Sometimes it takes awhile to accept the true implications of powerlessness, especially when it comes to food. The Big Book tells us how to detect powerlessness, but human nature defies the idea that we don't have control over our actions. When it comes to addiction, though, it’s been my experience that all the space that my obsession takes up in my head is a good indication that I'm struggling with powerlessness. Even if I can have one cookie, there is no question that my mind will be evaluating that heroic gesture, and urging me to try that experiment again. And again and again. I believe in what they say about the first compulsive bite, like the first drink: one is too many and 100 aren't enough. That’s powerlessness. The sheer fact that I cannot execute my daily desire to eat just one, or eat less, or avoid certain foods entirely (and peacefully!), is my indication that I am struggling with powerlessness. I love the adage that normal eaters adjust their behavior to match their goals, and addicts adjust their goals to match their behavior. How low do my standards have to go to match up with the progression of compulsive eating? So I believe that acceptance of our struggle to control food, or certain foods is an important part of taking step one. But take heart – the reason that OA is different than a diet program, is that once the food is put down, we need something else to turn to, and that’s why this program recommends living by spiritual principles, and being a part of the fellowship, and reaching out to others in program, and having a sponsor to work with. We need new tools to deal with life on life’s terms if we're going to face life without excess eating.
The other challenging, but necessary aspect of step one, in my opinion, is a realistic look at how my relationship with food has affected all areas of my life: social, financial, health, family relationships, career, personal growth, community. When I came in to OA there was a slogan “three meals a day and life in between”, and I had to ask, “what do you mean by life????”. I didn't realize there was so much to do in life. I had been so busy in my committed relationship with food. I didn't realize that other people paid bills on time, went to the doctor for regular checkups, kept jobs for more than 1 or two years, attended lectures to learn new things, had healthy activities with friends like swimming, hiking, biking, went to the dentist when there was a tooth problem, answered the phone when it rang (this is a big one for me!), made plans to be with others in their free time. So the unmanageability that step one speaks of, to me, is about how far away I am from enjoying my life and meeting my responsibilities because of my relationship with food. Is extra weight part of unmanageability? Yes it is, but I think that the disease of addiction goes so much deeper into all areas of our life. If I get to my ideal weight and I'm still not answering the phone or paying my bills ... there’s still more recovery to be had.
Questions for reflection:
- When you look back, can you recall instances when you chose food over people, or social activity, or responsibility? Can you recall instances when you were disturbed or embarrassed about how you acted with food?
- In what ways have you attempted to gain control of your eating? For example, have you avoided certain social situations, paid for a diet programs, kept your house empty of desirable foods, thrown food away? What other things have you done to get control of the food situation?
- If you look back upon the things you dreamed about for your life, can you connect your preoccupation with food to why those dreams haven't materialized? How has food held you back from progressing towards your life’s goals?
- What areas of your life has food enabled you to disregard, or under prioritize? What area of your life would it be painful to examine, because it has suffered tremendously due to years of compulsive eating?.
- What are your fears about stopping the compulsive eating? What does it feel like will be taken away from you? Why does eating moderate amounts of healthy food seem threatening or uncomfortable?
Just a suggestion ... ask God to help you take an honest look at your situation as you go through these questions. They will be re-posted on Thursday. Have a great week.
In loving service,
The Twelve Steps