My name is Lawrie Cherniack, and I'm a compulsive overeater.
This is is the final posting of a practical Step Study. It was 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 have referred 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.
I've really enjoyed doing this, and thank you all for the privilege of being able to spread the message of the Big Book in OA! I appreciate that my format has been rather business-like and that the directions flowed pretty thick. But I think the Big Book IS rather business-like in that it says, basically: "For us this is life or death; we take it seriously. If you want what we have, do what we did. Here's what we did." There's not much room there for shilly-shallying, is there? That's what I needed to hear after six or seven years going in and out of relapse. Take it seriously. Do the work honestly to the best of your ability. You'll recover.
So, the last set of directions, all built on the concept that once recovered, your job is to be of maximum helpfulness to others (page 102).
Where we are:
If you've followed the directions in this Step Study, you have achieved freedom from the bondage of food and are living in a spiritual world. You also know how to keep in this state: you keep cleaning house (Step Ten), you keep trusting God (Step Eleven), and you keep helping others (Step Twelve). Earlier posts have discussed what each one of those phrases means.
Last week's posting was about sponsoring. This posting, the last one, is about carrying the message as best as you can to compulsive eaters who still suffer.
Your responsibilities to the compulsive eater who still suffers:
- Keep recovered by maintaining your fit spiritual condition
- Reach a healthy body weight
- Make yourself available at any time to any compulsive eater who sincerely wants to stop eating compulsively and is willing to work the Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous
- Go to Overeaters Anonymous meetings to carry the message of recovery through the Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous
- If there are no meetings where you are, create meetings that have as their primary purpose to carry the message of recovery through the Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous
- Do your best to help make the Overeaters Anonymous meetings you go to have as their primary purpose to carry the message of recovery through the Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous
- Treat the Traditions as guidelines, not laws.
How to keep recovered by maintaining your fit spiritual condition:
At the risk of repetition:
How to reach a healthy body weight:
- Clean House (Step Ten)
- Trust God (Step Eleven)
- Help Others (Step Twelve)
- Put your food through your Step Ten Resentment list, and follow up through the rest of the Step Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine parts of Step Ten.
- Be honest!
- Get rid of foods you know you don't need.
- Get rid of eating behaviors that you know are causing quantity (too much or too little) issues.
- Remember your duty to the compulsive eater who still suffers.
How to make yourself available at any time to any compulsive eater who sincerely wants to stop eating compulsively and is willing to work the Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous:
- Remember that compulsive eaters are very sick, just as you once were.
- Remember that your recovery depends on carrying the message to the compulsive eater who still suffers, regardless of whether they work the Steps and recover.
- Remind the compulsive eater that you are not that person's friend, confidant, confessor, adviser; you are only a recovered compulsive eater, one bite away from a relapse, who has experience in doing the Twelve Steps and will do anything that you can to help that person work those Steps.
- Be honest with the compulsive eater. Honesty without compassion may be cruel, but compassion without honesty can kill; if you shower a person with love without pushing the only thing you know that will help that person overcome compulsive eating, then you assist that person to continue to be sick.
- Be prepared to be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to help the person; but be prepared to be honest and direct with that person and offer ONLY your experience to help that person through the Steps.
- Explain to the person that while he or she is working through the Steps, he or she can phone you at 4:00 a.m. if the food begins to beckon, SO LONG as the phonecall is BEFORE the first compulsive bitebut if the person has started to eat, let the person phone you in the morning.
- Explain further that if he or she phones you before the first compulsive bite, you will do ANYTHING you can, including meeting with him or her, to help him or her weather the storm.
Go to Overeaters Anonymous meetings to carry the message of recovery through the Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous
Here is where you will find people to sponsor and to help you carry the message. Here is where you will find fulfillment!
Now that you have recovered, you go to meetings to FIND people to help; this is how you get help from the meetings.
You don't go to meetings to get answers to your problems: you'll find the answers to your problems by cleaning house (your inventory of repeating Steps Four through Nine in Step Ten). You don't go to meetings to get comfort for yourself: you'll find comfort by trusting in your higher power (your daily prayers and meditations in Step Eleven). You don't go to meetings to meet with other people who have recovered: meet them at times that are convenient to you both and that don't interfere with the duty you owe to the compulsive eater who still suffers.
Meetings are places where people who are still suffering come for help. They need your help. Tradition Five tells us that the primary purpose of every OA group is to carry the message of recovery to the compulsive eater who still suffers. So that's what the meeting is there for. And therefore that's what you're there for. The meetings are for helping others who still suffer.
If there are no meetings where you are, create meetings that have as their primary purpose to carry the message of recovery through the Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous
Find people who are interested in what you have to offer. Go to doctors, religious leaders, dietitians and nutritionists, hospitals where there are people who are suffering from obesity-related problems. Set up a meeting where convenient. All around you people are dying from compulsive eating. Help them! Help them! You can help them where no one else can.
Make certain that your meetings have the following necessary characteristics:
- They emphasize recovery through the Twelve Steps.
This is essential. In some way, shape, or form, they should illustrate progression through the Steps. You could be reading OA or AA literature in which the steps are described (the OA 12 & 12, the AA 12 & 12), or instructions are given for doing the Steps (the Big Book).
Avoid setting up meetings whose format does not emphasize the Steps. Meetings based on the Tools, based on Lifeline, based on Just for Today, are formless meetings if they don't also deal with the Steps. They may be interesting, but if they don't emphasize the Steps they distort our program, which is based on the Steps.
OA stands for the proposition that the Twelve Steps bring recovery from compulsive eating. It doesn't stand for any other proposition. It's not a support group, although it provides support. It's not a coffee-klatsch, although people can talk and drink coffee. It's not a therapy group, although people get better from going to OA.
It is simply a collection of compulsive eaters, some of whom have recovered and some of whom are in the process of recovering, and some of whom want desperately to know how to recovery and to be guided in that direction.
- They make certain that the newcomer is connected to the meeting.
This may mean dedicating part or all of a meeting to which a newcomer has come to telling our story. It may mean making certain that there is someone to meet with the newcomer after the meeting. It may mean contacting the newcomer between meetings.
The newcomer, as well as any compulsive eater who hasn't recovered, must be the primary focus of your meeting. That's what Tradition Five is all about.
- Some of the people who attend are trying to recover through the Twelve Steps or have recovered through the Twelve Steps.
No one in the meeting may have recovered, but people can still help each other through the Steps. If you read the instructions in this Step Study, you'll see clearly that you don't NEED a recovered person to follow the directions in the Big Book. Clearly that's why the Big Book was writtento give directions to a person who didn't have anyone from AA to help him or her. Although a sponsor is extremely helpful, a sponsor is not necessary to work the Steps. If that had been true, AA could not have grown. When the Big Book was published, there were only approximately 100 AAers, in New York, Akron, and Cleveland. The Big Book carried the directions so well that AA prospered in parts of the world where there had been no AA before.
- It is a meeting filled with hope.
Recovery is just around the corner! That recovery may exist in some of the members. It may notthe meeting may just be starting, and people may not yet have completed the Steps. But there are people who treat the illness of the mind and body with deadly seriousness, who know that if they don't recover they will die a lingering and debilitating death, and who knowor at least have some faiththat recovery from that illness is possible with the Twelve Steps.
Do your best to help make the Overeaters Anonymous meetings you go to have as their primary purpose to carry the message of recovery through the Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous.
You may be going to a meeting which has problems. You may feel that some members are disruptive, or are giving OA a bad name. You may feel that the meeting itself is losing newcomers because it is simply a support group without a sense of hope of recovery.
Do a Step Ten on the meeting, using the methods you learned in Steps Four through Nine. Start off with the Resentment Form and put down in column 1 everything that bothers you about the meeting, including the names of individual members, the meeting itself, the actions that bother you, your concern for the newcomers, etc. Work through those resentments and then the fears and you will gain clear direction for what you have to do. It may be that you can ask for a business meeting and find the right words to discuss your concerns. It may be that you have to create a new meeting. Who knows? You will know once you do a Step Ten on the issues.
Even if you're going to a meeting which you generally like, the meeting should continually re-evaluate itself to make certain that it is carrying the message as well as it can. If we as individuals have to continue to clean house, so should a meeting! So encourage your meeting to evaluate itself on a regular basis.
Treat the Traditions as guidelines, not laws.
OA doesn't have one, but many people (and I've been among them) have conducted themselves as if they were members of the Traditions Police Force. Traditions are in fact guidelines, hammered out through experience, but they are not laws which you can break. Don't be too quick to condemn an idea or a practice because you, in your infinite wisdom, know that it's a "violation" of a tradition. It may not be.
Consider whether this idea or practice is able to carry the message to the compulsive eater who still suffers. That's the real key. If mistakes are made, the group can change them. Just don't pounce! Do a Step Ten on the issue. Think hard before you accuse others of breaking or violating a tradition.
No one is God in our program. On the other hand, together as a group trying to figure out in utter humility what is best for the person who still suffers, our group conscience represents the best approximation of our higher power we can find.
This concludes this Step Study. I hope it's been of some value to some of you, and that it hasn't proved to be too daunting. Go at your own pace, keep abstinent, work the Steps, and you will recover.
If your group or intergroup is ever interested in having a weekend Big Book Study, I'd be happy to do one. Just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for the opportunity for doing this!