this is Isabella. Iím still a compulsive overeater and food addict. And very grateful to carry the message.
This is the last step ≠ step 12:
**** Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to compulsive overeaters and to practice these principles in all our affairs. ****
Let me start with the very last paragraph in steps section of the OA 12x12:
"Those of us who live this program donít simply carry the message, we ARE the message. Each day that we love well, we ARE well, and embody the joy of recovery which attracts others who want what weíve found in OA. Weíre always happy to share our secret: the twelve steps of Overeaters Anonymous, which empower each of us to live well and be well, one day at a time." p 106
One beautiful summer evening in 2002, I asked my good friend N., "So tell me again ≠ WHAT is this OA stuff all about?". She disappeared into her bedroom, came out with her old OA 12X12, sat down beside me, put her arm around my shoulder and said, "Ok, sweetie, thatís how it works ..." That night I became abstinent, and a week later I was at my first face-to-face meeting.
N. cannot carry the message anymore. She died a year later ≠ despite her sudden cancer, a most beautiful and serene death. In her death, she WAS so much the message. One of the last things she said to me was how happy she was that she had showed me the way to OA. So now I guess I donít just carry my message, I carry hers, too. Well, I guess we all carry each othersí message, donít we?
Here is my first journal entry about OA:
"Went to my first OA meeting yesterday. Was reading the literature this morning and realized that when the food cravings get hold of me and in those cravings, it is the same weirdness that I know from the sexual abuse stuff. Screwing around with my brain: "Oh, look, this is not how it is, THIS is how it is! Can't you see? Come here, I'll show you. Who told you that silly idea that a palm tree doesn't belong on the North Pole, hmmmm? And of course it's okay if I touch you here. And here. I know. Believe me. Have a candy." It's the same evil weirdness that goes on the prowl for yet another yummy morsel. And let's commit this to paper at least, if not to another person: I feel embarrassed, I feel cut off, I feel mind altered when I do that."
Now letís read on page 100: "If we should again crave more food than we need, we know we will find relief in the steps instead of in compulsive eating."
5 Ĺ years later, my eating does not make me feel embarrassed, cut off or mind altered anymore. Yes: what a relief!
And here is where the relief comes from: "The central factor in this spiritual awakening has been our decision to trust a Higher Power with every aspect of our lives." p. 99
The fact that steps 1, 2 and 3 are always with me ≠ that is a true spiritual awakening. Of course, there is much, much more to be done, but I am 100% convinced that the gifts of my Higher Powers are always there for me. I am awake to that. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I thank N., who brought me to program to begin with, I thank you ≠ the fellowship ≠ for saying "keep coming back" (and mean it!), and I thank my Higher Power for making it abundantly clear that God is always with me.
This is THE result of these steps. One of my sponsors always points that out: the spiritual awakening is not "a" result of these steps. Itís THE result. Itís what this is all about. Itís not about losing weight or stopping the purge. Itís not about a handful of chocolate chips or a bowlful of mashed potatoes. Itís about the spiritual awakening. Everything, everything, everything flows from there. And as long as I remember this, that EVERYTHING comes from Source, Iím good.
Now about "we tried to carry this message". On page 103, it says "God finds many ways to help people through us as long as we are willing to do what we can, when we can, and keep ourselves on the path of spiritual progress."
I already shared with you about service and particularly about sponsorship in step 10. Carrying the message happens in many and often surprising ways. For example, one way I remind myself to read literature is to have it all over the place in my house. I have a little reading basket in my washroom, and thereís always at least one Lifeline there. It is through this bathroom reading that a friend of mine found his way back to OA after many years of absence.
We carry the message with the tools of sponsorship, meeting, the telephone and anonymity. We carry the message by volunteering as greeters at our meetings, and every time we share. We carry the message by participating in OAís larger structure. Have you gone to OAís web site lately? Here is a page on service: http://www.oa.org/service_opportunities.html.
Carrying the message is about releasing ourselves from the bondage of self. Itís about going beyond our selves and seeing Higher Powerís big picture, and if weíve grown really comfortable and maybe a bit complacent in our meetings, it may be time to stretch ourselves and see if we can give service on the intergroup, Region or OA Worldwide level.
I have recently started helping out with events for our region. Talk about stretching! One of the unexpected gifts was that through working on this collaborative project, we were able to assist a member overcome a longstanding fear of speaking in public. So you never know.
Service, then, is as tiny as leaving an OA pamphlet in a public space and as big as being an OA trustee. It doesnít matter. "We canít keep it if we donít give it away". Letís just keep our spirits awake and continue looking for ways to give away our gift of recovery.
"And practice these principles in all our affairs." These are the principles:
Step 1: honesty
Step 2: hope
Step 3: faith
Step 4: courage
Step 5: integrity
Step 6: willingness
Step 7: humility
Step 8: self-discipline
Step 9: love
Step 10: perseverance
Step 11: spiritual awareness
Step 12: service.
These are spiritual principles. They are attitudes that we cultivate through the steps, and if we have made just a tiny bit of progress in living these principles, we have had a spiritual awakening.
Iíd like to close this step study with reflecting on that. Let me start by sharing the ways in which Iíve grown through spending the last 12 weeks with you.
Doing this step study was an exercise in humility and faith, willingness and service. Mostly humility. I kept thinking things like, "I hope they donít think Iím anything special!" and "what if I forget a really important aspect of a step?" ≠ and then I just plodded on. It was a bit like taking the key to a meeting: just as that brings a person to a meeting, it brought me to the steps. It was my way of doing the steps this year (I do a step study at least once a year).
I doubt I would have engaged in such an exercise without being "forced" by the service promise I had made. Not that I didnít enjoy it, donít get me wrong. But at times it felt like I had bitten off a bigger piece of responsibility than I could swallow. (Interesting metaphor, huh?) I think one of the things I learned was that sticking my neck out like this is nothing special because itís not about me.
Stopping to use sugar involved many of these principles but the ones that stand out for me are faith that I could do it, and willingness and courage to carry it out, one day at a time.
I think faith and willingness are the two things I most take away from this. For one thing, I have a clearer understanding now how faith and willingness are connected. Without faith, willingness is self-will.
So ... thatís my spiritual awakening.
And now letís open the floor to you. To ALL of you. I know some of you havenít finished the steps yet, have given up, or have decided to work on them later. However, If youíve done at least one or two of the steps here, youíve learned something. So please, letís end this by everyone chiming in and simply answering two questions.
Before we do that, I want to thank everyone for giving me the opportunity to be of service here. I had played with the idea of doing this for quite a while, and now I did it and itís done! Thank you, thank you, thank you, and thank you for my abstinence.
May you all have an abstinent and peaceful holiday season and a joyous, Higher Power filled New Year!
And here are the questions:
How can you carry the message, even in the smallest way?
Which ones of the twelve principles have opened themselves up to you even just a little bit more? How have they helped awaken your spirit?
And here are a few more questions, mostly meant for those whoíve done all the steps:
What passages of this step in the OA 12x12 speak to you?
Are you doing service? If so, tell us about it.
When you look back at your decision to trust your Higher Power with every aspect of your life ≠ how has your life changed since then?