Step One

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

Leader's Share and Step Questions

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

The principle behind this Step is: HONESTY

Hi, "Susan29 W" here, ready to begin the OA journey of "WTS - "Working The Steps." By now you should have received and read my Introduction (if you haven't read it yet, it's now located in the WTS Archives). In it I let you know that we'll be using the AABB for this study, so I hope you have your copy handy (or that you've bookmarked the URL for the online edition).

Before I get into Step One, I want to say a word about "Step Zero" (which I talked about in my Introduction). "Step Zero" is being abstinent. We become abstinent to get out of the "food fog" -- to have a clear mind to work these Steps -- it's not about losing weight. So read about abstinence in the "Housekeeping" section at the end of this post (or in my Introduction). Ok, on to Step ONE!

"We admitted we were powerless over food..." Powerless... Me.....? I'm not powerless! Are you nuts? What are these OA people talking about...? When I heard the word, "powerless," all I could think about was how I had felt "less-than" most of my life, and I just didn't want to feel like a helpless weakling. And since I had been abused, I *really* didn't want to think about that word, "powerless." And oh, by the way, my life is just fine, thank you very much! "Unmanageable life"? No way!

That's sort of how I felt when I read Step One the first time. I can't be "powerless" over food! Food is absolutely the *ONLY* thing in my life that I *can* control, right? I decide what I'll eat and when I eat. No one tells *ME* I can or can't have this or that food! There's no way I can "admit" to this "powerlessness" -- it makes no sense. And besides, I have GREAT POWER! I'm a champion dieter!!! Right...? I can rigidly control my food when I want to, right? I'm *not* a weakling!

Well, when I came to OA in 2007, I was pretty much at rock bottom with my weight and my "food issues." I had spent the last 40-odd years yo-yo dieting; always losing weight (yay!), but always gaining it back plus more (boo!). There just had to be another way to lose weight, right? So OA was my last hope. But because I was so discouraged with my own efforts, and so desperate to find a better way, I guess my mind was a little bit open because I didn't run away (as I had done the first time I looked at OA in the mid-1980's). I stayed to hear what was being said in the online meetings that I started to attend.

And what I heard was astounding! Here were people just like me! I thought I was the only one who struggled with "food issues." I thought I was the only one who couldn't stay on a diet. I thought I was the only one who couldn't stand to throw food away because that would be "a waste." I thought I was the only one who sneaked food and hid the wrappers from family. I thought I was the only one who tried to throw food away to "be good," but ended up digging it out of the garbage. [I even dumped ajax on food to be sure it stayed in the garbage -- only to dig out the food and wash off the ajax so I could eat it!] I thought I was the only one who had "fat clothes" and "skinny clothes" in my closet. I thought I was the only one who had to sneak out to replace food I had consumed so my family wouldn't find out. I thought I was the only one full of self-loathing, and couldn't stand to look in a mirror. But guess what! I *wasn't* the only one! I *wasn't* alone! Here were people just like me. I was "home." But what was wrong with all of us...?

Could we be powerless over food, really...? What could "prove" to me that I was "powerless" (and *not* helpless, as they often mentioned in those online meetings)? Finally I remembered something... There's a certain dessert mix that comes in a box. What I realized was that I couldn't have that mix in my house or else I would make it up and eat the whole thing. Then I'd have to go out and buy a whole new box so the family wouldn't notice. So that meant that I couldn't actually keep that mix in my house! In other words, I was POWERLESS over a small cardboard box! Other people could have it in their homes, in their kitchen cupboards, and it might sit there for a while till they decided to make it. Not me! That box "called to me"! And when I made it, the dessert "called to me"! And I had to eat it. I was completely out of control -- I was powerless! -- when it came to that box of dessert mix. The only way I wouldn't eat it -- the ONLY way -- was if I stopped buying it. Period.

And that wasn't all! When my sister was getting re-married several years ago (before I found OA), I wanted to look nice as her maid of honor. So I went on a diet. But about 5 weeks before the wedding, I went off my diet. And I started to eat...whatever I wanted. And I kept telling myself that the wedding was coming and I'd look like a blimp! But I couldn't stop eating! I couldn't get back on that diet! Even though I knew I was going to ruin my sister's wedding with my fat disgusting self, I could not stop! THAT was powerlessness! I simply could not stop even though I wanted to!

Then there was the time that the doctor scared me straight! He had me so convinced that I was about to die that I went on a diet so fast, it was a new record for me! And I lost weight! And I went right off that diet after about a month (a MONTH!). Here I was, facing an early death, facing some obesity-related health problems, and I went right back to the food! Oh, that is some kind of powerlessness! [Of course, I didn't die then, so I said to myself, "See? My food isn't THAT bad..." Oh, the things I told myself...!]

Ok, I'm getting pretty convinced. I was, indeed, powerless over food, and I admitted it. But what about this "unmanageable" life...? My life was just fine! I managed a home, I had a job, I was nursing my husband back to health after some surgery. I was managing very well! But someone much wiser than me said that "an unmanageable life" didn't mean that it was a "MIS-managed" life. It just meant that life is not *controllable* by me. BY ME. Hmmm, what does that mean? Well, how about this scenario: I walk outside to the car when I have an important appointment, but I find a flat tire! That sort of thing had smoke coming out of my ears!!! I guess I can't control that! Or when I'm looking forward to a sunny day but it rains -- and I'm furious all day! Ok, I think I get it. Cuz let's face it, I could spend days railing against the unfairness of just about anything. If only the weather would cooperate! If only the traffic would cooperate! If only the other ladies on the PTA would do it my way! If only my husband would make the bed so it didn't look like it was still unmade! If only my family would clean up after themselves after all I do for THEM! (and people) cannot be controlled (or managed) *by me.*

So, I could be a control-freak type, where I tried to "run the show," or I could be the type who railed inside when life got bumpy -- throwing myself pity-parties. ["It always rains when *I'm* trying to do something outside."] Cuz let's face it, when some people are stuck in traffic, they think, "Oh well, I guess I'll just look at the pretty flowers by the roadside." NOT ME!!! I would sit and stew and fume and rail and be miserable. "Don't these idiots know I have an appointment??? What are they DOING up there???" Yeah, that would be me. Or the reverse. "Yeah, I'm stuck in traffic - THAT's typical! Nothing ever goes right for me. Poor me." [Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink.] <--- Slogan! :-)

So I've seen other people who are unruffled by life's ups and downs; by life's unpredictability. They've got what I want -- serenity. But powerlessness doesn't mean HELPLESSness. The AABB offers us great help! OA offers great help! TRG offers great online help! It's right here for us -- just for the taking! And hey, look at you! You're in OA! You've joined WTS! You're not helpless! You're here! And because you're here, that must mean that you suspect something about your eating, right? And maybe your life could use some tweaking? So yes, the help is here, but we have to do the footwork. We have to take the Steps -- the 12 Steps as listed and described in the AABB. [And Step Zero!] ;-)

I've been told that Step One is the only Step I have to do perfectly, and I get that. After all, if I can't admit that I have a problem, then I don't really need OA, do I? I can just go on another diet, right? I can continue eating like I'd been eating. Who cares? But that's what I did for over 40 years! Being cranky, being bossy, having low self-esteem, being depressed, going on diets, buying diet books, joining weight-loss programs. I did it all! But all I ever got was fatter. I'm a compulsive over-eater. I have a probelm. I'm powerless over food, and I certainly can't "control" life. I *do* need OA.

Fortunately for me, OA has some great slogans (or concepts) that have helped me along the way (and I've got over 400 of them!!!). Here's one concept that really got my attention:

The difference between a Compulsive Eater (CE) and someone with a "food problem" is this: When you take the food away from someone with a 'food problem,' the problem goes away. But when you take the food away from a CE, that's when the problems begin.


ASSIGNMENT for Step One:
A. Read in the AABB, "The Doctor's Opinion," and "Bill's Story."
Share with us some words or phrases or situations that sound just like you.

B. Answer the following questions:

1. Are you happy with your weight? Are you happy with what you do with food? Are you happy with what food is doing to your body? Are you happy with your life? Any interpersonal tensions going on at home or at the office or with extended family?
2. Give an example of when you just *couldn't* stop eating something, or you *couldn't* resist some food when the circumstances were important that you should stop.
3. What did you say to yourself each time you tried to diet and failed (or tried to control your food in some way, and failed)?
4. Step One says, "We admitted......." Why does the Step say, "We"?
5. The principle behind Step One is HONESTY. [It's a principle we hope to incorporate into our everyday lives from now on.] Why do we have to be honest about this Step? They say this is the one Step that has to be done perfectly. Why is that?
6. How have you been dishonest about your food intake with others? In what areas of your life have you been or are you dishonest?
7. Do you have any fear about being in OA or in this WTS session?
8. Do you resent having "a food problem"?
9. What are you willing to change about your life right now?
10. Google the "15 Questions of OA," and answer them. [Note: I answered "yes" to every single one, but that's just my experience. Everyone's will be different. (If you can't find them online, write to me off-loop, and I'll email them to you).]
11. How will you know when you have actually taken Step One?

[Hold onto all your answers so we can revisit them at the end of this session. Share them with your sponsor, and go into as much depth as you need to to fully understand where you are. Please consider sharing your answers with the loop. Your shares may help another compulsive eater -- and they may help you just by sharing them!]


And now, I offer a Step One prayer. And even though it's called a "prayer," this doesn't mean that it's to "God" or any other deity, necessarily. Say it to God, if you choose, or just say it out to the universe. And consider saying it every day of this journey.


Today, I ask for help with my addiction.
Denial has kept me from seeing how
powerless I am & how my needing to manage life
doesn't work.
I need to learn & remember that I have an illness,
and that abstinence is the only way to begin to deal with it.


[Important information for working this Step study]
[repeated from Introduction]:

1.) ABSTINENCE: [Food "sobriety" is called "abstinence" in OA.] It is said that the first 100 members of AA were sober before they ever worked the Steps. They had to "put the bottle down," in order to have a clear enough mind to do the work involved. My sponsor called this "Step Zero." ["Cessation of drinking is but the first step..." AABB pg. 122] I had to put down the food so I could have a sober mind for my Step work. Look at what it says in the AABB, 4th Edition, page xxx (here you'll need to substitute "food" or "compulsive eating" for "alcohol"):

"Then there are types entirely normal in every respect except in the effect alcohol has upon them. They are often able, intelligent, friendly people. All these, and many others, have one symptom in common: they cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving. This phenomenon, as we have suggested, may be the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity. It has never been, by any treatment with which we are familiar, permanently eradicated. The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence."

That's what I'm asking of you -- to commit to "entire abstinence" for our 12-week study of WTS. Do you think you can do that? That will be my commitment to you! When I did it for my sponsor, I have to tell you that it felt just like a diet when I started, but within a week, I no longer wanted my "alcoholic foods" (for me, sugar, sweets, white-flour products -- yours may be different). Be prepared to write down those foods you suspect are your "alcoholic foods" (sometimes called "trigger foods" or "triggers"), and then eliminate them for your WTS study. [Think: Instead of your "comfort food" or "comfort behaviors," you'll have the Step work to "comfort" you.] That will be your Step Zero. [Slogans: Abstinence without the Steps is just another diet. If you want to stop eating compulsively, you'll have to stop eating compulsively.]

Now, I do know there's a theory out there that says it's "easier" for alcoholics to stop drinking because they can just stay out of bars and liquor stores -- but we compulsive eaters have to eat at least 3 times a day, so it's harder for us! NONSENSE! We're throwing THAT theory out the window! :-) Alcoholics *must* drink every day or they'll die! They just don't drink any form of alcohol. Same for us: Compulsive eaters *must* eat every day or we'll die! We just don't eat our trigger foods. If alcoholics can put down the "troublesome liquid", we can put down the (troublesome) food.

And finally, you only have to be abstinent ONE DAY AT A TIME (ODAT). That's right. You only have to be abstinent for one 24-hour period at a time. Don't think about "tomorrow," don't think about "next week," don't think about "forever." There's a great slogan about this (and everything else): "We can do something for 24-hours that would appall us if we had to do it for a lifetime." So when you commit your abstinence for this study, you only have to do it ODAT!

2.) BOOK / WORKBOOK / JOURNAL: Secondly, you're going to need an AABB. If you don't have one or can't afford one, you can read it online for free. [ That's the 4th Edition, the one I'll be using.] I'm happier having my own copy where I can make notes and highlight certain phrases. You might be happier having your own copy, too.

Since we'll be doing assignments, I suggest a workbook or journal. In it, as we work the Steps, you can also write down, for example, how it feels to be starting off with abstinence. Take notes on my shares, your reading, your Q&A, etc. Journal about your progress, your feelings, the changes you'll discover (oh, you will discover many!). Take notes when someone in the loop shares something that resonates with you. This is *your* journey! Take lots of notes as you discover what all those alcoholics discovered: There Is A Solution.

3.) GET A SPONSOR: As the WTS Coordinator has already told you, you really need a sponsor for this Step study. This can be your regular sponsor or a sponsor you use only online for this session. I urge you to get one. You can send your WTS study Q&A to that sponsor, and the two of you can work on whatever pops up. The WTS Coordinator has already told you how to find a sponsor.

4.) COMMITMENT: Make a commitment to work this study -- and all the Steps -- all the way thru. As another leader once said, "If you think you can get by with working *some* of the Steps, guess what: You don't get *some* recovery, you get *NO* recovery. You have to work *all* the Steps to find 'the solution'." Wise words, indeed, and I believe them. I've made the commitment, so maybe you can make that commitment too, to the loop, to your sponsor, and to yourself.

5.) QUESTIONS/FEEDBACK: Feel free to ask me questions. I'll be writing about each Step, sharing my personal experience, and then I'll be sending out questions and assignments. But if something is not clear, please feel free to write to me (off-list, to me only, if you prefer; or to the whole loop), and I'll answer to the best of my ability. [Put "Question for Leader" in the subject line.] If you've written me privately, and I think it's a question that the whole group would benefit from, I'll share the question and my answer with the loop, but I will keep your privacy and anonymity, with your permission.

6.) ASSIGNMENTS: I'll be talking about each Step, and then I'll give you readings and questions for you to share with your sponsor and the loop. Some people always share with the loop, some never share with the loop. But you should do the assignments to get the most out of this study, and sharing them with your sponsor, at a minimum, will help you dig deeper into your journey to get you out of the "food fog."

7.) HOUSEKEEPING: I may add these and more "housekeeping" notes at the end of my postings each week. [Remember, I'll send out each lead post on Mondays, and then re-post the same thing on Thursdays.]


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