My Dearest Companions on the Journey of Recovery,
Today I attended an Indigenous celebration called Inti Raymi, which is the Feast of the Sun or Summer Solstice. It is a feast of Thanksgiving for the corn harvest and the gifts with which the sun provides us. I was pondering how the 12 Steps have helped me, as stated by the AABB, to walk in the sunlight of the spirit. I enjoyed the celebration immensely. We danced in a circle in a park for about 2 hours, something I never would have wanted or been able to so 5 years ago. This program has restored so much of my life, and I am grateful. It rained on our Sun-fest but...well...life on life's terms!
With this share, we are wrapping up this Step Study, but certainly not our dedication to living 12-Step spirituality. There is time before the next study begins to continue working, no matter which Step you are on. All of the shares from this quarter can be found at: www.therecoverygroup.org/wts/2010/.
And one final thought (While I still have my captive audience!) There is a word in the Indigenous Quichua language that I love: ñeque. I have never heard one word that is an adequate English translation of this word, but it is like passion, focus, determination, and commitment all rolled into one. In Program terms, it would be described as willingness to go to any lengths. I invite all of you to summon, within your selves, the ñeque necessary to recover from our devastating disease. A bucket of gratitude for all those whose ñeque has showered upon this Step Study tremendous wisdom and hope.
Step 11 - Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of working these steps, we tried to carry this message to compulsive overeaters and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The Twelfth Step is rich with meaning and significance. It embodies all of the previous Steps and prepares our hearts, minds, and spirits for a lifetime of wholeness and abundance, lived graciously and generously, one day at a time. I have received the priceless treasure of recovery from compulsive overeating as a gratuitous gift from HP, but my diligent perseverance in working the 12 steps prepared me to embrace it. It is not a gem that I can lock away in a safe deposit box. Recovery is polished, expanded, extended, and increased in value as I allow it to touch every aspect of my life and to reach out to others.
Step 12 presumes that a spiritual awakening is the result of working the Steps. This awakening is personal and there is a wide range of spiritual experiences encompassed in its definition. Some people are granted a flash of light, knocked off my horse, earth moved under my feet, burning bush, eye-popping, bowel-moving, hair stand on end type of experience. But for most of us, our spiritual awakening is of the educational variety. For me, this involves the slow reconstruction of my spurious notion of HP and the painstaking overhaul of my addictive personality. It includes the removal of my food obsession so that I can enjoy what my sponsor calls peace with the food. It also provides the transformation of my defects of character into assets so that I can enjoy peace with myself and peace with others. HP has done this for me and continues to act in my life as I surrender all to Her loving, compassionate, salvific, redemptive care. What is impossible for me to achieve by my own strength, willpower, and resources, is within reach with HP’s support and guidance. My part is to keep myself in what the AABB calls fit spiritual condition.
I flex my spiritual muscles through prayer, meditation, and generous service to others. Quite soon after my initiation into OA, I began to give service within the fellowship. I was encouraged to do so by wiser members with more experience who assured me that service is slimming. When I began to give service, I helped set up and clean up, I acted as a greeter, I held the room key, and I chipped in wherever necessary. Eventually, I led meetings and began to sponsor. No service is too small for the purpose of our recovery.
One of the most precious gifts I have been given by this program has been companioning others on this wild, treasured, inimitable journey of recovery from compulsive overeating. I have been filled with such awe, gratitude, and inspiration for what HP and the program have done for me, that I knew from my first hesitant and terrified steps into the light that I must share this priceless gift with others. I was simply bursting with it!
Of course, too much exuberance can overwhelm others. I had to learn to allow those with whom I walk free reign to discover their own path to recovery and simply share my own experience, strength, and hope. A tremendous lesson for me has been learning to be free of expectations about the speed or quality of the recovery of others. I offer what wisdom I can (cognizant of my personal limitations) and trust that the loving hand of HP will handle the rest. I cannot force another to be ready for healing and transformation any more then I could push through my own denial by sheer force of will.
In terms of my own recovery, the response of others does not matter. Rendering service to others immunizes me against taking the first compulsive bite. I have learned much and have absorbed great wisdom from others with whom I share this pilgrimage.
One of my sponsees once asked me whether service outside the fellowship “counts.” Although Step 12 refers specifically to carrying the message of recovery to other compulsive overeaters, the goal of working the 12 steps is to hone ourselves into fit instruments in the hands of HP for maximum service to others.
Service does not have to be complex. My heroes are the founders/foundresses of the far-reaching and inspiring ministries for which I have worked in Ecuador . I used to believe that, in order for my life to have value, I had to be like them and initiate a spectacular project that would end global poverty and war for all of eternity, or at least that of Ecuador . Of course, much of that dream, though commendable, was an ego-driven desire to rise above others and be recognized. It was an addictive fantasy designed to redeem my own feeling of worthlessness for being a compulsive overeater.
Recovery has taught me that simple gestures of kindness and generosity, which render very little public praise or affirmation, offer the deepest satisfaction and joy. As the AA 12&12 beautifully reminds us, “True ambition is the deep desire to live usefully and to walk humbly under the grace of God.”
I had a friend many years ago who embodied this value wholly. She was a colleague of mine in a grade school when I was still living and teaching in the US . She was vibrant, energetic, enthusiastic, and overflowing with love and care for her students. She had given up a lucrative job as a scientist in a chemical company and was a gifted, hard-working, and committed teacher.
One day she approached me with the news that she had been diagnosed as HIV positive. After the initial stages of shock and devastation, followed by fierce anger at God, she accepted her illness. She could have wallowed in self-pity at her undeserved fate, but instead she turned it into an opportunity to give of herself. She volunteered at a social service agency that provided medicine and other basic services for AIDS patients in need. She also initiated the first support group for women with AIDS in her city. She died in 1994 at the age of 35. An AIDS clinic for women now bears her name. I always say the world should not be without her.
But I learned a valuable lesson from my friend. I can’t honestly say that I am grateful to be a compulsive overeater, though I treasure what the process of recovery has accomplished in my life. Truthfully, if I could wake up tomorrow as a normal eater, I would take that chance in a minute! But since that is not going to happen, I am called to accept my disease and turn it toward positive action. HP entrusted recovering compulsive overeaters with a special gift of healing others who still suffer from our addiction. I have something to share with others who agonize under the same oppression of our disease because my experiences are similar.
My ability to carry the message of recovery to other compulsive overeaters is, therefore, born of my personal spiritual revelation and emerges from the garbage heap of addiction. We carry the message by sharing our experience, strength, and hope, certainly, but there are other ways to transmit what we have received. More than 80% of all communication is non-verbal. St. Francis of Assisi advised, “Preach always and use words when necessary.”
I carry the message most effectively when I am happy, healthy, giving, open, and willing to live with honesty, love, and integrity. If I walk around, mopey, cranky, resentful, fearful, stingy, and self-absorbed, nobody will want what I have. I am not perfect, but progressing. I make mistakes, but I admit them and make amends. My relationships with myself, HP, and all who I encounter are improving on a daily basis.
I strive to practice the principles of honesty, hope, faith, courage, integrity, willingness, humility, self-discipline, perseverance, spiritual awareness, and service at home, work, and in society at large. As the OA 12&12 so eloquently states, “Each day we live well we are well, and we embody the joy of recovery which attracts others who want what we’ve found in OA. We’re always happy to share our secret: the twelve steps of Overeaters Anonymous, which empower us to live well and be well, on day at a time.”
Questions for Reflection and Sharing
- How is my spiritual awakening manifested in my life?
- What kind of service have I offered within the fellowship? What has this service done for me?
- How do I define true ambition?
- How do I carry the message of recovery to others who suffer my addiction?
- How do I practice Program principles in all my affairs?
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AABB, 4th Ed.) Chapter 7 Working with Others
- The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous - Step 12
- The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous - Step 12
The Twelve Steps