Dear Fellow Travelers,
Step Seven Essay
The primary emotion of all addicts of whatever sort is fear, just as the
primary exhibition of it is rage. In between, the effort is made to be in
control, in the often vain hope that we can keep ourselves safe.
We learn the fear because somewhere along the way, often very young, our
primary caregivers somehow failed us. They may have done overt things, or
they may simply have been unable to stop bad things from happening. We
learned fear, because we were left with no place to go. So often, "God" was a
part of this equation. "God" is supposed to be some kind of super caregiver. But "God" didn't stop the beatings, the incest, the drunken insanities, the dysfunctionalities that surrounded us. In fact, it may even seem reasonable to stop believing in "God," or at least to harbor doubts that "God" is of any effect or use. Somewhere, often by example, we learn that rage is a highly effective way of control, especially when irrational and unpredictable.
And the rest of the time we have to be in charge. Some of us are in
charge by being fat; others by being thin; we wish to be too ugly to be
noticed, or "perfect." Sometimes we want to be invisible, hidden under a
pile of clutter. Sometimes we are perfectionists -- if we could just get
everything exactly right once, maybe everything would be OK.
And we learn that food is our friend. We can get to it, have it. It
comforts us. It's use gives us a strategy that enables us to deal with some
of the pain we are in, to assuage our fears. Our motto ought to be, "In Food
We Trust." And so we learned to survive.
Unfortunately what was once a way of survival in time became an addiction
and a way of destruction. Now we are trying to recover from that insatiable
abyss into which we had descended. We are trying to learn how to live
outside of our box.
How many of us stumble on the first three steps. I have had correspondence with a number of you on the Higher Power issue. Surrendering our control to anyone, even a God of our understanding, raised our fear levels to panic levels. Letting Go and Letting God is a nice motto, but living that way is at least unaccustomed to us. What if all we lose is the little bit of control we think we may have? Will we simply have nothing left, not even our own wills?
Even Step Six centers on us. We make ourselves ready to let go of our
defects of character. Well, that seems reasonable. Of course, it may not be
easy, since many of our defects have become old friends by now. What would
life for me be like if I slept all night before an evaluation session,
instead of rolling and tossing fearfully? How might it go if I went in
refreshed and awake? After all, I've had very few evaluations that were any
lower than the best, but there's always the next one, when I will be found
out and there will be hell to pay -- just like when I was little. But I
really do believe that I would be better off if I could live with less fear,
and get my night's sleep. I would trade me fears for some good sleep. Take
it away - I'm ready!
Well, at least I thought I was until I read Step Seven. Here I am being
asked to simply tell my Higher Power humbly that I have these defects, and
whatever HP can do about them would be gratefully received. And then I turn
and walk away, leaving them all there, acting like something good is about to
Can I trust this? Are my fears, my rage, my need to control, something
that even interests my Higher Power? Is this the same HP who seemed so
powerless in the time when I was lost? What would make me believe that
s/he/it would care now, would do anything now?
And for me to go to the altar of this God, put all my defects of character on that altar, and then just walk away, believing that something will come of it? The evidence seems slim -- or so it did once upon a time. I was so cynical in those days.
That was before I fired that Higher Power and hired the one I now have.
The former one was on the outside of the box I was in, and was numbered among those who wished to keep me there. Somewhere within me I came to sense a connection with another Power, a real one to me, that had a different kind of strength. This Power had helped me build the box, and had lovingly helped me into it, because this Power knew that I had to find a safe place in order to survive at all. This Power now stands ready to help me out of that box, since I really no longer need it, and further, in this step, to help me in the
process of healing the shortcomings, the insanities, that had driven my life
in the box, so that I could come to learn to live outside the box, and with
my compulsion removed one day at the time for the rest of my life. But God!
the level of trust that calls for! To give up the very things that for so
long made my survival possible, and walk away from them, in a belief that
somehow, everything was going to be OK.
Yet that is what happened for me. That is the story I have to tell. Like everything else in the Steps, I can only vouch that they worked for me,
and to some extent that they have worked for a lot of other people who have
lived by them. In my share I will tell you some of my experiences. It is my
profoundest hope for you that you will experience something like what I did,
that just as in Step Three I found a God who could remove my compulsive
hunger, so in Step Seven, I have found that s/he/it could also begin the
perfectly awesome task of removing some other things for me, so that I could
begin to learn how to live outside my box.