I think the important thing I understood about the first step, is that the powerlessness I experienced with food directly affected many aspects of my life. It affected the quality of my life. Just like the alcoholic who has hit bottom and lost everything, my utter despair about my compulsive, and impulsive relationship with food only became truly poignant and frightening when I realized that it wasnít just my body that had suffered. In my case my social life, my career, my emotional temperament, my apartment, my finances, my health and my interested in the world outside my apartment were all second to what I thought was my biggest pleasure in life, eating what I wanted, when I wanted it.
In my case, before I entered OA, I had already entered the rooms of AA and learned about powerlessness, unmanageability and the transformational power of the 12 steps. I was sober for about 2+ years when I realized that my life had turned back in on itself, and I was isolating, looking forward to getting home to eat, not wanting to eat with other people, watching the food channel, thinking about recipes, cooking, eating, cleaning up, and then thinking about the next meal. All the while stopping and picking up whatever I needed in between meals to tide me over. Iíd start everyday skipping breakfast because I had eaten so much the night before, be starved for lunch because I skipped breakfast, eat a huge lunch, plan to have a very light dinner because Iíd eaten so much for lunch. Then have a huge dinner and continue eating until I went to sleep, only to get up the next day and start the cycle of powerlessness all over again.
I had lost weight in Weight Watchers once before, but the thought of going to a WW meeting at that point made it emphatically clear to me that what was going on with me was way, way beyond what weight watchers could help me with. I knew I was addicted to compulsive eating, and found enough courage to go to my first OA meeting with the belief that God could and would help me stop eating compulsively. I did get abstinent that first day. My food plan was very simple, three meals a day and a snack. What I ate at those meals wasnít that important, as long as I kept to three meals and a snack. I did, however, choose to eliminate sugar and sugar products entirely from my food plan, because it played such a major part in my food bottom. Like putting down alcohol, when I put down sugar, the fog started lifting and I could think clearly again, and make intelligent choices in food. I could finally eat what I had planned to eat that day!
When I was binging on recreational foods (sugary, fatty, starchy, salty) I wasnít really able to focus on how my life was going. I didnít have time to think about my life, I was more concerned with whether I needed something to eat or not. Life had gotten pretty simple! But once I started attending OA meetings and looking at how unmanageable every area of my life was, I was both saddened, and hopeful that my life might have a chance to get a lot better. Attending 4-5 OA meetings a week was necessary for the support I needed to stay on point, in addition to 5 or 6 AA meetings. Iíd attend 12 step meetings at lunchtime and after work. That was 16 years ago, and I have continued attending meetings on a regular basis ever since. Taking step one involves identifying what your compulsive behavior is with food, and how the quality of your life has been affected by the disease of compulsive eating.
Questions for step one writing:
What are the food behaviors you would most like to stop? What do you feel it would be almost impossible to stop doing, with regards to food?
If you look at the various areas of your life: social, career, family, health, finances, lifestyle, personal growth, housekeeping, attire, which areas can you now see have suffered terribly from your compulsive eating habits and the isolating and self involved behaviour that usually accompanies it?
If you could craft a statement about what would change in your life if you recovered from compulsive eating, what would it be? What would be the biggest gift of recovery to you personally?
In loving service,
The Twelve Steps