Step Three

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives
over to the care of God as we understood Him.


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 done."

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 best interest?

4. How was going to your first OA meeting a first step in working Step 3?

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,


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