My name is Isabella. I’m a compulsive overeater. We’ll spend the next 12 weeks together, walking the steps. My hope is that by doing this together, we will come closer to experiencing the promises:
“We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and selfpity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”
Sometimes I still cry when I hear these promises at the meeting, even after almost 10 years of going to meetings, week in, week out.
When I walked into my first meeting, I comprehended the word serenity. Mostly intellectually. But there wasn’t that much serenity when I sat on the bus to work in the morning, gripped by anxiety that I may have left the stove on.
That has lifted.
I knew about peace! In fact, I’ve been a “peacemonger” all my life. But where was the peace around food and eating when, after a healthy dinner at work and promising myself that that was it for the day, I’d come home and raid the fridge for leftovers at 11 o’clock at night?
I don’t do that anymore.
And how was my experience going to benefit others? I had never discussed my deep-dark eating habits with others in any meaningful way. That, when I was in the clutches of cravings, trolling for food wherever I might just find it, I felt I was no better than a sexual predator. Surely no-one else had those awful feelings!
And then I saw that there was nothing I had done with and felt around food was alien to my fellows OAers.
When it came to food, it truly baffled me. When I had my 5th serving of pasta, when I grazed all day long, when I switched between salty and sweet and sour to make my eating sessions last longer, when I thought being tired meant “eat more”, when I confused thirst with hunger, no, I did NOT know intuitively how to handle it. Often I did not WANT to handle it. When I wore shapeless clothes, when I had hemorrhoids and when I kept waking up at night because my knees and hips hurt, there was no intuitive knowledge available to me to deal with it.
But the promises were fulfilled and with the help of OA and of this mysterious thing we call “Higher Power”, these problems are not part of my life anymore, one day at a time.
Actually, all my problems are solved, I am wealthy beyond measure and live on a pink cloud - no, wait, that’s not true. I still struggle with cravings – but most of the time, my Higher Power wins, and the struggles have lost their sting. I’m still not at a great weight – but I’ve stopped the cycle of gaining and losing. I still have character defects that trouble me (judgment of others being one of them) – but I work on them daily. I still do stupid things around food – but I have not been on an all-out binge since being in OA. I’ve had two relapses – but they were invaluable learning experiences; they did not cause me to give up the way I threw up my hands before OA when my food went sideways after yet another diet.
Maybe you recognize yourself in a few of the things I talked about. Maybe your story is a bit different. Maybe you’re anorexic or bulimic and then your story may sound really different – but in the end I think it’s all the same.
We are people who have harmful ways when it comes to how we think, feel and behave around food.
And with OA, we have a solution.
In these 12 weeks, my goal is to make working these steps as easy as possible. In the book “Alcoholics Anonymous”, or the “Big Book”, it says, “If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it -- then you are ready to take certain steps. At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way.”
I propose to you that the 12 steps ARE the easier, softer way. So much easier and softer than to go on struggling with the food, feeling awful physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. I am also going to be a rebel and say that you don’t have to go to any length. I just invite you to GO! If this is your first round of steps, go and see what it’s like. Get your feet wet.
Sample what it’s like to admit at least some of your food issues. What it might feel like to have someone help you. See if it eases your life’s burden to write down some of your other problems and share them with someone who doesn’t judge you. Imagine not having to deal with your problems all on your own. Think a little about healing your relationships with others and taste the sweetness of the word “sorry” on your lips. And if you like it, you might see what you can do to continue with these ideas. You may even want to pray or meditate a little, and experience the magic of sharing your journey with others.
If this is not your first round of working the steps, I hope you’ll find not just lightness in this approach, but also depth.
This is not rocket science.
P.S. I’ll be joined in facilitating this step study by my OA friend Erin. While I’ll be writing the weekly step study material, she will assist with staying in touch with you wherever that’s necessary and helpful. Together we can do what we could never do alone!
The Twelve Steps