STEP ONE, PART 3
My name is Shlomo and I am a food addict and compulsive overeater. In my previous posts I discussed the physical addiction and the mental obsession. If I had only a physical problem, my life would have been easy. I would have identified the foods that cause my body to react abnormally, stopped eating them, and continued to live happily
ever after. That's what people who are not addicts do. There are a lot of people who are lactose intolerant or sensitive to gluten, or to some other food substance. When they identify the substance that causes trouble, they just abstain from it for good and that's it. They can do it quite easily because they are not addicts, and don't have the mental obsession in addition to the physical problem. Still one would have thought that even an addict could get help in solving his problem in the usual way, i.e., get help from a physician or a dietician or a naturopath with the physical aspect, and get help from a
psychologist or a psychiatrist with the mental aspect. But it still does not work for me that way, and it does not work that way for a lot of other addicts.
The main point of getting psychiatric or psychological help is to try to free me of the obsession with food, since without the obsession I will be able to deal with my physical problem by abstinence from trigger foods as does any "normal person" who is not an addict. But it turns out that there is more to my disease than a mental and physical aspect. There is an additional x factor that defeats all attempts by the professional people to free me from my obsession.
Even one of the greatest psychiatrists in history, Dr Jung who tried to help an alcoholic for a whole year of treatment had finally admitted defeat. He told the alcoholic as follows: "You have the mind of a chronic alcoholic. I have never seen one single case recover, where that state of mind existed to the extent that it does in you." Big Book page 27.
So what is this additional x factor? The Big Book has an answer to that question. " ... for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick." page 64.
So we have a spiritual sickness as well.
This sickness manifests itself in feelings of resentment, fears, and regret and remorse for harming others and myself. Here is how the Big Book describes it:
Page 64. "Resentment is the 'number one' offender. It destroys more compulsive eaters than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, ..."
Now to fears.
Page 67. "This short word touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an
evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with
Another major part of our spiritual illness is harm done to others which causes us to be filled with remorse and regret even if we don't admit it to ourselves.
"If we are not sorry and our conduct continues to harm others, we are quite sure to overeat and binge. We are not theorizing. These are facts of our experience." Page 70.
The Big Book also defines the roots of the spiritual disease.
Page 62. "Selfishness-self-centeredness! That, we think is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate." ... "So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves and the compulsive eater is an extreme example of self-will run riot, ..."
So the roots of our spiritual problem are selfishness and self-centeredness, which create in us fears, self-delusion, self-seeking and self-pity, and cause us to harm others. Quite a bunch of liabilities. We also know no bounds, we go to extremes in different aspects of our lives. We are out of balance and in disharmony. That is self will run riot.
All of this also causes our spiritual disease to manifest as a disease of relations. Relations with myself, with H.P., and with others.
Here is how the Big Book describes it, on page 52:
"We were having trouble with personal relationships, we could not control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we could not make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we could not seem
to be of real help to other people."
No wonder that the second part of step one is "...that our lives had
The manageability of my life is not dependent on outer circumstances. I can have a nice family and a good job and plenty of money and have an unmanageable life. A person who has a manageable life is "... happy, joyous and free." BB Page 133.
I was a slave to my food addiction, full of resentments fears, bitterness, and feeling that life was not worth living; I had no peace of mind, and my inner world was a mess. That is what is meant by an unmanageable life, and I certainly had one. All those dark feelings caused a lot of pain. I wanted some relief or even to sedate the pain which was caused by my spiritual illness. This led to obsessive thoughts that food will ease the pain. It will make me feel better; it will sedate me.
Food became my friend and my crutch to help me deal with life. At first it did just that, since food is a mood-changing chemical substance, but my disease progresses all the time, and I needed more and more food to ease the pain, and then came the moment when no amount of food could ease the pain enough. That was when food became my enemy. But I was stuck with it; I had nothing else to use in my desperate attempts to fill the dark hole in my soul, and so I continued to obsess insanely about food and convince myself to eat my trigger foods, and thus start again and again the terrible cycle of cravings and bingeing, and remorse and guilt for stuffing myself. Then came more pain and more attempts to ease it by food. Quite a vicious cycle.
The Big Book describes it on pages xxvi to xxvii [the words in brackets are my addition].
"Men and women [compulsive eaters] eat trigger food substances essentially
because they like the effect produced by those substances. The sensation is so elusive
that while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from
the false [insanity may be defined as inability to see the truth]. To them their compulsive eating life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable, and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few bites of trigger foods -- foods that they see others taking with impunity.
After they have succumbed to the desire again as so many do [yielded to their obsession], and the phenomenon of cravings develops [cravings develop after eating trigger foods], they pass through the well-known stages of a spree [binge], emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to eat trigger foods again. This is repeated over and over, [they cannot hold to their resolution because the obsession overcomes them] ... "
This disease defeated me. I came to realize that I had no hope and could not deal with it.
Bill W., the AA cofounder, describes his defeat over alcohol very dramatically:
BB page 8. "No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I found in that bitter
morass of self-pity. Quicksand stretched around me in all directions. I had met my match.
I had been overwhelmed. Alcohol was my master."
So now step one makes a lot of sense. I know the reason for my powerlessness and my inability to get help from other well-meaning people. My spiritual illness is the key. It feeds my mental obsession, and my obsession convinces me to eat trigger foods and begin my cycle of cravings and bingeing and overeating. I have to be freed of my obsession in order to be able to abstain from eating my trigger foods, but I cannot get rid of the obsession because of my spiritual illness.
The Big Book says it quite clearly on page 64:
"When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and
But human beings cannot help me recover from a spiritual malady. There has to be some other way, otherwise I am doomed. Well, there is another way. There is a spiritual solution which will help me overcome my spiritual illness. That is what the whole 12 Step program is about. The moment I apply the spiritual solution there is nothing
to feed the obsession. It is removed, and than I can treat my physical illness which always remains with me.
So there is hope for me yet. But first I have to admit that I have a problem. I have to admit defeat. I have to admit to myself, to others and to H.P., that I am powerless over this disease and my life had become unmanageable. I have to be sick and tired of being sick and tired in order to make room for the solution offered by the program. Otherwise I will revert to trying to deal with my disease my way, and my way drags me into the food.
The Big Book tells us how to take step one.
Page 30. "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 (inability to
see the truth - insanity) that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed."
Answer the following question to yourself, to others (including your sponsor), and to H.P.:
DO YOU FULLY CONCEDE TO YOUR INNERMOST SELF THAT YOU ARE A COMPULSIVE OVEREATER? (WHICH MEANS THAT YOU ARE POWERLESS OVER FOOD AND YOUR LIFE HAD BECOME UNMANAGEABLE)
If your answer is YES , YOU HAVE TAKEN STEP ONE. CONGRATULATIONS!!!
QUESTIONS FOR SHARING:
Please answer and share if you had been, or presently may be experiencing
these symptoms of our spiritual disease, which the Big Book also calls
bedevilments, which means to be confused. And that's what we compulsive
eaters suffered from all our lives - a confused and baffled spirit.
1. We were having trouble with personal relationships (and we include ourselves here). Does that apply?
2. We couldn't control our emotional natures (ever have "up and down" days?). Does that apply?
3. We were a prey to (or had bouts of) misery and depression. Does that apply?
4. We couldn't make a living (or a decent successful life). Does that apply?
5. We had a feeling of uselessness. Does that apply?
6. We were full of fear (ever worry about things?). Does that apply?
7. We were unhappy. Does that apply?
8. We couldn't seem to be of real help to other people. Does that apply?
So, if several of those apply to you - your life really is unmanageable and chances are you are suffering from a malady of which you may recover only by using a spiritual solution.
Have a nice day.
Shlomo, Step Leader
WTS 2002 Study, 1st Quarter