"The Twelve Steps are the heart of the OA recovery program. They offer a new way of life that enables the compulsive overeater to live without the need for excess food.
The ideas expressed in the Twelve Steps, which originated in Alcoholics Anonymous, reflect practical experience and application of spiritual insights recorded by thinkers throughout the ages. Their greatest importance lies in the fact that they work! They enable compulsive overeaters and millions of other Twelve-Steppers to lead happy, productive lives. They represent the foundation upon which OA is built.
The Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous
- We admitted we were powerless over food ≠ that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- 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.
Permission to use the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
for adaptation granted by AA World Services, Inc."
One of my sponsors told me, "If all else fails read the instructions". I had never thought of the book Alcoholics Anonymous as a text or the other program literature as being anything other than interesting. But she told me that if I were to go back and learn the history of the beginnings of the 12 step program I would begin to see things in a different light; that the text was originally written as an explicit instruction manual. She presented me with the information and I made my own conclusions. She told me that the pioneers wrote the Big Book after they had already recovered. They wrote what they did that produced spectacular recoveries for them. It was not a theoretical exercise in what they hoped would one day produce recovery. She told me they left out what didnít work. I loved that!
She told me that she did not want to convince me of anything and that if I read the program literature she believed I would reach the same conclusions she had and she wanted to endorse my conclusions. She was right.
AA 12 and 12 p. 96
"Prayer and meditation are our principal means of conscious contact with God."
I believe that prayer is asking and that mediation is listening. The focus of the 11th step is to start a dialogue with our Higher Power and develop a relationship with Him. That is how we improve our conscious contact. Many of us have had a monologue with God and it often has the same effect as clapping with one hand. We need to have a dialogue and this allows us to get to know Him better. We can start relating and interacting with HP as a way of improving our conscious contact, not just maintain it. We need to actively seek to improve our conscious contact.
Dr Sam Shoemaker was one of the early leaders of the Oxford Groups and was one of AAís spiritual leaders. At AAís 20th anniversary in 1955 he gave a speech that was reprinted in AA Comes of Age on p. 263,.
"I would like to quote for those who believe themselves still to be without faith in God a wonderful word from the Roman Catholic Spanish philosopher Unamuno y Jugo, who said, "Those who deny God deny Him because of their despair at not finding Him." For an outfit like AA to become dogmatic would have been fatal, I think. So they stuck to the inescapable experiences and told people to turn their wills and their lives over to the care of God as they understood Him. That left the theory and the theology,...to the churches to which people belong. If they belonged to no church and could hold no consistent theory, then they had to give themselves to the God that they saw in other people. Thatís not a bad way to set in motion the beginnings of a spiritual experience. Maybe thatís what we all do at the point where religion changes over for us from a mere tradition to a living power.
I believe in the psychological soundness of all this. Donít think it applies to alcoholics alone. I think it applies to everybody who is seeking genuine spiritual faith and experience. When one has done the best he can with intellectual reasoning, there yet comes a time for decision and for action. It may be a relatively simple decision, such as to enter fully into the experiment. I think the approach is much more like science than it is like philosophy. We donít so much try to reason it out in abstract logic. We choose a hypothesis. We act as if it were true and see whether it works. If it doesnít we discard it, and if it does we are free to call the experiment a success."
Skipping down to the bottom of the next paragraph.
"The experimental approach seems to me to be the essence of our finding the help of a Higher Power. We first lean on another human being who seems to be finding the answer and then we lean on the Higher Power that stands behind him."
AA 12 and 12 p. 97
"Of course, we finally did experiment, and when unexpected results followed, we felt different; in fact we knew different; and so we were sold on meditation and prayer."
The program suggests that we can enter this as an experiment. That is how I started much of it. I thought if all else fails follow the instructions and give it some time. I figured I could always change my mind and go back if I had to. But that has not ever been the case. You can enter the experiment and see what the result is. Then based on the result you can call the experiment a success or failure.
Still on p. 97
"When we refuse air, light, or food, the body suffers. And when we turn away from meditation and prayer, we likewise deprive our minds, our emotions, and our intuitions of vitally needed support. As the body can fail its purpose for lack of nourishment, so can the soul."
I get nourishment I need for the day when I spend some time with God in the morning asking and listening.
AA 12 and 12 p. 98
"There is a direct linkage among self-examination, meditation, and prayer. Taken separately, these practices can bring much relief and benefit. But when they are logically related and interwoven, the result is an unshakable foundation for life."
That is one amazing statement and one that has been borne out in my own life, most gratefully! Our program weaves self examination, meditation and prayer in steps 10 and 11. The two are hard to separate. Our program is a design for living, a single entity, not distinct parts.
The Mulitlith Copy of the Big Book on p. 39 says,
"Step eleven suggest prayer and meditation. Donít be shy on this matter of prayer. Better men than we are using it constantly. It works, if you have the proper attitude and work at it. It would be easy to be vague about this matter, yet we believe we can give you some definite and valuable suggestions."
The pioneers practiced morning meditation. It was a cornerstone of their recoveries. A survey of early members who slipped showed that universally, the first thing that had happened was that they had all given up that morning quiet time.
Again the pioneers of the 12 step program gave us very explicit instructions on how to work this step.
The BB gives us these directions on pages 86/87 and 88. My sponsor asked me to read them daily and I did. I still use them everyday.
Still in the Multilith on p. 39
"Next think about the 24 hours ahead. Consider your plans for the day............In thinking through your day you may face indecision...Before you begin, ask God to guide your thinking. Especially ask that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Then go ahead and use your common sense. There is nothing hard or mysterious about this God gave you brains to use......You might conclude the period of meditation with a prayer that you be shown all through the day what your next step is to be, that He give you whatever you need to take care of every situation......."
This program presents the assumptions that God has all knowledge and all power. This may not be God as you understand Him, but the proposition that either God is everything, or nothing, from p. 53 in the BB, that God has all knowledge and power is a basic presumption of this program.
AA 12 and 12 p. 98, 100
"How, then, shall we meditate?í ...."Well, we might start like this."....." There's nothing the matter with constructive imagination; all sound achievement rests upon it. After all, no man can build a house until he first envisions a plan for it. Well, meditation is like that, too; it helps to envision our spiritual objective before we try to move toward it."
Very few people are willing to take action to get to where they already are. Why do anymore if I am already there? Having a goal, seeing that there is somewhere to move forward is important.
Realizing that I have a goal helps focus and give context to my prayer and meditation.
AA 12 and 12 p 102.
"Now, what of prayer?"......" And we think that the whole range of our needs is well defined by that part of Step Eleven which says: "...knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out." A request for this fits in any part of our day."....." Our immediate temptation will be to ask for specific solutions to specific problems, and for the ability to help other people as we have already thought they should be helped. In that case, we are asking God to do it our way."...." when making specific requests, it will be well to add to each one of them this qualification: "...if it be Thy will.""......" As the day goes on, we can pause where situations must be met and decisions made, and renew the simple request: "Thy will, not mine, be done." If at these points our emotional disturbance happens to be great, we will more surely keep our balance, provided we remember, and repeat to ourselves, a particular prayer or phrase that has appealed to us in our reading or meditation. Just saying it over and over will often enable us to clear a channel choked up with anger, fear, frustration, or misunderstanding, and permit us to return to the surest help of all--our search for God's will, not our own, in the moment of stress."
P 104 AA 12 and 12
"We form ideas as to what we think God's will is for other people. We say to ourselves, "This one ought to be cured of his fatal malady," or "That one ought to be relieved of his emotional pain," and we pray for these specific things. Such prayers, of course, are fundamentally good acts, but often they are based upon a supposition that we know God's will for the person for whom we pray. This means that side by side with an earnest prayer there can be a certain amount of presumption and conceit in us. It is A.A.'s experience that particularly in these cases we ought to pray that God's will, whatever it is, be done for others as well as for ourselves."
p. 105 AA 12 and 12
"All those who have persisted have found strength not ordinarily their own. They have found wisdom beyond their usual capability. And they have increasingly found a peace of mind which can stand firm in the face of difficult circumstances. We discover that we do receive guidance for our lives to just about the extent that we stop making demands upon God to give it to us on order and on our terms. Almost any experienced A.A. will tell how his affairs have taken remarkable and unexpected turns for the better as he tried to improve his conscious contact with God. He will also report that out of every season of grief or suffering, when the hand of God seemed heavy or even unjust, new lessons for living were learned, new resources of courage were uncovered, and that finally, inescapably, the conviction came that God does "move in a mysterious way His wonders to perform."
P 105. AA 12 and 12
"All of us, without exception, pass through times when we can pray only with the greatest exertion of will. Occasionally we go even further than this. We are seized with a rebellion so sickening that we simply won't pray. When these things happen we should not think too ill of ourselves. We should simply resume prayer as soon as we can, doing what we know to be good for us. Perhaps one of the greatest rewards of meditation and prayer is the sense of belonging that comes to us."
Bill Wilson wrote those words 15 years or so into his recovery and he obviously included himself when he said "All of us without exception." When I realized that I was not going to do it perfectly and that I did not have to do it perfectly, I could trust God and put Him in charge. I could trust that HP knows what He is doing and that there are going to be times when I just plain do not like where I am at in recovery. I can still trust God. I can remember then that the last time I felt great it did not last forever and so it stands to reason that feeling lousy will not last forever either. I trust that I will start to feel better and that I do not need to think too ill of myself. I can and will start doing what is good for me when I can.
"We know that God lovingly watches over us. We know that when we turn to Him, all will be well with us, here and hereafter."
"It works...it really does. Try it. We alcoholics are undisciplined. So let God discipline you in the simple way we have just outlined. But that is not all. There is action and more action. "Faith without works is dead. What works? We shall treat them in the next chapter which is entirely devoted to step twelve"
I cannot stay abstinent without this step. I practice it in conjunction with step 10 in the morning, throughout the day when I get stressed and start to second guess myself and at night before I go to bed. It keeps me centered and living in the solution rather than in the problem. It puts distance between food as a "substance" and me. It puts me closer to Godís intention for me on this earth and my higher purpose.
I cannot do this alone and I need the power of something Higher.
I wrote the times in my life when I experienced the presence of a loving caring God. I wrote everything that I could remember, down to the most minute detail. From that writing I was able to see how God was in my life and communicated with me during my life. It helped to facilitate a dialogue and make a more tangible and personal God. That was an extremely integral and important exercise in my conscious contact with God. I came to rely totally on that HP who has not EVER steered me wrong.
Please read chapter 12 in the AA and OA 12 and 12 and Working With Others in the Big Book for next weekís step twelve.
- What are the different ways you have found to meditate?
- Do you have a personal relationship with HP? Please share as much as you would like.
- Are you tempted to pray for specific outcomes to situations for yourself or other people?
- How come they did not say that, but instead said, His will for us and the power to carry that out?
- How does step 11 make a difference to your recovery and freedom from food obsession?