Step One

We admitted we were powerless over food,
that our lives had become unmanageable.


General Essay

We learn in the Twelfth Step that a major purpose of working the Steps is to cause us to undergo a spiritual awakening. It is my opinion that one way to describe this process is as follows:

1. Our own egos are in control of our lives when we are in addiction to whatever, in our case, food. The ego is a simple function. It seeks to survive the moment in whatever way it can, and to do so with a maximum of pleasure and a minimum of pain. When we are in certain places in our lives, our egos help us to survive painful situations. In our case, we made the discovery that when we seemed to be in danger of being overwhelmed by feelings or events, food would create a dampening effect on our suffering. Now food, heroin, and cocaine, while causing different reactions in some ways, all stimulate the same spot in our brains, causing the body to produce endorphins, the natural pain-killer enzyme of the body. The problem is, that over time, the need for the endorphin high gathers steam in and of itself, so that we become addicted to it, and therefore to whatever substance produces the high; in our case, food. The ego which once acted to our advantage and even salvation now looks for the "fix" we crave. We have become addicts. And like all addicts, our behavior centers on our substance, and we are unable to live lives that have any real sort of normalcy to them. Things get messier and messier, and we get sicker and sicker.

2. Because we now derive the energy of our lives from our addiction and our need for our substance, we lose sight of our spirituality almost altogether. We may be religious, but we are not spiritual, and we are not in recovery. A few people manage to white-knuckle some kind of abstinence, but the characteristics of the addict do not go away. In AA, such people are referred to as dry drunks. Will power is of no avail, our addiction has gotten larger than we can manage.

3. We cannot destroy the ego, but we can move it from the center to its more proper position. The question then arises, what do we put in the center? The suggestion is made in the Steps that what we need to have at our center is a power that is greater than ourselves. Although the Steps use the word "God" to describe this Higher Power, there is no intention of moving the discussion into theology or philosophy. Our Higher Power may be to us individually a divine being, a cosmic energy, a larger group, such as OA, or almost anything we choose that is more than we are, and can serve to displace our now enslaved egos to its proper place in our lives.

4. In order to accomplish this rather large transition, it is necessary for us to change certain of our deep-seated habits of the mind and heart.

5. This is a major house cleaning, yet it is not so difficult as most of us fear at first. We do find that the power that is greater than ourselves has a strength that we seem to lack to help us with the process of change. We ask for help. We have groups, meetings, sponsors, and our higher power to utilize in this process. Although it is not a tool of program, many of us find working with an addictions counselor helpful as well.

6. Because we are as sick as our secrets, we have to let the light of day come into the secret world we have lived in. At least one other person becomes to us the way out of the dark secrets we have held so closely for so long. Of course, we can say, God knows our secrets, but sharing them with someone else makes sure we know what they are.

7. The steps tell us that we donít have to work so hard at overcoming these bad habits. They can be removed by allowing our Higher Power to take charge. There can be no harm in trying this, since it is fer shure that we couldnít manage it! Weíve all tried, and it didnít work. Trust is necessary, and we have to learn to trust by doing it. Rational arguments do not work at this point ≠ we have to go with an intuition and trust it. Oddly, intuition turns out to be a better guide to reality that rationality alone. I once read a study which proved in fact that a purely rational decision which did not take into account the emotive aspects and impact of the decision would always fail in the long run. We do not ask people to park their brains here. We are simply asking that they use all of it, and not just the forebrain alone. We are rational creatures, yes, but we are also emotional and spiritual beings. In point of fact, most of us in recovery would agree that the spiritual part is the most significant, unifying the whole. We not tell anyone what to do, we merely note what has worked for those of us who have walked the walk.

8. We have to deal with the people in our lives. We have harmed others besides ourselves, for all that we have harmed ourselves greatly. If we are to amend our own lives, we have to be willing to make amends to others.

9. And we do just that. Of course, the amend is for us. It is a part of our housekeeping. We do what we can to make the deal straight with others, keeping in mind that we do not wish to do them further harm by what we do. And there will often be some we cannot reach for whatever reason. These we will have to make amends in other ways. Some will write a letter, and offer the letter to their Higher Power to deliver in such cases.

10. We start learning how to live in this new situation. We want to begin forming new and healthy habits in the place of the old ones. We try not to harbor resentments, and we try to be big enough in spirit to admit when we are wrong, or even when we may not be completely right!

11. By this time God or Higher Power will likely have taken on a more personal rather than merely generic meaning, if it has not already done so. We will know that we can trust our HP to guide us. We will want to stay in touch. We will know that God speaks to us in our intuition, and that we need to be well attuned and stay well attuned to that voice. We begin to believe that the intuition will guide us through all sorts of situations and problems in a way that in the end gives us serenity and joy.

12. Finally, we will want to help others who still struggle. We are not cured, even when we say we have recovered. Being recovered, a long term situation does not mean that we can quit the program or that we are cured. It merely means that we no longer compulse over food, or when we seem to be moving in that direction, know how to make the course adjustment. The Big Book makes mention of this. It is a goal worth having. I speak from being there ≠ come April 9, I will have eleven years of abstinence, if I make it. But the run is not a unit; it consists of all those thousands of days lived one at a time. I can say eleven years, but it is only today that matters.

Every quarter, we have people who start out with us working the steps. Most stay through Step Three. After that, there is a drop-off. By the end of the quarter, only a handful have completed the workshop. What I hope is that every one of you will resolve that you want recovery enough to stay the course. Make a pledge to yourself, your Higher Power, and your sponsor that you will work all twelve steps. It will be the best thing you ever did for yourself. I know. I beg you to find out for yourself, too.

The Twelve Promises

1. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.

2. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will accept it.

3. We will comprehend the word Serenity.

4. We will know peace.

5. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.

6. The feelings of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.

7. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellow travelers.

8. Self-seeking will slip away.

9. Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change.

10. Fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us.

11. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.

12. We will realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Love to all, John


First Step Prayer
Higher Power,
I admit that I am powerless over my compulsive eating.
I admit that my life is unmanageable when I try to control it.
Help me this day to understand the true meaning of powerlessness.
Remove from me all denial of my addiction.

1. Look back over the last three times you binged, purged, skipped a meal. Did this make your situation any better, or did you still have to face life anyway? Write about it.

2. Do you really think you can manage you eating problem alone? What is your evidence for this? Do you have evidence that you canít?

3. Look over your own health issues. What problems do you have, or do you see arising as a result of your eating problems? Do you think you will like long and be healthy if you continue on the compulsive course? What would you guess might happen?

4. Are you willing to work these Steps all the way through to the end? The Big Book says, "half measures availed us nothing." Do you want recovery enough to walk this walk?

5. It is said that we are only as sick as our secrets. That is, I think, the reason so many bog down on steps four and five. We want to keep our damnable little secrets. What we may not realize is that everybody has the same secrets. It is said that in the home of and addict there is a large white elephant in the living room, which everyone knows is there, but which no one will admit is there. No is there any odor from the elephantís living in the living room. Oddly, the Steps make it very easy to admit to the elephant and to get rid of it. God will do it, if we will admit our problems and ask. You have always been told or believed that your secret was shameful. But what was shameful was keeping the secret! Are you willing to let go of the causes of your resentments and clean out the elephant and its detritus in your life? You have only recovery and health to gain by doing it.

6. Finally, are you willing to be honest? Honesty, says the Big Book, is the sole qualification for recovery. Note ways you have not been honest, and how this has kept you from working the First Step.



Step Two

WTS Home
The Twelve Steps
Recovery Home

© Copyright 2004 THE RECOVERY GROUP All rights reserved