Step of the Month: Are you sure?

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Are you sure you want to experience a spiritual and emotional rebirth? Are you certain that you want to return to a healthy life and arrest this chronic illness one day at a time? Do you  really want to think about something else besides food and your own inadequacies? Do you really want to be freed from the personal baggage that’s owned you since you were a kid?

That’s what’s going on in Step Six. We’ve finished the long and courageous task of taking a moral inventory. We’ve told it to a sympathetic listener, hearing the mental soundtrack of our lives played back to us. When would be more ready to ditch our old ways of thinking for God- and others-centered ways of thinking?

At this point, even the skeptics among our ranks must feel some level of willingness to let go of all the mental and spiritual junk inside us that’s kept our disease in bloom and our lives in turmoil or existential peril.

Still, what are we supposed to be ready for? The removal of our defects clears the deck for our new way of life, but then what? We already know the most obvious change we will undergo: The obsession with food will be removed on a daily basis. That’s a big deal! And then what? If we hearken back to the Third Step Prayer, we’ll get a pretty good idea of where God will take us.

God, I offer myself to thee
to do with me
and to build with me
as Thou wilt.

 

Relieve me of the bondage of self
that I may better do Thy will

 

Take away my difficulties
that victory over them
may bear witness to those I would help
of Thy power
Thy love
and Thy way of life

 

May I do Thy will always.

We’re entering into an agreement with God. We give it all over to our Higher Power to run the show, and in so doing we will be restored to sanity and health so that we can help HP an others. So as we contemplate whether we are entirely ready, we can ask ourselves:

  • Am I entirely ready to let God run my life?
  • Do I want to be relieved of the bondage of self (that is, the emotional burdens that activate our eating and weigh us down)?
  • Do I want to better do God’s will?
  • Do I want my difficulties taken away?
  • Do I want to help others with the same difficulties I have and be a living representation of the transformative power of the Steps?
  • Do I want to be connected to my Higher Power always?

It’s OK if we aren’t willing. We just need to understand that we will not receive the gifts of this program until we are. We have to go all-in with God, or we go nowhere and stay stuck. This is the crucial turning point in the Steps. If we say yes, and proceed through Step Seven, amends are not optional. Prayer is not optional. Sponsoring is not optional. Compulsive eating is not an option. OA is not optional.

After this turning point, we will commit to living a life that we’ve never lived before. The great news is that we will not eat compulsively so long as we keep at it. As Step 10 promises, we won’t even have to do anything about that compulsion because God will lift it from us. Our Higher Power will also guide us through our amends. Those can feel scary to some folks, but we will receive all the courage and dignity and grace we need from our Spiritual Source. We will develop a spiritual sixth sense that will help our lives run smoothly despite our tendency to make them complicated and our need for control. We will still experience pain, but we will not cause ourselves to suffer needlessly and continuously. We will not be cured of fear, but we will be given courage.

Step Six is not like The Matrix. We don’t take the blue pill, have our illusions stripped away, and then suddenly wake up in a horrific world we would never have chosen to know about. Instead, we are waking up from a horrific lifestyle into a wonderful world we never knew we could choose. It’s good to be entirely ready.

10 ways to know if you are obsessing about food

Are you really obsessed with food and powerless over it? Here are ten common forms of obsessive thinking about food that many OA members have experienced. If you’ve experienced these or similar thinking, you may be in the grip of the obsession with food.

1. Moments after finishing one meal, you begin thinking about the next

You arrive at work at 9:00, having just tossed down a quick breakfast. For the next several hours, you fixate on what you’ll get for lunch. The minutes tick away. You tell yourself you’ll wait until 1:00, but at 12:15, you say “screw it” and yank the takeout menu from the top drawer of your desk….

2. Anytime you have a strong feeling (happy, mad, sad, glad), you get the urge to eat

The Red Sox win! Time to eat. My daughter has filed for divorce. Time to eat. The cable is on the fritz again. Time to eat. My doctor called, and the diabetes hasn’t gotten as bad as I’d feared. Time to eat.

3. Food thoughts pop unbidden into your mind throughout the day and over time

The deadline for that report is the end of the day. You’re about halfway done. This section is just killing you. Then this thought: Oh, remember that time in Denver when I had that dessert with….

4. The same foods or food types dominate your thinking

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5. You rationalize food behaviors

“Just because my blood sugar is at dangerous levels doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have a little fun. My doctor is such wet blanket. He’d eat too if he had to deal with what I deal with. What’s one little bite going to do to me anyway. I’m making too much of this.”

6. Ultimately, you always lose the argument with yourself about your eating

  • Good Self: Don’t eat that last helping that’s in the dish. You know it’s just going to make you fatter.
  • Bad Self: But it’s good. You deserve a treat.
  • Good Self: Think about how much more exercise or dieting you’d have to do to get rid of it.
  • Bad Self: Like you’ve worried about it lately, anyway?
  • Good Self: And your knees always hurt, and your back hurts, and your neck hurts.
  • Bad Self: Exactly, so just have a bite and we’ll take away the pain for a few moments.

7. The idea of going without certain foods creates a visceral reaction of fear or anger

Something is upside down if life wouldn’t be worth living without a favorite food.

8. You often plan elaborate meals months in advance, sometimes even for fantasy meals that will never happen

And you’re not a chef, caterer, wedding planner, or other culinary or event-planning professional.

9. Passing a convenience store triggers you to stop and buy food

Our dealer is on every corner and even has signs inviting us in. But we don’t really need those signs because we know exactly where the store keeps the goodies we want need.

10. Pushing away a half-eaten plate seems utterly foreign

She’s not going to finish that? Is she ill? What planet is she from? If she’s not going to eat, maybe I can.

11. I’ll never get skinny—I might as well just keep eating my face off

There’s a lot truth here. We likely never will get the body we want when our mind constantly thinks about food. That’s because we can’t fix ourselves. We can’t outwit our own diseased minds.

This is just a selection of the kinds of thinking we hear about in OA meetings all the time. These old tapes run endlessly in our minds while we remain in the throes of compulsive eating.

But there is a solution.

The 12 Steps of OA provide relief from the daily slog of trying to think ourselves out of a disease that works through our own minds. With OA’s help we can eat like a normal person, one day at a time.

Wanting, Wanting, Wanting

Nothing is ever enough. We always want more. We are always wanting, wanting, wanting.

The food is the most obvious example. We finish a meal and want dessert. We finish dessert and want a little something more. We finish that and wonder how it is that two hours later we want a little culinary nightcap.

On the way home from work, we stop because we want a little something, a treat for a hard day. Something sweet or salty or crunchy or all three. We eat as we drive, finish it fast and then stop again. And again. The only limit to our stops is the length of our commute.

Always wanting more. One isn’t enough. One thousand isn’t enough. Humiliation, heartburn, explosive gas, the runs, headaches, grogginess, morbid obesity, type-II diabetes, heart disease, hip replacement, and rotting teeth won’t keep up us from trying to get more. Nor will financial uncertainty, a doctor’s orders, and the concern of loved ones.

That’s just how we food addicts roll—when our disease is left untreated.

If we are fortunate enough to find OA, then start to unravel the mystery of all of this wanting. First we find out that our bodies don’t respond like that of a normal person’s to specific food substances: sugars, flours, salts, fats, whatever our trigger foods may be. Where a normal person can take it or leave it, we have no control. None whatsoever. What we want, we eat, and all of it. The more we eat it, the more we want it. It’s a physical, bone-deep need. We crave the substance.

Eventually we realize, however, that this craving is only related to the physical aspect of our disease. Maybe we abstain from our trigger foods for a couple weeks and discover that we no longer crave them after a few days. But we are still obsessed by them. Our bodies no longer need this food, but our minds do. We are still plagued by thoughts such as A little bit of this would be good; Wouldn’t it be nice to have some of that?; I bet just one would be OK. And worst of all I’m making a too big deal out of nothing. We are still wanting, wanting, wanting.

The obsession with food strongly suggests that the problem isn’t really physical in nature. It’s our thinking that gets us in trouble. After all, we know that our trigger foods lead us to danger, but we eat them anyway. If someone is allergic to shellfish, would that person spend a lot of time, money, and energy getting and eating shellfish? Of course not. But that’s just what we do with our trigger foods. So the initiating factor for our eating is our minds.

Our minds tell us that we want something. But what is it that we want so badly that we are willing to risk despair, sorrow, and, eventually, death? The answer, at least according to the “Doctor’s Opinion” in the Big Book, is that we want “ease and comfort.” We are always trying to take the edge off of life. We want to feel OK about life, ourselves, everything, and food gives us this for mere moments. But the feeling is quickly gone, so we need more. As time goes on, we need more food to feel better, but the feeling goes away even more quickly as our bodies become accustomed to the substance.

So, here comes the spiritual part of the program. We have a defective mind that can’t discern what’s toxic to us and continually tells us to eat poison. That sick mind can’t heal itself, especially because it is seeking relief from itself in something that isn’t designed to provide relief. The relief we seek can only come from a Higher Power.

We need the spiritual part of the program because only something more powerful but just as intimate as our own thinking can fix us. We need a Higher Power personal to us that will restore us to sanity not only around food, but also around wanting. If we are to live honest, fulfilling lives, we must seek our ease and comfort from a Higher Power who can relieve our constant wanting. If we are willing, merely willing, to entertain the idea that this power exists and will help us, we are on our way to soothing the wanting that traps us in our disease.