An audible groan escaped my lips when I read this step in my home meeting. I thought what a huge ask. First you ask me to believe in a power greater than me and now your asking me to turn everything over to him. What will I have left? How will I survive without my best friend: food? Speaking to my counsellor this morning she mentioned that Step 3 to someone like me is the most difficult step. I have a major character defect and that is control. I have to control everything in my life. So when asked to hand not only my life, the food and also my will over to my newly defined Higher Power this was massive for me.
So I asked my sponsor, the gentle soul, what it was like to do this. How did I do it? Did I have to do anything in specific? She showed me her re-written version of the AA 3rd step prayer and gave me the beautiful advice of "Act as if" you believe each and every word.
"Higher Power I give myself to you, to reform me and help me to do your will. Take away my self will that I may be open to yours. Take away my problems so that I can be an inspiration to others and show them that you are powerful, loving and that doing your will is in my best interest. May I do your will always."
What did this mean to me? Act as if God was running the show. Act as if you didn't run everything. Check out stuff before you do it. Act as if the collective wisdom of OA and the little voice of intuition which was telling me not to eat that extra portion of dinner or stop for a coffee in Starbucks was not trying to kill me, spoil my fun or make me into a nun.
So I tried it. I figured heck it seems to be working for her. So one meal at a time I asked God for abstinence. He gave me that. I asked for help with my job. He gave me that. I asked for help with money. He gave me that. I asked for help with finding friends. He gave me that. I asked for things that were not that good for me too. He didn't give me that and man I was angry and often took back self will for a while and wallowed around in my defect of control till it got too painful and had to give it up. Eventually what I got in place of those things I had thought I wanted were far better. You see I often, still, ask to be thin and beautiful. But what God has shown me is that thin is not beautiful. I need to love me as I am. I am beautiful now. The more I accepted this and handed it over. The more the decision was taken. And more of the excess weight was taken from me.
When I let HP drive the bus (run my life) I get there faster and run down a lot fewer elderly ladies at traffic crossings let me tell you!
Ok, you've gotten used to my breaking up the step by now:
Made a decision – I've made many decisions in my life. I decided to move 4000 miles away from where I was born to be with a man I met on the Internet. I decided to go to university to become a Vet. I decided that grey is not my colour. I decided to foster 2 lovely cats. I decided to take each and every first compulsive bite(no one force-fed me chocolate chip cookie dough at college - I made that choice). Making decisions on my own is something that I am very good at. Some decisions were good and others were bad so making decisions is something I could understand. This was the only part of this step that asked me to do anything. So the step started with my will. I made the decision. It was only later that I discovered that the decision actually made me.
To turn our lives – I love this bit from the OA 12&12 p19 "...we must adopt an unfamiliar way of thinking and acting on life." This is the essence of this step. What am I telling God I would turn over to him/her/it/them? My life. Holy crap. What do you mean my life? Well, this is something I struggled with in OA. You see I didn't come into OA for a life makeover. I came in here to get thin and "you people" can keep your noses out of my life. Well, the more I resisted the MY LIFE bit of this step the worse things got. I am a 5 star addict, you see. It wasn't till I got to fellowship that I found out about all the other facets of my disease. So, how did I decide to turn my life over to the care of God? Well, it's been a tough road. In the beginning the pain was massive that brought me to fellowship so God helped me to hand over men and relationships, then the "life" stuff got louder around the food and that got too painful and I ended up in OA, then the relationships with others started to slip and I ended up in CoDa; now, lo and behold, the work stuff started to rear its ugly head and I ended up in WA, too.
Now, could I have worked out all of my ism's in OA? I don't know, but the biggest thing I had an issue with was the handing over the "life" bit. If I surrendered all of my life, every single decision had to be handed over to my HP.
"When faced with choices, we earnestly seek guidance from our Higher Power when that guidance comes we act on it." OA 12&12 p20
I resisted this tooth and nail as I was convinced I was going to die without my coping mechanisms. Some of the side effects of my self will had to get really painful before I figured out that I needed help and was willing to work the steps around each of my diseases. I am still working on it and everyday I ask to turn more of my life over to my Higher Power. More will be revealed as He sees I am ready to deal with it.
And our will – So let's get back to the reason I came into OA! What was it to turn my will over to something around the food? Well, the first step for me was to work with my sponsor and to come up with a definition of abstinence. We agreed, in the beginning, that 3 meals a day was enough. I wanted to control it all and she suggested to keep it simple so I could achieve it.
Now keeping to that definition was easy for me and I had my honeymoon period of WOW abstinence and lost a bit of weight, but the instant life got hard or boring I was right back into overeating. Within my 3 meals a day of course! So my loving sponsor again adjusted my will and asked me to identify trigger foods. Now what's a trigger food for me? Any food that
a. doesn't touch the sides when I eat it. You know the food that you inhale rather than eating it?
b. Causes me to kick and scream with the fear of never eating it again.
So we narrowed that down to about 5-10 types of foods. I personally avoid sugar, caffeine, combination of sugar and salt and salt and fat type foods.
My journey with caffeine is indicative of what it was like to give up a b type food. I used to have about 5 coffees a day. I changed to decaf to beat this. That didn't work. I changed to diet soda. That didn't work. I was back on coffee again. Soon I was back on diet soda. I got to a point where I would shake from the amount of caffeine I was ingesting. I stopped losing weight and my food got messy. My sponsor suggesting giving it up and you would think the woman had asked me to give up a lung. I didn't speak to her for a week. I lied to her. I had 1 coffee a day for a bit and said to her,"Look you were wrong I can control this." She smiled and knew that in a few weeks I would be back. Anyway to cut a year-long story short, just for today I don't drink coffee or diet soda. I can't. It got painful enough to give it up. So, this part of the step is about learning what my will is and how to hand it over to someone else. I used my sponsor, a dietician, the rooms of OA, my higher power, my intuition, my friends in recovery and the dignity of choice pamphlet. All these things helped me to fine tune what my will was around my food. I tried things on for size like weighing and measuring food and didn't find that helpful but I tried it. I tried weighing myself once a week, month etc and found that was toxic for me as I am body obsessed. I learned through trial and error how cunning and baffling this disease is. My will is amazing and it sneaks back in every day. The only constant reprieve is conscious contact with my program and my HP.
Over to the care of God – God, in my experience before program, was not the most caring of blokes really. I had lost my mother, I'd been divorced, lost my home, animals, had no contact with family, friends etc. And guess who I blamed it on? You got it. God. So in telling my list of "issues" with God to my sponsor and an email list in recovery someone I respect said, "Sounds like you need to fire that Higher Power and get a new one." So that was what I did. I redefined my higher power in Step 2 so it was at this point I went back to this step work I had done and defined in my step 3 prayer the following ,"...you are powerful, loving, caring, gentle, wise... " So I now had a Higher Power who was caring so I could believe that he would take care of me through this painful re-birth in OA.
As we understood God – Ok. Phew, almost there! So what did I understand God to be. It was a divine all-knowing presence. It would take care of me. It would love me. It would forgive me. It believed I am beautiful. It was with me always. It revealed itself in my program in so many ways.
What didn't I understand God to be? Something that would make me thin. (At this time I was still thinking that Thin=Happy.) Something that would "reward" me with a boyfriend/husband/children/money, etc. I knew by this time that I would have to hand over the pursuit of all those old ideas if I was going to get through this. "Our new way of life begins with a willingness to adopt a whole new attitude about weight control, body image and eating." p20.
"We have what we need any time we are willing to let go of self-will and humbly ask for help. p 27.
So that was the answer. In order to "get step 3" I had to be humble and willing. Not humiliated. But humble enough to know that all those years of dieting, over exercising, starving, bingeing and doing insane stuff around food did not make me an expert and I could learn so much more by listening and being teachable.
I figured dang nothing else has worked - may as well give it a go. So I did.
Once again a gentle set of reminders of how I worked this step that may help you:
- Select a home group (this can be on-line, on email, in person, etc.) and attend meetings regularly and share about your step work and your feelings.
- Get some numbers, email addresses of people you can speak to and share with.
- Get a journal and write down your feelings around this step. I am a great procrastinator and tend to put things off. Journaling helps me.
- Think about asking someone to be your sponsor if you don't have one. A sponsor is like a kind older brother or sister. They are a bit further down the road and they have what you want.
- Work with that sponsor on what comes of this step work. They are a great source of inspiration, clarification and support.
Read Step 3 in the OA 12 and 12 page 19-27. Also may be helpful to read the AA 3rd Step prayer on page 63 of the 4th Edition. (from the middle of the page which starts with as we undersood him:)
Share your feelings around this step with your OA home group (whether on line or in real life), this step group and a trusted friend or sponsor.
Now that I know I am powerless from Step 1. If I am having a "sod this - I am in self will" moment, I can go back and re-visit this step if you need more proof. Do I really want to be this insane for the rest of my life?
And I know I have a Higher Power who can handle this and cares about me in Step 2.
I am ready to look at the hard one: Step 3
These are the questions I answered.
- What are you willing to do to adopt a new way of thinking about food, weight loss, your body and your life? (examples are listening to friends, meetings, working the steps, getting a food plan, defining your abstinence, listing your trigger foods etc)
- Give examples of how I've tried to control my weight and the results of this control? I listed each and every diet I was on and what it did to me.
- If I ever got to my goal weight (which I did once) how "perfect" was life? Was it what I imagined it would be? Did prince charming come and rescue me?
- Why is the primary purpose of OA to abstain from compulsive overeating and not "to be thin"? What other gifts does abstinence bring? (If you need help ask some others in OA what abstinence has given them.)
- If you've had that honeymoon period of weight loss in OA or other diet programs what triggered you back into overeating? List your trigger foods, emotions, situations, people. This is often easier with loads of journalling. I was so dead from compulsive overeating that a stiff breeze would trigger a binge in the beginning.
- List the types of guidance around food you have received in OA and/or from your Higher Power? (food plans, suggestions in meetings, pamphlets, experience strength and hope from sponsor).
- What does the sentence mean, "Now that we are working the steps we have been given a choice about our eating." How can we, with the help of our higher power, make sound choices around food?
- Who can we go to if we feel confused about our abstinence, food plan etc?
- What happens if I don't choose to hand over my will to a higher power? Play the tape forward a few years and write what it would be life if you kept binging, starving, overexercising, vomiting. List the effects it would have on your health, loved ones, your job, society, etc.
- What is the promise of this step? What happens if I truly hand over my will and my life to God? (page 23)
- Do I need to force myself to "get this step"? What actions can I do in order to put this step into action in my life? (prayer, talking to other, etc)
- What are the things I need to do to work this step? (p 26 & 27)
Now I want you to re-write your Step 3 prayer. Feel free to use the Original AA one, the one from page 27 of the OA 12 and 12 or mine as an example. Write it in a language you are comfortable with. Using your definition of your Higher Power, your Higher Power's characteristics, etc.
Original AA page 63:
"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!"
"God, please help me do your will."
"Higher Power I give myself to you, to reform me and help me to do your will. Take away my self will that I may be open to yours. Take away my problems so that I can be an inspiration to others and show them that you are powerful, loving, caring, gentle, wise and that doing your will is in my best interest. May I do your will always."
I got a big ask for you. I want you to read this every day during this Step Study in the morning. Out loud would be great - if not, at least read it. This will help you to adopt an attitude of willingness and humility which is essential to working these steps. This is also the first example of daily conscious contact with your Higher Power which we will work on through the steps and really is what keeps me well and abstinent.
Here are a few questions from the OA Workbook which helped me:
- How do I feel about completely turning my life over to a Higher Power for guidance?
- Do I have eating guidelines? Will I ask God for the willingness and ability to live within them each day?
- If feel unstable, what can I do to keep safe around my food?
- What can I do when I am faced with indecision?
Walking with you,
Abstinence: 3 meals a day nothing in between, no weighing, regular exercise
Results: over 175 pounds release by my HP, friends, self esteem, Happy Joyous and Free
The Twelve Steps
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