Step One

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


Hi everybody, my name is rose and I'm a compulsive overeater.

First, I want to acknowledge those of you who are taking these twelve steps for the first time. You're embarking on a life-changing journey, and I promise you that it's a change for the better-a lot better. For those of you who, like me, have been up and down the steps many many times, I hope to make this step study quarter relevant for you. I hope you will find the questions help you reflect on where you've been and where you'd like to be in your program, and that you'll share w/ us how you are working the steps today. I'm writing this in June, which is a special month for me, because my OA birthday is June 9th. I walked into an OA for ACOA meeting on a Tuesday evening 17 years ago, sat down and cried for the rest of the summer. I'd been going to Alanon and ACA, for a few years off and on, but it wasnt until I got to OA that I really began to see that the 12 steps are a program for transforming and growing into the person god wants us to be. There really *was an answer for me, there really was a higher power there for me, and my life could be different than it was. If I hadn't found OA, I'm pretty sure I would be either dead or extremely ill today. I was 24 years old then, extremely immature, and had no clue how to take care of myself, spiritually, emotionally, and least of all physically. The winter before I found OA, I was sick constantly ending up in emergency rooms more than once, mainly because I would not take the time to care for myself appropriately and became more and more rundown. The fact that I ate very little besides sugar, trashy carbohydrates, and grease didn't help matters. I was over 220 pounds; not sure what my top weight was, I stopped looking at the scale. I was borderline diabetic, and I have no doubt that I would be diabetic now if I hadn't been able to surrender my eating and will to a higher power.

I've had my ups and downs in the program. I was abstinent and maintained a 90+ pound weight loss for almost 9 years. In that time, I began a new career, finished my degree, and met and married a wonderful man. But I became very complacent in my program; i stopped going to meetings as much, didn't call my program friends much, and didnt have a sponsor. I found out what happens when a real life challenge comes along when we are not spiritually fit. I lost my abstinence when I became pregnant w/ my first child, and then after two years of struggling, was able to maintain some long term abstinence. Two years later, I had another baby, and again found it very hard to maintain abstinence for any length of time. For the past year, I've been on a foodplan that has really helped me stay mostly abstinent and mostly craving free, which is truly a miracle and a blessing. Thank God I didn't gain back all 90 pounds from my original weight loss 17 years ago, but I'm older now, and those 25 pounds that are left from my relapse are coming off slowly. I have learned to let God be in charge of my weight, and that's where a daily program of working the steps comes in. Even more importantly, I've learned what it means to put my program and my abstinence first, which is the foundation of any long-term recovery. It's a mindset and a way of living that I am willing to commit to today, b/c I now understand it's really not that difficult, and I know in my soul how truly miserable the alternative can be . It's just a matter of being willing to make that phone call, or even just stop and sit down, instead of taking that bite. Really.

Today, I"m married with two young children and work full time. I volunteer a lot at my childrens' schools, and have a very full, rich life. There is *no way* I could be on the path I'm on now if it weren't for the tools for living I've developed through working these 12 steps, and relying on my HP for everything I need.

For those of you who don't have them, I strongly urge you to get and read the AA"12 Steps and 12 Traditions" as well as the Big Book of AA. Those are the texts I'll be using for this step study. If you have them, (or as soon as you get them) read step one, and I'll post an essay and questions in a couple of days. I look forward to working together this quarter.

love in recovery


hi everyone I'm rose, coe

This is the story of my first step one experience. I've had ever so many since then, but I think it's good to start at the start.

I was 24 years old, constantly sick, and because of that, barely able to work. I had few friends, really only my sister, and her best friend. And also my boyfriend at the time, who was great for driving me around to dr. appts. and ERs, but was otherwise not around much-probaby b/c *I was so depressing to be around! I didn't really do much of anything but go to work and go home afterward. And I was eating uncontrollably. All the time. I was a cook in those days, so I ate at work, I ate when I got home, I got up in the middle of the night and ate. And while I did eat some real food (in very very large amounts) I mostly ate junk. I sometimes would go for long periods w/ no eating at all, and then have really big binges. I later found out that anorexia and compulsive ove reating are two sides of the same coin, and many COEs can also be ANAs, and vice-versa.

In chapter three of the Big Book of AA, "More About Alcoholism", there is a very thorough discussion of the nature of our powerlessness over food and the insane inability to manage our lives that ultimately comes about for many of us. There is a wonderful analogy of a man who continually jaywalks, even though he knows his behavior will eventually kill him. In due course of time, everyone who cares about him has left him and he is indeed killed by his insane desire. This is really where I was-I couldn't stop myself or find a way out of my compulsive eating, no matter what I tried. At the time just before I came into OA, I was depressed and anxious, pre-diabetic, nearly a hundred pounds overweight, had an assortment of digestive and female health problems. I knew that it was all related to how I lived and ate, and that I couldn't stop eating, but it took me a while to understand that I was *powerless to stop. That is to s ay, w/o help from a power greater than myself I definitely would not be able to stop. It was not a matter of me getting myself together, or snapping out of it, or pulling myself up by my bootstraps. Even when I did those things, when I tried hard and lost some weight, I eventually landed back in the food. What that power was that could change me I had no clue, but I knew it was definitely not me.

For about 3 months before I came into OA, I was abstinent, although I didn't know that's what it was. In my endless running around to doctors, I started trying alternative medicine. I was seeing an acupuncturist for my stomach and reproductive health issues, and she put me on what I thought at the time was a very strict diet. It was my first abstinence. No sugar, no white flour, no caffiene, no dairy, no citrus, no fried food, lots of vegetables and whole grains. I was to eat three meals a day. While I'd dieted many times, I'd never eaten sensibly before, and it was a revelation to me. I was still eating large amoun ts, but I was eating real food, and it felt different, somehow. I still remember my first abstinent meal-a bowl of steamed beets and yams w/ a little olive oil and salt. I'd never tasted anything so delicious! I knew while I was having that meal that I could not eat in this way for any length of time on my own, and I desperately wanted to feel as clean and good as I did in that moment. I started losing a bit of weight, and feeling better physically, and wanted to keep on that path. But how could I? Somehow I knew, in a way I'd not known while on previous diets, that I'd be back to my old ways after a while. And the thought of going back there made me want to cry.

For some time, I'd been going to ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics, a spinoff of Al-Anon) meetings. I felt some kind of release in complaining about my parents (both alcoholics and addicts) and listening to others do the same. I didn't listen to anything about the steps in those days, as I was really uninterested in a spiritual solution to what I thought was not actually my problem, and certainly not a spiritual one. In my mind the problem was that other people didn't treat me very well; the idea that *I needed to treat myself and others better had not entered my consciousness. But as I started to feel a little more well physically, and lost some weight, and the food fog I'd been living in began to lift, some glimmers of possibility began to shine through. At that time in my town, we had what were called "double winner" meetings, where there would be two 12 step meetings combined into one. One of these was ACOA for OA. Even though the meeting was far across town from me, and I didn't drive, I started going. I sat there and cried for three months. For the first time, I heard that there were people like me, and that they had a solution, and I could have it too. I'd been on my own for some time, and had been in therapy for a couple of years, so I had suffered for a while under the illusion that I knew a lot about myself and could take care of anything that came my way. But in order to crawl out of the terrible hole I was in, I had to let go of the notion that I had the ability to fix my COE problem on my own. I was finally able to see that I wasn't going to solve this problem by myself, that my best efforts had made my life miserable.

They use very strong language in the Big Book about this phenomenon of being a big strong capable person and yet having no ability whatsoever to stop eating (I've changed the words alcoholic and alcohol to compulsive overeater, eating and food):

"Some of you are thinking: "Yes, what you tell us is true, but it doesn't fully apply. We admit we have some of these symptoms, but we have not gone to the extremes you fellows did, nor are we likely to, we understand ourselves so well after what you have told us that such things cannot happen again. We have not lost everything in life through (compulsive eating), and we do not intend to. Thanks for the information." That may be true of certain non-compulisve eaters, who though eating foolishly and heavily at the present time, are able to stop or moderate, because their brains and bodies have not been damaged as ours were. But the actual or potential compulsive eater, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop eating on the basis of self-knowledge. This is the point we wish to emphasize and re-emphasize, to smash home upon our compulsive eater readers as it has been revealed to us out of bitter experience."

This was the difference I felt. I knew in the core of my being that I had no power to handle my life, none at all. Everything was a wreck. I had loads of will power (and still do!) but it had netted me exactly zero, when it came to solving my COE. Even now, when I have been in recovery a long time, and have built, w/ god's help, a wonderful life for myself, there are many times when I realize that my life has become unmanageable again, and I am powerless to make it better. Believing I have any power over my COE has lead me into relapse, not once but twice, and I sincerely don't want to go there again.

So today I take step one on a daily basis, sometimes many times a day, whenever I know I need to stop and take a break, and let God into any situation that comes up and disturbs me. I take the time in the morning to say the step to myself, and repeat the serenity prayer: "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 be done always, not mine."

thanks for listening


Questions And please, remember to send your shares on the step essay questions *only to the loop. You can respond to me personally at my email, or anyone else's share at their's:)

If this is your first time looking at step one, think about what exactly it is that you are powerless over in your life. It helped me a lot, when I was first starting out, to name the things that I knew controlled me-fear of people and social situations, certain foods once I picked them up, being alone, there were really a lot! Pick the top two or three, and write about them.

In the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of AA, the first step is a very short chapter, about 2 and a half pages. And it mostly concerns the initial struggle many newcomers have with the notion of powerlessness. When you read about being powerless over food, do your hackles rise? Do you just not believe that could possibly be true? And yet here you are, wanting to give the steps a whirl, probably quite painfully aware that you have a problem w/ stopping when you start eating certain foods, or that your eating habits are life-threatening. If you've been in OA for a while and faced that challenge, please write about your experience w/ overcoming that particular mental trap. If you are new, and are really in turmoil about being powerless, write about that. Tell us how you've found yourself here on the WTS list, admitting to your own powerlessness over compulsive eating.

Finally, what do you envision the future holds for you, if you take this step? Obviously, it's the second step, but I want you to just use your imagination a bit, and think about what life could be like if you go ahead and do it. What would admitting powerlessness over food and the unmanageability of life look like, if you were acknowledging it every day? If you've taken this step many times, what has been your experience?


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