Step One

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

Leader's Share and Step Questions

“Admitted that we were powerless over food, and that our lives had become unmanageable.”

That’s Step 1. It can sound pretty harsh. Which is why it took me so long to come to OA. Powerless? Moi? No way! Only that after all these years of yoyo dieting, there came a day when frankly, I didn’t care anymore. I don’t even remember exactly what I thought those first few weeks in OA, just that I could relate and it looked like it would help. (And it did.)

One of the things I figured out was this: in all those years of knowing that I should go to OA but never did, my addictive mind had played a trick on me. It had told me that there was only ONE way of reading the first step, and it meant that by admitting I was powerless over food, I would declare myself an utterly pathetic puddle of a useless victim.

But then, after deciding I would give OA a serious try, it dawned on me that there were other ways in which I could understand it. It dawned on me that I could actually take the literature seriously, which told me I wasn’t exactly the only one who had balked at this step. And other things dawned on me. For example, that there were definitely some foods over which I was powerless, and parts of my life that had become unmanageable.

Some things were easy, of course! For example, I never craved ice cream, never "cruised" for it. But I was helpless over it once it was in the house. And there were enough things that I did crave – including rice cakes, for crying out loud. (Today the smell of them still makes me nervous). As I thought about this, I realized that there were also times, places, behaviours and events that set me off (and others that didn’t.) Overeating at breakfast or eating in the middle of the night? Not a problem, not me. But boy, that time between 11am and 5pm, nothing was safe from me. Restaurants could be a bit of a challenge but the worst in the “places” category were potlucks and my mother-in-law’s.

And I was managing my life very well, thank you very much! Except … pssst … I was in my late 40s and still afraid of the dark. Or: after 12 years of separation, I was still jumpy whenever I heard a long distance phone ring because it could be my ex. Or: I started gossiping whenever I felt hurt at work. Lots of “little” things like that which I had no clue how to change, and had either given up on or buried under an icy blanket of unawareness.

Somehow I was able to let go of being so picky about whether I was totally or partially powerless over food and my life. I was simply able to admit,

“I have a problem, and this is what it is. I really, really don’t know what to do about it.”

Why was I able to admit that, finally? Mostly it’s a mystery. But part of it was that I heard others talk about their relationship with food. These other OAers were pretty interesting and cool and smart, and didn’t look like utterly pathetic victims; they were just people! They must be up to something.

So I’d like to encourage you to share a little bit here. Your sharing may just be what someone else needs to hear. (Just as it had happened to me, when this woman talked about walking up to a vending machine, all the while telling herself that THIS time she wouldn’t buy anything, and kept telling herself that even when she was already unwrapping the chocolate bar. Holy cow! That was ME!)

A few questions, then:

What behaviours or feelings around food do you feel aren’t a problem for you? And which ones are?

What types of food, places, times, events, people trigger you? Which ones don’t? (Btw, as you can see, I have no problem with mentioning foods. Just don’t go overboard and list your 10 most favourite kinds of junk food).

How are you managing your life well? Where are the problem areas?

What do you think about “admitting” that you are “powerless”? Is that easy for you, or difficult? Why?

Optional: Spend a little time reading the Big Book, up to the end of Chapter 3, if you like. If you don’t have it, you can find it online by googling “Big Book online”. Since we’re trying to do the steps the easy way here, I don’t expect you to read all of it. But look around a little. Replace “alcohol” with “food” and try to be tolerant of the somewhat antiquated writing style. See if you can find a sentence or a paragraph you like. Tell us about it – how does it speak to you?

I like this one, from page 17. It is so full of hope!

“We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, know thousands of men and women who were once just as hopeless as Bill [the founder of AA]. Nearly all have recovered. They have solved the drink problem.”

Let’s solve the problem!


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