Step of the Month: Humbly asked

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Because in Step 7 so much of importance occurs inside of us, we typically focus on the the removal of our shortcomings. We didn’t just write all that moral inventory and share it with our sponsor so that the bad stuff stays stuck inside us! This is a big deal. It’s where God makes good on the third step prayer. We said we’d try it God’s way, and in exchange God removes our troubles. It’s a miracle.

But we might be wise to pause for a moment on the leading adverb of the sentence: Humbly. Why did Bill W. and the gang slip that small but important word there? Those folks knew a thing or two about how us addicts work. They know that a lack of humility is an issue for us. Self-centeredness is self-centeredness whether we think we are better than everyone else or worse than everyone else. Whether we have delusions of superiority or delusions of inferiority. Either way, we are not able to assess ourselves humbly.

People like us are stubborn. Or perhaps it’s that our disease place stubborn ideas in our heads. For example, the idea that we have to be able to do the job ourselves. Whatever the job is. Or that we don’t need fixing, but everyone else does. Or that we know what actually needs to removed from us. In fact, we may know, but we may not have much perspective about the relative importance of each item that requires extraction. Finally, we may have the idea that we aren’t worth saving. That old saw has killed a lot of addicts. It’s another bit of old thinking that is self-centered in nature and has to go. It’s not humble to think that we are uniquely awful in our HP’s eyes.

If we have done the first six Steps well and learned to trust and rely on God by working them, then it is very likely that we are well and ready to ask for the removal of our shortcomings in the same way that Ebenezer Scrooge asked to be saved from the torment of understanding the terrible effect of his words and deeds on others. In the Big Book, on page 75, the authors ask us to consider whether we’ve done the work of the first five Steps well, whether we are truly ready to be changed by our Higher Power. Why would they ask this? Aren’t we all ready to have the scourge of addiction lifted from us?

Maybe we are in some ways and not others.

Are we hoping to have our obsession lifted but hang onto the worst of our defects? Are we hoping to have our obsession lifted merely to improve our life circumstances with little care for living in the solution thereafter? Are we we hoping to have the obsession lifted and then go on our merry way without returning again to help others like us? Perhaps most important: Do we still want to run the show? Or think we aren’t worth saving?

Of course, we all want to run the show. That’s how we are as addicts. We want freedom from discomfort and feelings more than anything. But if that freedom has to come via mechanisms we control, then we have not absorbed the solution. Our freedom comes from dependence on God, not merely with independence from food. So this simple little word, humbly, keys us into the idea that we still have more to learn. Humble is related to humility, a word that describes being teachable. Are we asking God to remove these objectionable items so we can learn more about our nascent spirituality? Or only for selfish reasons.

We here from long-time members and members with strong recovery that we must always stay on guard against our disease. It’s getting worse inside of us even as we’re getting better. We are never immune to its attacks on our thinking, even if we’ve got 10,000 days of abstinence. “Lurking notions” likely linger inside all of us. Step 7 is the archway we walk through into a new life of sobriety and freedom. But it does have conditions, the most important being the willingness to standing on a humble spiritual footing and to continue to maintain and expand it one day at a time. Even if it doesn’t come easily or naturally to folks like us.

Step of the Month: Step 7, Surrendering

7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

We make a lot of surrenders in OA. In Step 1, we finally surrender to the facts—we can’t get over compulsive eating by ourselves. In Steps 2 and 3, we surrender to the idea that there’s something more powerful than our own wills, and that we need spiritual direction to get better. In Steps 4 and 5, we surrender any notion that we were blameless in the mess we’ve made of our lives. In Step 6, we took one last look at the truth of our lives and said, yes, we are ready to have removed those defects of character that got us into this compulsive-eating mess in the first place.

So now comes Step 7, the actual removal.

The action of Step 7 isn’t just in the asking, however. Yes, must ask God, Take this, please. But we also have to take the action of letting go of whatever we’re holding onto. Sometimes we balk at doing so. We’re concerned that without those flaws in our makeup we won’t be ourselves any longer. We’ll just be automatons. “I’d rather be depressed, angry, miserable, and eating my face off,” says some voice in our heads, “than the puppet of some Higher Power I can’t even see.” If our minds, diseased as they are, rebel at Step 7, at the notion of surrendering our defects of character to HP, we might think of some analogies. If our trash smelled putrid on a hot summer day, would we stand at our garbage can, holding the stinking bag over it and wondering whether we should drop it in? If we’re holding a full baby diaper, do we weigh the pros and cons of tossing it in the trash? Don’t we always flush?

We can ask ourselves two questions:

  1. Do the people I know in OA who’ve gone through Step 7 act like Godbots? Or are they choosing to exercise free will in a spiritual way?
  2. Do I really want life to suck, to die young, and to be in mental, spiritual, and physical agony for however many days I have left?

When we put it squarely like that, it’s not much of a choice. We have to let go of, to surrender, our defects if we want to lead a sane and happy life. If we hold onto them for fear of losing control, then our disease has won out, and we will continue to suffer until we are ready to surrender.

But why not simply try it God’s way? Whatever that means to us. If our conception of God remains such that we don’t trust him/her/it/they with our defects of character, then we may need to reconsider that conception and find a God idea that will allow us to transfer this burden.

No matter what, though, anything is likely better than where we’ve been. Anyway, this is a very low-risk proposition. If letting got remove our defects doesn’t ultimately work out, we’ve lost nothing except maybe a few pounds. We can always go back to being miserable if that’s what we want.

Tradition of the Month: #4 and how food and autonomy

4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or OA as a whole. 

What in the world does this Tradition have to do with our food? What does it have to do with maintaining our abstinence? As it turns out, plenty. Tradition Four has much in common with Steps Three, Six, Seven, and Ten. All these Steps help us address a key aspect of the cycle of addiction.

Let’s be specific. The wheel of addiction turns and turns and runs us over. Every time we eat compulsively, we start out to give ourselves ease and comfort about a feeling we have. The Big Book famously says these feelings are usually restlessness, irritability, and discontentedness. It also tells us that resentment, anger, and fear are root-level issues for us addicts. Once we have a feeling, we start obsessing about dampening that feeling. Then we go about the usual stages of compulsive eating: the first bite, physical cravings, remorse, and a resolution to never do it again, which we forsake as soon as we have another feeling. If we could only deal with the feelings when they arise, we’d have a puncher’s chance!

Now, in Step 3, we decide that we aren’t in control anymore, God is. We’re going to let HP call the shots. After we do inventory, we arrive at Steps 6 and 7, where we decide we are ready to have God remove what’s objectionable, and then ask for its removal. As we begin making amends, we also start the daily practice of Step 10, where we ask God to remove new resentments and to help us maintain the code of kindness, love, and tolerance toward others.

In other words, these Steps help us see that to recover, we must surrender control, ask to have our angry, fearful, and judging natures changed, and ask that we live in harmony with others as best we can. That is how our feelings become less dangerous to us.

Now comes Tradition 4. It’s basically telling us that, in terms of how meetings conduct themselves, our code is “Live and let live.” Which isn’t easy! Why not? Because we are used to doing the opposite of Steps 3, 6, 7, and 10. We try to control situations. We don’t want our defects of character removed because we either aren’t convinced we have any, or we think we can’t live successfully without them. We don’t live by the code of kindness, love, and tolerance because the world is mean and unfair to us, and it can go screw itself while we take from it what we’re owed.

Once we engage with recovery, we no longer have the luxury of sitting back and judging others (and their meetings) then gossiping about them. Even if we disagree with someone(s), we must do so with love and honesty. And not the kind of honesty that’s designed to spit in their eye while we share “our truth” with them.

Instead, we ask God to help us assess the situation. If we believe our meeting is going against Tradition, then we ask HP to give us the words to lovingly question whether the meeting is doing the right thing. If we believe another meeting is going against Tradition, we ask HP to show us whether their actions will harm other meetings or OA as a whole before we take any action. We discuss all of this with a trusted OA friend to make sure we’re not power driving.

If the meeting isn’t harming other meetings or OA as a whole, we have one important to do: nothing. It’s not our business to tell a meeting what to do. Nor is it our business to worry about it. Steps 3, 6, 7, and 10 basically tell us that the problem is with us, not with the other person(s). It’s out of our control, we need to be rid of the defects of character that we are engaging in the situation, and we need to be sure our conduct isn’t causing harm. With Tradition 4, we are putting the principles into action.

Release from worry. From anger. Ask how God will fix it. The answer may be that it doesn’t need fixing, we do. In which case, we’ve learned an ultra valuable lesson about our own natures, and we can ask God how to fix us so that our feelings don’t send us back to the food.

Step of the Month: Step 7, Independence Day

  1. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

What better occasion to talk about step 7 than Independence Day weekend! That’s because step 7 is where we gain true freedom in recovery.

We learned a lot about how broken our thinking and conduct were as we wrote our 4th step inventory. We discovered new attitudes of humility and trust as we read that inventory aloud in step 5. Now understanding how our disease and our own minds enslave us in the bondage of self, in step 6, we became ready to be changed by our Higher Power. Now, finally, in step 7 we ask God to get rid of all the crap that’s kept us shackled to compulsive eating and to a way of life that doesn’t work and that is ultimately futile and fatal.

We recently compared steps 4 and 5 to a thorough house cleaning. To refresh and extend the metaphor:

  • Step 3: We call God and ask God to bring a dump truck that will take all our junk to the dump so we can be free of it.
  • Step 4: We carefully make a list of everything that can go.
  • Step 5: We show the list to a friend and God, and after God backs the dump truck up to the house, our friend and God help us put all the trash in the hopper of the truck.
  • Step 6: We take one last look and ask ourselves if we’re ready to let God drive the refuse away.
  • Step 7: We tell God to drive it away, please.

Once the junk is gone, we can walk back into our house and see the beauty of our lives again. Instead of goat trails full of dark reminders of our past piled floor to ceiling like old newspapers, we see the spaciousness of our lives, the pictures of family and/or friends on the walls that had been obscured by the piles of junk. We feel gratitude for the soundness of the construction of our home—and for that matter for our home itself. From here, from this now repaired home base, we can return to our daily lives free of the encumbrances of our past.

Will everything be perfect? Nah. Some of the walls will need repainting, or the plaster may have cracked behind all those old newspapers and junk. But we’ll be up to it. Will we be reminded of the bad old times? Of course, but the burning pain of them has been taken away and replaced with perspective. Will some new junk pile up? It could, but we’ll have the means to deal with it through OA’s twelve steps, twelve traditions, and nine tools.

And what truly comes of the 7th step? But freedom from is just one half the story. When our HP gives us freedom from compulsive eating, we gain freedom to eat sanely and safely. When we are granted freedom from our past, we gain the freedom to move on, to draw a line in the sand between our old selves and our new selves. The freedom to help others comes when we gain freedom from “helping” others in order to stanch the aching need for acceptance or validation. When we feel freedom from sticky enmeshment with others, we get the freedom to be in honest, two-sided relationships based on trust and love. As OA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions tells us, once we have worked step 7,

When we make a mistake, we acknowledge that fact without claiming that we ourselves are mistake. From now on, we cease telling ourselves we are always going to be dishonest, selfish, abusive, stupid, or bad people. Instead, we repeatedly affirm to ourselves the truth about ourselves—that we are becoming honest, caring, nurturing, wise, and effective human beings as we practice our new behaviors, day by day. (64)

The day we first complete step 7 is our independence day. It is the day when we officially let God change us. As we do step 7, we step out of the drivers seat and let God into it. We get out of the way and stop trying to life our way. In return, we are given the freedom we’ve longed for from the broken thinking that has led us to hopeless compulsive eating.

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!!!