Step Twelve

Index for Step Twelve

Back to 1996 Step Index


Step Twelve: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these
steps, we tried to carry this message to other compulsive overeaters, and
to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Well, it's December and time to start our exploration of the Twelfth Step
of Overeaters Anonymous.  I'll be splitting this step into its three
logical components and will then put the pieces together in the fourth
week of the month.

The three sections, as I see them are:
(a)  Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps,
(b)  we tried to carry this message to other compulsive overeaters, and
(c)  to practice these principles in all our affairs.

So, today we start by discussing "spiritual awakenings" that we received
as the result of working the previous eleven steps.

Before I address the question of defining a "spiritual awakening,"  I
need to talk about what strikes me about the first clause in this step.
That is the word "the."  It's interesting - the first 100 AA's didn't say
as "one of the results of working the steps", they didn't say it was "a
result of working the steps", they chose to say that having worked these
steps, that a spiritual awakening is THE result of all of this work.

Hmmm .  It doesn't say that we got sober (or abstinent) as a result of
the steps - the author assumes that we've been clean since we admitted
powerlessness in step one.   It doesn't say that we got thin as a result
of the steps - that's a result of the food that you place in your body.

So, what is a "spiritual awakening"?  How did we get it?  In the AA
12&12, Bill Wilson states that there are probably as many definitions of
spiritual experiences as there are people who have had them.   However,
he states "When a man or a woman has a spiritual awakening, the most
important meaning of it is that he has now become able to do, feel and
believe that which he could not do before on he unaided strength and
resources alone.  He has been granted a gift which amounts to a new state
of consciousness and being.  He has been set on a path which tells him he
is really going somewhere, that life is not a dead end, not something to
be endured or mastered." (AA 12&12 pp. 106-107)

So, how did we get here?  Well, we discovered that we couldn't rid
ourselves of the obsession with food until we admitted that we were
powerless over it.  In Step Two we found that a power outside of
ourselves would be needed to return us to sanity.  As a result, in Step
Three, we turned our will and our lives over to the care of that healing
power.  In Step Four we began the process of self-examination that gave
us a clear view of those things we had done that brought us to a
physical, spiritual and emotional  bottom.   In Step Five, having been
shown by the experience of others that self-knowledge was useless, we
came to a realization that it would be necessary to share the exact
nature of our wrongs with the Power to which we had turned in Step Three
and another human being.  In Step Six we began the process of letting go
of our defects of character which had affected our actions in the past.
In Step Seven we asked for them to be removed.  Step Eight continued the
psychic housecleaning - making a list of people we had harmed and
becoming willing to make amends to all of them.  In Step Nine we took
action and made amends to people where it was possible.

In Step Ten (which many of us had been practicing since completion of our
Step Four Inventory), we continue to affect changes in our lives by
consistent self-examination and assessment.  We make amends when needed.
Step Eleven helps to improve our contact with the healing Power that had
brought us so far.

If one, as Bill Wilson does, defines a spiritual experience as a
transformation "because he has laid hold of a source of strength which,
in one way or another, he had hitherto denied himself.  He finds himself
in possession of a degree of honesty, tolerance, unselfishness, peace of
mind and love of which he had thought himself quite incapable.  What he
has received is a free gift, and yet usually, at least in some small
part, he has made himself ready to receive it" (AA 12&12 p. 107);  aren't
the actions of taking the 12 Steps of Overeaters Anonymous an absolute
turn-around from what we did before we found recovery from compulsive

So, let's look at some questions and post on them over the next several

1.  In what ways has my life and/or attitude towards life changed since I
started living according to the 12 Steps of Overeaters Anonymous?
2.  Can I identify a specific "spiritual awakening," or has it been more
of a process for me?
3.  Did I have a relationship with a Power Greater Than Myself prior to
working the Twelve Steps?  If so, why couldn't I stop eating compulsively?

I'll answer these questions and continue with this discussion over the

Karen S-A
Brooklyn, NY


On to the second section of this study.  "we tried to carry this message
to other compulsive overeaters."

I'm so glad that it says that we TRIED to carry the message rather than
saying that we carried the message.  It allows for attempts at carrying
the message to be a successful practice of the Twelfth Step - rather than
my natural tendency to discount anything that isn't a 100% success.

What's the message?  There's the tough nut to crack here.  For me, this,
the statement just before the promises (half-way through with what?) and
the first half of Tradition Four (we're autonomous and it doesn't matter
who we affect - we can do ANYTHING we want!) are three statements in the
Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that we love to take out of context.

Leaving the other two alone, let's concentrate on Step Twelve.  The
message is that there is a spiritual solution to compulsive overeating.
It's NOT your weight loss (that's certainly a WAY to carry the message,
but it's not the message itself).  It's not the plan of eating that you
follow (that's a physical manifestation of your willingness to put the
food in its proper place).

Actually, it may simply be that most of us never GET to the Twelfth Step.
 As soon as we achieve abstinence, many of us get so excited that we
start telling everyone who comes into our sites about Overeaters
Anonymous.  It's called the "OA two-step" - admission of powerlessness
and unmanageability and telling everyone we run into about it.

It's not until we have experienced writing a Fourth Step inventory and
given it away, asked for our shortcomings to be removed and made amends
to people we had harmed while improving and/or expanding our spiritual
connection with a power greater than ourselves that we can truly
understand that the message of recovery is so much more than any physical
benefit we can achieve through working our program of recovery.

The message is: if you have reached a point in your life where the
solution that you found in the past (and I believe that it was a solution
at some point in time or I wouldn't have done it - AT ONE TIME FOOD
HELPED! - practicing our disease is a futile attempt to recapture a
long-lost solution to problems that has turned around and bit us on the
rear end) no longer works, and, in fact, is creating more problems than
it solves; you can be relieved of the need to continue practicing
self-destructive actions by working to change your life through the
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous.

What did I just say?
(a)  at some point in the past food helped me to cope with problems.
(b)  food doesn't help anymore, in fact it makes my problems worse.
(c)  until I find a substitute, I will continue to use food in an attempt
     to solve my problems.
(d)  OA provides the answer I need.

Here's the catch.  The twelfth step is NOT a destination.  It's a
jumping-off point.  Unless there are other, less experienced compulsive
overeaters finding the power that the Twelve Steps has to offer, unless
we pass on the gift of recovery that we have found through the recovery
program of Overeaters Anonymous, we are doomed to go back to our disease.

DOOMED?  Well, it's not 100% sure.  But I don't know of many (exactly
three in 20 years) OA members who think they don't need the program of
Overeaters Anonymous to continue recovery.  Of the three, one came back
to OA after 20 years (she's been around for 34 or 35 years) - still
abstinent.  She had shifted her focus on searching for a closer conscious
contact with her Higher Power and worked her program of recovery within
that setting.  One other chose not to attend meetings, but still is in
constant contact with other compulsive overeaters and other recovering
folk.  The third - well, I don't know.  She's still thin; but after 20
years to only know one person who walked away from program without
returning to compulsive overeating is NOT odds I'd be willing to bet on
(if that was my thing!).

So, I have to pass on the information about recovery to people I meet in
my daily life.  In doing so I remind myself about my own powerlessness
that I am still privy to if I don't turn my will and life over to the
care of a power greater than myself.  I tell people about OA and the
recovery program.  Sometimes they hear me.  Sometimes they don't.

So - here are some questions:
1. How did you first find out about Overeaters Anonymous?
   Who Twelfth Stepped you?
2. How do you carry the message to other compulsive overeaters?
3. What is the message you carry?
4. Do you carry your message of recovery INSIDE of OA as well as outside?
   How do you do that?
5. How do your service commitments assist your working the 12th Step?

I'll answer these questions next week after I return from my Cincinnati
sojourn.  Many might be looking forward to the wedding I'm attending.  I
am.  However, I'm more excited about attending the Sunday night meeting -
I haven't been there in almost ten years.  Yeah!

Karen Samuels-Ames
Brooklyn, New York


OK - so here's the final installment.

"  and to practice these principles in all our affairs."   NO THIS DOES

What this means to me is that I must take what I have learned through the
12 step process and incorporate it into my daily life.

I can't be loving in the OA rooms and with OA people and nasty to

I can't be honest with my food and lie to my mate.

If I am to become a whole, healthy, integrated person, I must be
consistent.  For me that means that I had to become far more honest with
my family and friends - inside and outside of program.  I have become
honest - because I have had to practice honest acts.

This necessity to practice these principles in all our affairs is why we
never stop learning and growing through the 12 Steps of Overeaters
Anonymous.  This is why we can, as of this coming weekend, begin working
the Steps once more at Step one - at the beginning, and not feel that we
are back-tracking.

All growth through the steps is moving forward.

Remember one thing however: working the steps is a personal process -
having to do with our relationship to ourselves and to that power Greater
than ourselves to whom we turn to help us find the power to recover from
compulsive overeating.  When other people come into the picture - well,
that's where the Traditions come into the picture.  It's only through
working both the steps and traditions that we will be able to find a
comfortable place for all of us to recover from compulsive overeating.

Thank you all for the opportunity to serve.  It has been a gift.

Karen Samuels-Ames
Brooklyn, New York

Back to 1996 Step Index

WTS Recovery E-mail
Copyright © 1998, The RECOVERY Group