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.
After nearly 3 months of hard work and dedication from all of you who have participated in this WTS, this week we are wrapping up our step study with Step Twelve. You have each inspired me enormously. When we began this journey together, the intention was to focus on practicing the principles of recovery in all of our affairs. Week by week, step by step, you have practiced the principles embodied in each of the steps: honesty, hope, faith, courage, integrity, willingness, humility, self-discipline, love for others, perseverance, and spiritual awareness. The final principle we shall examine is that of service.
When I was in my disease, I always wanted to make the world a better place. I wanted there to be peace, I wanted there to be less poverty and hunger, I wanted there to be more love and kindness. But I was so selfish and self-centered, obsessed with food and my body, that there was simply no time to try to make the world a better place in any way that could really help. Even though all of my professional identities have included a strong spirit of helping to make the world a better place, I was so self-obsessed and controlling that, if I didn’t see immediate results, I would get exasperated and give up. Or even worse, blame others for the sorry state of the world.
When I came into recovery, I learned a different way of being of service. I have been so incredibly blessed with abstinence and recovery, that there is a natural desire to share the gifts I have so generously received with others. When I get my panties in a bunch about one of MY terribly important problems – ahem – getting out of myself and working with others is guaranteed to help me.
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous is THE main textbook for recovery according to the 12 steps. I cannot emphasize how important it has been to read and study the book with a sponsor and others for me. If nothing else in this study, again, I will encourage you to get a sponsor and read the AABB. We are reminded on the very first page of the chapter “Working with Others”: “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much ensure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.”
Countless times during my recovery when I have wanted to binge or was upset, I would remember this passage and the guarantee it promises. One of my favorite things to do when I am squirrely is to send a text message to another fellow and ask about how he/she is doing. No matter how much the disease is luring me to self-destruct, that tiny little action ALWAYS gets me feeling better. I cannot tell you what delight it brings, too, when months or sometimes years later I have been in a meeting when someone has come back after a long period of relapse and has shared that getting a simple text message brought her light and hope in a period of bleakness. That is something that each and every one of us can do, abstinent or not, with 30 years of recovery or not.
When I came into recovery, I saw people being of service. They had been fed of a rich spiritual stew of yumminess, and went on to give some to others who were starving for spiritual nourishment as they had been. They recognized that they HAD to help others to keep the recovery they had but they also wanted to. I saw them giving to the fellowship, but also to their families and broader communities.
What was their secret? If you want to know how service is life-changing, start sponsoring TODAY. There is nothing quite like sharing your experience, strength and hope with another compulsive overeater. When I first started to sponsor, I would get so disappointed and sad when I shared a brilliant suggestion (ahem!) with a sponsee and she didn’t take it. Very quickly though, I read the Big Book and was reminded that I am ONLY to share my ESH! THAT is my whole job! The results are ALWAYS HPs! Whether anyone gets abstinent or recovers has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with me! My job though is to be willing to share what I have been given and then to let go of the results.
That is a profoundly meaningful way for living outside of the rooms, too. I just have to do my teeny, weeny small part and leave the results – global warming, peace on earth, eradication of poverty, etc – to HP. How do I do this? By observing how other people who have self-esteem behave.
In my disease, for example, whenever I would go to the grocery store, I would leave the grocery cart out in the parking lot. It wasn’t my job, after all, to put it back into the little storage areas. I was there for my fix and wanted to get out as soon as possible. I didn’t care if I left a cart and it blocked in a little old lady or ran over a small child on a skateboard. In theory, of course, I cared about the world. But in practice I was selfish and self-centered in the extreme.
Part of practicing the principle of service in all my affairs for me means amending this behavior. So when I go to the grocery store, even if I don’t wanna, I bring the cart back to the storage area. If I want to make the world a better place, I have to do the next indicated right action and leave the results to HP. Nobody ever got a Nobel Prize for putting away grocery carts, that’s for sure. But my ego needs regular reminders that it is no longer in charge and this little action helps deflate my ego a teeny weeny little bit and helps grow my self-esteem by a teeny weeny little bit each time.
The greatest challenge I see in myself and other compulsive overeaters around service is wanting to control the results. But the spiritual awakening we have as a result of working all 12 steps and practicing all the principles helps me get out of that mindset. I used to feel like a chump if I spent MY time helping someone or doing something without seeing IMMEDIATE results (which would feed my ego once again). In recovery, I know it is only my job to share whatever recovery, talents, resources, experience and whatever else I have been given in service and to leave the results – whatever they may be – to HP.
Another great challenge to the spirit of service in this step is attachment to specific people and situations. No, I cannot make anyone in my family recover. I cannot make my sponsees recover. I cannot make any specific person, place or thing bend to my will – even if it is wanting good things for them – without inflating my big ego again. And ego deflation is exactly what the 12 steps are all about, finding a power greater than myself, bigger than my ego, that can solve my problem of compulsive eating and unmanageable living. When I just do the next indicated right action, focusing on being of service, things just kinda click into place.
As we wrap up our step study, I would encourage you to go back and to read the previous leads and shares that you and others have contributed. It is amazing to see how recovery builds bit by bit as a result of consistently practicing a new design for living. Perhaps you are not where you want to be in terms of your food, weight, life, recovery at this moment. But if you have endeavored to earnestly practice the 12 step principles over these last 12 weeks, I can assure you that you have made spiritual progress. If you have completed the step study, rejoice in your commitment, willingness and perseverance. And if you have not, file it away in your inbox, or a special folder, and go back and read the leads and your shares, and pick up where you have left off. When and as you are able, without guilt, but with hope and joy.
When I was asked to lead this WTS, I balked. That is what compulsive overeaters like me do, think, “No way. I can’t do it.” But when we put our life on a service plane, and let go of wanting to be the best, most profound, most thorough and perfect, miracles happen. I cannot possibly share with you the miracles that have happened in my life in the past three months.
Some questions and assignments for you:
- As an exercise, send an email, text or phone call to someone in recovery that you have never communicated with before and ask how he/she is doing. Promise you will let go of whatever results come from that, you won’t get hurt if you don’t hear back from her, you won’t get disappointed if she binges. Can you share your experience with us?
- What have you learned about service recently? As a result of this study?
- Have you had a spiritual awakening as THE result of working the steps? What did it look and feel like? How did you KNOW it was a spiritual awakening?
- Do you blame others for the sorry state of the world? Did you in your disease? How has this changed in recovery?
- Do you think giving up when there are no immediate results to your efforts to be of service is selfish and self-centered?
- Are you willing to share your ESH as a sponsor today? Will you send your bio to TRG as a potential sponsor? Or raise your hand at a meeting to sponsor? If you are not willing, why aren’t you? Perhaps writing about it will help you attain greater willingness.
- Share on this statement and how it is relevant to your recovery today: “If I want to make the world a better place, I have to do the next indicated right action and leave the results to HP.”
- Is your service attached to specific people or situations? Do you think that is because your ego wants approval or greater safety and security? How can you begin to break this pattern practically? (Anonymous giving, for example, is a WONDERFUL way to deflate the ego which always wants to be recognized.)
- Do you have a grocery cart-type story you would like to share about small ways you are of service today without expecting or waiting for applause?
- Read the Big Book chapter “Working with Others”, step 12 in the OA 12 and 12 and the AA 12 and 12 (again, the latter can be found online and for FREE at www.aa.org/twelveandtwelve/en_tableofcnt.cfm)
- Please share with us anything you’d like to about this WTS study and specifically what you might have gained by focusing on practicing the principles in ALL your affairs. This is service!
The Twelve Steps
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