Step Twelve: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to compulsive eaters and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
ACTION: Carry and Practice
~ Finish the earlier reading if you haven't as yet
~ Alcoholics Anonymous (the Big Book) - Chapter 6 "Into Action," beginning on at the bottom of page 88 with the last paragraph "But this is not all. There is action and more action. 'Faith without works is dead.' The next chapter is entirely devoted to Step Twelve," through Chapter 7 "Working With Others."
~ The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous - Step Eleven
~ Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (Alcoholics Anonymous) - Step Twelve
Let it out.
Connect with Higher Power.
They say "This is a 'WE' program, not an 'I' program." The steps are all written as "WE." I am not meant to do this "on my own." Compulsive eating was largely just me, myself and my disease. Recovery is "God, others and myself" working together.
Why is an entire chapter of the Big Book devoted to service - working with others who share our problem? Because this is critical for our successful release from compulsive eating, and it is life-changing. The founders of AA learned through their experience that carrying the message to their fellow sufferers was a sure-fire antidote to cravings and urges. "Perhaps it is fortunate for us, and for the millions of compulsive overeaters who still suffer, that most of us who've worked this program will be unable to keep the recovery we have unless we share our experience, strength, and hope with others,. Some of us have tried to follow our program in isolation and have been unable to keep our emotional balance an our abstinence. Had this been possible, we might not be here today to carry the message to newcomers. We would have missed the best part of the twelve steps, for the greatest joy of recovery comes to us when we share our OA program with others." OA 12 & 12.
For me, another reason service is so important is because I process my own experience differently when I communicate about it with another person. Instead of my experience just floating around in my head, it comes together into a more coherent form as I pass it to someone else. It raises my experience to a higher, more developed level. It brings me to realizations and conclusions I hadn't made on my own, and these in turn are stepping stones to more experience, more developed understanding. Communicating experience develops and changes the experience. "More will be revealed," indeed.
How to approach a newcomer. The AA Big Book says to
1. Tell them about my eating history
2. Describe myself as a compulsive eater
3. Tell them about the mental twist that leads me to the first compulsive bite
4. Tell them about how hopeless it is for me to fight this disease with willpower "how the queer mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power."
5. Speak of it as an illness, a disease of body and mind
6. Describe how I got well, exactly what happened to me
7. All the newcomer needs is a willingness to believe in a power greater than himself and to live by spiritual principles
8. Make sure the newcomer knows that I am sharing this because it is vital to my own recovery
9. "Offer him friendship and fellowship. Tell him that if he wants to get well you will do anything to help." But don't let the newcomer become dependent on me. "Remind the prospect that his recovery is not dependent upon people. It is dependent upon his relationship with God."
Going where there will be food? Although we are not told to avoid events or locations where there will be food, especially our trigger foods, we can use reasonable caution. "...ask yourself on each occasion, 'Have I any good social, business or personal reason for going to this place? Or am I expecting to steal a little vicarious pleasure from the atmosphere of such places?' If you answer these questions satisfactorily, you need have no apprehension. Go or stay away, whichever seems best. But be sure you are on solid spiritual ground before you start and that your motive for going is thoroughly good. Do not think of what you will get out of the occasion. Think of what you can bring to it. But if you are shaky, you had better work with another alcoholic instead!...Your job now is to be at the place where you may be of maximum helpfulness to other, so never hesitate to go anywhere if you can be helpful." AA Big Book
Stay Off the Soapbox! When we start living this program, and laying off of certain foods and eating behaviors, it is easy to cross the line and "demonize" these foods and eating behaviors. Yet these foods and eating behaviors are problems for me, not necessarily for another person. I have no authority except that of my own experience, and only about myself. "We are careful never to show intolerance or hatred for drinking as an institution...A spirit of intolerance might repel alcoholics whose lives could have been saved...After all, our problems were of our own making. Bottles were only a symbol. Besides, we have stopped fighting anybody or anything. We have to!" AA Big Book.
What is a Spiritual Awakening? "...the most important meaning of it is that he has now become able to do, feel and believe that which he could not do before on his unaided strength and resources alone...he has been transformed, because he has laid hold of a source of strength which, in one way or another, he had hitherto denied himself." AA 12 & 12
Why Do I Carry This Message? "Even the newest of newcomers finds undreamed rewards as he tries to help his fellow alcoholic, the one who is even blinder than he. This is indeed the kind of giving that actually demands nothing. He does not expect his brother sufferer to pay him, or even to love him. And then he discovers that by the divine paradox of this kind of giving he has found his own reward, whether his brother has received anything or not." AA 12 & 12.
What About the People I Try to Help? Some will recover. Some will not. Some will leave and come back later. We are not in control of this. But even if they don't recover, or if they disappear and stop contacting us or responding to us, seeds have been sown in them, in others, and we have gained experience, we have made progress in our own recovery, all of which will bear fruit in us and in others, perhaps in ways we can't imagine and may never know.
Be Careful Not to Give Advice People we work with may ask our advice, or we may want to give unsolicited advice. This is dangerous. We are not experts on nutrition or interpersonal relationships. We are not therapists or counselors. We keep our focus on the 12 steps and how we work them. We share our own experience.
How do We "Practice These Principles in All Our Affairs"? As we begin living by the 12 steps, we begin to behave differently in our relationships. We handle success, losses and failure, joy and disappointment differently than before. We bring these principles into our relationships with God and others, into our work lives, and into how we deal with ourselves: Honesty, Hope, Faith, Courage, Integrity, Willingness, Humility, Self-Discipline, Love for Others, Perseverance, Spiritual Awareness, Service.
Improvements in Dealing with Life Circumstances Trusting a Higher Power with every aspect of our lives has given us a new set of skills for living. We may not be free of our financial problems, but we can stop making things worse with our fears as we work the steps. We may still suffer loss but we can get through it without falling into despondency and/or diving into a vat of food. We can take our difficulties through the 12 steps. We can take the 12 steps along throughout our days.
"When we look back we realize that the things which came to us when we put ourselves in God's hands were better than anything we could have planned." AA Big Book.
"Here we experience the great truth that when we let go of our need to control people and simply allow our Higher Power to serve others through us, we receive an abundance of joy and strength." OA 12 & 12.
For me, sharing recovery with others is like a never-ending chain of blessings, grace and growth. We all learn from our experience with God/our Higher Power and from what we receive from others, we digest that and grow from it, and learn and grow more as we pass that on to another person. They digest that along with what they receive from God and learn more as they pass it on to another person.
FOR YOUR REFLECTION AND COMMENT:
1. What concerns, difficulties or obstacles do you have as you work step twelve?
2. What actions are you taking to work step twelve?
3. What have you experienced in or as a result of service?
4. Any other thoughts or reactions to the reading or step twelve?
The Twelve Steps