Well, it’s happened again. The world has gone and spoiled our well-crafted serenity. Might be politics, might be calamity, might be the bottom dropping out of our most important relationships, might be a busted transmission, might be anything. But all that peacefulness and grace we’ve tried to cultivate has come to a screeching halt. Again.
The trouble for folks like us who lack the power to control our eating is that any old disruption to our serenity can trigger us to eat. That’s the baffling aspect of our disease! We know it’s a bad idea, but we do it anyway, even though we know our broken shoeless, our broken relationship, nor our broken leg can be mended by food.
When we write out and speak out our inventory in Steps Four and Five, we discover how we’ve reacted to the pressures the world puts on us. We the considerable help of our Higher Power, we discover that there’s little thought going on between “Ow!” and “Mmmm, yummy.” We decipher the patterns of our thoughts and behaviors, and we discover truths about ourselves hidden deep within us, surrounded by the fat, stupor, and shame of compulsive eating. Knowing these things, about ourselves, we can use what we learned to help us when life gets a little spicier than we’d like.
5.) We are not the world. We reside in this world, and we affect it and it us, but we are not the same as that which is around us. We know this because we can see that there are others out there. That there are rocks, trees, and birds. And that we are not them. We need not take on the guilt, shame, or anger that belong to other people. We needn’t eat compulsively on their behalf.
4.) We are not what others think we are. Just because Billy the Bully or Mean Mad Margaret tell us about faults they ascribe to us, doesn’t mean we should believe them. Ditto, and even more so, because they might have said so in middle school. Similarly, we are not what we think that they think that we are. The inside of our minds can feel like an Abbott and Costello routine: I think that they think that I think that they know that I think that I know what they think, etc…. Their opinions of us are none of our business, and when we let those opinions infect us, we have allowed them act like our Higher Power, telling us what to do or be. We are dismayed, angered, sorrowful over their opinions, and sure enough, we eat at these people.
3.) We are not what our emotions tell us we are. Feelings and emotions begin in the body as responses to situations that exist outside of our spiritual selves. These feelings helped prehistoric man avoid danger, have babies, and raise families in an unspeakably dangerous and harsh world. Few, if anyone, reading on the internet lives in a cave without choosing to do so. Our feelings, however, don’t recognize the difference between the threat of a saber-toothed tiger and the threats of a modern-day society. And anyway, our emotions have been compromised by our disease and turned against us. But, as we found out in our inventory, we assume that we are what our feelings tell us we are. Turns out that’s a dishonesty. How do we know? Because we can actually observe our feelings coursing through us. If we can observe them, the same way we can observe the physical sensation of digestion occurring inside us, our feelings cannot be an accurate reflection of our true spiritual selves.
2.) We are not what our thoughts tell us we are. The same goes for our thoughts. All those nasty things our minds tell us? All the awful memories they dredge up. All that negativity, the debate club inside us. Not a one part of that unmerry melody actually reflects our inner spiritual selves. Just as with feelings, we can observe our thoughts as they go flying through our minds. That’s why Steps 10 and 11 are crucial to living the spiritual program of action. Without God’s help in settling our thoughts and understanding when we’ve let our brain get the better of us, we would slide right back into our old behaviors. But once we experience the psychic change that comes from the spiritual experience of the Steps, we suddenly find that there’s a distance between the real us and our thoughts. All of our thoughts. When we write inventory, we document our thinking, we observe it. Therefore, the essence of our being cannot be what runs through our craniums at any given moment. If we can observe it, we are not it.
1.) We are spiritual beings who don’t need food to cope with life. And this is one of the great discoveries of the Twelve Steps. Far from mannequins whose actions are tethered to some external force or internal puppet master, we have something spiritual inside us. We can define that special thing or its connection to some greater spiritual essence in whatever way feels right to us, but in the end, it is that spiritual nature that defines us. We are spiritual beings leading a human life. Food will not solve our problems, because food cannot address the basic human need for spiritual growth. As the saying goes, we addicts try to fill a God-sized hole with our substance or behavior. All we need to cope with life is a simple spirituality that has been concisely summarized as, “Clean house, trust God, and help others.” It is by monitoring our spiritual health, growing our connection to a Higher Power, and doing spiritual work in this world that we discover that we have the answer for life’s ups and downs. We may always get what we want, but we will get what we need.
With a powerful solution like the one we find in OA, we’ll never need to trust and rely on food again.