Giving…and getting…the minimum

OA is not like many other aspects of our lives in many ways, and here’s one. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition. In most endeavors in our lives, we make predictable, incremental improvement. Educators will be familiar with Piaget’s learning curve (or J-shaped curve), for example. Or think about learning a musical instrument, where progress evolves over time, roughly proportional to how much we practice and how much tutelage we receive.

OA’s results are predictable, but they are not incremental. Our literature tells us that if we don’t work the entire program we won’t find recovery. But if we do work it, we will be changed and freed form our obsession. The Big Book puts it in stark terms: “Half measures availed us nothing.” If we just do part of the program we won’t gain recovery incrementally. In fact, we won’t gain anything but self-knowledge and possibly weight. Self-knowledge as the Big Book smashes home upon us, does absolutely nothing for us in combination with our self-will. If it did, we wouldn’t need OA!

We can pick apart our psyches, and many of us will discuss during meetings the crooks and bends in our personalities that feed our compulsion to eat. And that information alone has absolutely no use to us in recovery. We’ve tried to leverage these understandings for years, often with the help of psychology professionals, and in many cases rather than help us recover, they’ve keep us mired in our self-pity. We may identify more and more with our problems so that we struggle to see other possible avenues our life might take.

The whole point of the 12 Steps is for us to find a relationship with a Higher Power that works for us, to clear out everything inside our minds and hearts that keeps us from that HP, and to let God change us so that we can then be helpful to others. “Trust God, clean house, and help others.”

  • Trust God: The first three Steps help us establish at least a willingness to seek God.
  • Clean House: The middle five Steps help us identify the crap inside us that’s in the way of recovery, be changed by HP, and clean up our past.
  • Help Others: The last three Steps help us maintain an attitude of humility and helpfulness.

Once we’ve worked the Steps and begun to live in the solution each day, we find real recovery. Before then, we may have found ourselves not eating compulsively for a time, but that’s only part of what recovery means. We are promised that if we don’t grow spiritually, we will eat again. If we don’t do business with God, write inventory, speak it to someone, let God change us, make amends, monitor our behavior, ask God for guidance, and help others, then our disease will creep up when we least expect it and grab us by the throat.

Remember, our illness is always getting stronger. It’s progressive, which means it never gets better, only worse. So we have to keep growing spiritually to stay ahead of it. If we only do the minimum, we will get the minimum: nothing. If all we do is avoid binge foods, we’re only dieting. If we are only going to meetings, we will not recover by osmosis. We must ask for help in working the Steps. If we’re putting off writing inventory, we aren’t making spiritual progress, and we will find the food increasingly tempting. If we stop working the middle Steps, we won’t realize the famous Ninth Step promises read after each meeting. If we slacken off on our latter Steps, we will lose touch God, stop helping others, and drift back toward misery and food.

This isn’t opinion. It’s experiences we can and have observed in ourselves and in others.

Look at those OAs in our area whose recovery we admire. We see that they keep up not only with their food plan and meetings, but with making their amends, praying, doing their daily 10th Step, helping others, and working the tools of the program. They also don’t shout their recovery to their hilltops but share it with humility that others may be helped by it.

Does that seem like a lot of work? Sometimes it does to us. Does it seem like a lot more work to be miserable, bursting out of our clothes, and unable to do anything about those conditions? Yes, and it seems like a death sentence: one where we slowly die physically long after we’ve withered to a husk of ourselves emotionally and spiritually.

If we are going to meetings, we must keep coming back. Nothing can happen for us if we isolate and don’t ask for help. But we also need to know that if all we do is go to meetings, we won’t get better because human aid is not enough. If we are stuck in the first three Steps, we must pocket our pride, swallow our fear, and make time in our lives for the action Steps. Otherwise, we won’t change on the inside at all.

Because this is all or nothing. The lasting result (peace, joy, happiness, serenity, and freedom from compulsive eating) will only be given us once we do all the required work. We don’t get them a little bit at a time. If we do the minimum, then the minimum all we’ll get.