12 Step Workshop Introduction
Welcome to the second quarter 12 Step Workshop of 2007. I've outlined below the basics for how the workshop will be run and what to expect. I've done two face to face workshops in the last year and this will be my first online workshop. I've included some general information on end of this message on the steps themselves along with some basic terms and definitions for Step 1. I'll be sending out Step One materials tomorrow.
I've been involved in OA on and off for many years. It took me several years to get through and work all 12 steps. Part of the problem was being unable to find someone who had worked all the steps. It wasn't until July of 2005 that I had actually made it through all the steps. Since then, I have been able to maintain my abstinence. I found the Big Book way of working the steps is much easier for me to understand and enjoy the promises of this spiritual program.
Needed for the workshop
1. We need a sponsor that will work with us. Just grab one who agrees to work with you. You don't have to be too choosy. It does not matter if there is no chemistry. We are not studying for a PhD in natural sciences. Even if the sponsor is an idiot he/she can't mess up our life more than we do ourselves.
2. We need a reference book. This is the book "ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS" which is also called the Big Book. This is the only book we will use with some adaptations for food. If you don't have it, buy it (remember the willingness). You can buy it used but you must have a copy. It does not matter what edition it is.
Big book Internet sites.
How it's setup:
The step information for the workshop will be sent twice each week (Once on Monday and then again on Thursday). I live in Pacific Standard Time zone, so, timing for me will be on that time zone. Each step will have the following main parts:
1. There will be a prayer to say at the beginning of each step.
2. Then there will be the information I have for the step
3. There will be questions for each step. Some parts of the assignments will be divided into two levels. One level will be for those who have never worked the steps or worked only part of the 12 steps. The second level will be for those who have worked all the 12 steps at least once and continue to work them on a regular basis.
4. The last part will be assessment questions that will help you gauge if you are ready to move onto the next step. Everyone is welcome to work at their own pace, but I only have a few weeks to present the steps. So, I'll have to move on presenting one step every week.
For any terminology, I'll also have a Terms and Definitions section before the study information begins.
Food may be mentioned freely in this workshop, because nowhere in the OA traditions or in the Big Book does it state that it shouldn't be mentioned.
If you have any questions, I'm happy to answer them. You can send them with the subject line, "Question for the Leader." That way I can spot them easier.
All the work in the assignments will be based on the Big Book. I'm happy to answer questions to the best of my ability. If I don't know the answer, I'll do my best to find an answer or a place you can go to get the information you need.
Most of the materials covered here come from my experience and several informational resources. Those sources are from the workshop Shlomo put on first quarter last year and an A.A. based web site Barefoot Back To The Basics ( http://www.barefootsworld.net/aabacktobasics.html) .
Terms and Definitions
Trigger Food: The food that triggers the allergic reaction described in the Big Book. Some of these foods are obvious and some are hard to find.
Compulsive Overeating: Eating more food than my body needs, either trigger foods or my list of clean foods.
Clean: Not eating my trigger foods at all. When we are in recovery we don't have to deal with our trigger foods at all. We don't eat them and we don't want to eat them, since God frees us from our obsession with triggers. This is what I call being CLEAN.
Food addiction: A biochemical disease similar to alcoholism. It is part of our genetic makeup. Alcoholics are not addicted to all drinking liquids, just to alcohol. Similarly food addicts are not addicted to all food substances just to some of them. Compulsive eating is compulsive behavior surrounding food.
An old timer: A person who has worked all the 12 steps at least once, is working all of them currently on a daily basis, and is clean and abstinent.
Newcomers: All the rest. This definition is of value since a newcomer finds it easier to put aside preconceived ideas and is more open to change.
Bottom: We reach bottom when we admit complete defeat in our innermost being. Here is complete defeat or bottom as it is described in Bill's Story:
"No words can tell the loneliness and despair I found in the bitter morass of self- pity. Quicksand stretched around me in all directions. I had met my match. I had been overwhelmed. Alcohol (food) was my master."
Surrender: Only when I admit and feel this bottom in my innermost being will I surrender. Surrender is what connects my defeat to the solution, and brings me from total hopelessness to hope. Surrender is stopping anything I do to solve my problem by my own willpower and turning to the Power that can solve it. It is putting myself in this Power's hands and following this Power's guidance and direction. The twelve step program is the plan of action that when implemented connects me to this Power.
Cement: We are all here because of two things, our common problem and our common solution. Those are the two parts of the cement that binds us together.
General Information on the Steps themselves
Before we begin the study, let's look at the steps themselves and how we will cover them. The steps in the beginning were 6 in total. You can find them on page 263 in the Big Book.
1. Complete Deflation (Step 1)
2. Dependence and Guidance from a Higher Power (Steps 3, 5, 6, 7, 11)
3. Moral Inventory (Step 4 - 10 as needed)
4. Confession (Steps 4,5,6, and 7 - 10 as needed)
5. Restitution (Steps 8 and 9 - 10 as needed)
6. Continued work with other alcoholics (Step 12)
The twelve steps evolved from the above steps. Notice that step ten follows steps 3-5. If we are diligent and continue to apply these steps (the evolved steps of 4-9) to our life problems, we are actually applying the program and principles in all our affairs.
Phases Of The Steps
We also have the twelve steps corresponding to phases that we lead our sponsees through. These phases help us understand when they are ready to move forward with the next step or set of steps.
1. Admission (Step 1)
2. Submission (Steps 2 and 3)
3. Confession (Steps 4, 5, 6, and 7)
4. Restitution (Steps 8 and 9)
5. Living the Steps (Step 10)
6. Construction and Maintenance (Steps 11 and 12)
Categories Of The Steps
Over the years we've evolved how we think about the steps into the following three categories:
Category one: The decision steps (1-3). Basically, we see that we have a problem that we cannot overcome and is impossible to live with. We see that there is a power that can handle this problem. We decide to let this power handle it.
Category two: The action parts of our decision are steps 4-9. This is a program of action. Without the actions that release the power of the God of Our Understanding, we are not letting that power handle our problem.
Category three: The maintenance part of our program. These are the steps that keep the God of Our Understanding in charge. This is necessary or we will find ourselves back in the miserable part of our disease. We can never be cured in the sense that there is a permanent fix that once done we never have to do anything again (like setting a broken bone and letting it heal). We must be diligent and protective of our connection to this Higher Power. This HP connection is the key. HP is doing for us what we couldn't do for ourselves.
I recommend saying this prayer each time you sit down to work on this step:
Set Aside Prayer:
God, Please help me set aside
Everything I think I know
About myself, my disease,
These steps, and especially You;
For an open mind
And a new experience
With myself, my disease,
These steps and especially You.
The first part of the steps is admission that there is a problem. That is a part of complete deflation. This phase is step 1. "We admitted we were powerless over food and our lives had become unmanageable." This is covered in the Big Book pages 1-43.
In this phase, we talk about what it was that led us to this state of utter misery and defeat. For me, I had to admit that food was the boss of me instead of the other way around. It's where I knew that I couldn't do this by myself. I wasn't strong enough to stay away from food. I thought of going to a deserted island or someplace devoid of food access to achieve food sobriety. I didn't have will power to leave certain foods alone but for a short period of time. I'd diet with the intention to go back and eat all those foods that made me have to diet in the first place. I couldn't wait to get the green light to start eating my favorite foods again.
When I quit smoking, I had no stoppers from food. I gained over a hundred pounds. I was defeated and had completely given up. I had to look at how food was affecting every part of my existence. My relationships were suffering. I was angry all the time and my self loathing was pushing away those I loved most. Yet I kept doing the same things expecting a different result. I'd diet and live in what I'd call food jail. I was miserable and spread that misery to those around me. Then I'd eat and at first I'd be giddy with happiness and glee. Then the guilt and shame would take over as the pounds I'd painfully removed would pack back on.
Controlling my life and those around me was something else that I was blind to before program. I was trying to make everyone bend to my will and that was making them as miserable as me. Why couldn't people just do or see things my way? I was angry all the time and focused a lot of my energy in getting people around me to do what I thought they should. This only fueled my justification for the foods I ate.
I couldn't live this way any longer. I needed a better way to live. I became desperate which made me willing to do anything to find a better way to live. I was ready for the next step.
For me, everyone's story that I've heard, I've been able to relate to. The behaviors of sneaking food, grabbing food out of the garbage, eating until sick, dieting, purging, and etc. can be unique but similar to my own. The pain, the self loathing, the despair is common in all the stories.
The Three Aspects of the Disease
Food addicts/compulsive eaters (call it whatever you want) suffer from a three fold disease which has a physical aspect, a mental aspect and a spiritual aspect. This disease is chronic, since it cannot be cured, it is progressive since it gets worse with time and it is fatal.
When I eat certain food substances, I react abnormally. The Big Book calls it an allergic reaction. This is best described in the "The Doctor's Opinion" found in the beginning of the Big Book after all the forwards.
My reaction manifests itself as cravings which are an insatiable desire for more. This desire is beyond my mental control. I can easily eat many servings of those particular foods that would make anyone else very ill should they eat those quantities. This reaction will cause me to binge (eat enormous quantities of food). Some of us also purge to get rid of the food and thus further complicate the situation. They are called Bulimics. Others go to the opposite extreme of starving themselves eventually to death. They are called Anorexics.
To treat the physical aspect of the disease is to not eat trigger foods at all even not a small bite no matter what. All of us with this disease have an abnormal reaction to food. And all of us suffer from the three aspects of the disease.
I can't stay clean (refrain from eating my trigger foods) because of the mental aspect of this disease. My physical addiction even when I am clean affects my mind. It affects my perception of reality in a twisted way. My thought process is not based on reality but on a deluded picture of reality. This means that I don't see the truth. So, when I interact with my environment I get different results from what I expect. This causes discontentment, restlessness, irritability, fears, and all kinds of negative feelings and actions. This triggers a thought process is called obsession.
Obsessive thoughts are thoughts that exclude all other thoughts even recovery. I may obsess on a lot of things as part of my disease but my most prevalent obsession is about food, especially trigger foods. Such obsessive thoughts are insane thoughts. Insanity is not seeing reality.
One common definition of insanity in this program is, "repeating the same act and expecting different results." Well, there is an even stronger insanity; knowing what the negative results will be and still doing it, like planning a binge in advance.
Where is my will power you may ask? Some say it is non-existent. I say it exists but it is turned by my obsession into a will to eat instead of a will not to eat. This creates the hopelessness of my position.
Once I start eating, I cannot stop because of the cravings. If I succeed in stopping for a time, I cannot stay stopped because of the obsession. If I could get rid of the obsession, this would it solve my problem. If I don't obsess about food I can quite easily decide not to eat my triggers and carry out my decision like any other normal person who has to limit the types of food he eats.
But there are professionals that deal with the mind. All kinds of psychologists and psychiatrists, and they cannot solve my obsession problem. Not for addicts of my type who have this three fold disease. The third aspect of my disease does not lend itself to psychiatric treatment. So let me discuss the third aspect.
In our context, the term Spiritual means a connection with a Higher Power who is incorporeal.
Let us see how the different aspects of the spiritual disease are explained in the Big Book.
"Restless irritable and discontented"
"We were having trouble with our personal relationships, we couldn't control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn't make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn't seem to be of real help to other people,"
"Selfishness-self centeredness! That we think is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self delusion self seeking, and self pity, we step on the toes of our fellows"
Here we see that our character defects are part of the spiritual disease.
"The alcoholic is an extreme example of self will run riot"
"Resentment is the 'number one ' offender it destroys more alcoholics than anything else, from it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have not been only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick"
The Big Book says that I have to be willing to be clean for life. This does not mean that I am able to do it but that I must be willing. The solution is not applicable without willingness. We apply the solution in the present, one day at a time, but the willingness should be for life. A lot of relapses occur as a result of holding on to the idea that maybe some day I will be able to control my eating and eat my trigger foods with impunity, or because I cannot see myself living my life without some of my trigger foods.
If I have a problem with this, the program suggests praying every day even many times a day to build up my willingness. For example, a prayer like the following would work. "Please God help me with my willingness to be clean."
The Big Book says very clearly
"When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically."
Pay attention to the right order of things here. The spiritual malady has to be overcome. When this happens the obsession is gone. This is one of the explicit promises of the program.
When the obsession is gone we can deal with the physical malady and stay clean quite easily without any fighting and clenched fists which cannot be effective for long (white knuckling it). This disease makes me powerless not only over food but also over my obsession and over my spiritual disease.
There is nothing I can do to recover under my own power. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. This is a position of complete and TOTAL DEFEAT. And once I internalize that defeat deep inside my being, then comes SURRENDER. Thus, I can turn to the one who has Power and act to make conscious contact so that this Power solves my problem.
We find this power in our program. This program's main object is to enable us to find a Power greater than ourselves who will solve our problem. Not find a power so that I will solve my problem, but find a Power that will solve the problem for me.
Relapse is a process that begins with neglecting the daily step work of steps 10-12 which are there to keep us in a fit spiritual condition and grow in understanding and effectiveness on a daily basis.
This neglect manifests in the bedevilments.
"We were having trouble with our personal relationships, we couldn't control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn't make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn't seem to be of real help to other people, "
Those are the things that most of us hear in meetings and read in shares.
When we have some of the bedevilments or even one of them in some area of our lives, we are in a state of UNTREATED ADDICTION. This is true even if we are clean and abstinent.
Phases of relapse:
1. Bedevilments become active in an area of our lives.
2. The state of untreated addiction (our bedevilments) will awaken our obsession.
3. Our obsession drives us to eat our trigger foods - we then binge.
The only answer the program has to offer to the bedevilments is to turn to God and work the steps on those issues.
Usually when there is talk of relapse in the fellowships, what is meant is only the third phase which is eating our triggers. This is dangerous since we then tend to direct our attention and actions outside, to the trigger foods. We forget that we are powerless over them, and can do nothing to stop eating them unless our obsession is removed by GOD. In this program we open ourselves to H.P and His Power by keeping or returning to a fit spiritual condition by working the 12 steps.
Not being clean is the third and final phase of relapse whereas not being abstinent is the first phase of relapse which has to do with our spiritual illness and is a sign of untreated addiction. We deal with it by working step seven
Why is this distinction about relapse so important? Because as an addict I go to extremes and when I break my abstinence I tend to think that I am a failure and no good and I despair of working the program. I say to myself, here I am working the steps and I fail again and again. So perhaps this program does not really work for me. And I retreat deeper into my disease. I have to treat overeating as a character defect like anger or fear. If I have them I don't say that the program is not working and I don't say that I am in relapse. I accept the fact that it is natural for them to appear from time to time and what the program does is give me the tools via the steps to deal with them. This is the attitude that should be taken towards my abstinence.
If we understand and define the concepts of abstinence and being clean in this way, then I am sure that a lot of addicts will be encouraged to work the program more diligently and reach recovery, instead of feeling that they are failures and the program does not work for them.
What the program asks of us is to be willing (not able) to stay clean and abstinent. We do all that is needed to recover. We have to take the actions which are working the steps and doing what is necessary to reframe from overeating our abstinent food. But the results of our actions are not in our hands. We don't have the power to choose to be abstinent. The only thing that I can choose to do is to take the action needed to connect to the only one who has the power that will free me from my obsession and allow me to be clean and abstinent, and it is not me.
Our powerlessness over our trigger foods is the result of the combination of the physical addiction and the mental obsession. I must have both to be powerless over my trigger foods. The unmanageability of my life is the result of the spiritual illness and is manifested in my character defects, my negative feelings, and my relations with myself, the world, and other people. The spiritual disease is with me when I eat my trigger foods and when I don't eat them. It is part of me as are the physical and mental parts. Only H.P. can remove the mental part.
I think that God takes away our obsession so that we can exercise our free will, not eat triggers, and turn to him with our work on the spiritual disease (the work is the 12 steps). Thus we remove what blocks us. So, we develop a conscious contact with God and can experience His presence. This is the way we progress and develop. If God did the work for us by taking away the spiritual and physical aspects of our addiction, we would be like manipulated puppet. There is no progress and no development in that.
Internalizing step one. The Big Book tells me that:
"We learned that we had to concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery"
So first I have to admit to my innermost self that I have the three fold disease of food addiction. Then I have to internalize step one by admitting my powerlessness and my unmanageability. Those are not just words. I have to feel them and feel the utter hopelessness of dealing with my disease on my own or with the help of other people. The Big Book writes that we have to internalize the following pertinent ideas:
(a) "..That we were alcoholics (food addicts) and could not manage our own lives.
(b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism (food addiction.)"
When we have really internalized that, we can turn to step two which gives us hope of recovery. Step one by itself only makes us realize our complete defeat and hopelessness of recovering from this disease by our own power.
When reading the Big Book, replace the word "alcohol" with the term trigger food and "alcoholic" with Compulsive Overeater. Please read the following chapters in the Big Book. The reading should help you answer all the following questions.
THE DOCTORS OPINION
THERE IS A SOLUTION
MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM
How It Works (till page 62)
1. Write down all the action direction sentences (they usually contain the words must, have to, or other appropriate verbs) that spoke to you personally and share them with us.
2. Food addiction is a three fold disease, physical, mental and spiritual. Write down concepts and sentences you encountered, that helped you understand each part of the disease and share them with us.
3. Write down the sentences that describe the different aspects of the disease and share them with us.
4. Write down the sentences that describe you and share them with us.
5. Write down your trigger foods. Are you sure that you have not missed any? Share with your sponsor and group if need be.
6. Do you think that at this point in time you can be clean? If you are clean, how do you manage that?
7. Answer the question: Am I willing to give up my trigger foods for life? (remember we are not asking you to be able to do it, only if you are willing)
8. In what areas of my life is the spiritual illness still active and how does it manifest itself.
9. Ask yourself: Am I really a food addict? Do I really have all three aspects of the disease?
10. Read the bedevilments on page 52. They describe the unmanageability of our lives which is the spiritual malady. Turn each sentence into a personal question in the PRESENT. Example: "We were having trouble with our personal relationships" Turns into: Am I currently having troubles with personal relationships? Examine the following areas, myself, family, friends, at work, authorities, etc... Check each area of your life and write were you still have troubles. Do the same for each of the bedevilments. Any bedevilment that currently applies to you is a sign of UNTREATED FOOD ADDICTION, since only overcoming the spiritual malady straightens us mentally and physically.
TO OLDTIMERS: Those bedevilments are your current connection to step one and if untreated will lead you straight into the obsession and relapse which physically manifests as eating trigger foods and bingeing. Discuss your current bedevilments with your sponsor. Decide on the course of action you are going to take and begin taking it. Share all this with us.
11. Are the following ideas clear to you and do you feel they describe you personally? Share with us
TO NEWCOMERS: Share what you have found with your sponsor and with us. Be aware that this is the spiritual part of the disease and as long as it is not overcome you will continue to relapse even if you are now clean and abstinent. Do you commit to go to any lengths in order to recover by working all the twelve steps? Write down your commitment give it to your sponsor and share with us.
(a) That you are a food addict and compulsive eater and can't manage your own life
12. What is the solution, why do we need it? What are the actions needed to begin applying this solution. What sentences make it clear that the solution is spiritual and not religious? 13. What, in your opinion, is the difference between belief in a Power greater than myself and faith in a Power greater than myself.
(b) That probably no human power (including your own) can relieve your addiction
Each step has simple assessment questions to answer. These questions are a gauge to let you know if you are ready to move to the next step.
There are two questions to ascertain readiness to move onto the next step.
1. Do you concede (or admit) to your innermost self that you are a COE?
There is another question associated with taking Step 1. On page 33 at the end of paragraph 1 it says:
"If we are planning to stop drinking (eating), there must be no reservation of any kind, nor any lurking notion that someday we will be immune to (or not affected by) alcohol (our trigger foods)."
So let me also ask each of you the second First Step question:
2. Do you have any reservations or lingering ideas that one day you will be UNAFFECTED by Compulsively Overeating?
Those of you who have answered "yes" to the first question and "no" to the second question have completed Step One or are ready to move to the next step.