Most of us who have abstinence have come to some kind of terms with the
concept of a Higher Power. Each of us may understand that Higher Power
differently. What seems to matter is that somehow we have to move the
center of our existence from our own ego to somewhere else, real or
There is a process of recovery, which may take various times for various
people. First, we have to detox. Our brains have been stimulated by our
food addiction to produce certain chemicals, and we have become addicted
to these. For a period of time, these chemicals have to work their way
out of our bodies and minds.
Once they are reduced to more normal levels, we have to reclaim our
sanity. This may take a little time, too. After all, we have been insane
for, in most cases, a number of years. For me, it was something over
After the return of sanity, we are equipped to see all the bad habits we
learned, character defects we acquired, during the period of our
compulsive eating. For many of us, we see ourselves in a rather
appalling condition! Now, with any bad habit, we have to unlearn the bad
one and then learn a good one in its place. Habits that are of long
standing take time to unlearn, but I think that if we are diligent in
our program, we will unlearn them in much less time that we spent doing
them. And then, finally, we have to replace the bad habits with good
ones. I suppose how long that takes depends to some extent on how fast a
learner we are! I also think I was slower than some, myself. But that
doesn't matter – I am hhere.
Now, the thing is, if we are abstinent at all, we know that the God of
our understanding has had the power to restore us to sanity, and to
begin, at least, removing our compulsion to eat. That compulsion may be
the most powerful bad habit we have! So it is not surprising that the
Steps tell us that this same HP can also help us remove our character
There are some conditions, of course. The one mentioned in the Step is
humility. If we cannot remove our compulsion to eat without our HP, then
we may expect that our other character defects, learned over the years
of our addiction, will also need God's help to remove. We know that our
diseased ego was deeply involved in our addiction. It was also deeply
involved in the bad habits we acquired along the way. So if we need to
find that center outside our own egos to recovery, it stands to reason
that that the same center can also help us with the rest of our bad
habits. But we have to get out of our heads, our egos. Thus, humility,
which I take as meaning that we act without ego involvement. I want to
get rid of this bad habit, I want to acquire this good habit, but I am
powerless to do so. However, as the Big Book reminds us, â€śthere is one
who has all power -- may you find Him now.â€ť (Whether God is Him is not
We have searched fearlessly for a list of our defects. Now, we turn once
more to the Higher Power who has been able to grant us abstinence one
day at a time, and ask for release from the coils of our other bad habits.
We do not control the outcome. We can work our program as fully as we
are able, but we cannot control the outcome. That is something that is
in the hands of our Higher Power. It is the experience of those in
program that this process works, so it isn't exactly a shot in the dark.
But God is in control, not us. And we have to be careful, given our
histories, to remember that.
And to let go of the need to change our habits as though we could
control the outcome! The time has come to dwell on our list of
shortcomings, our inventories, with prayerful consideration of the
changes we need to make, turning this also over to the care of a loving
God as we understand God.
From somewhere there is a Seventh Step prayer. I cite it as an example
of one way to proceed.
My Higher Power,
I am now willing that you should have all of me, good & bad.
I pray that you now remove from me every
single defect of character which stands in the way
of my usefulness to you & my fellows.
Grant me strength, as I go out from here to do Your bidding.
1. What is your understanding of being humble? What does humility look like to you?
2. Are you ready to let go of your shortcomings? What purpose do they serve for you? What has been their payoff in your life? Do you still need them, need their payoff?
3. Even as you reflect on your list of character defects, can you see some idea of the good habits that might replace them in time?
4. Can you turn this over, too, and let go and let God? Do you find controlling behaviors themselves among your character defects?
1. Humility to me means having the right assessment of myself. It is false humility to denigrate myself just as much as it is to inflate myself. Humility is being honest with God, myself, and others. When I am being truly humble, I have no certainty, only faith. And when I operate from that perspective, it seems that at least I do no harm. When I know I am right, and therefore that you are wrong, I have taken back my own will.
2. My shortcomings served many purposes, largely to give me some kind of inflated ego. I disguised from myself my addiction, my depression, and tried to force all my relationships into conformity with my own perceived needs. If I lied, it was to preserve myself from embarrassment over my addiction or my egotism. The idea that there was a center in me that had enough goodness in it to need no egotism was at that time alien to me. In recovery, I have found that center, and I know that it is enough. I don't need the old ways. Perhaps this is why I am abstinent, no longer seem to hold onto resentments, and don't flare up in rage anymore. Whatever, I like me a lot better these days, and so do others around me!
3. Oh, yes. I learned to experience my feelings in the moment, or nearly so, and to be able to say how I feel without accusation or blame. I can set good boundaries, and expect them to stick. I have through the Power I discovered in program come to find my own power.
4. I hope so. I still find things to work on, things to turn over, to let go and let God with. But I also know that I have come a long way in the thirteen years since I first became abstinent and started working the program. I know people with even more abstinence, and I see in them the things I have, and often things I still want. I thank God for their examples.