STEP ONE

We admitted we were powerless over food —
that our lives had become unmanageable.





ESSAY

Get a sponsor. St Benedict wrote, “He who makes himself his own spiritual director makes himself scholar to a fool.” The same could be said of anyone who attempts to work the Steps without a sponsor. Ours is a disease of isolation, and to recover, we need to break the isolation. Nothing does this better than a sponsor.

If you are obese, and getting larger, if you are starving yourself, throwing up or overexercising, or whatever, and nothing seems to help, then maybe you are powerless over food. That is the first part of this step.

The other part is that our lives had become unmanageable. To put it simply, we have become addicts, and therefore have acquired addictive personalities. The problem with the addictive personality is that it likes to think it is in control of things – often everything! – when, in fact, it can hardly control anything.

If we write an autobiography of just our more recent years in the food, we will note that we have tried many ways to correct our situation, and all have failed, some disastrously.

Compulsive eaters will lie, cheat, dig out garbage to eat, hide what they are doing from others, as though that made it all right, and so on. The last year I was in my addiction, 1992-93, I ate out a lot, and I charged. At the end of the year, the charges to restaurants were about $10,000. This was not business, just “pleasure,” and while I was accompanied often by wife or other family, I knew I had done the bulk of the damage. And a lot of the damage was to our finances. I had a reasonable income for the time, but $10,000 is a lot of money. And that doesn’t even begin to tally what I spent in the grocery store! I think I was definitely out of control. And powerless, it seemed, to do anything about it. I was in financial ruins.

My health seemed to be heading to ruin, an early death probable. Furthermore, I was at a point where I was about to accept that as my destiny, and believe that there was nothing that I could do about it. I had all the bad signs, blood pressure, blood sugar, blood lipids, cholesterol, etc. I was so fat it hurt to walk, and I could get out of breath crossing the street. Sad.

Then someone told me about OA, and urged me to go. It took me a few weeks to get up my nerve, but as soon as I did, I knew I was in the right place. I had come home. There was hope.

What was the result of that visit and the following years of Step work? Let me list a few things:

  1. I have come to be a deeply spiritual person, which wasn’t true before, and thus a serene person. My family turns to me in a crisis, not because I manage crises so well (I never did, although I believed otherwise), but because I am calm and serene, and often can see what the real problem is.
  2. I’m over 100 pounds lighter, and I get around pretty well for an old fellow.
  3. I am an old fellow. I didn’t die, but guess what – all those dangerous readings are now entirely normal, even low normal! My doctor had a new nurse who took my blood pressure twice because 110/62 seemed too good to be true for a fellow my age. I have lived to see my grandchildren, and I hope to see my great grandchildren before I go. And, oh yes, I’m not diabetic. Haven’t been for years. No meds, either. Just weight loss.

So you can see that I have some reason to think of this first Step as a big one, the one we all have to take before we can go on to the others. Let’s take it together.

 

QUESTIONS

  1. What have you tried to control your eating? Did it work?
  2. How has your disease affected your health?
  3. Do you spend too much on food? Does this rob your family of good things they might need or want?
  4. Have you ever eaten food that was going bad or out of date? Have you ever pigged out completely on something, a favorite food or a sweet, or whatever?
  5. Have you ever tried self destructive behaviors to control your eating or the consequences of it? This could include anorexia or bulimia, but also other things.
  6. Are you defeated by what you have tried, or do you think you might still be able to find some easier way that the Steps?
  7. Are you willing to admit that you are powerless, and yet at the same time that only a person of heroic action could reach out for recovery?
  8. What is life with you like? When and where do you hide things, lie, steal, cheat, whatever, that indicates the behaviors of addictive personality?
  9. Make a list of some of the emotional, physical, spiritual, and relational damages you have suffered as a result of your addiction. A few items in each category should suffice to show how unmanageable you life in addiction has been.

 

MY ANSWERS

  1. I tried many diets, and some of them actually worked for a few days. One time I even got down to “normal” weight, and that lasted a few weeks, even. I also tried a few touches of anorexia and bulimia, at one time or another. Nothing really large. I semi-starved for a while once, and lost some weight. When I was a child, at family gatherings, I would excuse myself and go to the bathroom and throw up so I could go back and eat some more. But my main addiction was to overeating. Although any meal might be quite large, my main pattern was to begin grazing late afternoon and continue to bedtime. Toward the end I think I must have been averaging 6,000 – 7,000 calories a day, and considering I had a desk job…
  2. I’ve already mentioned some of the things that were going on with my health when I first came into the rooms.
  3. I’ve discussed this in the essay also. What I need to add is that I took money from our savings to pay for the bills that came from my eating.
  4. Almost every compulsive eater has found things in the garbage, or things that were “going,” just not entirely gone yet, because that was all there was. Some of us are more prone to this than others. Some of us don’t think we deserve any better than to take care of the garbage. My particular take more than anything was to finish things off, sometimes from other people’s plates, and frequently from the serving dishes.
  5. I mentioned that I had about decided that I was going to die soon, and there was nothing I could do about it. This says to me that I was defeated. There was nothing that could do me any good. One reason I suspect I was ready for OA when I arrived is that I had truly reached rock bottom, the point where something had to change, or I was going to die.
  6. I’ve seen some who were at this point, but couldn’t seem to admit it. Alas, I have attended their funerals. If there were any other way, I don’t know what it is. And this way works when I work it.
  7. Just walking in the door of my first OA meeting was an act of courage. I had no real idea what it would be like, and I had a lot of fear to overcome. At the time I did not see myself as heroic, but subsequently I have seen the heroism of others, and came to the conclusion that I had to be just as heroic myself. I have learned that I need to give myself credit for what I have done, even if I have many miles yet to travel down this road.
  8. I have already indicated some of these in the essay. That was only the tip of the iceberg, of course.
  9. I was an emotional wreck. I was frozen in my own anger and resentment. I was clinically depressed and didn’t even know it. I accepted that life was just bad, even hopeless.

I have already indicated some of the physical problems that I faced at the time.

Addiction drives out spirituality, so I was obviously not on good terms with God. I could not believe that God cared about me, and there seemed to me to be little reason to care much about God, in those circumstances. Still, I was very religious. As I came to find my own spiritual center, and to know that God (as I understand God) cares enormously about me, I have changed enormously. I have become deeply spiritual. Spirit drives out addiction, too.

Having lied, spent money foolishly, taken from those I loved, and so on, I wonder that anybody continued to love me at all in those latter years. But they did, and they have stayed with me in my recovery. Things have changed greatly. Our family system, once centered on dependency and codependency, has grown to another place or interdependency, and we have come to know love at new levels of joy and happiness.

Love,
John





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