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.

Where we are:

We have cleaned house through Steps Four through Nine. We know now to continue to clean house through Step Ten, repeating Steps Four through Nine whenever necessary.

We should now be living in a spiritual world. We should be sane. Our killer/binge foods, our eating behaviors­all those things that cause us uncontrollable cravings if we indulge in them­no longer beckon to us. We don't want to indulge in them. We recoil from them as from a hot flame.

Our attitude to life has been changed. We have seen how our wish to have life go our way, for whatever the motives, has harmed other people and has blocked us from the spiritual path. We have been ready to make amends to those people we have harmed, and have made amends when we could.

For the moment, life is now acceptable. That doesn't sound ecstatic, does it. For us, however, that means we are living in a spiritual world. To be able to accept life as it is has been an amazing journey for us. It has made us sane.

We have to keep our ability to accept life on its terms; that is what Steps Four through Nine, and Step Ten, are for the most part all about. We have learned to let go of our attitudes and to accept.

Accepting life on its terms, however, is not enough. We have to go further. To live in this world means not only to accept life as it is, but also to act within the world.

Having cleaned house, we know that if we are to act within this world and maintain our sanity, we must act according to our highest values without the need to have life go our way. Can we find a way to let go in our actions?

This is what Step Eleven is all about: How to live each day according to our highest values. This will mean learning not to think, learning to act on intuition, learning to trust that once we have been able to accept life on life's terms, once we have learned how to live according to our highest values, we can trust that the actions we take are the right actions (or, for the more skeptical of you, are among the right actions) that we can take.

Simple instructions:

Go to www.oabigbook.info and download the Step Eleven Form. Print it. Read it. Follow the instructions.

More detailed instructions:

There are three parts to Step Eleven­the evening mediation, the morning prayer and meditation, and the daily prayers and mediations when needed. Each has its own specific focus, but they all have the purpose of clearing our minds of wanting life to go our way, and of giving us guidance for how to act better.

As we go through these prayers and meditations, we will find three constant threads:

  • Letting go is better than trying to be in charge
  • Trusting our intuition works better than trying to think things through in agonizing detail
  • Keeping our sights not on our needs but on the needs of others works
Let's examine the instructions for each part.

Evening Prayer and Meditation:

(If you're on a night or evening shift, then this might be a morning meditation!)

Review the day just passed to see how you can do better tomorrow.

Using the same concepts as found in Step Four, look to see whether this day just passed found you resentful, selfish, dishonest, or frightened. Many of us do this in bed just before we go to sleep. We do it in our heads, reviewing the day. I will often do it in chronological order, simply thinking about what happened as the day progressed, looking for times when I was resentful, selfish, dishonest, or afraid.

  • While I was driving, did I resent the person who honked at me?
  • While I was in the store, did I try to get into the check-out line faster than some person with fewer items?
  • Did I shade the truth talking to someone about another person?
  • Did I experience moments of fear?
If I find I owe someone an apology, or any kind of amend, I resolve to make it as soon as I can. I know that if I don't I'll go back to eating.

If I find that what I've done during the day requires the kind of sharing that I did in Step Five, then I do that as soon as I can.

I review my day as well from these points of view:
  • Was I kind and loving toward all?
  • What could I have done better?
  • Was I thinking of myself most of the time?
  • Or was I thinking of what I could do for others, what I could pack into the stream of life?
These are the things I look for as I examine the day that just passed.

I am mindful, though, that I am not doing this to beat myself up. I may have had a crummy day. I may have been resentful, selfish, dishonest, fearful. I now know, however, how to deal with any harm I may have had­I can make amends for that. So I don't beat myself up.

No, my purpose in reviewing my day is to see what I can do better the next day. I am not going to drift into bad feelings about myself, because that would make it harder, not easier, for me to helpful tomorrow.

So I see what I could have done better.

Then I ask God's forgiveness and ask what I can do to correct any harms I have done (for atheists and agnostics, you can say something like: "May I live according to my higher values and make up for any shortcomings I may have exhibited today.").

Then I go to sleep! It's easier to go to sleep, because I've got rid of the things that might have been bothering me throughout the day.

Parenthetical Note: Does the evening prayer and meditation differ from Step Ten?

A lot of people think of the Step Eleven Evening Prayer and Meditation as being a Step Ten. I don't see it that way.

The Step Eleven Evening work deals with the one day just passed, with the intent being to improve our actions in the day to follow. The intent of Step Ten is to clean house entirely since the last time I did it.

Step Eleven deals with one day. Step Ten takes into account all the days that have passed since my last Step Nine or Step Ten, and allows me to look at an overview of that time, rather than simply this past day. When my mother was quite ill, I did daily Step Eleven evening work to make certain that I was acting as well as I could toward her and my father; but only Step Tens could allow me to get the overview of how her illness was affecting me, my family, and my father. So I see a real difference there.

Further, Step Eleven evening work does not require me to talk to another person (Step Five), as Step Ten does.

On the other hand, I know people who do a daily Step Ten, pulling out their papers and calling up their sponsors. They are very spiritual people, so I have found that the distinction I make isn't all that important.

Morning Prayer and Meditation:

Wake up. Think about your day ahead. Say, "God, please direct my thinking. I especially ask that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest, or self-seeking motives." (For atheists and agnostics, reword this if necessary to: "I ask that my thinking be directed to my highest values, and that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest, or self-seeking motives.)

Now consider your plans for the day. Think them through.

If you face any indecision, say, "God, please give me an inspiration, an intuitive thought, or a decision." (Atheists and agnostics: "I ask that through my highest values I get inspiration, an intuitive thought, a decision.") Relax. Take it easy. Whatever inspiration, intuitive thought, or decision, comes into your mind will probably be the right one. In your early days, you might consider that carefully, but you will learn to trust it. Just go with the flow.

Now say: "God, I ask that I be shown all through the day what my next step is to be, that I be given whatever I need to take of such problems. I ask especially for freedom from self-will." (Atheists and agnostics: just delete "God" and, if necessary, substitute "My highest values".)

If you're planning to do something that will benefit others, you can also ask that you do a good job in order to help others.

If you belong to an organization that requires you to say certain morning prayers, say them also. If you don't, it can't hurt saying prayers that are meaningful to you. I personally love the Step Three and Step Seven prayers from the Big Book, and the St. Francis prayer from Step Eleven of the AA 12 & 12 ("God, make me an instrument of your peace . . .").

Daily As-Needed Prayers:

If you are agitated or doubtful, pause. Say one or more of the following: "I ask for the right thought or action." "I am no longer running the show." "Thy will be done." (Atheists and agnostics, if necessary: "The fulfillment of my highest values be done.") Say them over and over again until you find yourself less agitated or doubtful. Pause for inspiration, an intuitive thought, or a decision.

Concluding remarks:

Those of us who have recovered in OA and use these prayers­no matter whether we're deeply devout or complete atheists­have found that they work. They serve to relax us, to allow us to trust in our intuition, to act without the crazy self-analysis and self-doubt that used to accompany us like a mosquito smelling blood. Now that we know we can live without being selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, and frightened, we are learning that we can act without having selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, or fear-based, motives. We can think of others, not of ourselves.

The more we think of others, the more sane we are, the more protected we are from the foods and eating behaviors that used to beckon to us. The more we relax, the less we feel as if we should be in charge, the more power and direction we get into our lives.

Next week we begin Step Twelve, the most fulfilling step of all!

  • Are you saying your evening prayers and doing your evening meditations?
  • Are you saying your morning prayers and doing your morning meditations?
  • In the morning, have you faced indecision? If so, have you asked for an inspiration, an intuitive thought, a decision? If so, have you had an inspiration, an intuitive thought, a decision? If so, did you reap benefit from that?
  • Have you been agitated or doubtful during the day? If so, have you paused and said one or more of the three prayers set out above? If so, did you reap benefit from that?
See you next week!


Your Step Study Leader

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