"We admitted we were powerless over food — that our lives had become unmanageable." Step 1
Many of you have worked the steps before, here on TRG and face-to-face. There are many, many ways of working the steps. What matters is not necessarily so much how we work the steps but that we work the steps. There are times when we need to do a very thorough study of the steps and other times when we are more focused on trying to live the steps in our daily lives. It’s summer time here in the Northern Hemisphere when we like to take things a bit lighter and easier. That is the intention for our study this quarter.
Before we get on to step 1, I would like to draw your attention to Step 12 which reads: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to compulsive overeaters and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Many of you have come to these loops and TRG seeking relief from the food and the obsession with it: controlling it, eating it, hiding it, hiding from it, running away from it, running to it and everything in between. Most of us do not come to Work The Steps because we want to become better people: we work them because, without it, we die in the food and the obsession with food. That certainly is my experience.
During the next few months, our WTS study of the steps is going to focus on the second half of the 12th step as we learn to practice these principles in all our affairs. If this is your first time working the steps, use it as a gentle introduction to practicing a new way of living which will, when pursued honestly, relieve you of the obsession and compulsion with food as the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous assures us. If you have worked them many times before, use this study as a reminder to check yourself on a daily basis and to give yourself a gentle nudge in favor of greater honesty, open-mindedness and willingness, perhaps as a reminder of things that you were willing to do when you came to program (like committing your food, for example) and that may have kind of drifted away.
So what are these principles? According to the OA 12 and 12 (step 12), they are:
Step One: Honesty
Step Two: Hope
Step Three: Faith
Step Four: Courage
Step Five: Integrity
Step Six: Willingness
Step Seven: Humility
Step Eight: Self-discipline
Step Nine: Love for others
Step Ten: Perseverance
Step Eleven: Spiritual Awareness
Step Twelve: Service
And so this week our focus is going to be on, drumroll please, the principle of honesty and practicing it in all our affairs.
When I first came into recovery, I really, really thought I was honest, at least cash-register honest. I liked to think of myself as a good-girl (but I don't think my behavior certainly was worthy of the label) because I would never actually lie to your face. Well ... I mean ... I didn't often lie to your face. I mean, it wasn't really a lie when I said I couldn't come to your party because I wasn't feeling well (but I didn't tell you it was because I had binged the night before and felt so fat I couldn't find anything in my closet to wear). And when I "forgot" to return things I had borrowed because I really liked them and felt entitled to keep them, it wasn't a terrible lie. And when I told the dietician I really "mostly" followed the diet she had given me, I wasn't exactly lying.
Or was I?
Until I became willing to get honest with myself, and admit that my life was a complete and utter disaster, I was powerless over food and my life was pitifully and incomprehensibly unmanageable, I could not begin to recover. But once I came to my first face-to-face meeting and started to get honest for the first time in my life, things began to change.
First I had to get honest about the food. What I was doing with food, how I was doing it, and what it was costing me to keep doing it.
The principle of honesty is the foundation upon which step 1, and therefore all of our recovery is based. As they say in the rooms, “You are only as sick as your secrets.” We have to be rigorously honest if we are to recover – there is just no way around it. The Big Book makes it clear, too, that almost anyone can recover from compulsive overeating IF they are willing to be honest.
Why is honesty such a big deal? When I lie about something, I feel guilty. And when I feel guilty what is the best way to punish myself? To hurt myself with food and negative self-talk. As a compulsive overeater, living in active addiction means hiding the truth a lot. Here are some typical ways of being dishonest that may resonate with you. If they don’t, see if you can find your own ways of obscuring the truth:
- I don't know who ate the last cookie/bit of ice cream.
- I can't come to the party tonight because I am not feeling well (when the truth is, I am not feeling well because I've been bingeing or have been through my closet and have nothing to wear that fits anymore but I don't tell you that.)
- Sure, I don't mind going there (when inside I am seething with anger)
- I wear a size 10 (when it really more like a 14)
- Yes, I followed the diet except for one little thing (lying to a dietician, doctor, therapist or trainer who is being paid to help me).
This week’s assignment on step 1, therefore, is about really examining our lives and checking out how honest we really are. It is one thing to write pages and pages on the steps and, while that is extremely helpful, powerful and necessary to many of us, practicing the principle of honesty in our daily lives is, in my not-so-humble opinion, the difference between writing a treatise and studying the steps and working the steps in our lives.
Here are some questions and assignments for you for this week.
• Get a sponsor if you haven’t already. It doesn’t have to be a “till death do us part” relationship with THE Perfect Person! Just someone you feel comfortable sharing your step work and assignments with for the duration of our study.
• Are you willing to get honest about your food? What are you really eating, when and how? Are you willing to commit to a food plan and send your food to someone each day this week (either before or after eating)? It doesn’t matter so much what you are eating at this stage in the game: what matters is that you are willing to be honest about what you are really doing. If you are eating 10 giant pizzas a day, are you willing to be rigorously honest and say it, and not pretend it was 9 ½ pizzas?
• Are you honest about your weight? If you are abstinent, are you honestly "attaining and maintaining a healthy bodyweight"?
• Are you willing to be honest about the cost to your life of being over or under-weight? Write about this cost. This may include health problems, inability to have children or raise them skillfully, inability to form meaningful, durable, intimate relationships?
• Are you willing to ask for the willingness to be honest and weigh yourself this week, tell a sponsor or someone else how much you really weigh and not weigh yourself again for one month? Write about this experience once you have done it.
• What about unmanageability? Are you willing to be honest about how your life is really working? Do you show up on time to appointments or are you always running late? Are you reliable and show up for yourself and others when you make a commitment or do you back out because you are in a food fog from bingeing and can’t get out of the house? Are you honest about your finances, spending more money on food and weight loss gimmicks than you can honestly afford?
• What is one thing in your life you are holding back and hiding from acknowledging? Share this with your sponsor.
• For this week only, will you commit to practicing honesty to the best of your ability in all your affairs? You don’t have to tell your husband, mother, boss everything you are really thinking necessarily (I know that could get me into all kinds of trouble if I am not practiced in being honest!): but are you willing to tell SOMEONE else the honest truth about your feelings? And will you write to the loop and tell us how being honest in all your affairs worked for you? Just for one week?
• If you haven’t already, read step one in the OA 12 and 12, the AA 12 and 12 and The Doctor's Opinion in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Ask for the willingness to be honest as you read these and see how they apply to your life today. Pay special attention to the Doctor’s Opinion, the allergy of the body and obsession of the mind. Does this double-whammy apply in your case and, if so, with what foods or food behaviors? (Remember the Big Book definition of an allergy is an abnormal response to something so, if I eat one piece of chocolate and immediately want another 6234 pieces, that is an abnormal response).
• Get a sponsor
Feel free to respond to the assignments this week to the loop as you wish. Some of you might want to do a little bit each day, and send a reply with your work each day or a couple of times during the week. Others of you may prefer to do all your work and then send an email to the loop. Whatever method you choose, the most important thing is to ask for the willingness to be honest and to allow that to be in reflected in your work as it feels best for you. Only you and your HP know what is in your heart and that should be primarily reflected in what you share with your sponsor. I have always had a sponsor in recovery and know it is vital for me to share the truth of who I really am, with just one other person and my HP.
Wishing you a sane, abstinent week of honest living!
The Twelve Steps
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