My name is Lawrie Cherniack, and Iím a compulsive overeater.
This is a practical Step Study. It is designed to use what Iíve been taught are the directions from the Big Book to recover from compulsive eating, and to maintain that recovery on a one-day-at-a-time basis for the rest of your life.
Donít forget to go to www.oabigbook.info to download (for free, of course) some forms and documents Iíll be referring to in this Step Study, as well as a book Iíve written, based on a 2005 Step Study I did for WTS, which provides the theoretical background for this 2008 Step Study.
If youíre offended by anything I write, please donít be critical until you have read the book Iíve written to see where Iím coming from. In this Step Study I am deliberately getting to the nub and not trying to justify and explain everything Iím saying.
Comments about last weekís responses:
It was wonderful to read all the plans that people have made to keep abstinent while working the steps. Thereís so much collective wisdom in all the responses, and so much variety, that anyone who is wavering should surely be able to gain hope and knowledge from one or more of them! Thanks so much.
As weíll find out, the instructions for this step are really simple and-unlike the upcoming steps-also easy. This is not a time-consuming, action-oriented, huge-effect-producing, step. It is a decision, and all thatís required is:
(a) to understand the clear outcome of what will occur if we implement the decision; and
(b) to make the decision.
It is not the implementation of the decision. To implement the decision we will have to take action-which will mean actually doing Steps Four through Nine. Then and then only will we experience the outcome of the action that we have taken. So Step Three is only a decision. Itís not the action, and therefore itís not a particularly major step. (This assessment of Step Three is, of course, quite different from many assessments; but it is supported by a study of the Big Book. See page 63 of the Big Book, and see a much longer discussion in the Step Study Iíve written.)
Remember that our real problem is that our mind canít think straight-that we always end up being persuaded by some part of our mind that we can indeed eat the foods or food ingredients, or indulge in the eating behaviors, that send us into uncontrollable cravings.
If we could only clear up our minds, then we would be sane and never want to go back to those foods, food ingredients, or eating behaviors.
This is the essence of Step One.
Because we canít on our own, we need help from outside of ourselves to clear our mind. We have to search for a power greater than ourselves which will restore us to sanity.
We get hope from people who have worked the steps who were once just like us and are now completely different. Their minds are clear, not jumbled. They told us that to get where they were, they worked the Twelve Steps, and a passage cleared between their highest values (their God, their personal moral values, whatever) deep in their heart, and their clouded minds. And once that passage cleared, their minds cleared and they became sane.
This is the essence of Step Two.
So how do we become sane? We clean house (Steps Four through Nine). Before we clean house, however, we have to make a clear commitment to do so.
The next step, therefore, is Step Three. Weíre going to make a decision to clean house.
The outcome of implementing the decision in Step Three:
First, what is the nature of the decision that weíre being told we have to make? What is the outcome of implementing the decision? What is the effect of cleaning our house?
Well, we must recognize and accept that we are people who want to run the show, rather than simply to act in it. We want things to go our way-sometimes for good purposes, sometimes for our own purposes, sometimes for a mixture of both.
Good purposes: We want our loved ones to act and live well; we want our friends to get along with each other; we donít want people to suffer; we want our town, our country, the world, to live in peace and harmony.
Our own purposes: we want people to recognize our worth, we want money to live according to the lifestyle we desire, we want to be loved, to be idolized, to be the center of attention, to be left alone, to be able to do what we want to do rather than what someone else wants us to do, to eat what we want, to be gratified sexually according to our own desires, to have anything we want when we want it.
Mixed purposes: we want our kids to act properly so that they will have a happy life but also so that we wonít be embarrassed by them or they wonít be a burden on us, we want life to go well for other people partly for their sake but partly because we donít want to feel burdened by their suffering or poverty or even their presence, we want money to give to charity and to live according to our desires.
We may think weíre the best, the worst, or average; we may think life is great, awful, or middling; but we want life to go our way.
And whatever our motives, life just doesnít go our way. Things happen that we donít want to have happened. Our lives are full of what-ifs and if-onlys. What if this had happened? Wouldnít my life be different? If only this hadnít happened. My life would be so different.
That has been our problem. Our reaction to not having life go our way is to continue to try to impose our will on others, or retreat from life, or to do a combination of both, depending on the impact we can make. (We might retreat from political or social life, but try to impose our will on family, for instance; or vice-versa.)
We now have to accept a new definition-different from the dictionary definition-for the word selfish. In the dictionary selfish means "to want life to go our way for our own purposes".
From the perspective of the Twelve Steps, however, selfish means "to want life to go our way, regardless of the motivation". We might simply want a better world and be frustrated by the fact that it isnít a better world. From a dictionary definition, thatís not selfish; from the Twelve Steps perspective, that is selfish.
We have to remember this definition, because itís going to be extremely important when we consider Steps Four through Nine.
While normal people might be able to deal with this in ways that arenít destructive, the fact that we cannot control life at all, that things donít go our way, is killing us. We have to deal with that. We have to get rid of our need to have life go our way. Because life doesnít go our way, and we are frustrated.
That frustration is clouding our mind. And when our mind is clouded, we cannot keep ourselves from returning to the food, food ingredients, and eating behaviors that cause us uncontrollable cravings.
When we go back to those things, we eat uncontrollably. When we eat uncontrollably, we die. Letís be clear about that. We die. We die slowly and lingeringly. We die in debilitating and terrible ways. We get diabetes, and that leads in turn to strokes, blindness, gangrene. We get hip and knee and ankle problems. We get heart attacks, high blood pressure, cancer. We might starve ourselves to death in fearful reaction. We harm our metabolism. We will live futile and shorter lives.
So we have to be free of the food, food ingredients, and eating behaviors that cause us uncontrollable cravings.
To do that, we need a clear mind. To have a clear mind we need to find a way to deal with the fact that life doesnít go our way.
(For more discussion on this, see the book Iíve written, and, more important, read pages 60 to 62 of the Big Book.)
We are promised that the outcome of working the Steps is that we will no longer want to impose our will on others, that we will accept life on lifeís terms, and that our minds will thereby be sane.
Do you want that outcome? Then make a decision to get that outcome! Then (Steps Four through Nine) do what you have to do to get that outcome!
(By the way, if you're really new to the program, maybe you're worrying about Step Five or Step Nine. Maybe you're saying, "Well, I can do an inventory, but I'll never speak it to someone else." Or "Well, I can even speak it to someone else, but I'm never going to apologize to that person." Don't worry! The Steps are done in order, one after the other. Once you finish Step Four, you will want to do Step Five. Once you finish Step Five, you'll want to do Steps Six and Seven. And so on. And you won't know the kind of amend you'll be making until you finish Step Eight -- so you may not have to apologize to "that person".)
What do we do for Step Three?
We confirm our decision to seek another way of life, hoping against hope that this other way of life will give us freedom from food by allowing us to tap into a power greater than ourselves.
Weíre not promised much by the decision. We will feel an effect, sometimes a great one, but sometimes only a small one, when we do it. Thatís the only real promise of Step Three. (Yes, I know that some people think that the first paragraph of page 63 of the Big Book contains the promises of Step Three. Thatís not how Iíve been taught. Iíve been taught and believe that those promises are the promises of the program itself. See my book for the discussion.)
Weíre going to say a prayer. The words are optional, so long as the spirit is there. Weíre going to find a trusted person to say the prayer with. We will say it humbly and reverently. Itís an important moment in our life, a moment when we actually look to become someone different from who we are.
We may not believe in the power of prayer. No matter. Itís the actual act of asking that is important. Do it whether you believe in it or not. Itís a moment of humility, not of humiliation. It may be even more effective, depending on your attitude, to say it on your knees, but you donít have to.
Remember that Iím a complete and unrepentant agnostic; yet I say this prayer because in a symbolic way, it is an important dedication of my life to my own higher power-the values that I hold dear, which are my "god".
If you want, if itís more comfortable for you, change "thee" and "thou" to "all of my values", and "thy power, etc." to "the power of all of my values, the love of all of my values, the way of life of all of my values". If you donít want to, then donít capitalize "Thee" and "Thy" and "Thou". Thatís absolutely in the spirit of what weíre talking about! Just donít be put off by the language. Say the prayer, for Godís sake! [Thatís a joke, you know!])
Hereís the prayer. Say it with someone you trust:
God, I offer myself to Thee-to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!
Hereís a reworded version of the prayer for those who have trouble with the God-thing:
My highest values, I offer myself to you-to build with me and to do with me as my highest values dictate. I want to be relieved of the bondage of self so that I can better act according to my highest values. I want my difficulties to be taken away so that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of the power of my highest values, the love of my highest values, and the way of life of my highest values. May I act according to my highest values always!
Look at it carefully. Youíre offering yourself to your highest values, which may be your religious god or may simply be important moral concepts, to act according to them and not to your own wishes. You want to be freed from the bondage self not so that you can prosper from it or stop eating, but so you can act according to your highest values. You want your difficulties to be taken away, not so that you can be worry-free, but so you can help others by showing them the power of acting according to your highest values rather than according to your will.
Did you feel an effect, maybe a great one, but maybe just a small one? Maybe you just feel excited that youíve actually decided to go on with it. Maybe the notion of saying it with someone else has been a very humbling experience-that you need help and other people to help you. Maybe itís a profound moment in your life. It doesnít really matter. But you felt something. Of course you did.
Now itís time to whip on to do Step Four, which Iíll start discussing next week. Itíll take about three weeks to discuss it.
Assignment for the week:
1. Keep abstinent!
2. Do you accept that your problem is that you want to be in charge of life, and life isnít going your way? Discuss that.
3. Do you understand how clouded your mind is as a result of lifeís not going your way? Discuss that.
4. Did you say the Step Three prayer? Did you change the wording at all? Did you find the right person to say it to? Did you feel something, and what did you feel?
Make sure to download the Step Four forms from www.oabigbook.info and the Suggestions for filling them out (and/or read the chapters on Step Four in the Step Study also available on that website). Weíll be discussing the forms in great detail over the next three weeks.
See you next week. Continue to keep abstinent, and work the steps! Within a few more weeks you won't be tempted.