Step of the Month: #5 No longer eaten alive

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Ever experience this?

You’ve got a paralyzing fear. Maybe of someone’s opinion. That you’re going to be fired for an error you made. Of pain, disease, or death. You’re furthermore afraid to even speak about this fear because you think you’ll be judged.

Finally, when you’re ready to explode, you ask a best friend or family member or counsellor to listen. It starts coming out, in a gush or a trickle, until you’ve said the whole thing. And as you speak it feels incredibly awkward, but as the words hit the air, the reasonable part of you starts to realize how your unreasonable mind turned something very small, perhaps something whose significance you’ve misinterpreted, into personal armageddon.

The fear diminishes simply by being voiced out loud and listened to in the cold light of day. Ahhhh. Relief, as if a pressure valve had been released.

And then it’s onto the next personal crisis!!! 🙂

Turns out that we compulsive eaters have waited a long time, maybe our entire life, to get this relief. We’ve bottled up every little fear, resentment, judgment, self-hatred, you name it. Deep inside, they live, wriggling around in our stomach like a pile of crazed, squirming worms. When we eat compulsively, we want to bury those horrific feelings-worms in a landslide of food, but somehow, quickly, they poke back up to the surface, so we do it again and again. If only we could feel real relief! But there’s so much of those negative feelings inside us that we despair ever feeling better.

Now that we’ve worked the first four Steps, we’ve been able to inventory those nasty secrets that plague us. We know each and every one of them by name, and we know exactly how they affect us. In Step 5, we read that inventory aloud to God and one other person. Difficult as it may be to speak these things, we do it, and as we do, something curious happens. We start to laugh. We cry. We groan at the repetition. No matter what, we are feeling these feelings in a safe way, and the sound of them is evaporating into the air. Finally, our reasonable, abstinent self can process them without the fog of food and its attendant fear.

The inventory we are reading is an objective one. Just the facts. We start understanding that we can let go of these feelings. That we can let go of the idea that we are irreparably broken. We see in full color the futile way that we’ve lived our life up to now. By the time we finish reading it, we have heard a great deal that is objectionable. We have also observed that our listener has not run away in fear or turned their back on us. If they say anything, it is usually “me too.” In the end, we find out that our foibles and flaws are merely human nature, and that we can forgive ourselves if God can.

In fact, as we complete Step 5, we can see the outlines of what life in food-sobriety is like. We see that in Steps 6 and 7, the slate will be wiped clean by our Higher Power, and we are so ready for that to happen! We feel ready to look at the people in our world as equals. We want to cast aside the fear and loathing that keeps us from being helpful to others. We want to be reliable, trustworthy people who think of someone other than themselves. We see that this Step 5 has given us hope that God will turn all these defects we’ve just read into assets that allow us to be uniquely helpful to other compulsive eaters.