I'm your WTS Step Study leader this quarter and also a compulsive overeater.

This is a practical Step Study. It is designed to use what I've been taught are the directions from the Big Book to recover from compulsive eating, and to maintain that recovery on a one-day-at-a-time basis for the rest of your life.

Don't forget to go to www.oabigbook.info to download (for free, of course) some forms and documents I'll be referring to in this Step Study, as well as a book I've written, based on a 2005 Step Study I did for WTS, which provides the theoretical background for this 2008 Step Study.

If you're offended by anything I write, please don't be critical until you have read the book I've written to see where I'm coming from. In this Step Study I am deliberately getting to the nub
and not trying to justify and explain everything I'm saying.

First, have you been abstinent?

Have you been abstinent throughout your Steps Five, Sis, and Seven? If you haven't, I respectfully suggest that you go back to the Step Four Resentment Form and fill out more resentments, as I suggested last week, and then go through Steps Four, Five, Six, and Seven, on issues relating to abstinence. The Big Book talks about rigorous honesty. Can you honestly-I mean honestly-say that not being abstinence has allowed you to be rigorously honest with your Steps Four and Five?

Have you left something out? For instance, do you have a plan of eating that has eliminated the foods, food ingredients, and eating behaviors, that cause you cravings? Did you commit to that plan of eating? If so, have you been dishonest to yourself about either whether that plan of eating really has eliminated those things, or whether you really committed yourself? For instance, when you had a binge, or ate something that wasn't on your plan of eating, what was going on in your mind? And did you put that down on your resentment form? Did you deal with that in your fear forms.

And so on.

Enough said about this. Let's go on.

Where we are:

We have completed seven Steps.

Step One: Over the course of the last number of weeks, we have developed a plan of eating that eliminates the foods, food ingredients, and eating behaviors that cause uncontrollable cravings.

Step Two: We have developed a hope, even a faint hope, that if we follow the directions of the Twelve Steps we might/will become sane and thus not want to go back to those foods, food ingredients, and eating behaviors, by unblocking the barriers between us and our highest values.

Step Three: We have decided to do the Twelve Steps, and have realized that what stands in our way is our frustration that life hasn't been, isn't, and won't be, going our way.

Step Four: We have identified our four character defects of Selfishness (wanting life to go our way, regardless of the motives), Dishonesty (not telling the truth to others, to ourselves, or when the truth should be told), Self-Seeking (looking at how things affect us), and Fear; and that we have developed guidelines, based on our fears and difficult relationships (Sex Conduct ones), to see how we could act properly without those character defects.

Step Five: We have shared our four character defects with another human being and meditated upon them, and felt a sense of community, received feedback, and felt relief, hope, and delight.

Steps Six and Seven: We have decided and have asked that our character defects be removed from us.

Now we're ready to have our character defects removed from us. This requires tremendous action on our part!

Instructions for Steps Eight and Nine:

Download the Steps Eight and Nine form from www.oabigbook.info. Or use a blank paper divided into four columns, the first and fourth one smaller than the middle two. Make lots of copies of these forms, because you'll be using them again.

The first column lists those we've harmed; the second column lists the harm we've done; the third column lists the amends we should make for the harm that we've done; the fourth deals with whether we can make those amends without harming the individual or others (but not ourselves).

Fill out the form column by column. We have to be ready to make ALL amends, even though we may realize that we can't make SOME amends because making a particular amend might injure the person we're trying to make an amend to, or might injure others. So we mustn't censor ourselves. The third column, where we figure out the kind of amend we have to make, has to be fearlessly and honestly written.

First column:

In the first column on the paper, write down a list of all persons you have harmed by being selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, or frightened. Take it from your Step Four forms. This will include all the people or institutions you've resented, feared, and/or listed in your sex conduct form.

But wait a minute! Do I mean that you should be listing even the persons who have harmed you or others, without provocation?

Yes, I do. Just, for the moment, put them on the list. We'll talk in our discussion on the second column about how you may have harmed them even if they did harm to you or to others without provocation. You'll find that the amends you might make to them are empowering--you'll no longer be a victim!

Remember that we're just making a list right now, so don't hesitate.

Second column:

How did you harm each of the persons and institutions in the first column?

For some, this will be easy to fill out. You may have harmed them by stealing from them, lying to them, cheating on them, hurting their reputation.

For others where there is a mix of motives, it may be much more subtle. You may not have told the truth to them. You may have allowed them to become sicker and sicker. You may have allowed them to have control over you in so many different ways-perhaps even literally, but often through a loss of self-esteem, or an anger that boiled up and was directed to other people, or self-pity that prevented you from having a deep relationship with someone who deserved a deep relationship.

For those where clearly they have harmed you or others without any provocation whatsoever, at the very very least you have hurt them by allowing them, or the memory of them, to have power over you. In that respect, and perhaps only in that respect, you have hurt them. (The harm that I did Hitler, for example, was letting my anger and frustration and fear paralyze my ability to do whatever I could and can do to prevent someone like him from gaining power again.)

You may also have hurt those same people by not telling the truth to others (like the police, other members of the family, the community, the employher) when the truth should have been told. You may have hurt them by allowing them to continue to hurt you or others (remember that we agreed that when people do harm to others, they also do harm to themselves by becoming less and less able to become what is the best of being human). You may also have hurt others because of the power they have had over you, and you should list other people whom you may have harmed because of your inability to give up the power those who did you harm have over you.

Try to figure out what harm you have done to all the people on your list. It may be subtle, like "I did nothing, I stood by" or it may be obvious, like "I stole, I lied", but put down whatever you can think of. If you leave a blank, don't worry about it. You'll be sharing this for guidance with another person who has experience-probably the person you did Step Five with.

Third column:

What amend(s) can you make to undo the harm that you've done?

Remember, right now we're making a list. We may never have to make the amends we're putting down in the third column, because making those amends may cause more harm than good. But we have to list them right now. We have to know what kind of amend we can make for the harm we have done.

There are (1) direct amends, (2) living amends, and (3) amends we can't make for practical reasons.

1. Direct amends:

There are three different kinds of direct amends, each corresponding to the kind of harm done.

A. Eyeball-to-eyeball apology: In all cases: "I am different from the person who did that thing to you, and so long as I work the Twelve Steps, I believe that I will continue to be a different person. I am sorry for what I have done, and if there is anything I can do to make up for it, I am ready to do it."


  • I am sorry I cheated on you.
  • I am sorry I stole from you.
  • I am sorry that I allowed you to continue to hurt me, and thus hurt yourself.
  • I am sorry that I allowed you to continue to have power over me, and thus hurt yourself.
  • I am sorry that I gossiped about you.
  • I am sorry that I have tried to manipulate you in order to change you.
  • I am sorry that I expected you to be someone different from who you are.
  • I am sorry I did not understand that our relationship was sick.
  • I am sorry I hated you.

B. Restitution: In all cases: "I am different from the person who did that thing, and so long as I work the Twelve Steps, I believe that I will continue to be a different person. I am ready to take responsibility and to make restitution for the harm that I did in the past."

  • Here is the replacement for what I took/destroyed.
  • Here is money to pay for the damage I caused.
  • I will work off what I owe you.
  • I will send you payments on a regular basis.

C. Public Responsibility: In all cases: "I am different from the person who did that thing, and so long as I work the Twelve Steps, I believe that I will continue to be a different person. I am ready to take public responsibility for the harm that I have done and to make up for that harm in a public way.

  • I have damaged your reputation, and an apology to you isn't sufficient. I will find a way of restoring your reputation.
  • I will no longer gossip about you and when others gossip about you, I will correct them.
  • I have breached society's laws, and must give myself up to the legal system.
  • I must take the legal and societal consequences for being careless and causing damage.

2. Living amends:

For those we live and work and socialize with, the direct amends above, while helpful, are not sufficient. We must live a different life in relation to those people. We must plan a way of living that focuses on them and not on us. We have to make up for years of living in ourselves with our frustrations and our wish to have things go our way.

  • Treat your family with tolerance, patience, compassion, and love.
  • Treat your work with tolerance, patience, compassion, and love.
  • Treat your fellow workers with tolerance, patience, compassion, and love.
  • Don't think of yourself.
  • Help others.
  • Accept others.
  • Look for the best in others.

3. Amends we can't make for practical reasons:

We may not know where to reach that person. The person may be out of town. The person may be dead.

For amends we can't make for practical reasons, we can still list the amends and try to do something about it. We can try hard to find that person. If the person's out of town, we can write a letter. If the person is dead, we can have an imaginary conversation with that person, or write the person a letter anyway. We can still think of the amends we would make if we could.

  • We can do something in that person's honor or memory.
  • We can make a donation.
  • We can try to help that person's reputation.
  • We can make certain that what that person did to us or to others won't happen again.
  • We can use our own victory over the pain we feel to help others.

So we write down all of these possible amends in the third column.

Fourth column:

Can we make that amend without harming the person we want to make amends to or without harming other persons, other than ourselves?

We have to put ourselves completely out of the picture. We have to be ready to make the amend, even if it hurt us-hurt us deeply. We have to because if we don't we will go back to eating, and if we go back to eating, we die. This is serious business!

On the other hand, we can't hurt the people we're making amends to. And we can't harm other people in order to make amends to people we've harmed. That would just create more harms.

So look carefully at each amend and think about whether the amend (or amends-there may be a few amends you have to make for each person or institution) you would make would injure the person you have harmed, or would injure any other persons.

Perhaps making the amend to the person you've harmed would reawaken a hurt that's best forgotten. Perhaps making the amend to the person would harm that person more. For instance, telling the person something deceitful you did that he or she doesn't know about might create further harm.

The Big Book discusses the example of whether you tell a spouse that you have committed adultery if he or she doesn't know about. Clearly you must stop the adultery, but would it not create more harm if you confessed to something he or she didn't know? Or would you tell a person, "Gee, I'm sorry I didn't tell you you needed a psychiatrist 20 years so that you wouldn't end up as messed up as you are right now?" Probably you wouldn't; think of what little good that would do, and how much hurt that might cause. Our OA 12 & 12 uses the example of "Hi Mom, I just phoned to tell you that I've hated you for 20 years, but I love you now." Not something you might want to do.

Confessing to a crime, or paying a huge debt immediately, might cause harm to a business partner, or to your current family if you are a breadwinner. You have to discuss these issues with your family.

Suddenly catapulting yourself into a person's life after many years may be harmful.

For those amends where the amend itself may cause some harm (telling the truth about something you've hidden for a long time), remember that harm is relative. Wouldn't you break a child's arm if that were the only way to prevent him or her from jumping off a cliff? To tell the police about a child molester may do the molester some harm, but may prevent that molester from doing more harm to him- or herself in the future.

Now, talk it over with someone who understands!

I respectfully suggest that you now take the sheets you've filled out and discuss them with someone who understands. It may very well be (it usually is for me) the person you did Step Five with. It may be a trusted friend, a counselor, a therapist, a spiritual leader. Get some feedback on the second, third, and fourth columns:
  • Have you correctly identified in column two the harm you've done to the person or institution you've listed in column one?
  • Have you correctly identified the possible amends you could make in column three to make right the harm you did to that person or institution?
  • Have you correctly determined in column four whether you would do harm to other people or to the person you have harmed in making any of the possible amends you could make to that person or institution you've harmed? Are you finding excuses to get out of making the amend(s), or would you really do harm? And if you would really would do harm, are there alternatives you could think of?
  • For instance, it certainly might harm a person to discover that you've gossiped about her, but a real amend you could make to her would be not to gossip about her anymore, to discourage others to gossip about her, and to try to undo any damage to her reputation you may have created.

Now, make the amends you've decided you can make.

Go out and make the amends you can make! Don't hesitate. Search out the people and do what's right.

If you are making a direct amend, don't speak of the other person's faults. Speak only of your own and what you are trying to do to change. You can explain that it is a matter of life-and-death with you to make this amend. You are there to sweep off your side of the street.

Remind yourself that you have decided to go to any lengths to have a spiritual experience. You can say this prayer: "Please give me the strength and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the personal consequences." Be sensible, tactful, considerate and humble without being servile or scraping.

Note that it doesn't matter at all what the other person does-whether he or she embraces you or kicks you out the door. What's important is that you've been honest and that your motives are clear and good.

My experience is that if your motives are clear and good, what you say and how you say it will be intuitively right. Trust in the process! Millions of people have done it and have felt incredible afterward.

If you hesitate to make some of the amends:

If, and only if, you hesitate to make some of the amends, then do this.

If you're using the Steps Eight and Nine form, fill in the last three columns.

If you're using a blank sheet of paper, make four columns. The first column is for listing the amends you can make. The second column is headed, Will Do Immediately; the second is headed, Will Do Sometime; the third is headed, Will Never Do. Put a checkmark (tick) in the appropriate column for each of the amends you can make.

Do the amends listed under Will Do Immediately.

Once you do those amends, look at the list again. You will now find that those amends you put into the Will Do Sometime column are now amends you can put into the Will Do Immediately column; and those amends you put into the Will Never Do column are now amends you can put into the Will Do Sometime column.

Now do the amends listed under Will Do Immediately.

Once you do those amends, look at the list again. You will now find that those amends you put into the Will Do Sometime column (that used to be in the Will Never Do column) are now in the Will Do Immediately column.

How Do You Feel?

The Big Book has plenty of promises for how you should be feeling. Use these as a checklist.

Halfway through your amends, you should be feeling what are known as The Promises, found on pages 83 and 84 of the Big Book:

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us - sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

Once you have completed your amends, you should be feeling what are known as The Hidden Promises, found on pages 84 and 85 of the Big Book (as adapted):

And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even our binge foods. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in our binge foods. If tempted, we recoil from them as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward our binge foods has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality-safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is our experience.

All of these promises show that you have become a new person-a person who has identified his/her major character defects of selfishness, dishonesty, self-seeking, and fear, and who no longer wants to live like that. Your character defects will be removed from you. You will be reborn!

If you do not feel all of these promises, go back to Step Four. You will have some more resentments and some more fears to write down, and then go on to Steps Five, Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine. You will feel those promises! Guaranteed!


You can't let up. Yes, you'll be reborn, but life keeps going on and your different reaction to life needs a lot of practice. Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve, keep us on the spiritual path.

  • Have you been abstinent? If you haven't been, have you examined whether you left something out in Steps Four or Five? And if you did, did you go back to those steps to deal with those things? Can you keep abstinent during this process?
  • Did you make your list of persons and institutions you've harmed?
  • Did you write down beside each of those persons and institutions the exact harm you did?
  • Did you write beside each harm that you did the amend you can make?
  • Did you examine each amend to see whether making that amend would injure the person you intend to make amends to, or would injure other persons?
  • If making a particular amend would injure anyone other than yourself, have you considered what other kinds of amends you could make that wouldn't cause such injuries?
  • Have you gone over your list with someone who understands in order to make certain that you haven't been too hard on yourself or too easy on yourself, that you're clear about what you have to do and what you can't do?
  • Have you made your amends?
  • How do you feel?

See you next week!


Your Step Leader

Week Eight

Week Ten

WTS Home
The Twelve Steps
Recovery Home

© Copyright 2008 THE RECOVERY GROUP All rights reserved