Step One

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

Leader's Share and Step Questions

Hi, friends. My name is Penny, and I am a compulsive eater and leader for this quarter's step study. Again, it is an honor to be able to do this service, and I am grateful for the opportunity.

Disclaimer: Much of what you’re going to read was is adapted from material gifted to me by my sponsor, Rachel S. I wish I had written it because it is so beautifully presented!

We'll be working in both the OA 12 & 12 and the Big Book (changing the words alcohol/liquor/etc. to food; alcoholic to compulsive eater). Over the next few days, please read step 1 in the OA 12&12 and through Chapter 3 in the Big Book. Please underline any passages that speak to you, and share your thoughts with your sponsor (you do have a sponsor, right?) as you go along.

If you haven’t developed a plan of eating (one of the OA tools), please consider it. Work it out with your sponsor; s/he will guide you.

Step 1 is where it all begins.

My sponsor taught me that the crux of Step 1 is that we are powerless over the thought process that says:

  • I can handle it this time; this time it will be different; just one (pick your food).
  • Food is love, punishment, reward, good, bad.
  • If I worry enough, I’ll change the future.
  • If I say or do the exactly right thing, people will do what I want.

I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s parse this step.

We: There are other people like myself who react to food the way I – when I’m in my diseased mind – react. I’m not the only one. That’s huge for me because in my mind, I was what people in the rooms call “terminally unique.”

Admitted: One definition of admitted is “to grant in argument, to concede.” When I heard the word “admitted,” I thought it meant I was being asked to admit defeat. But actually, it is the opposite. I am being asked to consider if my way of dealing with life and food is working for me.

We were powerless over food: “We.” I’m not the only one who spent a lifetime believing that all I needed was to muster the will power to stay on a diet. I had been told that I should be able to eat less, eat healthier, use my will power. And every so often I did do all those things, only to fail – yet again – and then I felt like a failure. If only I followed this or that diet, I would find happiness.

How many times would I come up against a small morsel of food that – in my mind – grew to gigantic proportions? How many times had I sworn that I was done eating, only to head into the refrigerator or pantry again? The compulsion to eat was way stronger than I was. I absolutely could not control myself around food. And the obsession was a nightmare. When I was on a diet, I made charts and plans. When I wasn’t on a diet, I felt guilty every time I ate. I was obsessed with getting and eating food, my weight, my body, my looks.

That our lives: there’s that plural pronoun again. Other people have the same problem. I’m not the only one.

But what was with the “lives?” I came to OA for the food problem, not the life problem, right?

Had become unmanageable: I came to OA because I couldn’t control my eating. When I came to OA, the binges were like childbirth pains, coming every 3 to 5 minutes. I knew my eating was out of control when I got ragingly angry at people I loved because they were interfering with my getting my food. That’s pretty “unmanageable.” I put on clothes that had fit a week or a year earlier, and when I couldn’t zip up, I went into rages, sometimes punching my stomach or putting holes in walls. That’s pretty unmanageable.

When I got thin, usually by a fluke, I was still miserable. Even if/when I managed, and maybe the physical compulsion wasn’t apparent, I was absolutely obsessed with food: what to eat, what I ate or would eat, how I looked, how I felt after eating, "good foods" and "bad foods." My mind was like the hamster on a wheel. That’s pretty unmanageable.

My life was a chaotic wreck. I was the proverbial roaring tornado. I thought it all had to do with my weight. (We’ll see in future steps just how mistaken I was), “When I’m thin, I’ll be happy. When I’m thin, I’ll never be fat again.” And the rest of my life was a mess, too. I lived in terror of abandonment and being found out to be a fraud, afraid of not being loved or even liked, lashing out in anger like a porcupine, nursing resentments as though they were babies.

Unmanageable? Yeah – that fit me like a glove.

Reading the Big Book and the OA 12 & 12 teaches me that Step 1 is all about our relationship and obsession revolving around food. It's the only step that talks specifically about the thing we've come to OA to work on. And it's the exact opposite of everything we've been taught and usually believe.

Taking Step 1 is liberating. There are other people like me. I’m not a failure; I have a problem. All my efforts to control food and my own life are bound to end in frustration because I have this “thing” that keeps me from controlling those things. What I think is going to be humiliating turns out to be a catharsis for my troubled soul.

Here are some questions for consideration:

  1. Do you feel powerless over the food?
  2. How have you tried to achieve control over the food?
  3. What have been the results?
  4. Do you feel that your life is becoming unmanageable?
  5. In what ways does it affect your life?
  6. :last-child

Please answer the question as honestly as you can. Please be sure you have a sponsor with whom you’re working the steps. Please keep coming back because without you, I don’t have a “we.”


Step One

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