12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to compulsive eaters and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The holiday season is an open invitation to pig out. Christmas dinner, Hanukah festivities, New Years Eve parties, Kwanza celebrations. There’s food frickin’ everywhere. As OA members, we’re taught to use our program’s tools to support our abstinence, and this is always helpful advice. And if we need a little something extra, Step 12 provides a way.
If we recall the cycle of addiction, it always begins with a thought or feeling that we makes us uncomfortable. We obsess about food when we are mentally or emotionally activated. In recovery, we learn that to stop this cycle in its tracks, we must use the tools and Steps. But what if we could avoid this activation in the first place?
That’s what the Steps help us do. The holidays activate many of us because we spend them with the people who trigger us the most: our loved ones. They know how to get us going and which buttons to press to get us wrapped around the axel. They will assume the roles and characters they’ve always played in the family drama of our life. After all, they may not have a program, and we can’t expect them to change.
It is we who must play our part differently. If we do, we will be less prone to the mental/emotional activation that leads to the first bite.
But how do we do it? Step 12 suggests we apply the principles we’ve learned in the Steps. For example, the Big Book shares many important ideas, including the following:
- resentment is the number one offender
- fear is a corrosive thread in the fabric of our lives
- kindless, love, and tolerance are our code
- when we are wrong, we promptly admit it
- our job now is to be of service to God and others
- our only defense against the first bite is our Higher Power.
Even if we haven’t yet completed the Steps, we can put these principles into immediate practice. Here’s some examples:
Resentment is the number one offender
If we retain resentment against those we will celebrate with we have choices. We can not go. Or before going, we can work those resentments out using the 10th Step. At the very least, we need to acknowledge our hurts and be honest with someone about them so they don’t own us.
Fear is a corrosive thread in the fabric of our lives
Fear breeds resentment. Fear also breeds compulsive eating. If we are afraid of the situation in our holiday celebrations, we must ask our Higher Power for courage. Courage is the willingness to go forward despite our fear. We’ve been afraid all our lives, so we’ve eaten. Now is not the time to deny our fear and cross our fingers that we won’t be tempted to eat.
Kindness, love, and tolerance is our code
It’s easy to be fun and gentle around our easy-going loved ones. But what about the coarse, bigoted uncle who shouts his opinions at everyone else at the table? Or the bratty teenager who only cares about their phone? Or the sibling you’ve always butted heads with? We can ask ourselves a simple question: Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy? Nothing we say will change Uncle’s mind. Nothing we do will make that adolescent grow up. The more we try to control a sibling relationship, the more strained it gets. Instead of loading for bear, we can remember that we are as flawed as they are, if not more so and give them the same respect we ask in return.
When we are wrong, promptly admitted it
We addicts are prideful by nature. Our disease uses pride to generate resentments and keep us eating. So if we find ourselves arguing for argument’s sake, or if we find ourselves taking an invitation to a family fight, or if we are too snarky with someone, we can just admit it. Experience shows that we’ll be surprised and delighted by the results.
Our job now is to be of service to God and to others
Even if you don’t yet have a Higher Power, you can easily practice being of service to others. If you are visiting somewhere, ask to set or clear the table. Help with preparing food. Volunteer to go to the store to grab a missing ingredient. Pick up a baby or play with a little one to give a parent a break. Wash or dry the dishes. If you are hosting, mingle and talk with everyone one-to-one to help them enjoy the occasion. Be extra helpful to your spouse or cohost. Don’t try to control the day, just ask people to enjoy it with you.
Our only defense against the first bite is our Higher Power
This most of all. We can’t do it ourselves, but we are never alone if we invite the God of our understanding to show us the way to an abstinent holiday season. We don’t need stocking stuffers, holiday treats, or boozy drinks to feel aglow during the holidays. We only need to ask God to remind us of our gratitude for the blessings we have and to strengthen us in our times of temptation and need. Experience says God will be happy to do so.
Have a joyous and abstinent holiday season!