Step One

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


Hi. I'm Penny, a compulsive eater and food addict. We're at the end of Step 1.

It was always easy to see and admit the unmanageability of my life where food was concerned. I ate out of garbage pails. I ate frozen food. I stole food (and money to buy it). My bedroom floors were covered with clothes that no longer fit; my closets were filled with 3 sizes worth of clothing. I spent hours planning a diet - making charts of projected and attempted weight (and usually failed) loss. I exercise-binged, used diuretics, laxatives, diet pills. And most important, I spent almost every waking moment thinking about food, weight and body image and shame and guilt because I couldn't *not* eat.

And it was generally easy to see the unmanageability of the rest of my life: holes in walls from an easily provoked temper; saying "yes" when I desperately needed and wanted to say "no;" staying in dead-end and boring jobs because I was too afraid to risk rejection; believing that the world hated me - and I hated it right back - and I hated myself, too; believing I was doomed to be a failure as a wife, mother, human being.

The challenge was to see if I could find the relationship between being powerless over food and living an unmanageable life.

For starters, I figured I was a failure because I couldn't stay on a diet. If I couldn't keep my hands off food, clearly I was undisciplined and lacked willpower and determination in *all* areas of my life. If I were a failure, I would prove my worth to others and myself by working extra hard at 150% capacity at other tasks. I figured people didn't like me because I was fat - and a failure - so if I did nice things for others, they'd have to like me. But all my efforts always failed, and I felt uglier and more shameful and hated than before. When I felt thin - or I *was* thin (when I had "succeeded" on a diet and had WON), I was outgoing and friendly. When I felt fat - or I *was* fat, I was miserable, nasty, withdrawn, morose, angry - so angry. There *was* a connection.

Taking Step 1 is the essential foundation of OA recovery. As the OA 12&12 says, "Only an honest admission of the reality of my condition can save me ..." (p. 6)

OA is not a half-baked proposal. It wasn't easy for me to give up a diet mentality that equated food plans with deprivation, surrender with humiliation, and acceptance of powerlessness over even the smallest thing with shame. The "disease" concept made no sense, especially in the face of so many people who assured me that all I needed was willpower, determination, a diet and discipline. It sounded like such a cop out, all the more so when I explained that if I ate some offered "treat," I could not stop eating, only to be told, "oh, that happens to me, too" by a well-meaning friend.

And yet, I had to give up a host of ideas about food, eating, weight, feelings and my own ability to handle things. The shame was excruciating - all that money spent on clothes, diet books, doctors, nutritionists ... all the wasted opportunities and the need to look my husband in the face and say, "here we go again."

It took years for me to truly work Step 1, to reach the point of complete surrender - to be able to say, "I can't." And to be honest, the surrender process set off a spark inside me. Because once I begin saying, "I can't," all sort of miracles begin to happen.

The one glitch: if I can't, who can? Next week: Step 2.

Questions for journaling/sharing:

1. What are things you have done with food that show the unmanageability of your life?

2. How about the other, non-food-related areas of your life?

3. What connection do you see between being powerless over food - or attempting to control food - and living an unmanageable life?

4. Why is "only" an honest admission of the reality of (our) condition" so crucial to OA recovery?

5. Are you ready to take Step 1? If so, call your sponsor and say so. If not, pray for the willingness to work Step 1.

Yours in recovery,

Penny, Step Leader
WTS 2002 Study, 2nd Quarter


Step Two

WTS Home
The Twelve Steps
Recovery Home

Copyright 2002 THE RECOVERY GROUP All rights reserved