Step Twelve

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps,
we tried to carry this message to compulsive eaters
and to practice these principles in all our affairs.


Hi friends.

My name is Shlomo and I am a food addict and compulsive overeater.

We have dealt with two parts of step 12. The promise of a spiritual awakening as THE result of working all the first 11 steps, and we discussed the part about practicing these step in every aspect of our lives. Now comes the carrying the message part. Without freely giving what we have freely received we cannot progress and develop in our recovery. When we neglect that part we regress back into our disease, since the root of our disease is selfishness and self centeredness. The Big Book says it simply as follows:

"But this is not all. There is action and more action. 'Faith without works is dead.' The next chapter is entirely devoted to STEP TWELVE." page 88.

And page 89 begins with the chapter "WORKING WITH OTHERS."

So let us look a bit at this part of step 12:

" ... we tried to carry this message to compulsive eaters," What is the message?

The message is simply the first part of step 12

"Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps,... " Put in other words our message is the following: We have had a spiritual awakening as THE result of working all the steps of our recovery program, which means that we underwent a personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from compulsive eating one day at a time. You can recover too if you work this program.

The words "tried to carry" this message are important especially the word TRIED.

Our program is open to all who want it and I will help you gladly as much as I can, but you are responsible for your recovery and what you are willing to do to reach it. I am not responsible for your recovery or your relapse or your disease. This is between you and God. So I can only try to help. If I try to help someone and he does not work the program, it is not my responsibility. It is not my success when you recover and it is not my failure when you don't. I only act as an instrument in carrying the message. I am just a messenger boy.

The recovery process depends on our relationship with God.

"See to it that your relationship with God is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others." Big Book, page 164.

Let me quote and discuss some very useful ideas and suggestions about carrying the message (sponsoring), as they appear the Big Book in the chapter "WORKING WITH OTHERS". (I change 'alcoholic' to 'compulsive eater').

"Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from eating compulsively as intensive work with other compulsive eaters. It works when other activities fail. This is our TWELFTH SUGGESTION. Carry this message to other compulsive eaters! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when others fail. Remember they are very ill." page 89.

By sponsoring others we carry the message. We are uniquely capable of helping other compulsive eaters because they can identify with us, since we have the same problem. Therefore we can help them when no one else can, and what is more, it helps us to stay in recovery. Sometimes the upheavals of life undermine our spiritual condition and the only thing that can help us from regressing into relapse is intensively working with others while working all the steps. We have always to bear in mind that our sponsees may help us more than we help them. Therefore we are not doing anyone any favors by sponsoring him. It is just an important and inseparable part of our recovery process.

"Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends -- this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives." page 89.

Sponsoring and giving service in the fellowship gives us a sense of belonging and of joy.

The Big Book tells us that we should sponsor only those who commit to working the twelve steps.

" If he does not want to stop eating compulsively, don't waste time trying to persuade him. You may spoil a later opportunity." page 90.

"If he does not want to see you, never force yourself upon him" page 90.

"If he is not interested in your solution, if he expects you to act only as a banker for his financial difficulties or a nurse for his sprees, you may have to drop him until he changes his mind. This he may do after he gets hurts some more." page 95.

A sponsor is just a compulsive eater who shares his ESH in working the 12 step program. It is not his place to act as a nurse or doctor or dietician or substitute father/mother or husband/wife.

A sponsor should be very careful not to take the place of any professional. If a sponsee needs or wants professional advice he should turn to professionals. In the fellowships no one is a professional no matter what he is outside the fellowship. As I said, a sponsor is only a compulsive eater sharing his ESH in working the steps and nothing more. This alone is more than enough, since this is the way we help others to recover.

"If he thinks he can do the job in some other way, or prefers some other spiritual approach, encourage him to follow his own conscience. We have no monopoly on God; we merely have an approach that worked with us." page 95.

We don't claim to have a monopoly on recovery we just say that our recovery program works for us.

"Do not be discouraged if your prospect does not respond at once. Search out another compulsive eater and try again. You are sure to find someone desperate enough to accept with eagerness what you offer. We find it a waste of time to keep chasing a man who cannot or will not work with you. If you leave such a person alone, he may soon become convinced that he cannot recover by himself. To spend too much time on any one situation is to deny some other compulsive eater an opportunity to live and be happy." page 96.

We don't waste our time working with someone who cannot or will not work with us on the 12 steps, since we can spend that time helping someone else who is interested in our solution.

We also have to be very careful as sponsors not to let the sponsee become dependent on us. Dependence means slavery. It means making the sponsor my Higher Power and of course this does not work, since in step 3 we decided to turn our will and life over to the care of God and not to the care of a human being. So as sponsors we have to be very careful about that.

"We simply do not stop eating compulsively so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on God...

"Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house." page 98.

Sometimes the sponsee has all kinds of relationship problems and claims that he cannot work on his recovery unless his relations with other people like his family or boss are settled first. The Big Book says that these are just excuses.

"Remind the prospect that his recovery is not dependent upon people. It is dependent upon his relationship with God." page 99-100.

Now let us see how we sponsor someone who is interested in doing the program. We first describe our personal eating problems and after the sponsee identifies with us, we explain what it means to be a compulsive eater, that we have a threefold disease. Then we explain what the solution is and how we applied it and recovered.

"At first engage in general conversation. After a while, turn the talk to some phase of drinking. Tell him enough about your drinking habits, symptoms, and experiences to encourage him to speak of himself. If he wishes to talk, let him do so. You will thus get a better idea of how you ought to proceed. If he is not communicative, give him a sketch or your drinking career up to the time you quit. But say nothing, for the moment, of how that was accomplished. If he is in a serious mood dwell on the troubles food has caused you, being careful not to moralize or lecture. If his mood is light, tell him humorous stories of your escapades. Get him to tell some of his.

"When he sees you know all about the compulsive eating game, commence to describe yourself as a compulsive eater. Tell him how baffled you were, how you finally learned that you were sick. Give him an account of the struggles you made to stop. Show him the mental twist which leads to the first bite of a spree. We suggest you do this as we have done it in the chapter on alcoholism. If he is a compulsive eater, he will understand you at once. He will match your mental inconsistencies with some of his own.

"If you are satisfied that he is a real compulsive eater, begin to dwell on the hopeless feature of the malady. Show him, from your own experience, how the queer mental condition surrounding that first bite prevents normal functioning of the will power. Don't, at this stage, refer to this book, unless he has seen it and wishes to discuss it. And be careful not to brand him as a compulsive eater. Let him draw his own conclusion. If he sticks to the idea that he can still control his eating, tell him that possibly he can - if he is not too [far gone as a] compulsive eater. But insist that if he is severely afflicted, there may be little chance he can recover by himself.

"Continue to speak of compulsive eating as an illness, a fatal malady. Talk about the conditions of body and mind which accompany it. Keep his attention focused mainly on your personal experience. Explain that many are doomed who never realize their predicament... you may talk to him about the hopelessness of compulsive eating because you offer a solution. You will soon have your friend admitting he has many, if not all, of the traits of the compulsive eater. If his own doctor is willing to tell him that he is a compulsive eater, so much the better. Even though your protege may not have entirely admitted his condition, he has become very curious to know how you got well. Let him ask you that question, if he will. TELL HIM EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU. Stress the spiritual feature freely. If the man be agnostic or atheist, make it emphatic that HE DOES NOT HAVE TO AGREE WITH YOUR CONCEPTION OF GOD. He can choose any conception he likes, provided it makes sense to him. THE MAIN THING IS THAT HE BE WILLING TO BELIEVE IN A POWER GREATER THAN HIMSELF AND THAT HE LIVE BY SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLES. " page 91-93.

We are advised to talk about spirituality in simple terms and not to talk religion no matter what our religion is, since our program is a spiritual program not a religious one. The main difference being expressed in what Bill W.'s sponsor said to him: "WHY DON'T YOU CHOOSE YOUR OWN CONCEPTION OF GOD?" BB, page 12.

The Big Book also explains how to approach a religious person.

"Your prospect may belong to a religious denomination. His religious education and training may be far superior to yours. In that case he is going to wonder how you can add anything to what he already knows. But he well be curious to learn why his own convictions have not worked and why yours seem to work so well. He may be an example of the truth that faith alone is insufficient. To be vital, faith must be accompanied by self-sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action. Let him see that you are not there to instruct him in religion. Admit that he probably knows more about it than you do, but call to his attention the fact that however deep his faith and knowledge, he could not have applied it or he would not eat compulsively. Perhaps your story will help him see where he has failed to practice the very precepts he knows so well. We represent no particular faith or denomination. We are dealing only with general principles common to most denominations." pages 93-94.

After the sponsee identified with us, we explain the steps as our program of action and how we took the steps:

"Outline the program of action, explaining how you made a self-appraisal, how you straightened out your past and why you are now endeavoring to be helpful to him. It is important for him to realize that your attempt to pass this on to him plays a vital part in your recovery. Actually, he may be helping you more than you are helping him. Make it plain he is under no obligation to you, that you hope only that he will try to help other compulsive eaters when he escapes his own difficulties. Suggest how important it is that he place the welfare of other people ahead of his own. Make it clear that he is not under pressure, that he needn't see you again if he doesn't want to. You should not be offended if he wants to call it off, for he has helped you more than you have helped him. If your talk has been sane, quiet and full of human understanding, you have perhaps made a friend. Maybe you have disturbed him about the question of compulsive eating. This is all to the good. The more hopeless he feels, the better. He will be more likely to follow your suggestions." page 94.

The Big Book tells us to avoid preaching which in our fellowship stands for a "holier that thou" attitude which is based on the defect of pride ("I am better than you" attitude).

"You will be most successful with compulsive eaters if you do not exhibit any passion for crusade or reform. Never talk down to a compulsive eater from any moral or spiritual hilltop; simply lay out the kit of spiritual tools for his inspection. Show him how they worked with you. Offer him friendship and fellowship. Tell him that if he wants to get well you will do anything to help. " page 95.

Helping others should be adopted as a daily way of life in order to grow and develop in our recovery.

"Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn't enough. You have to act the Good Samaritan every day, if need be." page 97.

The Big Book tells us that the sponsor and his sponsees are intimate sharing partners. We walk the recovery road together as two equal human beings who share the same problem and now share the same solution.

"Both you and the new man must walk day by day in the path of spiritual progress. If you persist, remarkable things will happen. When we look back, we realize that the things which came to us when we put ourselves in God's hands were better than anything we could have planned. Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and wonderful world, no matter what your present circumstances!" page 100.

The Big Book emphasizes that the way we respond to the sponsee's problems is by sharing our own ESH in solving such problems and not by criticizing. Our relationship is not a dependency relationship but a mutual help relationship based on personal experience only. The sponsee is free to decide how and if to use my shared ESH.

"If you have been successful in solving your own domestic problems, tell the newcomer's family how that was accomplished. In this way you can set them on the right track without becoming critical of them. The story of how you and your wife settled your difficulties is worth any amount of criticism." page 100.

This also implies that if we don't have personal experience with some of the sponsee's problems, we should say so. We should say that we don't have personal experience in dealing with such problems and refer him to someone who has this experience in the fellowship, or if needed, suggest he turn to professional help. It is of utmost importance to admit that there are things we don't know or don't have experience about, otherwise we act out of pride and dishonesty. Just to use the example of the Big Book. If the sponsee has marital problems and I was never married or never had any, I cannot share personal ESH on such problems and should say so.

As a recovered person I have to be at any place where I can be of maximum help to others.

"Your job now is to be at the place where you may be of maximum helpfulness to others, so never hesitate to go anywhere if you can be helpful. You should not hesitate to visit the most sordid spot on earth on such an errand. Keep on the firing line of life with these motives and God will keep you unharmed." page102.

The first place to be is were there are compulsive eaters who seek the solution of the 12 step program. This means going to 12 step fellowship meetings for compulsive eaters, sharing and sponsoring f2f . It means participating in online activity like sharing and sponsoring in the Recovery Group. It means going anywhere else where I can be of help.

Now to some personal ESH suggestions about sponsoring and sponsor/sponsee relations. These are my personal opinions based on my interpretation and understanding of the suggestions in the Big Book, and not necessarily what is recommended in OA or the Recovery Group.

In my opinion a sponsor is someone who has worked all 12 steps, is abstinent and is working steps 10-12 on a daily basis. As you can see we can reach this stage in three months or less. I think that my first commitment is to my recovery and before I reach that stage in my step work , I am on the road to recovery, but I have not yet reached a recovery stage that really enables me to carry the message of my personal recovery.

The Big Book puts it in these words:

" ... his attention should be drawn to you as a person who has recovered... " page 90.

"Outline the program of action, explaining how you made self-appraisal, how you straightened out your past and why you are now endeavoring to be helpful to him." page 94

"He has read this volume [the Big Book which you left for him to read] and says he is prepared to go through with the Twelve Steps of the program of recovery. Having had the experience yourself [of working all the 12 steps], you can give him much practical advise." page 96.

So we see that the Big Book refers to the sponsor as a recovered person who worked all the 12 steps, and now has a message of personal recovery to share. Otherwise I can be a very helpful person but I am not a sponsor according to the Big Book.

"But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven't got." BB page 164.

As I see it, a recovered person transmits recovery and a person who has not yet reached the recovery stage by working all the steps cannot transmit recovery yet. His message is still flawed till he completes the whole process which is working all the 12 steps.

Does this mean that I cannot help others before completing all the steps? NO!!!

I can do a lot of things to help others and give service which is also considered 12 step work. But to be an effective sponsor I have to first recover myself by working all the steps.

The A.A., 12 & 12 explains what kinds service can and should be done.

"Even the newest of newcomers find undreamed rewards as they try to help their sisters and brothers, the ones who are even blinder than they. This is indeed the kind of giving that actually demands nothing. They do not expect their fellow sufferers to pay them, or even to love them. And then they discover that by the divine paradox of this kind of giving they have found their own reward, whether the newer ones have yet received anything or not. Their own character may still be gravely defective, but they somehow know that God has enabled them to make a mighty beginning, and they sense that they stand at the edge of new mysteries, joys, and experiences of which they had never even dreamed.

"Practically every A.A. [OA] member declares that no satisfaction has been deeper and no joy greater than in a Twelfth Step job well done. To watch the eyes of women and men open with wonder as they move from darkness into light, to see their lives quickly fill with new purpose and meaning, to see whole families reassembled..., and above all to watch these people awaken to the presence of a loving God in their lives -- these things are the substance of what we receive as we carry A.A.'s [OA's] message to the next alcoholic [compulsive eater].

"Nor is this the only kind of Twelfth Step work. We sit in A.A. [OA] meetings and listen, not only to receive something ourselves, but to give the reassurance and support which our presence can bring. If our turn comes to speak at a meeting, we again try to carry A.A.'s [OA's] message. Whether our audience is one or many, it is still Twelfth Step work. There are many opportunities even for those of us who feel unable to speak at meetings or who are so situated that we cannot do much face-to-face Twelfth Step work. We can be the ones who take on the unspectacular but important tasks that make good Twelfth Step work possible, perhaps arranging for the coffee and cake after the meetings, where so many skeptical, suspicious newcomers have found confidence and comfort in the laughter and talk. This is Twelfth Step work in the very best sense of the word. 'Freely ye have received; freely give ...' is the core of this part of Step Twelve.

"We may often pass through Twelfth Step experiences where we will seem to be temporarily off the beam. These will appear as big setbacks at the time, but will be seen later as stepping-stones to better things. For example, we may set our hearts on getting a particular person sobered up [abstinent], and after doing all we can for months, we see them relapse. Perhaps this will happen in a succession of cases, and we may be deeply discouraged as to our ability to carry A.A.'s [OA's] message. Or we may encounter the reverse situation, in which we are highly elated because we seem to have been successful. Here the temptation is to become rather possessive of these newcomers. Perhaps we try to give them advice about their affairs which we aren't really competent to give or ought not give at all. Then we are hurt and confused when the advice is rejected, or when it is accepted and brings still greater confusion. By a great deal of ardent Twelfth Step work we sometimes carry the message to so many alcoholics compulsive eaters] that they place us in a position of trust. They make us, let us say, the group's chairperson. Here again we are presented with the temptation to over-manage things, and sometimes this results in rebuffs and other consequences which are hard to take.

"But in the longer run we clearly realize that these are only the pains of growing up, and nothing but good can come from them if we turn more and more to the entire Twelve Steps for the answers." pages 109-111.

So in addition to sponsoring, there is a lot of service that can be done. Sharing ESH in meetings, helping by volunteering to all kinds of service tasks even as simple as arranging for coffee and tea for the meetings, volunteering to be a group's secretary, or inviting leaders to the meeting, welcoming newcomers, selling approved literature , arranging the chairs in the meeting room, being the treasurer of the meeting, volunteering to serve in an Intergroup, and in the Recovery Group. There are a lot of trusted servants jobs we can volunteer to do. It is important to remember that service is an integral part of our recovery process. It is our way of really belonging to the fellowship. Service makes us part of the fellowship and not just a participator in the fellowship.

Now that we have traveled to together on the recovery road let us look at some quotes with a new insight and understanding. Just to sum up the work we did together these three months.

"THERE IS A SOLUTION. Almost none of us liked the self- searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the process requires for its successful consummation. But we saw that it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it. When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at out feet. We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.

"The great fact is just this, and nothing less: That we have had deep and effective spiritual experiences which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and toward God's universe. The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves" BB page 25.

"Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven't got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us.

"Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.

"May God bless you and keep you -- until then." BB page 164.

" We have been talking about problems because we are problem people who have found a way up and out, and who wish to share our knowledge of that way with all who can use it. For it is only by accepting and solving our problems that we can begin to get right with ourselves and with the world about us, and with the One who presides over us all. Understanding is the key to right principles and attitudes, and right action is the key to good living; therefore the joy of good living is the theme of A.A.'s [OA's] Twelfth Step.

"With each passing day of our lives, may every one of us sense more deeply the inner meaning of A.A.'s [OA's] simple prayer:

"God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
Courage to change the things we can,
And wisdom to know the difference." A.A. 12 & 12 page 125.

It seems very appropriate to finish these quotes with something from the OA 12 & 12.

"We who began working the steps in order to recover from compulsive eating now find that through them we have embarked on a lifelong journey of spiritual growth. From the isolation of food obsession we have emerged into a new world. Walking hand in hand with our friends and our Higher Power, we are now exploring this world using the great spiritual principles embodied in the twelve steps as the map to guide our way. We gratefully follow in the footsteps of many others who have walked this way before us, and we're gratified to be making footprints of our own for others to follow.

"Those of us who live this program don't simply carry the message; WE ARE THE MESSAGE. Each day that we live well, we ARE well, and we embody the joy of recovery which attracts others who want what we've found in OA. We're always happy to share our secret; the twelve steps of Overeaters Anonymous, which empower each of us to live well and be well. One day at a time." OA 12 & 12, page 106.


1. A sponsee can have more than one sponsor.

2. A sponsee may leave his sponsor whenever he/she wants and choose another one.

3. It is best to agree from the beginning on what the sponsor and the sponsee expect from their relationship and commit to some simple ground rules like when and how often to get in touch, etc.

4. If the relationship becomes a relationship of dependency it should be terminated at once. The relationship between a sponsor and sponsee should be a relationship of help between equals.

5. There are two sponsoring stages:

a) The sponsee is learning how to work the steps and the sponsor guides him in doing it.

b) The sponsee has worked all the 12 steps and is now working steps 10-12 on a daily basis. At this stage the sponsor becomes more of a sharing partner. Personally I have found it very useful to sponsor each other at this stage, sharing our problems and successes and using each other's ESH.

6. As a sponsor share about your difficulties with your sponsee too, otherwise he is bound to think that you are perfect, and be afraid to be honest about his difficulties with food and with life. Complete Honesty between sponsor and sponsee is essential.

7. As a sponsor share only your personal ESH in working the steps and in applying them to life's problems. Say I DON'T KNOW as an answer to any problem you have not experienced personally, or solved personally. Don't hesitate to refer your sponsee to another suitable person who can give him an answer based on personal experience or to a professional.

8. An integral part of our recovery process is giving service. As a sponsor see to it that your sponsee understands it from the beginning of your relationship and volunteers to give service, and goes to meetings.


1. Now that we have traveled the recovery road together, volunteer to sponsor in The Recovery Group (abbreviated TRG) and in the WTS loop. We need you and you need us.

To get the name and email addresses for the current TRG Sponsor Coordinator and/or the current WTS Sponsor Coordinator, please email the Recovery Group administrators at:

2.Volunteer to sponsor in your f2f meetings, don't just wait for others to approach you. Approach newcomers and those who still suffer and offer your help.

3. Volunteer for service in the Recovery Group. There are lots of service tasks that can be done. Write to your loop, or meeting coordinator, and write to the administrators at:

Ask for information and volunteer for service.

4. Volunteer for service in your f2f meeting or in your Intergroup.

5. Continue with working steps 10-12 every day on a regular daily basis.

6. Share with us about all the above activities.

7. Share about your ESH as a sponsor and your suggestions for an effective and productive sponsor/sponsee relationship.

8. Share on what working the 12 step program these three month did to you physically emotionally and spiritually.


To those who made it possible for me to lead the steps this quarter and share my ESH. This was a great opportunity for me to learn, do service and enhance my recovery.

To all the members of the WTS loop who shared the journey through the steps with me. I was deeply touched by your shares and ESH and learned a lot from them

To all the A.A. pioneers who paved the way and gave us this wonderful program.

To all the OA pioneers who created a fellowship that fits the particular symptoms of my problem

To the people who created the Recovery Group and are nourishing and nurturing it all the time as a haven for those who seek recovery.

I hope you enjoyed this journey through the steps as much as I did. This is not the end, friends. This is A NEW BEGINNING of a life full of recovery, of evolving spiritually, and of being of service to H.P. and to other human beings.

And now a small prayer.


Dear God
Help me be a generous person.
Help me give,
and enrich me by giving.
We were called by you to be generous -
light our ways.
Guide me to give with a pure heart,
with a full heart
and with a joyful heart.
Lead me to those who deserve receiving,
because giving is divine.
Help me find the decent needy,
and help them find me.

I think it appropriate to end this post with "The Promises," Big Book, page 83-84:

" ... We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffles us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

"Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us - sometimes quickly, sometime slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them."

Have a nice day.

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