Step One

We admitted we were powerless over food,
that our lives had become unmanageable.

Leader's Share and Step Questions

Reading Assignment:
In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (BB)

Read Step One in the OA 12 & 12.

When I write this, I center myself. For me this is a deep breath and a willingness to be open and thoughtful and intentional, and true to the Program of the Big Book. My intention is to share what has become true for me. Please center yourself in whatever way works for you.

Breaking the step down:
The first word in the step is We
We is different than I. None of us is in this alone. I write my reflections, but there is nothing special about them -- they are just mine and I hope that you'll find a spark for yourself in them. As you share your reflections, others will find hope and perspective in your shares, and so will I. And you will find the same in theirs. In this way, we form a fellowship. (
Guideline One of the TRG is that there is no cross talk -- for that reason we only share our own experiences.)

From the AA Big Book, page 17
The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we have discovered a common solution. We have a way out on which we can absolutely agree, and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious action. This is the great news this book carries to those who suffer from alcoholism.

As we share our experiences and hopes, we will form a fellowship based on the program described in the BB.

Another important way that we are not alone is our sponsorship practice. Sponsors are specifically about us -- about how to relate the program found in the Big Book to ourselves. My sponsor listens to my story and then keeps me on the straight and narrow with the steps. It is in this way that my story has changed for the better. If you don't already have a sponsor, please be sure to read through the list of sponsors that we receive and contact someone now. Don't be afraid of doing that.

The next word in the step: Admitted….
This was a tough one for me!
Read the Big Book -- Chapter 3, page 30.

Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it to the gates of insanity or death. We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics.

Now reread this first paragraph, but this time, where you find the pronouns us or we, or many, substitute either the pronoun I, or your name. Where you read the words alcohol, drinking, substitute ‘;compulsive overeating and so on… Thus: I have been unwilling to admit I am a compulsive overeater… My life has been characterized by countless vain attempts to eat like other people…. Somehow, someday I will be able to control and enjoy….

This seems obvious, doesn’t it? We do something we do not want to do and if we could stop doing it, we would. Isn’t that the definition of powerlessness?

We read in the Doctor’s Opinion that we have a progressive disease. (First full paragraph on page xxviii) Worth repeating -- it is a progressive disease -- we didn't chose to get it and we can’t get over it by an act of will or strength of character. It doesn’t go away and it gets worse over time. I found that incredulous. I was unable, or more likely unwilling, to believe that. I am pretty smart, and I knew I was killing myself with compulsive eating. I could control other behaviors without any problem, why not this one? For me owning this as a disease,as something that happened to me, rather than something I did, has been difficult.

Then the word, Food
I am just going rogue on this -- I substitute the words compulsive eating for food, because that, at least to me, is what it is. What exerts power over me is the behavior of compulsive overeating. The power my disease holds over me is that I can’t do two things:

I cannot not take that first bite of food when I am restless, irritable or discontent (p.xxviii) or, as my diseased progressed, for any reason at all, sometimes ones that I cannot identify. If my boss was unhappy, or my husband wasn't doing what I wanted, or my children hadn't called lately, or I was celebrating something, or I had a bad hair day -- all these, and a million other things, led me to eat even though I didn’t want that bite. I did it anyway. And I did it as I was telling myself not to. And it didn’t matter what the food was (I have binged on every kind of food imaginable); it mattered that I ate it in a way that made me feel calmer, happier, satisfied, etc. This was the obsession of my mind.

Page xxviii:
Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the truth from the false. To them their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks-drinks which they see others taking with impunity.

Be sure to reread this with your own name or pronoun, and with the words compulsive eating in it. Listen to the power that brings to the reading.

The second thing, the more physically injurious thing, was that I cannot stop eating once I start. I ate until the food is gone, and then I looked for more. This is the second part of my disease -- in addition to the obsession of my mind, I have a so-called allergy -- a damaging response -- that kicks in. This is the craving of the body to eat and eat and eat....

The rest of the paragraph, on the next page, xxvix

After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over...,

I had that firm resolution in triplicate. I was always determined not to eat again, and, in my disease, I always failed before breakfast. Part of my desperation was this huge sense of constant failure. I so hope that you don't have that.

And Part II of the step
Our lives had become unmanageable.

Some of us find this easy to see. Our lives are run by our eating. For some it is more subtle. Some, like me, will deny it at first: I ran a household, I raised children, I had a decent job, etc., etc. I was, however, lying to myself and to others.

I also spent way more money on food than my family ever needed to spend. I forced my family into restaurants they didn’t want to go to, and at which I knew I didn’t need to eat, I stole food from your home and your plate, and sometimes the garbage. I made trips complicated by stops for eating, and I manipulated my family into those stops with lies and deceit. I went to a zillion (expensive) doctors and diet programs to cure myself. All of these are examples of the the unmanageability of my life. Or as I think of it, of the disease managing me. I did not want to do those things. We all have these stories, and these are all part of the unmanageability of our lives.

And what did I get from step one? What do I hope for you?
I saw some of the ways in which I was powerless. I discover more as I continue to practice the steps. I had to understand that, for me, this was about the behavior of compulsive overeating and thus a diet couldn't cure it. If you’ve had the patience to read what I've written, then you’ll remember that I wrote a list above of triggers for my first bite -- when the obsession of the mind kicked in for me --If my boss was unhappy, or my husband wasn't doing what I wanted, or my children hadn't called lately, or I was celebrating something ....

These aren’t foods… these are other people -- my boss, my husband, my children, etc. For ME, I had to admit I was powerless over other people as well as my compulsive eating response to them. If they annoyed me, I compulsively ate. If they made me restless, I compulsively ate. If I was irritated, I compulsively ate. The food wasn't the issue for me--restless, irritability and discontentedness-- were my problems. I compulsively ate as the solution to those problems. This was the obsession of my mind. I had no control over this. I was powerless over others and over my response. And then once I had taken that first bite, then I was powerless over compulsive overeating. That craving is a physical response… I just kept on eating…

So my Step One let me see the basis of my recovery: I was powerless. Will power, strength of character, determination, stubbornness -- none of those things would help me. They were just the wrong tools for the job, and what a relief it is to know that my perception that I was a failure because they hadn’t worked for me was flat-out wrong.

I had a compulsion of the mind and a craving of the body. I had to SEE those that as the disease it is and I had to know that I had no power over it. It is not as easy or as straightforward as I thought. It took time and repetition, and still does, for me. Practicing this step makes me teachable.

Work the Step
So please reflect, and share on this loop, on step one as it applies to you. Take the step apart, as I’ve done, and reflect on each part. Be sure to also share this with your sponsor. (Remember that any conversation you have with another loop member and/or your sponsor needs to have the WTS email removed so it is private).
The word we?
The word admit?
The word powerless?
The word food?
The concept of unmanageability?
Can you admit your powerlessness?
Can you accept your powerlessness?


Step One

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