Step One

We admitted we were powerless over
our compulsive behavior with food
that our lives had become unmanageable.

Dear Fellow Travelers,

Step One Essay

"The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his eating is the great obsession of every compulsive overeater. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.

"We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were compulsive overeaters. This is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed." (AA Big Book, page 30, adapted to compulsive overeating)

All those diets we've done in the past that failed. All the exercise gyms and health clubs we've joined. All the little pills we've taken. All the books we read. All the money spent. All the promises we've made to ourselves when our stomachs were stretched to bursting or our joints ached with the pressure of excess weight. Why did we do all these things? We wanted to lose weight, of course. But what else? Didn't we always have in mind that maybe someday we would once again be "normal" eaters like our friends? Weren't we holding out hope that somehow we could eat those yummies and be satisfied with just one? Or that our bodies would magically learn how to burn those calories a little faster so that we didn't gain weight?

So how do we smash this delusion that we may someday eat like other people? The key lies in our past. Many of us have found it helpful to write out a history of our eating. Some may ask why it is so important to relive the past instead of focusing on the future. We who are addicted to food or overeating have a wonderful defense mechanism called "denial." Although we can readily acknowledge that we often ate too much or even superficially admit to being a compulsive overeater, our minds soften the impact of this notion by turning our heads away from the whole picture, the honest and brutal truth of our food consumption and how food has intertwined itself into all facets of our lives.

Writing a history of our eating problem may seem overwhelming or a bit too uncomfortable. This is not an easy or pleasant step. The emotions we experience as we relive these moments in our minds can be very intense and this is where we rely on our sponsors for support. Many of us can't write our history in one sitting because it is too painful. Some of us have a difficult time knowing where to start so we often find it helpful to respond to specific questions about our eating rather than to write our history in story form. We also find it helpful to be specific in our answers. Don't generalize. The questions we can ask ourselves may include, but are not limited to:

Do I continue eating after I'm full? Do I hoard food or am I unwilling to share what food I have? How has eating effected my marriage or my relationships with family and friends? Have I lied about my eating or stolen food or money to buy food? What diets have I tried and what were the results? How has my weight grown or fluctuated over the years? How does my eating make me feel about myself? Does my eating effect how others treat me? Has overeating hurt my health or self esteem? What are some of those eating binges that I'm most ashamed of? Do I eat to help deal with anger, hurt, frustration, or boredom? What are my worst fears about my overeating?

If these questions aren't enough, I'm sure your sponsor can ask you plenty more!  : )   You may have heard people talking about "hitting the bottom" in their disease. This exercise of writing a history has finding your bottom as its primary purpose. If you don't take that honest look at how far down you've gone, then its likely that you are doomed to live it again.

This now brings us to the oft forgotten second half of the first step. Hopefully, if we've been thorough in our Step One history, we now know that we are compulsive overeaters and always will be. But what do we mean now when we are expected to say that our lives had become unmanageable? Do we believe that our lives are just fine except for the eating problem? Do we think that once we lose our excess weight that our lives will then be perfect? Do we blame the eating for all of our problems in life?

Does the step say our lives had become unmanageable "because" of our overeating, or simply that it had become unmanageable? Does it have any hidden promise that if our eating gets better that our lives will no longer be so unmanageable? We apply the same level of honesty to this half of the step as we did to the first. Is our marriage really as strong as you like to say? Are you really doing such a great job at work? Are our homes really pleasant places to be? Are we as honest as we say we are? Do we blame others for those things in our lives that aren't going as we want? Do we simply have bad luck?

This second half of the step is about acknowledging a simple but powerful truth - the way we have managed our lives so far hasn't worked! Once we can make this admission, we have become teachable and can learn to live life on an entirely different premise. Once we can admit that we are compulsive overeaters AND have been unsuccessful in attempts to control and direct our own lives, we will be ready to move on to the next step - one step closer to freedom from the ravages of this disease.

Thumper, Step Leader
WTS 2001 Study, 2nd quarter



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