Step of the Month: Forgiveness around food

10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Even in recovery, many of us are still touchy around food. We aren’t defensive, so much as ready to blame ourselves. If we are one spoonful off or we’ve eaten something that might contain a food that’s not on our plan, we double over with guilt, shame, and remorse. The question is whether we’ll let those feelings overrun us, or whether we will simply resume our food plan. It can make all the difference.

With a slip or break in our abstinence, it’s natural to feel disappointment or anger. We feel that old sense of powerlessness, and because we have years of experience with shaming ourselves, our disease guides us into that old groove: I feel bad about eating, so now I want to eat again to dull the pain of having eaten in the first place. Depending on what and how we’ve eaten, we’ve reactivated the physical craving and mental obsession that has lain dormant for some time. How do we return them to slumber?

Of course, we must cease eating compulsively and return immediately to our food plan. But we also have to deal with the mental and spiritual parts of our disease. What’s going to turn off the obsession? What’s going to prevent it from turning back on again? How do we get back on the spiritual track? Fortunately Step 10 holds a practical answer to all these questions.

We know that the cycle of addictive behavior begins in our minds with some kind of activating thought. Usually a negative one. “I wish it had gone my way.” “I wish my husband/wife were different.” “I’m tired of this.” Step 10 rolls together Steps 4 through 9, so we first look back at what kind of thoughts could have triggered our eating, and then we inventory them just as we did in Step 4. We are looking for any chinks in our spiritual armor that allowed our disease to attack us. These are places where we may have held onto fear or resentment and not given them away to our HP. As we seek these weak spots, we must be ruthless in our inspection, but we must also take care not to pound on ourselves. It’s as much a lie to harshly judge ourselves as it is to harshly judge others. So, just the facts.

Once we’ve inventoried what’s been eating us, Step 10 tells us to do as we did in Steps 5 through 7. We ask our sponsor or a confidant to listen to us as we read off whatever inventory we have written. We then ask God to remove the objectionable thinking, and in so doing, we also let go of the negative judgments about ourselves. Remove means remove. God takes it, so we don’t hold onto it. We start putting one foot in front of the other just as we know how to do. That’s the essence of spiritual action, moving forward with trust that our Higher Power is keeping us safe so long as we continue to take spiritual action.

As we resume our walk down the spiritual highway, we may find it helpful to remind ourselves of what spiritual work may we have pushed aside during busy times, resisted all along, or simply forgotten? We ask God to help us add such actions to our OA Plan of Action so that we might avoid a food slip or relapse in the future.

Here’s some things we don’t do. We don’t walk around fretting that we’re going to eat again. Instead we just get back on our feet and keep walking. We don’t blame ourselves. Instead we use the experience as a learning moment, remembering that humility is another way of saying we are teachable. We don’t blame anyone else. Instead we remember that we are responsible for our own spiritual condition and take action to restore its solidity. We don’t say screw it and go off and eat again. Instead we remember that the program kept us food-sober for some time when we ourselves couldn’t, and we embrace OA principles more firmly.

In short, Step 10 is like our spiritual GPS. When we make a wrong turn with our food, we return to Step 10 for a course correction. It helps us recalibrate our route on the road to happy destiny so that we can enjoy our life again and keep a right-sized perspective on those moments when we temporarily lose our way.