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.
For many people this day (Monday, September 1, 2008) is a holiday -- Labor Day (or Labour Day for those in the Commonwealth). Well, there's much more labor ahead. We can't rest on our laurels. We have to take more action.
Take these instructions at your pace:
I appreciate that these instructions have been detailed and require you (at least in Steps Four and Nine) to do a lot of work. I note that fewer people are responding to the postings. I assume that means that people are taking longer to complete certain steps.
There's nothing inherently wrong about that, of course. Some people take longer, and some take shorter, to get through Step Nine. You're not competing with anyone.
You are, however, in a race-not against yourself, but against your mental obsession. If you have been abstinent and haven't completed Step Nine, then your mind is trying to think up ways to get you back to eating the foods and indulging in the eating behaviors that cause you uncontrollable cravings. Since Step Nine eliminates that mental obsession, you are in a race to complete Step Nine before the mental obsession overcomes you.
One of the main reasons I like the Big Book approach to doing the Steps is that it is fast, and therefore there's less opportunity for the mental obsession to return before it is eliminated after Step Nine.
Have you been abstinent?
Have you been abstinent throughout your Steps Five, Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine? 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, Eight, and Nine on issues relating to abstinence.
The Big Book talks about rigorous honesty. Can you honestly-I mean honestly-say that not being abstinent has allowed you to be rigorously honest with your Steps Four and Five, and then with the remaining steps? What kind of honest amends could you make if you weren't being honest about your food?
See what I wrote under Steps Eight and Nine for more details.
Where we are:
If you're halfway through Step Nine, you're feeling pretty light and relieved. The promises have come true, the mental obsession has been lifted, you're free of the food compulsion.
If you're not feeling this way, then you're not halfway through Step Nine. Or-if you think you are at least halfway-then you probably have more to do in Steps Four through Eight than you think you do.
I have never seen the promises in the Big Book fail. Overeaters Anonymous stands for the proposition that the Twelve Steps work. If they're not working for you, and you are one of us, then you're not working the steps the right way. That means, at least from the point of view of the Big Book, either that you haven't been abstinent, and/or that you've left something out of your Steps Four through Nine.
Assuming, however, the mental obsession has been lifted, you are probably flying pretty high.
Now comes the warning, and forgive the capital letters:
THE MENTAL OBSESSION WILL RETURN UNLESS YOU CONTINUE TO CLEAN HOUSE, TRUST GOD, AND HELP OTHERS! That's the way Dr. Bob is reputed to have put it. (For atheists and agnostics, substitute "Live According to Your Highest Values" for "Trust God", if you need to.)
Step Ten is Continuing to Clean House; Step Eleven is Trusting God; Step Twelve is Helping Others.
Today we'll discuss Step Ten.
Just a brief personal note. I relapsed in a yo-yo style for six or seven years in this program. When I was taught to read the Big Book as a set of instructions, I finally realized the mistakes I had made that kept me yo-yo-ing.
One of them was that I wouldn't accept the concept of the allergy of the body-that certain foods and eating behaviors gave me uncontrollable cravings, and that I had to eliminate them from my plan of eating. Whenever I lost the weight, I'd take back some foods "in moderation"; and gradually it became immoderate rather than moderate.
The other was much more significant in the long run. My problem was that I read Step Ten as it exists in the summary form: "Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it." So when I did something wrong, I apologized. I didn't deal with why I did something wrong-I simply apologized. Things would build up in me and I'd explode. So I'd apologize.
When I began to study the Big Book as a set of instructions, I was taught that Step Ten is Steps Four through Nine whenever my house needs to be cleaned-that taking personal inventory is the process described by Steps Four through Nine. Once I followed those instructions, I never went back to compulsive eating, and I've been abstinent for over 15 years now.
So here are the simple instructions for Step Ten-first, when you do Step Ten; second, how you do Step Ten.
When do you do Step Ten?
The simple answer is that you do Step Ten whenever it's time to clean house. That might mean every day, or it might mean once a year. It depends very much on how you are reacting to life -- not necessarily what's going on in your life.
I use twelve indicators-for some reason the number 12 rings a bell with me!-the first three taken from The Doctor's Opinion in the Big Book, and the fourth through eleventh from the Bedevilments from page 52 of the Big Book.
I do Step Ten whenever any ONE of these is true!
- Am I restless?
- Am I irritable?
- Am I discontented?
- Am I having trouble with personal relationships?
- Can I control my emotional nature?
- Am I prey to misery and depression?
- Am I finding that I can't make a living?
- Do I have a feeling of uselessness?
- Am I full of fear?
- Am I unhappy?
- Do I feel as if I can't be of real help to other people?
- Is food becoming an issue in any way (sloppy, weight gain, or curiosity or interest in foods or eating behaviors eliminated from my plan of eating)?
(I also have a thirteenth personal one: Do my wife, my kids, or my sponsees, think I have to do a Step Ten?)
That means that I have done Step Tens sometimes every few days - when I'm going through some difficult things, like illnesses in the family, crises at work, or when I'm just plain bored-and sometimes six to eight months apart-when life is going well and I'm feeling particularly fulfilled.
I know people who do Step Ten every day. I don't, but those people are more spiritual than I. (I practice what I call a "good-enough" program.)
But the one thing I know is that doing Step Ten whenever I need to has kept me sane for over fifteen years.
Step Ten is different from the evening meditation. I'll discuss that more next week when I discuss Step Eleven. Step Ten deals with EVERYTHING that's going on in your life, while Step Eleven deals with TODAY.
How to do Step Ten:
The short version is: Read the instructions I've provided for Steps Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine.
The long version is: All the instructions I've provided for Steps Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine.
The medium-size version is:
Take out your Step Four Resentment Form (or a blank piece of paper) and write out all your resentments. Remember that resentments include everything, absolutely everything, that's on your mind that you wish weren't on your mind, that you wish weren't true, that bothers you.
You already did this in Step Four, and dealt with them in Step Nine but that was some time ago. You recovered. Things were great. But things have happened since then. Life has gone on. Maybe changes in you haven't sparked changes in others, and you resent that. New challenges have presented themselves to you. Some things are bothering you-otherwise you wouldn't be restless, irritable, or discontented, or feel the food becoming more interesting, or feel the bedevilments. Something may remind you of things you hadn't thought of when you originally set out your resentments. You may have choices to make that you didn't have before. Write out EVERYTHING that bothers you as a resentment. This includes statements like "I'm restless" or "The program isn't as exciting for me right now" or "Food is beginning to beckon to me".
Then complete the process.
Write down why those things bother you (column two). Then write down how those things affect you (column three). If some of the people on your list have done harm to you or others, say the resentment prayer for them (" ________ is a sick person. God grant me the same tolerance, pity, and patience, I would cheerfully grant a sick friend.") Then fold the paper over, eliminating columns two and three, and figure out where you've been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, and frightened.
Then, on the Step Four Fear Form, write out the fears that have arisen from the resentment form and any other fears you have (column one). Write down why you have those fears (column two). Ask yourself whether you relief on your finite self or on your highest values (column three). Ask yourself whether relying on your finite self worked (column four)? Say the fear prayer ("God, please remove my fear of _________, and direct my attention to what you would have me be.") (column five). Write out what your highest values would have you be (column six).
If you have sex conduct issues, fill out the Step Four Sex Conduct Form. List whom you've hurt (column one). Write where you've been selfish, dishonest, and inconsiderate to that person (column two). Check where you've aroused jealousy, bitterness, or suspicion (column three). Write down what you should have done instead (column four). Check whether the relationship has been selfish (column five). Say the Sex Prayer and the Sex Meditation (columns six and seven).
Do a Step Five with another person. Review what you've done afterward.
NOTE: Check whether you're delighted, you can look the world in the eyes, you can be at perfect peace and ease, and whether your fears have fallen from you. You may find that you felt this way right after the Step Four part, and that Step Five didn't do much for you. Don't worry about it. Those are the promises of Step Five, not of Step Ten. That's been my experience and the experience of many others. Very often once we've completed the Step Four part, we've just said "Oh, okay-THAT's what's been bugging me." And we have felt completely lifted. But we STILL do Steps Five through Nine; we STILL have to give it away, say the Step Seven prayer, and write down and do the amends we have to make.
Steps Six and Seven:
Ask yourself whether you're ready to have your defects of character removed from you. Since the answer will be yes, say the Step Seven prayer.
Steps Eight and Nine:
Fill out the Steps Eight and Nine form. Write down whom you've hurt (column one). Write down what harm you've done (column two). Write down what possible amends you could make (column three). Write down whether making those amends might injure that person or others (not yourself) (column four). See whether you can make some kind of amend without injuring that person or others.
Then do the amend(s) that you must do!
NOTE: Your amends will probably be mostly living amends.
It's really simple. I'm not going to complicate the instructions by giving any more details. It's just a repeat of Steps Four through Nine in the context of your having already recovered. You're not doing Steps Four through Nine. You're doing Step Ten: you're CONTINUING to do your inventory! If you do this carefully, you will NOT relapse.
You can use Step Tens to make major life decisions, to check out your plan of eating, to deal with particular people who bother you. My sponsees know that if they call me with a problem, I will not give them solutions; I will say, "Do a Step Ten on this problem." I have always found Step Ten gives me the answers to my problems, the right choices for my dilemmas, the right attitudes for my crises.
- Have you been abstinent? If not, have you figured out what you can do to remain abstinent while working Steps Four through Nine?
- Have you felt liberated from the food obsession? If not, have you gone back to Steps Four through Nine to figure what you left out?
- Have you been feeling any of the twelve indicators listed above? If so, have you done a Step Ten (Steps Four through Nine in the context of recovery)?
Next week, Step Eleven, learning to trust in our highest values.
See you next week!
Your Step Leader