This is Isabella, compulsive overeater, food addict, and grateful to be part of this fellowship.
Let's do Step 10.
"Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it."
"The tenth step begins with the word 'continued', our first clue that perseverance is about to become a key aspect of our recovery program." (p. 84)
One of the reasons why a 12-step program works so well is very simple: it's a 24/7 program, a CONTINUOUS program. You don't stop once you've lost 20 pounds which is how most other programs work.
"Many of us have come to Overeaters Anonymous after years of pursuing short- term solutions to our long-term problem of compulsive eating." (p. 83)
I came to OA after 27 years of trying all kinds of different things. Diet, exercise, therapy, the list. They typically worked extremely well for a short time. Interestingly, the one that came the closest to really helping was a nutritionist who impressed it on me that I needed to make a lifelong commitment to eating differently on a daily basis.
What I needed, of course, was a lifelong commitment to LIVING differently.
I'm sure there are people out there who can just say one day, ok, I'm going to live differently from now on and then carry it out. I can't. I need to be reminded that with this program, I "have made a beginning on an entirely new way of life, one that is leading [me] out of the mire of compulsive eating onto the solid ground of sane eating and successful living." (p. 83)
Step 10 is the linchpin of this constant reminder.
Day-to-day perseverance is not one of my strong points. I mentioned before that it's very easy for me to live in "triage": "Is this an immediate threat? No? Ok, we'll deal with it later." That's probably part of my personality but also comes from growing up in chaos, in a family that was struggling with drugs, alcohol and poverty.
The steps as a whole, and particularly Step 10, give me a structure to learn perseverance. What I like about Step 10 is that it makes it all look so manageable (that's BECAUSE it is manageable). I can quickly feel overwhelmed but this step helps me make my life manageable. (What was that again in step 1? "... and our lives had become unmanageable")
"The purpose of step 10 is to remove from our path today's stumbling blocks." (p. 84)
TODAY's stumbling blocks. I don't have to deal with the "wreckage of the past" (which is getting smaller and smaller anyways, thanks to the previous steps), I don't have to worry about what's going to happen tomorrow just what's in front of me today.
So the question is, "What are my stumbling blocks TODAY to carrying out the will of my Higher Power, to being of service, to leading a healthy, serene life? And how can I deal with them right now?"
What works best for me is to do on-the-spot inventories throughout the day. It's really about being in constant contact with HP (we'll talk more about that next week, on step 11 for me, steps 10 and 11 are intrinsically connected).
On Saturday, I wasn't so great with the "constant contact". I had a small but pretty scary car accident. Fortunately, no-one got hurt, not even the car, but it could have been quite nasty. I lost complete control of the car on a very icy and busy road. I have to admit that at no point did I ask my Higher Power for help and I suspect that it would have been a very good idea because I did pretty much all of the things you're NOT supposed to do in such a situation.
So part of my inventory on Saturday was to reflect on my forgetting my Higher Power in a crucial moment, and to ask to be given the gift of remembering next time a situation like that comes around. I also thanked my Higher Power that we got away so easily!
Yesterday, one of my mental health challenges reared its ugly head. This time, I kept on looking at my path, looking at these stumbling blocks, asking my Higher Power to help me with this. I thought about calling someone from OA but just couldn't bring myself to do that. But I kept at least trying to be willing "What ELSE can I do?", and did the things that I COULD bring myself to do. Finally, we came up with something that did work. And wouldn't you know it, a short time after I got an OA call.
As you see, these stumbling blocks can be anything. Yes, perhaps the problem on the road was partly because of my lack of remembering my Higher Power, which might have resulted in less panic, which might have helped me regain power over the car more easily. Who knows. But definitely, my mental health challenges are not a result of my character defects. These stumbling blocks can be things out of left field that life hits you with once on a while something that the serenity prayer alludes to: things we cannot change. But what we CAN change, can always change with our Higher Power's guidance, is how we react to them.
"With practice, it becomes easy to recognize the exact nature of our problems and see what actions we need to take to restore our serenity." (p. 85)
For me, I wouldn't say that it's always easy - but it usually seems POSSIBLE. And I guess that's what perseverance is all about, too, isn't it? We don't just obsess over what's easy we commit to dealing with our stumbling blocks, whatever it takes. That's what this whole program is about! Don't you love how the essence of the whole program can be found in every step?
This brings us to
"There are several ways in which daily inventories may be done." (p. 86)
Aren't there just. Lots of ways. Find the one that works for you! One of the things that I love so much about program is that it really encourages us to tailor the program to what works for us. To paraphrase one of the traditions: "principles, not technicalities".
The principle of step 10 is perseverance. How can YOU persevere with program?
Pages 85 to 89 in the OA 12x12 give some examples; and there are more ways. Apart from the spot-check inventory I already mentioned, here are two things that have worked for me:
The AEIOUY system. There's a few variations on that; here's one. At the end of the day, ask yourself:
A Amends: any amends you need to make, either living or direct? E What Emotions came up for you today? I What did you do for "I" (yourself) today? O What did you do for Others today? U The most important "U" ("You") in your life your Higher Power. What was your connection like today? Y For "Yahoo!" (No, not the internet company). What can you celebrate today? What are you grateful for?
Another way I've done step 10 is to ask myself certain questions and then limit the answer to three. This is helpful when I'm in the grips of perfectionism because otherwise I could obsess over step 10.
Questions I would ask myself would be "What am I grateful for?" "Whose name do I want to put in the hands of my Higher Power?" "What didn't go so well today?" "What went well today?"
Sometimes I would also include questions that referred directly to a step 6/7 I was doing. Let's say I was dealing with the character defect of fearfulness in relationships. Then I might ask, "where was I fearless in relationships today?"
As I said, for me, step 10 is intricately connected with step 11, so I'll tell you about more of my ways of doing this next week.
Now let's spend a moment on the second half of step 10.
"After we have taken our daily inventory, we can follow through with the second half ... we can take the same actions with them that we did with the character traits we found in our fourth-step inventory." (p. 87)
I've already mentioned how step 10 can work with steps 6 and 7. And as I said before, "promptly admitted it when we were wrong" doesn't mean we have to beat our chest and scream mea culpa, mea culpa. It can be taken as meaning, in a larger sense, "promptly did whatever we could do to remove our stumbling blocks."
That could mean picking up the phone and calling someone to apologize for something you've done. It could mean getting in touch with your sponsor to discuss your reaction to something that baffled you that day. It could mean making amends to yourself by treating yourself to early bedtime, so that the stumbling block of "hungry, angry, lonely, tired" won't be repeated tomorrow.
And one thing that has been a wonderful source of strength for me comes out of step 10 in the Big Book. We do our inventory, we deal with our stumbling blocks and then "we resolutely turn to someone we can help." I can't tell you how often that has saved my you-know-what.
I particularly remember an instance last summer, when I was at my in-law's. My mother-in-law is a caterer. Need I say more? At her place, I was surrounded by food left, right and centre and I felt completely helpless in this sea of tasty morsels. Fortunately, we were sleeping at someone else's place. So one morning I sat down, thought about what was going on, journaled about it (= to remove the stumbling blocks) but I still felt pretty wobbly. So I sent a few emails to my sponsees. Afterwards my Higher Power gave me this idea that I didn't have to go over to my mother-in-law's right away, that I could try and stay away from those temptations until evening.
OK, people, thank you for sticking around so far.
In your experience, what's the difference between focusing only on your eating- related problems (overeating, undereating, purging, overexercising whatever is the case for you) on the one hand, and living a different, better life on the other?
Do you sometimes find it difficult to persevere? Is that in any way related to one of more of your character defects?
What are the things you like best about program? How can you use these things to help you have a good, sturdy, daily step-10 routine?
What is your experience with you and your Higher Power working in partnership to remove your stumbling blocks?
What can you do to "resolutely turn to" someone who needs help? What kind of service can you give, even in the smallest of ways?
What footwork will you do today? Which tools are you using?
What passages in the OA 12x12 are particularly meaningful to you?