STEP ONE FIRST SHARE - Introduction
Hello, I am Dawn B, and I will be your step study coordinator for January to March 2009. I was honoured to be asked to do this study and despite a few set backs in 2008 I am happily still coming back and putting my program first.
Ok, a bit about me... I've been in OA for 4 years come March 2009 and in 12 step fellowships since July of 2004. I came to fellowship via the internet so consider it an important and vital tool to my recovery. When I came into OA I was about 350ish pounds. I was gaining fast as I was binging on a diet I had been on for 2 years. At my heaviest I was 398 pounds. I had sleep apnea; my hips, knees, and ankles would constantly be in pain. I could hardly walk 100 yards without being out of breath. I could not fit into normal clothes, airplane seats, or booths at restaurants. I didn't wear make-up, do my hair, wore clothes that were either all black and baggy or so outlandish I stood out for a mile. I was a virtual recluse with only one friend who I had taken hostage, and a separated husband who had thrown me out for another addiction. I hated me and everyone else.
A sponsor suggested OA 6 months after I got sober in another program. I kicked and screamed. I was a dieting professional! I had lost probably over 750 pounds (and gained it all back) in the course of my life "Those people can't help me. I can do it all in one program." Well, it didn't work. I finally made it to my first OA meeting and sat there angry with a Diet Coke in one hand and dressed from head to toe in black. I sat there and identified and cried. I heard what I needed to hear to keep coming back and I did — week after week, month after month, year after year.
My journey has been a slow one. I have not "gotten" abstinence perfectly. I am a very stubborn person and it took a lot of work and meetings to get me to give up each and every trigger food, behaviour or coping mechanism that was keeping me binging, over-excercising or occasionally starving. Through the program of OA I have discovered my problem is a spiritual, emotional, and physical one. If I don't have a connection with my Higher Power and my addiction is running the show then I suffer grave emotional problems which manifest as the physical malady of binging and weight gain.
I have - through working the steps, surrendering to a Higher Power, being as honest as possible (denial is a strong coping mechanism for me), having a sponsor, a food plan, exercising, using the phone, attending meetings, writing, reading, doing service and being abstinent - released about 175 pounds. I have moved from a UK size 34 to a UK size 16/18 in 3.5 years.
I can now walk, dance, fly, scuba dive, run, skip, swing, laugh and play without fear of being too big. I have a Higher Power who loves me. I have many friends who I love dearly, and I am continually working to release more of the emotional and spiritual malady which keeps me overweight. I am blessed to be alive today thanks to OA, and I look forward to walking with you in the next 3 months as your step coordinator.
Walking with you!
Abstinence: 3 meals a day nothing in between, no weighing, regular exercise
Results: over 175 pounds release by my HP, friends, self esteem, Happy Joyous and Free
STEP ONE SECOND SHARE - Instructions
Please find enclosed Step One. I want to start this week with the serenity prayer. First and foremost, because I am so grateful to be able to lead this step study. Second, because I am in all your heads this morning thinking I am not going to be good enough, and that is a terrible place to be in. Saying this prayer helps to centre me and makes me realise it's God's will not my own that is helping me to do this service! And finally, because I am blown away by the honesty and love I saw in all the introductions this week. You are all precious children of God, and I am blessed to know you.
God Grant me the Serenity
To Accept the things I cannot Change
The courage to Change the things I can
and the Wisdom to know the difference.
Finally an admin reminder of what you will need to work this study:
Books (would be really helpful for you)
1. 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Overeater Anonymous
2. Big Book of AA. You can view this free online at http://www.aa.org/bigbookonline/
Optional (you don't need these as I quote directly from them)
1. The 12 Step Workbook of Overeaters Anonymous
2. Various OA Pamphlets - What if I don't believe in God? Dignity of Choice, A Plan of Eating (There will be a few more here and there!)
1. Face to face or online meeting helped me to share the feelings that the step work brought up.
1. A Step Sponsor is strongly suggested by TRG for working this study. I also find my own invaluable for sharing. My head is a dangerous place to be alone and being accountable to another OA helps me to stay on track.
1. Write down your feelings, thoughts, step work etc in a journal you will be amazed what comes up for you and what you can share with your sponsor.
I will send the Step out each Monday and the same information out on the Thursday. You just answer the step questions and do the reading assignments as they come. The most important thing is to be gentle with yourself and do what you can. I know for me the temptation to get it perfect often keeps me from doing anything at all. Even if you only do some of the Step you will find healing.
Walking with you,
WEEK ONE - STEP ONE
"We admitted we were powerless over food —
that our lives had become unmanageable."
I will never forget reading those words when I came into my first OA meeting. It was a small meeting and whenever a newcomer would join the meeting would read Step 1 and share about how they came into OA. I came into the rooms an angry, overweight, jealous, vengeful and broken young woman. But I came that was my gift to myself. I remember sitting in the room, after arriving late and raging at the traffic, and hearing a woman who was 50 years my senior sharing my story. I remember clutching for dear life onto my bottle of Diet Coke while listening to people share. I was dressed in black from head to toe; a testament to how much shame and oppression I had forced upon myself. I remember the tears as I listened and the pain when I realised I was truly powerless.
Breaking down this step into its bare bones was important for me to really understand it. I don't know it perfectly and each set of steps I learn even more about my process.
We - no, I am not making a joke; it actually starts with that simple word. WE. That word says to me that this is not an I program. I didn't create it. It also says to me that there are others who can help me with this path. I can express joy, no glee, in knowing that I am not alone. There are other men and women who have binged till they could not walk, eaten out of the garbage, over exercised until they hurt themselves, thought about throwing up so they could eat a bit more(I never had the guts to be bulimic I liked the food too much ), went on hundreds of diets and pleaded with God to let them eat but help them to be thin. I knew by that simple word that I have a choice to pick up the phone before that first compulsive bite and make it a We program, not a Me program.
Admitted we were powerless – At 400 pounds this bit of Step 1 was a joke to me when I came in. Powerless you had got to be kidding me? I was all powerful. No man would mess with me. I was successful, wealthy, dressed well, had loads of material possessions and was afraid of no one or nothing. Except being fat. You see I had used weight and eating as a false power. I had eaten my way up to 400 pounds to prove to the world you could be fat and do all those wonderful things.
So where was I really? I was lonely. I could not walk more than 50 yards without being out of breathe. I had almost no friends. I had no self esteem. I hardly wore make-up and never did my hair. I wore designer clothes with holes and stains. I hated my reflection in the mirror, shop windows, bodies of water etc. I pulled at lose hanging skin or rolls of fat and swore life would be perfect if I were thin. I was, in a word, miserable.
So what was I powerless over? Food.
Food – What did they, those two blokes who wrote the steps mean, powerless over "insert substance/activity/person here"? What food was I powerless over? Well that took a while to figure out. Working this part of the step took me a long time. In the beginning of my work in OA I thought most people are powerless over sugar so I will cut that out. So I stopped eating sugar and felt a bit better. But I was still powerless over food. Again that word powerless. I better explain, in graphic ugly detail, how powerless. I ate anything. From burgers to boogers you name it it was in my mouth. I chewed pens and pencils. I ate between meals, at meals, after meals and before meals. I binged on sugar, salt, caffeine, fruit and portion sizes. I would diet for a month and then binge for 6. I was a professional liar to myself and to others about my clothing sizes. I would look in the mirror and see a person who was a size 14 when I was a size 34. I had severe body dysmorphia. If it looked like food or I thought it did I would eat it and loads of it. I would drive home from work and stop at the grocery store and get blocks of cheese and eat them and then come home and have a full meal with my husband. My weekends were ritualised into eating and weighing myself. Now for any normal person the above would seem slightly weird. I now had a word for it. Powerless.
And our lives had become unmanageable -
My life wasn't unmanageable – I was successful, rich, etc etc etc. Erm... no, let's just tell you how unmanageable my life was. I had alienated my entire family. I never sent Christmas cards, never called, never wrote and to top it all off I had moved 5000 miles away (geographical cure) to escape my family. I had lost countless jobs through acting out in my other, accessory, addictions. I would sleep with men in order to make me feel better. (later I discovered it was actually to make me feel rejection and abandonment, but at the time I thought it was to make myself feel better) I only went after guys who were smaller than I was so I could control them or who liked fat women because I needed that "other" esteem. That behaviour had almost cost me my life and had cost me my marriage. I had only one friend who I had taken hostage and no one else. I had an unkempt body – I hardly did my hair, never cared enough to iron my clothes and hardly wore make-up unless it was to pick up men. I was financially irresponsible being more than £14,000 ($25,000) in debt by the time I left (was kicked out by) my husband. At the end of my sexual acting out 6 months before I came into OA, I had my first anorexic experience not eating for days and drinking and drugging myself into oblivion. At that time I was homeless and living in my car and work provided hotels. I was holding onto my job, my sanity and my life with my fingernails. So I thought perhaps unmanageable did apply to me after all?
Taking this step was an eye opening experience for me. It took bravery and courage. The gift of Step One is that I can always take it. Today I am powerless over dried fruit. I need to realise it's a trigger food for me and share it in my meeting. It makes my life unmanageable because when I eat it I eat too much of it and spend the next day feeling fat. In the next step we will talk about what I do next and who I go to to help me with this powerlessness and un-manageability.
Do you remember when you were in school and you had to get stuff ready when you needed to do an assignment? I was always crap at reading the instructions at the top of the activity but I'd like you to consider the following to assist you working this step:
• Select a home group (this can be on-line, on email, in person etc.) and attend meetings regularly and share about your step work and your feelings.
• Get some numbers, email addresses of people you can speak to and share with.
• Get a journal and write down your feelings around this step. I am a great procrastinator and tend to put things off. Journaling helps me.
• Think about asking someone to be your sponsor if you don't have one. A sponsor is like a kind older brother or sister. They are a bit further down the road and they have what you want.
• Work with that sponsor on what comes of this step work. They are a great source of inspiration, clarification and support.
Now if you are like me you are probably going to skip to the step questions and haven't even read that bit. That's ok too!
So for this week I'd like you to read the OA 12 and 12 Chapter 1 pages 1-7 and think about the following:
• Why are the 12 Step programs a we program?
• How can the power of we help me?
• Give 20 examples of food which caused you to be powerless (sugar, rituals like weighing, portions, quantity, caffeine, salt, savoury food, eating while driving, eating while standing up, all you can eat buffets and seconds, thirds etc, lying, hiding food, hiding wrappers, burnt, rotten, frozen food)
• Give 10 examples of how you have tried to control your weight (dieting, starving, weight loss surgery, over exercising, purging, self harm).
• Give 10 examples of how your life was unmanageable (at work, at home, in the community, with your family, in your spiritual life, with your friends, lovers, etc.)
Re-read the above and share these with your OA home group (whether on line or in real life), this step group, and a trusted friend or sponsor. Ask how their un-manageability came up for them and share your own fear around this step. It's hard to admit we are powerless when we have always used food, or lack of food as a way to control ourselves and our lives.
• Now you have done this are you willing to admit you are powerless over food and your life is unmanageable?
If not, that's ok! Keep reading, writing, and sharing. I took a long time to get to the admission of powerlessness. It's about progress, not perfection, and that means keep trying. If you come back week after week and hear what you need to hear, then the truth will filter through.
Here's a few questions from the OA Workbook which helped me:
• Write a history of your compulsive overeating. When did it start? What behaviours can you remember that weren't normal?
• How have I used excess food to escape life's problems?
• What has or had it been like living with me?
I leave you with this. You are amazing you have made it this far!
• I would like you to give 5 examples of how beautiful you are this week. (when I did this I managed one)
Share it with the same people. Working the steps is not about beating ourselves up but about allowing ourselves to share the stuff that makes us feel shame, and release that so that we can live normal lives.
Walking with you!
The Twelve Steps
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