Step One is usually pretty easy for us to get. This was reflected in your responses to my questions last week. It's usually not so hard to admit that we can't stop bingeing/purging/eating compulsively and that our lives are just a mess. But then what? The AABB says, "Lack of power, that was our dilemma." (p. 45). I think of Step Two as the continuation of Step One: I admit that I"m powerless over food and that my life has become unmanageable, and therefore I must come to believe in a power greater than myself that can restore me to sanity. Personally, when I came to this program I had no trouble believing in a power greater than myself. I knew there was one, and it was called FOOD. Remember that Twinkie? It was surely a power greater than me! What I had a bit more trouble with was the part about "that could restore us to sanity." The AABB says that we suffer from an illness which only a spiritual experience can cure. Step Two is where I begin to learn how to locate a power - one that is greater than me - that is capable of, and willing to, restore me to sanity.
I did not grow up in a religious family. I was brought up in a spiritual tradition. I remember, at about age 10, announcing that I didn't believe in God. My mother suggested that I might like to wait until I was a bit older to make that decision, but I was determined. My problem was that a friend - who was religious - had told me that God knew all about me and knew everything I did, and I couldn't stand that. No one was the boss of me! I was going to be in charge, thank you! So for years I used God as the AA 12n12 describes, as a sort of "bush league pinch hitter," praying to God on Thursday to lose 10 (or 20 or 30 or 50) pounds by Friday. But, of course, I knew my prayers were hopeless and that I was on my own (God can move mountains, but I'm pretty sure I have to bring the shovel).
Just as it says in the AABB, however, "deep down inside every man, woman, and child is the fundamental idea of God." I had no trouble believing in some sort of God: call it a force for good in the universe, maybe. So when I heard Step Two read at my first meeting, I could accept that. At the very least I was willing to "act as if" I believed in such a power. Early in my recovery I met someone whose Higher Power was a doorknob. After all, she said, the doorknob doesn't eat! And I've met someone whose HP is a hub cap, for the same reason. The group is the HP for many of us - some call it "God with skin on" and some simply call the group "HP." It's a power greater than they are that pushes them in the direction of sanity, and away from the insanity of COE. The AABB says, "We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. 'Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?'" That's it. That's Step Two.
Now, the AABB says that it is impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that Power, but that book was written by a man with a particular idea about God. Because I didn't come out of a religious tradition I didn't have to give up a lot of old ideas about God - but of course there are a lot of ideas just out there in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. You know the ones I mean: old man, long white beard, seated on a cloud, right? So even I had a hard time getting rid of some of those images. What I know to be true for me is that my HP is very personal to me; his/her/its sole job every day is to keep me from taking the first compulsive bite. That HP sits on my shoulder and keeps me abstinent! After that, he can take care of the crisis in the Middle East and global warming, but first he's got to pay attention to me.
On the other hand I know that, for me, God is not Santa Claus. I don't get only good things in my stocking if I am good. No matter how well-behaved I am, no matter how long I've been abstinent, no matter how many fourth steps I have done... my cat still dies, I still get into wrangles with my family, I still burn the bottom of my teakettle out, and sometimes I can't find a parking space. This Step doesn't say that a power greater than myself will restore me to comfort, or happiness, or contentment, or affluence; the Step says that I can be restored to sanity. Bad things happen to good people. What has changed for me is that when I get mad at HP - and I do, I get furious sometimes - even then, I don't have to eat, because that's his job - to keep me from eating! The OA 12n12 notes that "we became willing to let go of any concept of God which wasn't helping us to recover from compulsive overeating." My concept of God doesn't have to get me to floss my teeth, or be a nicer person, or give to charity. It just has to help me recover from compulsive overeating.
At the same time, I am quite clear that me in the role of God was not getting good reviews. The AA 12n12 says, "All we need is an open mind." (p. 26). It goes on to remind me that fear of giving up control (as if I had any) blocks me. On page 31, it says, "Defiance is the outstanding characteristic of many an alcoholic." I certainly didn't want to be defiant, and "belief meant reliance, not defiance" (p. 31), so something was going to have to change. And since it's unlikely that hundreds of thousands of people before me are going to recant their experiences, how about I assume they have something I want, and try it? Now that is faith!
On page 11 of the OA 12n12 it says, "After a while we became battle-weary and discouraged. Still we could never accept our powerlessness." This section of the Step is talking about our unwillingness to admit that we have been insane. One definition of "insanity" (Google says it is misattributed to various people, including Albert Einstein and Mark Twain. The earliest known occurrence, and probable origin, is Rita Mae Brown's 1988 novel Sudden Death) is "going right on doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results." The OA 12n12 writes, "Our true insanity could be seen in the fact that we kept right on trying to find comfort in excess food, long after it began to cause us misery." Well, that sounds right. But the program also suggests that I am insane in all areas of my life, not just with the food. My life is unmanageable, but I keep right on trying to manage it.
The only solution that "the As" (OA, AA, NA, GA, DA...) have found is to adopt a power greater than myself that can restore me to sanity. That may mean acting as if. It has been my experience that I come to believe as I take action. I tried putting down the food for one day, and I stayed abstinent! I tried it again the next day, and it worked again! I began to think that these OAs were onto something. Admitting that I couldn't do it, and asking for help - that worked! That's how faith grows.
There is a wonderful quote I love from the chocolate book (as I call it: it's the Overeaters Anonymous book). In the story "The Atheist Who Made A Zif" the atheist writer says that when her sponsor suggested she "act as if" she believed in God she responded, "You're asking me to be a hypocrite." "Oh, heaven forbid! You could be a glutton, a thief and an egomaniac - vicious in every possible way; you could smell bad, you could look bad, but by God, we don't want you to be a hypocrite!"
The AABB says that as soon as I admit the possible existence of a Higher Power, "we began to be possessed of a new sense of power and direction, provided we took other simple steps." And that leads to Step Three.
Questions for Step Two:
1. If you have an HP: What brought you to the realization that you were going to have to have a power greater than yourself in order to change? If you don't have an HP: What do you think will have to happen in order for you to be willing to rely upon a power greater than yourself in order to change?
2. What is your concept of a power greater than yourself?
3. What does your HP do for you? What do you want it to do for you?
4. What definition of insanity do you use?
5. What would being restored to sanity look like?
6. What do you say to someone in program who does not believe in a power greater than him/herself?
7. Are you insane with respect to food only, or is there insanity (however you define it) in other areas of your life, too?
8. Are there actions that others say have worked for them that you do not use? Why not? What would it take to become willing to use them?
Wishing you a mindful, abstinent week.
The Twelve Steps