how on earth was I going to
work Step 11?  My sponsor suggested I spend at least the first 15 minutes of
each day reading spiritual stuff ("give God the first 15 minutes and he'll
take care of the rest").  She said it would ensure my remaining abstinent and
sober because if the very first thing that I placed in my consciousness each
day was "Godstuff," I'd be less likely to put a bunch of junk in there later
-- the kind of junk thinking that leads to relapse.   (She probably said
"Goodstuff" rather than "Godstuff" back then since the word "God" made me
cringe)

She said to read about spiritual principles, uplifting ideas about spiritual
growth, and the positive, nourishing wisdom that tell us precisely how to
apply these principles and ideas in "all our affairs" (Step 12)  This wasn't
a time to read the latest self-help book.  It was meant to be a time
dedicated to spiritual seeking.  She said that when I showed up every morning
with consistent dedication, that was a form of prayer.  She said when I was
reading about "Godstuff," that was a form of meditation -- *listening* to a
higher power I didn't even yet believe in.

At first, I did that morning reading out of superstition (fearful that if I
didn't, somehow my abstinence and sobriety would be in jeopardy), but as my
life began to get better and better ("sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly"),
I began to do it because it was obviously helping me.  Then it became a
habit, a rich and rewarding part of my life that I wouldn't trade for
anything.   Today I do much more than 15 minutes, but that's another share.

I hope a whole bunch of you will just jump right in and either ask questions
about this for the loop to respond to -- or share how you work Step 11 so
newcomers can get an idea of how varied this Step can be -- and let's hear
from folks who have seen the practical and miraculous effects that come from
a consistent approach to Step 11 in your life.

During this month I won't be posting questions for you to answer.  I'd like
this to be more like a meeting where we go around the table and tell what
Step 11 means to us.  I urge you to read (or re-read) pages 85-88 of the Big
Book, and the chapters on Step Eleven in the OA and AA Step books.  And then
let's just share all month long from the richness and wonder of this Step.
 I'd hoped to kick this off with a shorter share.  It's hard to hold back my
enthusiasm for this Step -- but enough for now.

Love and hugs and smiles and encouragement,
Billie Wilson -- Juneau, Alaska

STEP ELEVEN ~ PART TWO

            *********************************************************
            The spiritual life is not a theory.  We have to live it.
                                                     (Big Book, p. 83)
            *********************************************************


Good morning, {{{all}}}.  It's been great seeing some Step 11 shares in my
mailbox -- keep those cards & letters coming!!

I started off in my first share on Step 11 by talking about "minimums."  My
first sponsor suggested that if I gave God the first 15 minutes of every
single morning, God would take care of the rest of the day, including the
assurance of continued abstinence.  Today I'd like to talk about being
willing to do more than the minimum -- not just on Step 11, but on every
aspect of our recovery. I don't know anyone who has failed to report that the
more we do, the more we get back.

On page 87 of the Big Book, it suggests:

     "We usually conclude the period of meditation with a prayer
     that we be shown all through the day what our next step is
     to be, that we be given whatever we need to take care of
     such problems.  We ask especially for freedom from self-
     will, and are careful to make no request for ourselves only.
     We may ask for ourselves, however, if others will be helped.
     We are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends.  Many
     of us have wasted a lot of time doing that and it doesn't work."

I believe that one of the best prayers I can pray that fits this guidance is
asking God to help me stay abstinent that day, no matter what happens.  If I
am abstinent, others will be helped since I will be living my life from a
foundation of recovery rather than disease.  It is not a selfish prayer.  It
is a prayer to be in alignment with God's will -- "the proper use of will."
 Believing that God will help us with abstinence seems to come in increments
(even for those of us who come into recovery professing a belief in God and
God's power) -- just as abstinence seems to come in increments for many of
us.  One prayer that never fails to be answered is this one:  "God, grant me
more faith."  Another prayer that might help:  "God, if I'm going to be
addicted, please let me be "addicted" to recovery.  :)   Let me become
absolutely compelled to immerse myself in spiritual teachings that speak to
my deepest, highest Self.  Fill me with an insatiable hunger for abstinence
and spiritual growth, a passionate desire for deeper faith."

While the Big Book is my favorite and most trusted guide to recovery, I'll be
briefly mentioning a couple of spiritual books that were instrumental in my
Step 11 progress and that are not "conference-approved" literature.  I don't
mean to offend anyone in doing this.  I simply cannot tell my story without
mentioning them at least in passing.  The Big Book tells us there are many
helpful spiritual books out there and that we'd be wise to make use of them.

My sponsor suggested I do Step 11 in the same place each morning, creating a
peaceful, beautiful corner in my home just for that purpose -- kind of a
"sacred space" that I would enter into for spiritual nourishment.  When I
lived in a tiny cabin, a little corner was all I had room for.  Now I have an
entire room that is my sacred space.  Just last night I had a bunch of AA
women over and one of them said, after she came downstairs from my meditation
room, "Gee, you can *feel* the energy in there!!  I didn't want to leave."

One of the very best ways to increase faith is to put more time into Step 11.
 Before I get out of bed in the morning, the first thing I say is "Thank you
God for a new day.  Please keep me abstinent, clean, and sober today -- no
matter what happens."  Then, when my feet hit the floor, I say "This is going
to be a great day.  Thy will be done."  Again, stuff my sponsor taught me
nearly 17 years ago and I still do it -- because it seems to help. :)

When I first began doing the "first 15 minutes" -- that was just about all I
could handle.  I was so toxic from compulsive eating, as well as booze and
other mind-altering chemicals, it felt like my brain had been wired wrong --
nothing was retained, my attention span was bizarre -- I'd keep reading the
same paragraph dozens of times. My sponsor told me that, in addition to
writing the Big Book, God had written a little book called Twenty-four Hours
A Day (an AA meditation book you may be familiar with).  Some of the terms
made me uncomfortable, but that was a good opportunity to practice being a
little more open-minded.  That little book was almost my entire Eleventh Step
in the beginning and I carried it in my purse for years -- opening it at
random throughout the day whenever I needed special guidance.  It was amazing
how incredibly often the guidance was uncannily appropriate.

After two years, my mind opened a little bit more and I began reading a book
the old-timers mentioned often:  Emmet Fox's Sermon On The Mount.  That was
the book that many AA meetings used before the Big Book was written, and its
influence on the Big Book is quite obvious.  My spiritual life deepened and
began to flourish from this point on.  As I was willing to let more Godstuff
in, I become more and more convinced that there not only *was* a God, but
that this God had a deep and abiding interest in every aspect of my life.
 That Emmet Fox book held so many revolutionary ideas about how to practice
the principles in all our affairs that I was just overwhelmed with new
vision.  I was compelled to try everything he suggested and it worked
unfailingly -- just as suggestions in the Big Book always work when we work
them.  My life took off like a rocket, I'm not kidding.  And I became so
hungry for these new ideas about a principle-based life, that I began reading
all kinds of spiritual books from many different pathways of belief and the
miracles kept happening and have never stopped.

After five years, I read a Readers Digest article, "The Hour That Will Change
Your Life."  The author recommended giving God the first HOUR (yikes!!) of
each day.  I decided to try it.  I once believed with fervent passion that I
was a "night person."  I treasured my time after 10 pm because the phone
rarely rang and I could do "my thing."  Which usually lasted until well after
midnight -- reading, writing, etc.  (didn't have internet yet)

Getting up was always a challenge, although I somehow made sure God got the
first 15 minutes (on weekends, He got a little more).  The first day, the
little voice inside my head (the one that argues with the "still, small
voice" :)  suggested I postpone it till the next day.  But I've learned that
particular voice has never given me reliable advice, so I got out of bed into
my cold dark cabin, tripping over sleeping dogs and cats, and just did it.
 The second day, the same little voice suggested I hit the snooze button for
10 minutes -- I could still do the hour.  Ignore the voice.  Move.  Just do
it.  By the third day, I could not wait to get out of bed -- the impact on my
life was already obvious.  I've been doing that first hour ever since (and on
weekends, even more).

The other thing about the old "night owl" approach was that it made me less
effective as an employee -- I'd be five or ten minutes late for work, I'd be
tired, etc.  I was still a good employee -- but not living up to my
potential.  What I discovered after I become a morning person was that the
morning is my most creative time.  And it's ten times more creative than my
best creative "night owl" time.  My employer deserves 100 percent and a good
attitude.  A good night's sleep helps ensure that I'm able to give that.

Part of learning to "do more" Step 11 (and 12) is to carry it from the
"sacred space" into every aspect of our day.  For example, I visualize God
going shopping with me.  This is fun (and very safe) because God does not go
down junk food aisles at all and generally heads straight for produce where
he/she loves to hang out.  :)  If temptation comes, I pause and ask, "Would
God hand this to me right now?"  God's choices are very very loving.  God
would never choose food that would harm us in any way.  God's idea of a treat
comes wrapped up in some of the most beautiful packages ever -- all found in
the produce section.  Lots of love and creative thought went into those -- I
think that's why she/he likes to hang out there.

That "pause and ask" is a Step 11 tool we'll discuss in more detail next week
-- unless someone wants to jump right in now and talk about the countless
benefits of the "pause and ask" approach to life.

Love, light, joy, peace, and many many blessings,

Billie Wilson
Juneau, Alaska

STEP ELEVEN ~ PART THREE

Good morning,  {{{{StepFriends}}}}.  It's time to continue our November Step
Study on Step 11, which suggests that we "[Seek] through prayer and
meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God,
asking only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that
out."

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"The whole range of our needs is well defined by that
part of Step Eleven which says '...knowledge of God's
will for us and the power to carry that out."  A request
for this fits in any part of our day."  (AA 12&12, p.102)
************************************************************

While identifying and accepting our powerlessness where food is concerned is
essential in taking Step One, and while trying to exert power over food is
the essence of the insanity that drives us to Step Two -- both Steps Three
and Eleven talk about power.  This can seem like a contradiction, but it's
really about a different kind of Power -- it is about empowerment to become
the person we really want to be -- our Real Self -- the person deep within
who dreams the dreams of abstinence, happiness, joy, and freedom.

Right before the Third Step Prayer on p.63, the Big Book says we will feel a
"new power flow in" as we turn our will and our life, especially our
abstinence, over to a power greater than ourselves.  Part of what helped me
do that was the very real hope that there *was* a power greater than Billie
Wilson -- since she was screwing up her life big time (although she blamed
everyone and everything else).  It was kind of like:  If there *isn't* a
power bigger than me, I'm *really* screwed!!  :)  (Hope my language doesn't
offend anyone.)

We have in Step Eleven the "suggestion" that we pray ONLY for knowledge of
God's will for us and the *power* to carry that out.  Again, we are told that
power is available to us.  The empowerment Power.  Empowerment to make
healthy decisions about food and everything else.  Empowerment to turn away
from harmful choices.  Empowerment to make decisions that lead to the
happiness, joy, and freedom we *say* we want -- but (without that power --
running on self-will alone) our actions didn't always measure up to our
dreams.  With Steps 3 & 11, we are given all we need to begin.

When I pause and ask for knowledge of God's will, for at least that moment,
I'm opening myself to receive it -- I'm making a space in my life for
something higher, something brighter, something totally unselfish, something
joyous and free-ing.  At that very moment, I am truly at one of those many
"turning points" we get each day -- at choice to choose the higher way that
will always be shown if I pay attention.  Learning to pay attention is one of
the neatest benefits of this journey.

Praying for the power to carry out God's will is often essential -- since the
spiritual pathway is frequently 180 degrees from the direction the world
might suggest we take.  It often takes a great deal of courage to follow the
"knowledge" we've been given.  But, when we do, frequently we experience an
obvious inner shift -- we *know* we've moved in a higher direction -- we can
actually feel that "new power flow in" to assist us.  It is very very
different from that temporary adrenaline rush that might come from venting
anger or self-righteousness.  There is always a kind of sick edge to that
which is not pleasant at all.

The "new power" flowing in is a higher, healthy energy.  There's no let-down
afterwards as there inevitably is around those addictive "energies."  Whether
we call that higher energy God -- or "serenity [to accept the things we
cannot change], courage [to change the things we can] and wisdom [to know the
difference]" -- or simply deep inner growth or vision quest or whatever --
every time we do that "highest and best", we know we've stepped beyond our
little self into our Higher Self.  And the link between that action
(sometimes the highest and best is conscious, focused, deliberate nonaction)
and our asking (praying) becomes obvious.

Gosh, it's hard to stop.  But I know there are lots of you who have stuff to
share on this.  I've really enjoyed so much all that's been shared this month
so far.  I hope to do one more share on Step Eleven this week -- and then
{{{{Karen}}}} is poised to take us into Step Twelve in December.  For those
who are still struggling with the Higher Power thing, hang in there -- Step
Two will begin again in February.  Like Margaret and Leanne and others who've
shared, I too struggled with "finding" an HP.  I, too, "acted as if".  I
never dreamed that one day I'd want to write about this stuff -- and never
want to quit!!!!

Deep love and encouragement,
Billie Wilson
Juneau, Alaska

STEP ELEVEN ~ PART FOUR

Good morning, {{{all}}}.  This will be my last share on Step 11, but I hope
it's not the last from you folks -- we still have several days before
{{{Karen}}} begins Step 12 in December.

I was going to write about something else this morning, but two of my daily
meditation guides had similar thoughts as their key for the day's message,
and it reminded me again of how important it is to keep our commitment to the
12-Step pathway, no matter what happens.

"Everyone is to practice thanksgiving continually, and it is requisite to
maintain it through good and bad."  (Sad Dar, Zend-Avesta)

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances."
(I Thessolonians 5:16-18)

Reading those ideas this morning, I was reminded of how easy it is to rattle
on about how great and giving and loving God is when we're on a roll, when
things are going our way, when the sun is shining, the grass is green, and
all's right in God's world.  It's easy then to proclaim with convincing
"authority" that God's will for us is only good.  It's easy to say that when
we're in harmony with the highest and best, when we are experiencing peace of
mind, a quiet heart, and indescribable joy.  It's easy because it's obvious.

But what about the hard times?  Where is that unshakable faith when tragedy
or heartache strike -- as they do in every life?  Where is that conviction
when we lose a job we were certain we would have until retirement?  How do we
feel about God's will when our spouse asks for a divorce, our child turns to
alcohol and other drugs, the doctor tells us we have cancer or aids, or when
any one of the thousands of variations on the human drama appears in our
life?  Do we then blame God?  Do we believe He's turned on us, pulled the
pink cloud out from under our feet just as we were developing what seemed a
firm foundation of faith and trust?  This is indeed a turning point for most
of us, a pivotal experience that can totally determine how long we remain in
darkness, grief, disbelief.

I now have walked through so many "spiritual deserts," that I recognize them
as plateaus calling me to a yet higher, greener pasture.  But first, I seen
to have needed to learn some often hard lessons.  At times I apparently
needed to feel I'd been abandoned by my God -- that he'd moved to the Bahamas
as my AA friend Suzanne puts it.

Out of many journeys to that dark place where it feels like God's abandoned
me, there now has come a certainty that, no matter what appears to be
"wrong," it is always temporary.  "This too shall pass" has become fact, not
pat theory.  And I've learned that God never goes anywhere.  As Emmet Fox
says, "When it feels like God is far away, ask yourself: Who moved?"

God is with us no matter what we need to walk through.  In fact, during those
challenges, we can come closer to God than we ever knew was possible.  Our
soul -- our whole being -- is vulnerable.  All our defenses are down.  And
when we reach out for helpful words from others who've been there and
survived, they not only share with us their experience and their wisdom and
their strength and their hope -- but, in that reaching, we are renewed in our
own faith as it deepens into a richer understanding that the journey really
is what it's all about.  And we begin to really, finally "get it" that we
really are "in charge" of deciding whether we will make that journey
virtually "alone" (without seeking knowledge of God's will for our lives and
trying to carry it out) -- or whether we will actually and sincerely seek to
apply in each day's adventure the wisdom and strength and courage and insight
and wonder that is so readily available to us -- and so freely offered.

And then the gratitude for the journey comes.  Our heart opens (or as Dr.
Seuss puts it, in "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," our "heart grows two
sizes that day") and we find that when we truly seek to align every single
aspect of our lives with spiritual principles -- life just works.  And it
works really well.  Abstinence becomes the easiest thing we've ever done.  In
that moment, it all makes sense.  We become less focused on "our little
plans and designs.  More and more we become interested in seeing what we can
contribute to life." (p.63)

And then as it says on p.88, in wrapping up the guidance on Step 11, "There
is action and more action."  And whether our faith is the size of a mustard
seed or totally cosmic, we are reminded that "Faith without works is dead."

Which leads us right into December's study on Step Twelve, with {{{Karen}}}.

May your gratitude list today be longer than it's ever been!!!

Love and smiles,
Billie Wilson
Juneau, Alaska

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