Dear Fellow Travelers,
Step One Essay
On reaching this step for the first time, some of us will have spent
incalculable amounts of time battling against a seemingly non-existent will
power. We may have had periods of near "perfect" diet days, which were
inevitably followed by expanses of compulsive eating for no apparent reason. As
time went by the good days may have grown shorter and subsequently the bleak,
demoralizing and strength sapping days extended until quite possibly life
became a continued struggle with food.
In coming to step one it is possible that we will struggle with letting go of
the false hope that spurned us ever onwards in search for the "miracle cure."
After all some of us may have felt they had gotten so close to the answer of
all our dreams at one or at several points in our lives before reaching this
step. Some of us may still believe that a little more effort, a smidgen of
extra persistence or a tad more will power will propel us to the goals we seek.
Others may view this 12-step program as the last chance they have.
We come through the doors of OA from a diverse array of circumstances and with
varying experiences of trying to control the food our lives seem to revolve
around. Many of us have invested huge amounts of time, money and energy in our
efforts to curtail our compulsive eating habits. From time to time we may have
been successful in mastering the food in our lives and so the very idea that we
are "powerless over food" might stick in our throats. The fact is that will
power, or apparent lack of it has nothing to do with compulsive eating and many
of us have "an exceptional amount of will power," but it is of no use in
combating this disease.
Instead of taking this step as if it were a horse pill and feeling once again
disheartened and devoid of all hope, we can feel released from the burdens,
which kept us chained to the treadmill of diet after failed diet class, miracle
cure after failed miracle cure.
For many of us the journey to this point in our lives has been a painful
experience physically, emotionally or spiritually - often all three! Some of us
may have experienced emotional distress in childhood; others may not have been
able for one reason or another to form healthy relationships with people.
Whatever the journey prior to joining OA the fact is that our "affliction" from
this point forward sets us apart from "normal" people.
Normal people will stop eating when they are full, I don't! Normal people can
have a little of some food or another and put the rest away, I can't! Normal
people may always be normal, I won't!
Step One requires us to disregard the cultural messages "Be strong," and "Be
master of your own destiny." We are also asked to turn away from the addictive
messages, which have been feeding us lies about "being able to tolerate
more," "consume more because we can handle it," and "eat and drown our
The addiction would have us forever locked into the cycle, pain, compulsive
eating, temporary anaesthesia, negative consequences, and feelings of shame and
guilt which in turn causes us to reach out for more food to soothe the next
bout of pain. So the cycle begins again!
Of course taking step one is scary; it requires us to break the cycle. The two
factors, which prevent a person from taking step one are fear of withdrawal,
and denial: the self-deception that "we can stop at any time" and that "things
are not as bad as first imagined!"
Resigning ourselves to the fact that we are powerless over food and that our
lives have become unmanageable is not the end; on the contrary it marks a new
beginning. Step One is asking us to focus on the facts and to let go of false
hopes and false Gods. It is the step that not only brings us back to the basics
but also offers us appeasement from the years prior to joining OA when we beat
ourselves up for being ineffectual at halting the compulsive eating.
Finally just looking at the wording of Step One, the first word is "we"
indicating that we are not alone in the disease and more importantly not alone
on the journey. The use of the words "were powerless over food" and "our lives
had become unmanageable" tends to give the impression that these are things of
the past and that from this moment on the tools with which to fight this
disease will be proffered.
A farmer must first rid the field of rocks and weeds before he can even
contemplate sewing the seed. If he does not prepare the ground, whatever he
sews will surely perish.
So it is with Step One!
Step One marks the end of all our suffering and the beginning of a journey of
discovery and recovery!
SueG, Step Leader
WTS 2001 Study, 4th quarter