The Transition ~ Steps 11 & 12 ... Self-Forgetting
Dear WTS Steppers,
As we leave the Eleventh Step and before we begin to work Step Twelve together, could I ask you to take a moment and say with me the Eleventh Step Prayer. I am reminded of six words that have brought me more comfort than any other during my life ... and it is mainly because the transition between Step11 and Step 12 has provided a clear direction for me. I know where I've been ... and with my secure road map, I know where I'm going. The six words that have been and are a gift to me are:
Everything is going to be okay.
The reason everything is going to be okay is that what I want out of life has less to do with decisions I must make and more about knowing what God's will is for me. And once I know that, I simply practice the 12 Step principles in my life daily and carry this gift to others.
Whether you have worked all of the Steps or none of the Steps, let's do this together:
THE ELEVENTH STEP
"Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact
with God, as we understand him, praying only for knowledge
of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
THE TWELFTH STEP
"Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps,
we tried to carry
this message to compulsive overeaters
and to practice these principles in all our affairs."
THE ELEVENTH STEP PRAYER
God, make me an instrument of thy peace!
That where there is hatred,
I may bring love.
That where there is wrong,
I may bring the spirit of forgiveness.
That where there is discord,
I may bring harmony.
That where there is error,
I may bring truth.
That where there is doubt,
I may bring faith.
That where there is despair,
I may bring hope.
That where there are shadows,
I may bring light.
That where there is sadness,
I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort,
than to be comforted.
than to be understood.
than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.
. . . . 11th Step Prayer ~ AA's 12 & 12
Until tomorrow ~ In loving service,
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Well, it's December and time to start our exploration of the Twelfth Step of Overeaters Anonymous. I'll be splitting this step into its three logical components and will then put the pieces together.
The three sections, as I see them are:
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps,
- we tried to carry this message to other compulsive overeaters, and
- to practice these principles in all our affairs.
So, today we start by discussing "spiritual awakenings" that we received as the result of working the previous eleven steps.
Before I address the question of defining a "spiritual awakening," I need to talk about what strikes me about the first clause in this step. That is the word "the." It's interesting - the first 100 AA's didn't say as "one of the results of working the steps", they didn't say it was "a result of working the steps", they chose to say that having worked these steps, that a spiritual awakening is THE result of all of this work.
Hmmm. It doesn't say that we got sober (or abstinent) as a result of the steps - the author assumes that we've been clean since we admitted powerlessness in step one. It doesn't say that we got thin as a result of the steps - that's a result of the food that you place in your body. THE ONLY THING PROMISED TO US IS THAT IF WE WORK THE STEPS, WE'LL HAVE HAD A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING BY THE TIME WE REACH STEP TWELVE.
So, what is a "spiritual awakening"? How did we get it? In the AA 12&12, Bill Wilson states that there are probably as many definitions of spiritual experiences as there are people who have had them. However, he states "When a man or a woman has a spiritual awakening, the most important meaning of it is that he has now become able to do, feel and believe that which he could not do before on he unaided strength and resources alone. He has been granted a gift which amounts to a new state of consciousness and being. He has been set on a path which tells him he is really going somewhere, that life is not a dead end, not something to be endured or mastered." (AA 12&12 pp. 106-107)
So, how did we get here? Well, we discovered that we couldn't rid ourselves of the obsession with food until we admitted that we were powerless over it. In Step Two we found that a power outside of ourselves would be needed to return us to sanity. As a result, in StepThree, we turned our will and our lives over to the care of that healing power. In Step Four we began the process of self-examination that gave us a clear view of those things we had done that brought us to a physical, spiritual and emotional bottom. In Step Five, having been shown by the experience of others that self-knowledge was useless, we came to a realization that it would be necessary to share the exact nature of our wrongs with the Power to which we had turned in Step Three and another human being. In Step Six we began the process of letting go
of our defects of character which had affected our actions in the past. In Step Seven we asked for them to be removed. Step Eight continued the
psychic housecleaning - making a list of people we had harmed and becoming willing to make amends to all of them. In Step Nine we took
action and made amends to people where it was possible.
In Step Ten (which many of us had been practicing since completion of our Step Four Inventory), we continue to affect changes in our lives by consistent self-examination and assessment. We make amends when needed. Step Eleven helps to improve our contact with the healing Power that had brought us so far.
If one, as Bill Wilson does, defines a spiritual experience as a transformation "because he has laid hold of a source of strength which, in one way or another, he had hitherto denied himself. He finds himself in possession of a degree of honesty, tolerance, unselfishness, peace of mind and love of which he had thought himself quite incapable. What he has received is a free gift, and yet usually, at least in some small part, he has made himself ready to receive it" (AA 12&12 p. 107); aren't the actions of taking the 12 Steps of Overeaters Anonymous an absolute turn-around from what we did before we found recovery from compulsive overeating?
So, let's look at some questions and post on them over the next several days:
1. In what ways has my life and/or attitude towards life changed since I started living according to the 12 Steps of Overeaters Anonymous?
2. Can I identify a specific "spiritual awakening," or has it been more of a process for me?
3. Did I have a relationship with a Power Greater Than Myself prior to working the Twelve Steps? If so, why couldn't I stop eating compulsively?
I'll answer these questions and continue with this discussion as the week progresses.
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Hi, WTS Friends,
On to the next section of this study. "we tried to carry this message to other compulsive overeaters."
I'm so glad that it says that we TRIED to carry the message rather than saying that we carried the message. It allows for attempts at carrying the message to be a successful practice of the Twelfth Step - rather than my natural tendency to discount anything that isn't a 100% success.
What's the message? There's the tough nut to crack here. For me, this, the statement just before the promises (half-way through with what?) and the first half of Tradition Four (we're autonomous and it doesn't matter who we affect - we can do ANYTHING we want!) are three statements in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that we love to take out of context.
Leaving the other two alone, let's concentrate on Step Twelve. The message is that there is a spiritual solution to compulsive overeating. It's NOT your weight loss (that's certainly a WAY to carry the message, but it's not the message itself). It's not the plan of eating that you follow (that's a physical manifestation of your willingness to put the food in its proper place).
Actually, it may simply be that most of us never GET to the Twelfth Step. As soon as we achieve abstinence, many of us get so excited that we start telling everyone who comes into our sites about Overeaters Anonymous. It's called the "OA two-step" - admission of powerlessness and unmanageability and telling everyone we run into about it.
It's not until we have experienced writing a Fourth Step inventory and given it away, asked for our shortcomings to be removed and made amends to people we had harmed while improving and/or expanding our spiritual connection with a power greater than ourselves that we can truly understand that the message of recovery is so much more than any physical benefit we can achieve through working our program of recovery.
The message is: if you have reached a point in your life where the solution that you found in the past (and I believe that it was a solution at some point in time or I wouldn't have done it - AT ONE TIME FOOD HELPED! - practicing our disease is a futile attempt to recapture a long-lost solution to problems that has turned around and bit us on the rear end) no longer works, and, in fact, is creating more problems than it solves; you can be relieved of the need to continue practicing self-destructive actions by working to change your life through the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous.
What did I just say?
(a) at some point in the past food helped me to cope with problems.
(b) food doesn't help anymore, in fact it makes my problems worse.
(c) until I find a substitute, I will continue to use food in an attempt to solve my problems.
(d) OA provides the answer I need.
Here's the catch. The twelfth step is NOT a destination. It's a jumping-off point. Unless there are other, less experienced compulsive overeaters finding the power that the Twelve Steps has to offer, unless we pass on the gift of recovery that we have found through the recovery program of Overeaters Anonymous, we are doomed to go back to our disease.
DOOMED? Well, it's not 100% sure. But I don't know of many (exactly three in 20 years) OA members who think they don't need the program of Overeaters Anonymous to continue recovery. Of the three, one came back to OA after 20 years (she's been around for 34 or 35 years) - still abstinent. She had shifted her focus on searching for a closer conscious contact with her Higher Power and worked her program of recovery within that setting. One other chose not to attend meetings, but still is in constant contact with other compulsive overeaters and other recovering folk. The third - well, I don't know. She's still thin; but after 20 years to only know one person who walked away from program without returning to compulsive overeating is NOT odds I'd be willing to bet on (if that was my thing!).
So, I have to pass on the information about recovery to people I meet in my daily life. In doing so I remind myself about my own powerlessness that I am still privy to if I don't turn my will and life over to the care of a power greater than myself. I tell people about OA and the recovery program. Sometimes they hear me. Sometimes they don't.
So - here are some questions:
1. How did you first find out about Overeaters Anonymous? Who Twelfth Stepped you?
2. How do you carry the message to other compulsive overeaters?
3. What is the message you carry?
4. Do you carry your message of recovery INSIDE of OA as well as outside? How do you do that?
5. How do your service commitments assist your working the 12th Step?
I'll answer these questions in a couple of days after I return from my sojourn. Many might be looking forward to the wedding I'm attending. I am. However, I'm more excited about attending the Sunday night meeting - I haven't been there in almost ten years. Yeah!
Brooklyn, New York
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We admitted we were powerless over food - that our lives had become unmanageable.
Basically we reached a point that we told ourselves something was wrong and that we didn't eat like everyone else. That stopped when they were no longer hungry. We didn't. We began to realize that mentally we had something wrong with us .. an obsession. The obsession caused us to get fat and do do other compulsive acts. We began to work this step and became teachable. We began to accept. We learned when we went on diets and lost weight that we gained it back. We were overweight and unhappy. We were slim and unhappy. We epitomized the "yo-yo syndrome." We found others like ourselves. We became enlightened. With the acceptance that there was something wrong, we went into our heart of hearts and admitted our powerlessness.Have you taken Step One?
We took Step One. Together.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Admitting we were powerless was one thing. But what were we going to do about it? We began to use the "S" word and found that, along with needing to have hope, we truly understood the difference between sanity and insanity. To prove this, we joined our fellow coes and wrote down insane things that we had done and after having tried just about everything and admitting our powerlessness, we knew that nothing other than a greater power was going to be able to extricate ourselves from this hell we were in. Some of us had to "act as if" and were able to do that because the camaraderie of our new friends gave us the courage to do it. We learned a lot about the word, willingness. We began to believe that God could help us stop thinking about food so much. Though it was gradual, we cautiously took Step Two and defined our Greater Power and began to listen more to the still small voice within us.
Have you taken Step Two?
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Our mantra became "I can't; God can; I think I'll let God!" We learned it was okay to call our Higher Power anything we wanted to call him. We were beginning to develop a personal relationship. We learned we were going to have to start asking for help. We had to start doing some serious talking with the God of our understanding. And we also learned that if we knew what was good for us that we better start listening. One day at a time we prayed for recovery. And if we were abstinent that day, then we just prayed for the willingness to recover. We began to think about food ... and eating sensibility. It was a by-product of Steps One and Two because we were developing the hope that something was happening to us and that we were changing. Finally it clicked. We "got it" and took Step Three.
Have you taken Step Three?
1. Do you have a sponsor?
2. Do you attend OA meetings?
3. Have you developed a food plan?
4. Are you willing to be a sponsor for Steps 1-3 or Food?
Love in recovery,
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Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step Four is the act of writing down everything we ever did. Just as when you see all the grocery store clerks with their little machines intently counting their inventory, so it is with us as we start recalling our wrong doings of the past. Both inventories have an important purpose. For the store, in order to know how to handle their stock in the future, they need to know how their goods performed in the past. For us, to know how we must live our lives in the future, we had to learn from our inventory of the past. There are four significant words in the short Step Four. Searching. Fearless. Moral. Ourselves. This group produced one awesome inventory after another. It was clear that you were probing diligently and deep. As you wrote, you began to see that anger and resentment were two emotions that were going to have to be dealt with head-on. The 4th Step was the turning point for many of you. You reached a new psychic level and in so doing, raised the bar on your morality which has enabled many of you to move forward.
Have you taken Step Four?
Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the
exact nature of our wrongs.
We reflected on our list. We felt good about the fact that we took steps to be accountable for our past actions. We first admitted our wrong doings to ourselves. Then to our Higher Power. And finally after gathering much courage we found someone we could trust and admitted honestly everything negative about us that had caused us problems in the past. We began to realize why we were compulsive eaters and found great relief that the exorcism of our characters flaws and negative characteristics was doing the job of paving the way to being happy, joyous and free in the future.
Have you taken Step Five?
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Things we did in the past used to make us sad and upset with ourselves. We had become complacent ... comfortable. Some of you wrote to me that this step was not such a big deal because all it required was to make a decision to tell God about all of this and ask him to remove our defects. Before we had gotten into this step a single day, we realized that there was more to Step Six than met the eye. We forgot about two words. "Entirely ready." In order to be truly ready, we had to face an emotion that we have long held ... FEAR! A monkey could tell God he was ready to make the changes. But we had to PREPARE ourselves to be ready. This step is not about the past or the future. We can't say "We were ready" nor can we say "We will be ready". To move on in the Steps, we must be ready now. This second. Today. Entirely.
Have you taken Step Six?
1. Do you anticipate that you will have more Steps 4, 5, and 6 in your future?
2. Which was more difficult, telling God of your wrong-doings or a human being?
3. Describe your feelings when you completely finished these three steps.
Love in recovery,
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Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.
Step Seven is the culmination of Step Four. For, perhaps, the first time in our life not only have we admitted that we had character flaws and shortcomings, we have taken the responsibility for them and realized that we are not going to suddenly rid ourselves of them alone. Again .... we can't. God can. We let God do it. But we are asked to do this humbly. That shouldn't be hard because working Steps four through seven is a humbling experience. Humility is simply the awareness of who we really are, acknowledging that fact and having the willingness to become the best we can be. We learned in Step Seven that sometimes a character defect doesn't leave us immediately ... that is okay. Our Greater Power has His own timing and it will be okay. Even after working the Steps, we shouldn't expect to become perfect beings. This is where 'one day at a time' comes in. We must be patient. And we must be persistent.
Have you taken Step Seven?
Made a list of all persons we had harmed,
and became willing to make amends to them all.
I believe I heard some groans when we got to Step Eight. "Yet another list," some of you asked. Did I hear one of you say that you were sick of lists? Step Eight is in two parts. 1. The list. 2. And making amends to the people on that list." Did you catch my mistake? I hope so because we drilled on this pretty much as we worked some of the steps. We aren't asked to make amends to all that we had harmed. We are simply asked to become willing to make amends to them all. There's another key word in Step Eight ... the final word ... ALL. We can't pick and choose to whom we make amends. We are asked to make amends to every single person in our entire life we harmed. Including ourselves. We also learned that we aren't supposed to try to make our lists longer than our friends' lists. Some wanted to go overboard and even put people there we don't owe amends to. We will be making amends until the day we die. Unless, of course, we are perfect.
Have you taken Step Eight?
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible,
except when to do so would injure them or others.
This is it. The big one. We learned that it didn't matter how those amends were accepted and that if we have high expectations that everyone we make amends to is going to love us and hug us and say it's okay, that just isn't a realistic expectation. As long as we were sincere in our approach to them, we came out okay. We cleaned up our side of the street. By being honest and straightforward, this is enough. We don't water down an amends by justifying our actions or making excuses for our behavior. And above all, we keep it simple. It is my hope that many of you completed this cathartic step and as a result of purging your psyche, have sailed on through Steps Ten through Twelve, which we will review soon.
Have you taken Step Nine?
1. Are there those on your Step Eight list that you haven't found the courage to approach yet?
2. Did you discover anything about yourself as you worked Steps 7, 8 and 9?
3. Was it difficult to do more than just say "I'm sorry" and to be specific and make restitution?
Love in recovery,
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Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admit it.
In working the 12 Steps of Overeaters Anonymous we learned that we had been given a gift ~ the gift of introspection. Some of us had never delved into our psyche and what made us compulsively eat. Sometimes enlightenment makes a huge difference. Because we have learned to take our inventory and discern how we need to deal with it and work Steps 5-9, we can live the rest of our life handling each issue that comes up as it happens. A daily Step Ten will make a difference in our lives.
Have you taken Step Ten?
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we
understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
For me the most important word in Step Eleven is "meditation." The act of meditating is to listen to what God is telling us. In this study we have referred to that as the "still, small voice." Others relate that it is their conscience. We can't go too far wrong if we continue to communicate with our Greater Power through prayer but not forget to stop every once in a while, be alone and really, really listen to what we are being told is the next right thing to do. Another daily Step. And don't forget to constantly ask for the willingness and the power to become closer to the God of our understanding.
Have you taken Step Eleven?
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry
this message to compulsive overeaters and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Those of you who have completed the 12 Steps are to be commended. But don't for one single minute think this is the end of what you must do. To the contrary, it is just the beginning. Recovery is not a destination. It is a journey. I pray that you don't become men and women who talk the talk but who don't walk the talk. I pray that you don't learn to recite the 12 Traditions verbatim but hide behind them and twist them and make them fit your 'circumstance of the day.' We have eaten ourselves into oblivion for much of our lives and constantly sought self gratification in that way. Our drug of choice must be relegated to less important place in our life from now on. The Steps will make it easier to do that. Perseverance comes to mind. We don't just practice the principles of the steps when we're at our meeting or sharing on our support loop. From morning until night we do the next right thing in all our affairs. Carrying the message to other compulsive eaters is what we do here in The Recovery Group. In OA we call that 'giving service' and what it is is the way many of us work the Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous. It is my hope that you will give service to others ... just as the way service is now being given to you by your sponsors, your coordinators and your meeting leaders.
I would like to leave you with some words that hit me right between the eyes when I was a newcomer in the program and which to this day speak to me in everything I do: "We don't simply carry the message. We ARE the message."
Have you taken Step Twelve?
1. How do you expect your lives to be from this day on?
2. Do you now see why one of the first OA phrases you learned was 'One Day at a Time'?
3. Would you consider writing the Coordinator of your support loop or the leader of your meeting or your sponsor a private note expressing your gratitude that you are a beneficiary of their working their Step 12?
Love in recovery,
The Recovery Group
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