Happy New Year! Hopefully you aren't in the process of making those silly resolutions, are you? No need this year. Just take the steps and watch what happens! The first one hundred men and women took the steps in about a day and a half and then went out to look for new drunks to help. That's what kept them sober. They were also sober before they took the steps. Don't worry, we're going to take a little longer than that to do our step study! ;o)
I'm Gerri, an abstinent food addict and will be chairing this step study for the next twelve weeks. You probably want to know a little about me. I came to OA because I was fat. I was also emotionally distraught and spiritually bankrupt but I didn't know that. I learned it as I took the steps. That was back in 1993. At 248 pounds, my solution was to quit weighing myself so I don't know my top weight. The longer I am in OA, this seems to be quite common. (I thought that I was terminally unique!) I did go up two more dress sizes to a tight 24.
When I got to OA, I declined to weigh myself until the 22's fit loosely and my then-god, Mr. Scale, said I was under 250. Whew! As you can see, even in early recovery I was powerless over food and my life was unmanageable. I'm not going to go into a big 'drunk-a-log'. As we go along, you'll get to know me. I'm totally in love with the person I am today. You would have liked the 'old me' about as much as I liked her which was not much. I was always trying to make myself look good by making YOU look bad. More about that when we get to steps six and seven!
Today I live life on life's terms and I don't use food as a drug. I am maintaining a 100 plus pound weight loss. I love my life! I sponsor a lot of people, and by doing that, take the steps over and over again. I also do a lot of service for OA. I am currently serving as the chairman of Region 8. That is the southeast region, including North Carolina and south, east of the Mississippi, South and Central America and the Caribbean Islands. Service keeps me abstinent. There have been times where I thought, "The heck with this", and considered driving to the first fast food place I could find and binge but good. Then, I'd see the faces of those I sponsor, of those I represent in Region 8, at World Service Business Conference and thank you God, I did not pull into the first fast food place I could find. Instead, I'd pick up the phone or send an email. So now I celebrate 5,344 days of abstinence, one day at a time.
I believe that the 'soulution' lies in the big book and the steps. For the most part, we'll use the big book for our study, although I reserve the right to switch over to the 12x12, both AA and OA. I am glad that we are here to help one another. So, are you ready?
The first three steps are about power.
Step one, we were power-less over food and our lives had become unmanageable.
Step two, came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step three, turned our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
So my theory is this. In step one, we see our powerlessness. Step two tells us that maybe there is something out there that is bigger than us and bigger than food that could restore our sanity. And then in step three, we see that if we turn our will and our lives over to a Power greater than ourselves and greater than food, we get our power back. Powerlessness doesn't mean helpless.
The dictionary describes it like this: Powerless -
1. unable to produce an effect: a disease againnst which modern medicine is virtually powerless.
1. unable to help oneself; weak or dependent: a helpless invalid.,
2. deprived of strength or power; powerless; incapacitated: They were helpless with laughter.
3. affording no help. That means to me if I am helpless, I might also be powerless. But I am not helpless if I am powerless.
You may want a fresh big book for this study. The first thing I'll ask you to do is read the forward to the first edition. It says, "We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book. For them, we hope these pages will prove so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary. We think this account of our experiences will help everyone to better understand the alcoholic. Many do not comprehend that the alcoholic is a very sick person. And besides, we are sure that our way of living has its advantages for all."
Wow, we can recover! It doesn't say recovering, but recovered! It says it, I believe it and I live my life recovered today. You can too. But it isn't easy. Simple but it's a lot of work to get and maintain abstinence. We're powerless but we're not helpless.
You might want to be clear on what your abstinence consists of before taking this step study. I am of the opinion that you need to be food sober before taking the steps. Whatever that means for you. This first week's study may clear this up a bit for you, exactly what your abstinence should look like, for you.
For your first assignment, I suggest that you read The Doctor's Opinion a few times. First time, cross out the word alcohol in your big book and write in food, junk food - whatever is meaningful to you. AAlso, what do you call yourself? Compulsive overeater, glutton, abstinent food addict? Whatever you are comfortable with, cross out alcoholic and write what you are in your big book. When you are done, go back a second time and highlight what you relate to. It's easy to compare but I invite you not to do that. Instead, try to relate with the new words. For your step work, write about how you are like what is described, or how you relate.
My references here will be from the fourth edition of the big book, so I hope you have the same edition. Pay special attention to this part on page xxx: "Then there are types entirely normal in every respect except in the effect alcohol has upon them. They are often able, intelligent, friendly people. All these, and many others, have one symptom in common: they cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving. This phenomenon, as we have suggested, may be the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity. It has never been, by any treatment with which we are familiar, permanently eradicated. The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence."
Okay, there it is! The ONLY relief they can suggest is entire abstinence! This is where the comparisons often start - I sometimes hear that old excuse, â"Well, it's easier for alcoholics because all they have to do is not drink. After all, we need to take the tiger out of the cage three times a day." Poppycock! Alcoholics sure do drink! They just don't drink alcohol! We can abstain just as easily as the alcoholic!
So I challenge you as part of your step work, to write and make a list of what foods might be like alcohol to you. I have a list, it's called my alcoholic foods list. I also have a list of alcoholic behaviors I avoid, like not eating fast, or in front of the TV. As part of your step work, add any 'alcoholic' behaviors to your list, in addition to alcoholic foods.
For the next 12 weeks, I invite you to take that suggestion. "The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence." Will you agree to abstain from your list of alcoholic foods? I remind you that the first 100 men and women were sober before taking the steps. Please write in your step work about what food sobriety will mean to you, how you will be food sober before taking the steps.
This first week there will be a lot of assignments for you, but the rest won't be so bad, I promise. There is a lot of reading and writing the first week as we explore the first three steps. Did you know that nearly half of the first 164 pages are dedicated to step twelve? It's that important. We'll be spending a lot of time on the maintenance steps, 10, 11 and 12.
Next, read Bill's story. As you did in the Doctor's Opinion, cross out the words alcohol and write in food, junk food, and food addict, COE, etc for alcoholic. When you go back to read it the second time, pay attention to how powerless Bill was and how his life was unmanageable. For me, when he talks about his talent for leadership on page one, boy do I relate! I imagined I'd also be head of some big company or even president of the United States! Ego, self importance, self centered and totally out of control where food was concerned. That was me. Can you see yourself in Bill's Story? Can you see your powerlessness and the unmanageability? Write about this in your step work.
There's a Solution is next. Do the same exercise with crossing out and highlighting. Now look for more of your own unmanageability but also picture the hope that there really might be a solution, like on page 27, where the doctor tells the patient this: " The doctor said: "You have the mind of a chronic alcoholic. I have never seen one single case recover, where that state of mind existed to the extent that it does in you." Our friend felt as though the gates of hell had closed on him with a clang. He said to the doctor, "Is there no exception?"
"Yes," replied the doctor, "there is. Exceptions to cases such as yours have been occurring since early times. Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them. In fact, I have been trying to produce some such emotional rearrangement within you. With many individuals the methods which I employed are successful, but I have never been successful with an alcoholic of your description."
Read on to where our religious convictions are not much good where the overeating is concerned. And here's the hope, on page 29, "Further on, clear-cut directions are given showing how we recovered." Wow, clear cut directions! And there's that word again - recovered. Do you see how maybe there is a Power out there that is greater than you, and certainly greater than food which might restore you to sanity? Write about that for your step work.
In the next chapter, More about Alcoholism, do the crossing out and highlighting exercise again. This chapter will really help you to see your powerlessness and how unmanageable your life is while in the food. I love the last paragraph on page 31, if you substitute buffet for barroom and eating for drinking, and indigestion for jitters. Wow, it's about ME! Is it about YOU too? Write about that in your step work.
On page 36, the insanity of putting a shot of whiskey into a glass of milk - how do YOU relate tto that? Did you do anything as crazy with food? I used to buy fat free muffins, and then add butter or cream cheese to them. Somehow in my food addict mind, the fat free negated the butter's fat, and I never thought about the high calories of the sugar and flour! I was gaining weight quite rapidly at that period of my life.
So, if you also relate, write about it in your step work. As another example, in April of 1987, I was a size 8. The next thing I remember is that October, laying on a bed, trying to get a zipper up on a size 16 pair of jeans. I was in a food fog that entire summer. One bite won't hurt? Powerless over food? Unmanageable life? You betcha! How do you relate to Fred on page 39? Can you stop overeating on the basis of self knowledge? Where'd that get YOU? Read on to page 41, and think of a time where you said, "One bite won't hurt." Did it lead to a binge? How are you like Fred? Write about all this in your step work, if you relate. If you are comparing, and thinking you aren't that bad, maybe you need to re-read the chapters so far. Or maybe you're not a real overeater like me.
On page 43 it says, "Once more: The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power." Do you see how insane your life had become while face first in food? Write about it in your step work.
Next, do the crossing out/highlighting exercise on the chapter, WE AGNOSTICS. On page 45, I read, "Lack of power, that was our dilemma. we had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power?"
That sure was my dilemma. I had a power greater than myself. It was FOOD! It had me beat! I was totally beaten by food. Read this chapter and see how this God-concept works for you. Do you have a power greater than you? Does your concept of God work for you? If it does, write about what your Higher Power is. If it doesn't, write a want ad for a God, describing exactly what you want and need from this Higher Power. What's his/her name?
If you have a childhood God that was fire and brimstone, would you like permission to fire that God? Well, you have it! This says that you can choose your own concept of God. Go back and read that part of Bill's Story on page 12, where Ebby asks Bill, "Why don't you choose your own conception of God?" You can do that too. As part of your step work, write down what this God looks like or if you don't have one, what you want in that God.
Are you powerless over food and has it made your life unmanageable? Do you have hope that you can be restored to sanity by a new power, one greater than you and greater than food? Is it a God you are prepared to turn your will and your life over to his/her care? Write about it in your step work.
Since the first falls on a Tuesday, I'm posting this prematurely. You'll actually get this and next week to work on the suggested reading and writing. The following week, we'll talk about what to do with that concept of God and getting your power back! I'm looking forward to working with you all! I leave you with this thought. If you are not abstinent right now, this may be your opportunity. Two nights ago, I lost another OA friend to the effects of morbid obesity. She died, all alone, of a heart attack. Over the last month, two other friends also died from side effects of morbid obesity. If I can help you at all with defining what abstinence could look like, please let me know.
When I started in OA, my first food plan was 3 meals a day and no sugar. Over time, it evolved, as I found more foods that belonged on my 'alcoholic food list.' And I don't feel deprived one bit. I love my life. It was a trade off for me, giving up abundance in my mouth, for abundance in my life. Abstinence is a beautiful state of mind. I experience it on three levels, physically, emotionally and spiritually. My hope for you is that you also can have this beautiful peace of mind, body and spirit for yourself. Together we can do what we could never do alone. Welcome to Overeaters Anonymous. Welcome home.