STEP THREE, PART 3: How.
Hello, all. I'm Penny, a compulsive eater and food addict.
Having decided that taking Step 3 would be a good thing with a host
of benefits, I needed to know just how to do it. It seemed so
complicated; it turned out to be very, very simple. Not easy, mind
you, just simple.
I had already started taking Step 3 when I walked into my first OA
meeting in 1987. My way of coping with food and life wasn't working,
and I eventually became willing to turn part of my will over to the care
of the men and women who had come before me.
(It's important to point out that Step 3 says "to the *care* of God." That's different from just turning myself over to God. Asking
someone to care for something implies that the caregiver will watch
over that thing, provide for its needs, ensure its safety. It's that
way with Step 3 with a spiritual twist: God will watch over me
spiritually, provide for my spiritual, emotional and mental needs and
ensure my spiritual, emotional and mental safety. It *doesn't* mean
that God will carry an umbrella over my head, keeping me from all
physical harm. It doesn't mean that God's going to keep me from
harming myself, especially if I am hell bent on doing damage. It
*does* mean that God will provide me with strength and power to do
the right thing and to cope with both daily life and extraordinary
joyful and tragic circumstances.)
So how did/do I work Step 3? First of all, I had to "... adopt a new
and unfamiliar way of thinking and acting on life." (OA 12&12, p. 19). I had to "... let go of preconceived notions about what is right
for us." (OA 12&12, p. 20) I gained a "... willingness to adopt a whole
new attitude about weight control, body image, and eating." (OA
12&12, p. 20)
(It's also important to point out that I do not speak for all of OA,
that I only offer my own experience and that each of us has different
food and life needs.)
With food, this meant that I had to let go of what I thought I knew
(which was everything) about dieting, weight loss, body image, size.
Everything. Years of dieting (with degrees of success and failure)
made me an expert, or so I thought. I believed, for instance, that
starches made you fat, that the fewer calories you ate, the more
weight you would lose, that exercise (especially the weight-bearing
kind) made you both hungry and gain weight, that I had to starve in
order to lose weight. I thought I could eat all kinds of food and
that people who didn't eat certain things were immature babies who
just needed to grow up and get a grip. People who followed a
structured food plan were control freaks and clearly had not
surrendered. (Part of the problem was that I heard a lot of these
things while I was turning myself over to the care of my OA group.
Like I said before, people are human and fallible).
Taking Step 3 meant that I worked honestly to develop a food plan in
consultation with God and my sponsor. My food plan is designed for
and works for me, even as it incorporates many tibits from a variety
of expert sources. It was true for me that "... when we give up self
will regarding food, and completely turn our lives over to our Higher
Power, we receive all kinds of guidance." (OA 12&12, p. 21) I lost
the "I can handle it myself" mentality and learned to reach out and
ask for guidance from both my Higher Power and my OA sources.
I'll give you an example from a week ago. I eat four (mostly weighed
and measured) meals a day, and I try to eat no more than 4 - 5 hours
between meals. My meals are pretty well set and structured re.
proteins, starches, etc. My fourth meal, a smaller one, usually comes
a few hours before or after dinner, depending on each day's timing.
Last week I found myself in the position of eating lunch at about 1
and then a planned fruit at about 4. I was going to eat dinner before
my 6:30 OA meeting, but I wasn't able to get out of work in time, so
I ran to my meeting. During the meeting I became nervous about dinner
(which would be at about 9). I was hungry already, and began to worry
over what I would eat. If I ate my regular dinner, I might not be
satisfied; if I ate my regular dinner and then squeezed in that
smaller fourth meal, I'd be stuffed; if I ate my regular dinner and
let go of that smaller later meal, I'd be hungry. The obsession had
returned. The OA 12&12 suggests, "Instead of acting on impulse, we
pause long enough to learn God's will." (OA 12&12, p. 27) During the
meeting, I wrote a letter to my sponsor and God, outlining my
concerns and fears as well as the pros and cons of all of those
choices. I explained that all I wanted was to go to bed free of food
guilt and obsession. I immediately felt calm and knew that I had the
answer: just eat my regular meal and give my hunger to God's care and
know that my needs would be taken care of. I committed myself to
eating my regular dinner, ate it when I got home and let go of that
fourth meal. I was not hungry, and I went to bed serenely.
Anecdote: I heard on an OA tape once that no one ever went to bed
wishing s/he had eaten something during the day.
Taking Step 3 regarding food began to free me from the obsession,
just as Step 1 had begun to free me from the compulsion.
With the rest of my life, Step 3 began the first time I called a
sponsor before doing something I knew might cause grief. That idea of
not acting on impulse was new to me; previously I felt, therefore I
did (i.e., I felt angry, I yelled; I felt sad and hurt, I lashed out;
I felt I was being threatened, I attacked). Step 3 meant letting go
of preconceived ideas about life, expectations, what was best for me
(and others), my role in the world. Step 3 began me on the path to
learning true humility (which was not humiliation but rather an
honest appraisal of my value and worth in the world).
I may have started to give up parts of my self, but honestly, these
were parts that were not doing me any good - fear, indecision, worry,
doubt, impulsive behavior, second-guessing, etc. When I turn myself
over to God, as I understood God, "... holding nothing back," (OA
12&12, p. 26), I do indeed get what I need.
It is true that "... we will eventually seek to learn God's will for us,
then we will act accordingly. We give up fear and indecision, knowing
that if we are sincere, our Higher Power will give us the knowledge
of our best course in life, along with the willingness and ability to
follow that course, even when it seems difficult and uncomfortable."
(OA 12&12, p. 24) I don't always like what I believe is God's will
for me (keeping my mouth shut when I'd rather rage is really
difficult for me). But I want recovery, and I believe the AA 12&12
when it says that "... the effectiveness of the whole (OA) program will
rest upon how well and earnestly we have tried to come to 'a decision
to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we
understood (God).' " (AA 12&12, p. 40)
Step 3 is a daily process, and we are promised recovery and an
abstinent way of life "... on a daily basis so long as we continue to
trust a Higher Power with our lives, renewing our step-three
commitment daily." (OA 12&12, p. 24)
There are a few prayers that I use for Step 3. One is from the Big
Book, "God, I offer myself to Thee, to build with me and do with me
as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do
Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear
witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love and Thy way of
life. May I do Thy will always." Another is from the wisdom of a sage
living in 11th Century Spain: "You know best what is for my good. If
I articulate my desires, it is not to remind You, but so that I might
better understand how greatly dependent I am on You. If then,
afterwards, I ask You for things that are not in my best interest, it
is because I am humbly ignorant. I acknowledge that Your choice is
better than mine and I give myself over to You and the Divine
direction of my life." And of course, "God, grant me the serenity to
accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I
can and the wisdom to know the difference; Thy will, not mine, be
Questions for journaling/sharing:
1. What are/were some of your preconceived ideas about food? Are they
working for your best interest?
2. What are/were some of your preconceived ideas about life? Are they
working for your best interest?
3. Are you willing to let them go if they are not working for your
4. How was going to your first OA meeting a first step in working
5. Why do we need to take Step 3 every day?
6. How do you take Step 3 each day?
7. Are you ready to take Step 3? If not, what are the obstacles that
are keeping you from taking this step?
8. If so, call your sponsor or another OA and read the 3rd Step
Prayer to that person.
Next up: Step 4, a fearless moral inventory.
Yours in recovery,