Step Twelve

1997

"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 Contents:

Part 1 and Questions for journaling
Part 2 and Questions for journaling
Part 3 and Questions for journaling

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Step Twelve ~ Part 1

"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."

Dear loopies,

A heartfelt Happy December and welcome to Step Twelve!

As usual, I feel underprepared to lead this step, but I'm so glad I have had a previous experience leading one of the WTS steps to know that it came out all right.

I was pretty eager to lead Step 12. I have always gotten so much out of working with others. Of course, in the very early days, I got so much out of working with others AS LONG AS THEY DID EXACTLY AS I SAID. I'm a little better now.

I work hard at keeping in touch with the sheer exhilaration I felt in early abstinence and sobriety - the very deep knowledge that I had been delivered from a dire fate, a feeling I'm sure is shared by people who are rescued at sea. In fact, one of my favorite sayings is "God didn't save us from drowning in the river just so's He could kick the *&^%* out of us on shore."

But, following the model of dear Red, who so eloquently led us through Step 11, I will commence our questions by breaking down the wording of the Step and starting simply with that first phrase: "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps...."

I initially had the kind of awakening that I have heard described as a "rude awakening", but it got me willing. In fact, it got me desperate. That's why I was told that my Higher Power was the Gift Of Desperation, or G.O.D. for short.

That made me teachable; it made me willing to put aside my own thinking, which I had worshiped for so long, so that I could put into practice the insane voodoo cult nonsense you were telling me I had to do.

Once the voodoo cult nonsense had proven itself effective, I was willing to continue with the work of the Steps. Now I started to have the kind of gradual spiritual awakening described in the Big Book: I couldn't really feel it happening as it happened, but as I looked back, I could identify changes. I could point to situations I knew I would have handled badly, selfishly, reactively, that now I could respond to sanely. Not happily or politely, necessarily, but it was a change for the better. I could see how my attitudes towards everything had changed - rather than spending all my time yearning for what I didn't have or straining to rid myself of what I didn't want, I was beginning to feel a contentment with my life exactly as it was. Instead of continually comparing, defending, and judging in relation to others, I was experiencing tolerance, even compassion.

When I burned with self-righteous anger, close on its heels would come the thought that forgiveness was going to be necessary if I was to feel comfortable and stay abstinent. Yeccch! Can't I even enjoy a good, hot resentment (complete with revenge fantasies!!) for a little while?

Over time I have encountered pretty choppy seas: depression, loss, or just feeling that restless-irritable-discontent which is the addict's natural state. Yet something had changed deep inside and, rather than running towards the latest diet, self-help book, hair color, etc., I had access to an steady, firm inner resource that let me know I must simply keep putting one foot in front of the other; that the time of running from discomfort was over; that all things pass. Sometimes that inner resource has to work pretty hard to get my attention, but it is a well that for me has not run dry, even though it doesn't spew prizes like it seemed to do in the beginning (or as I thought it would).

I believe that my connection to God is not necessarily something I can "feel" all the time; but I must cultivate that connection on a daily basis.


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Step Twelve ~ Part 1: Questions

"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."

  1. "Bright flash of light" or "educational variety", there are many experiences of the spiritual awakening: what has yours been?

  2. Having had a "spiritual awakening," do you ever go back to sleep? How can you tell?

  3. It can be easier to share intimate details of our sex life than to honestly state to non-program people that we believe in God! If it has come up for you, what have your experiences of describing your relationship with God been like?

OK, that's all I have for now..... next week, though, that's the Working With Others segment (though how can we separate working with God from working with others?,.... ah, questions only create more questions...!)

love, margaret


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Step Twelve ~ Part 2

"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."

Well, this is shaping up to be a three-sets-of-questions Step month, since as I approach this step it kind of naturally breaks up that way.... not to mention the fact that I'm running late.... on the other hand, it is such a rich topic.

I ran into one of our Loopmates at an OA service event and mentioned that I was signed up to lead Step 12, and feeling some anxiety. He said, "Lemme feel your bicep." Huh? He squeezed it and said, "Oh, fine. You're strong enough to carry the message."

Isn't this one of the greatest strengths of our program - not only does no one tell the newcomer that we'll need to go through level after level of Advanced Training before we are full members, we are encouraged to start carrying the message RIGHT AWAY!

Though I loved the feeling of warmth, acceptance and being cared for that I got from my first meetings, I really believe the miracles started to happen when I was able to share hope with another shaky newcomer. It compelled me to focus on what WORKED - on the SOLUTION, rather than the PROBLEM.

I learned that I could only pay back what I had been given by giving it to someone else. I learned that I didn't have to do anything perfectly to be able to help. I learned that I had to walk my talk. I learned, quickly, that if I wanted OA to be there for me, I had to be there for OA - I couldn't expect that "someone else" would always do the job.

Some service positions (like secretary or treasurer) made sure I got to meetings regularly. Some, like speaker bookie, made me reach out to people I didn't know and strengthened my telephone use. Being a sponsor has taken my focus off myself and my problems, and helped me develop compassion. Service at intergroup and Region levels has exposed me to a wide range of program experiences, opening my mind. The list goes on and on - each position has within it practical opportunities to practice the program. Leading a step on WTS helps me with the tool of writing!

And on the, uh, other side of the balance sheet, service has been an invaluable aid in revealing character defects! Oh, don't EVEN get me started! But did someone say... controlling? Judgmental?

In my early, evangelical days of recovery, I'm afraid my program wasn't simply promotion instead of attraction: it was more like Dollars Days at your Local Ford Dealer. If someone wasn't Getting It the way I thought they should, I would turn myself inside out trying to figure out how to fix them. I still experience that sinking feeling when someone who seems not just to need but want what we have stops calling, stops coming. But I am continually reminded that first and foremost, it is my recovery that I serve with service: the most important way I can help the still suffering CO is to maintain my abstinence. I cannot give what I do not have.

I have trimmed this writing down quite a bit as I go; it's hard for me to be concise when writing about this step. But I'd like to hear from you:


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Step Twelve ~ Part 2: Questions

"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."

  1. How are some of the ways we can try to carry the message, regardless of our level of recovery? Particularly for those newer to the program, even though you have not worked all 12 Steps, how have you been helped by doing service?

  2. Are you *IN* OA, or *AT* OA?

  3. If you have had experience "12-stepping" someone outside of program, please share it: did they come, did they stay, how did it affect you?

  4. How about carrying the message within OA? How have you worked with members either in relapse, or who have never had abstinence, either as sponsor or caring fellow CO?

  5. If you have been one of those struggling or relapsed members, what helped you?

I am having a very hard time focusing on particular themes, so I apologize if these questions are all over the map! Nevertheless, I am very much looking forward to hearing your ESH, and I probably will, given how hard it was to limit myself even as much as I did, post two more sets of questions....

Thank you, bless you, and remember:

"Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from eating as intensive work with other compulsive overeaters. It works when other activities fail. This is out twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other compulsive overeaters! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when others fail. Remember they are very ill."

Big Book, p.89

love, margaret


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Step Twelve ~ Part 3

"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."

Dear Loopies!!

Merry!!! Happy!!! Be!!!!

Yup I've been neglecting my precious service position...little tied up, heh heh heh.... but the word in the last part of Step 12 that leaps out at me today is PRACTICE

as in "and to PRACTICE these principles in all our affairs."

See, I always hated not knowing how to do something, not being an expert. I had no patience for practice! If I couldn't be the best at it right away, I didn't want to play.

I also spent a lot of time in program beating myself for everything I DIDN'T do... until one day I realized, that though one day after another of showing up and putting one foot in front of another, I *HAD* been practicing, and that I *WAS*, indeed, getting stronger. It wasn't a matter of making my mind up to do something and then POOF, it was done - it was a matter of slow, steady progress, small realizations, a process like the erosion of rock by water...sometimes the changes can only be seen by looking back and realizing that something that seems so natural and habitual now - asking for help in prayer or call to another OA; sane food choices; responding rather than reacting to difficult situations - was impossible for me a few short years ago.

It was easy at first to practice my new behaviors and attitudes within the fellowship, but very quickly came the realization that my entire attitude and outlook on life, too, had to change. Very quickly I found my view of my place at work changing - no longer was I an undiscovered genius toiling away at a job laughably beneath me amongst peasants, I was a worker among workers who owed my employer an honest days' work.... and my payment came in the form of salary and benefits, NOT free long distance use, hot-and-cold running office supplies, unlimited copies....(how many of us eagerly volunteered to do copying of flyers for our OA group at work - "I can make as many as I want" - only to be gently but firmly apprised of how this was a violation of the 7th tradition?).

And in my family - not only was I going to be scrutinizing my past there and doing some cleaning, I was going to have to make some changes in my ongoing relationships. (At first I thought that meant taking my Newfound Knowledge of The True Path and instructing my family members on how THEY could improve themselves.....) That's been hard! I'm the baby, and boy how I've discovered the extent to which I am STILL the baby!!

So I like that word practice, because it means that I'm given a practical course of actions to take, and that I am expected to improve over time, rather than get it right all at once.

I guess I'd like to hear about some of these changes for you:

  1. In PRACTICING abstinence, there are some actions that have been suggested that have become new habits, such as:

    These are just a couple I can think of right off the bat that were once strange abut are now habit. Can you add some?

  2. In ordinary walking-around life,

    What are some of the ways in which you've noticed your manner changing?

  3. At work,

    I was shocked to discover the extent to which I expected my work environment to be suitable to my EMOTIONAL and SOCIAL needs, and once I started to be able to accept these people, places and situations as being as they were, things changed!

    What has changed for you?

  4. And at home,

    How can you practice these principles TODAY in your family and friendships?


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Step Twelve ~ Part 3: Questions

"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."

[The questions below were incorporated into the text above. You may wish to refer to the above text while answering the questions, rather than the summary which appears below]

I guess I'd like to hear about some of these changes for you:

  1. In PRACTICING abstinence, there are some actions that have been suggested that have become new habits. Can you add some?

  2. In ordinary walking-around life, what are some of the ways in which you've noticed your manner changing?

  3. At work, what has changed for you?

  4. And at home, how can you practice these principles TODAY in your family and friendships?

This will be the last set of Step 12 questions... I apologize for the sketchiness but I don't doubt it's been a hectic month for more than a few of us. In closing, from the Big Book:

Abandon yourself to God AS you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the fellowship of the spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny. May God bless you and keep you - until then.

love, margaret


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