Step of the Month: Honesty

Honesty, it turns out, doesn’t have to be a lonely word. In OA, we need to get honest about our food and our lives as quickly as possible. It’s imperative that we can stop killing ourselves with food, of course, but that longer life will be much happier and free if we can be honest with ourselves and those around us. Step Five takes us a long way toward our new ideal of complete honesty.

The moment that we cross the line into addiction, we became liars. Our diseased minds may tell us that we are honest people, but we’re not. We have lied to ourselves daily about food. “This time I’ll get control.” “I can eat this without repercussions.” “Screw it. I’m going to eat because I’m not worth saving anyway, and food is my only proven source of comfort.”

Meanwhile, we’ve told half-truths, dissembled, obfuscated, omitted, prevaricated, stolen, stashed, and out-and-out told baldfaced lies to ourselves and others about our food, our feelings, and our life. With the best intentions, we’ve said to spouses and children that we’ll stop eating so unhealthfully. Maybe we even lose a few pounds. Then we pick up that disastrous first bite again. All along, we ignore our history of continually failing to control our food. We ignore the lingering feeling that it won’t work anyway. We do it for them instead of doing it for ourselves.

Another common source of dishonest around food is stealing. We put our hand into someone else’s candy stash at work. We eat a roommate’s food and hide the evidence. We may even shoplift, including eating out of bulk food bins without paying first for the “sample” we’ve taken.

Perhaps the very worst lie our illness perpetrates on us is the one that says “I am not good enough.” That little sentence is food addiction pulling the trigger on the eating gun that’s destroying us. We who have experienced this disease and found recovery know now that this is, indeed, a huge lie. All of us are worth being saved from the oblivion of food addiction. But try to tell anyone who’s in its grips.

In fact, they have to tell themselves. That is what Step Five is all about. In Step Four, we wrote a fearless and searching moral inventory. But what good is the inventory if we don’t do something with it? A business that takes inventory doesn’t just file it away. It then decides what to keep, throw away, or order. In our inventory we have learned much about our dishonesty. We’ve also learned how to be more honest with ourselves. Now in Step Five, we’re going to use that inventory and the connection with made with our Higher Power to reach a new level of honesty by sharing it out loud, omitting nothing.

At this point, some members feel awkward or frightened. Of course we do. We are always thinking of ourselves, so we fear how will the person who is hearing our inventory judge us. But we go ahead anyway. We have to or else.

We read our inventory aloud to our Higher Power and another (carefully chosen) person (who is likely our sponsor). As we read, we discover a few things. First that holding all this crap inside of us has been exhausting. We’re relieved to just get it out. Second that if our listener is an OA member or familiar with the Twelve Steps, they completely understand. They nod their heads and remind us that they and many others have done the very same things we have. Third that when we are done, we have just done the most honest thing we’ve ever done. We can meet anyone’s eye without blinking because we have told the whole truth, and it made us stronger and didn’t kill us.

Some of us may experience the aftermath of Step Five as a refreshing breeze that blows across us. Others may simply feel quiet and grateful. Still others report that it took them a few days or weeks to notice a difference in themselves. But inevitably, they eventually feel a remarkable difference in their feeling about themselves and in their ability to be honest.

Thanks to our Higher Powers’ willingness to help us recover, we come face to face with our dishonest past, and we sweep it away by being utterly honest about it and by then following Step 5 with more action in the middle Steps. And we learn the big truth: That we are OK on the inside. We move from hope for a better life toward a certainty we will find it with God’s help. Honesty in OA isn’t lonely. We find it by working with our Higher Power, our sponsor, and the fellowship. In fact, as we discover that honesty really is the best and simplest policy, we find that we feel closer to others in lives because, finally, we can be real with them.

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.

Step of the Month: Step 5

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

Imagine that you’ve decided to clean out your house. There’s too much stuff in there bogging you down, covering every surface, stuffing every closet. You’re constantly reminded by the clutter that it’s time to pare down. When you finally do it, you realize that you need to determine what stays and what goes, so you make a list as you sort through all the stuff.

Once the list is made, you need to get rid of everything that’s not useful, so you pick up the phone book and call for a dump truck. Then you ask a friend to come by and help you carry all the dreck out of your house. The driver arrives and backs up to the house, and you and your friend load the items you are throwing out into the truck, one by one. As you go, you carefully tick them off your list.

That’s exactly where we are in step five. Just prior, in step four, we made our list of the damaging attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and situations that have gotten in our way. They have weighed us down, and every time we think about our lives, they are there to remind of us why we have sought comfort in food. But the trick is that making a list of our ugliest characteristics isn’t the same as getting rid of them. We need to expose them to the light of day where they lose their potency. We need to share them with another, understanding person who will see our humanity instead of judging us. We need to share them with God to demonstrate our continuing willingness to let go of what has blocked us from a relationship with our Higher Power.

Reading out our inventory to another person and God is how we load up the psychic dump truck so that our emotional and spiritual junk can be taken away from us.

* * *

The Big Book tells us that “a solitary self-appraisal seldom suffices.” We must reveal our darkest secrets and our tiniest missteps if we want to recover. Why? Because we have used food to bury our feelings alive. All the resentments, fears, and self-loathing remain inside of us, squirming to get out. If we leave even one or two behind, we will soon feel the need to beat them back with food once again.

Were that the only benefit of step 5—to expose our worst thinking to the disinfecting power of sunlight—we would be much better off than before we reached OA. Yet there is a further benefit from this step that pushes us onward. The OA Twelve and Twelve tell us “Through the fifth-step process, we begin to see reality.” Our damaged thinking begins to right itself:

All our striving to get ahead has been useless. We are neither above nor below the rest of the human race; we’re a part of it, shaped by the same basic needs and desires as all our fellows. Those of us who have belittled ourselves or felt we were worse than others also gain a new perspective. In talking honestly with another person about ourselves, we begin to feel a sense of relief. Someone knows all about us and still accepts us unconditionally. (47).

So we disinfect our insides, and we change our attitude about ourselves and others. And even that’s not all. We also learn, by watching our sponsor, how to listen. We will be grateful for that person’s help and support and will look forward to a time when we can sit in their chair, listening to another’s inventory with the same compassion and identification we were given. It is yet more motivation to continue through these steps and achieve the fullest extent of the spiritual awakening promised in step twelve.

Depending on how much we’ve written, reading our fifth step may take an hour, hours, days, even a month or more. No matter how long, this quiet, intimate, sometimes sad, and not infrequently hilarious process takes, the benefits can last a happy, joyous, and free lifetime.

Announcing two exciting Seacoast OA events!

Seacoast OA is excited to announce events in May and June that can help us all make progress with our programs. Everyone is welcome!

Sponsor training

First on Saturday, May 16th, we’ll be offering our first ever sponsor training workshop. This one-hour session will cover the basics of sponsoring. You’ll hear from two local members with experience sponsoring, receive official OA literature on sponsoring, get time time for  questions and answers, and more. The session is free and does not require advanced registration.

Who should attend:

  • People who want to start sponsoring
  • People whose sponsors have suggested they begin sponsoring
  • Sponsors and their sponsees
  • Anyone who wants to sharpen their sponsoring skills

Saturday, May 16th
10:30 to 11:30 AM, immediately following the 9:00 York meeting
York Hospital Medical Office Building, 16 Hospital Drive
Basement conference room
Please share this flyer with your groups

Workshop on Steps 4 through 9

Following up on our popular March workshop on Steps 1 through 3, this afternoon workshop takes us through the “action Steps.” Learn about what the 4th Step inventory is and how to give it away in Step 5; why the 6th and 7th Step are crucial to our recovery; and how to make amends to repair the relationships in your life. Bring a pen, a notebook, and your copy of The Big Book because we’ll be doing this important work together!

This workshop is free, but we ask that you register ahead of time so that we have a headcount for the room and any materials.

Saturday, June 13th
1:00 to 4:00 PM
Portsmouth Community Campus
100 Campus Drive, Portsmouth, NH
Directions are on this flyer, which we encourage you to share with your groups
Register by email

We’ll see you in May and June!!!