The other fourteen hours of our day

According to the AA Big Book, the point of the 12 Steps is “to fit us to be of maximum service to God and to the people about us.” That’s interesting! Many of us thought the point of the Steps was to ensure our abstinence from food and food behaviors.

Turns out that the real goal of the 12 Steps is to establish a connection to a Higher Power. Once we have a relationship with the God of our understanding, the Big Book tells us, we can realize the 10th Step promises, which include the removal of the compulsion to eat:

We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it…. Instead, the problem has been removed. (p 85)

However, we are also guaranteed that we will drift back into our addiction if we don’t remain in “fit spiritual condition.” To do that, we have to live the principles of the program. If we want to be free from food, we cannot “take what you want and leave the rest” when it comes to living in the solution. We must be of maximum service and keep the spiritual lifeline to God open, lest we become a spiritual punchline.

To put it another way, our food plan isn’t enough to get us through the day without taking that first compulsive bite. In fact, it mostly only helps us during mealtimes. If the average OA sleeps eight hours and eats their planned meals for two hours, that means we have  fourteen hours a day when we need a spiritual plan, not a food plan.

Of course, committing to and eating a food plan can be a spiritual activity. But it’s those fourteen other hours that are killing us. The feelings and thoughts that arise out of the natural flow of human behavior, the little disappointments or big, fiery rages. Our binging, grazing, and mindlessly eating between meals or after the kitchen has closed for the night are merely symptoms of what’s going on in our minds and spirits, of our reactions to life.

In Step One, we told ourselves that our life (aka: those other fourteen hours) is unmanageable. Our only coping skill is eating. Well, we might have two or three: eating, drinking, smoking, for example. We don’t do life, life does us, and we try to manage our emotions by burying them in substances and behaviors.

Those emotions don’t really go away, they stay with us, often for years and years. We bring them with us into every encounter with another human being and into every conversation we have with ourselves. Until we dump those free-radical emotions through the first nine Steps, we are vulnerable.

Removing those objectionable feelings gets us pretty far, but we still can’t sit idly while our disease continues to progress, even in the absence of compulsive eating behaviors. We must continue the process of ego-reduction, of becoming right-sized, that the Big Book talks about. Otherwise, our non-eating/sleeping moments will once again fill up with thoughts about ourselves and our little plans, designs, emotional booboos, and harmful judgments.

Being of service to others provides us with a means to get through the tough stuff. By turning our attention outward, we avoid obsessing about what’s inward. In addition, having made our connection with a Higher Power, we now possess a source of wisdom and support. When we name a problem to God and ask for its removal or attenuation or for the right words or actions to cope safely, we find a new way to live: “To act on life rather than react to it,” as our OA literature describes it. We pay attention to our spiritual intuition, and we let go of the control we want over our situations.

“How’s God going to fix this one?” That’s a question we might ask when we find ourselves in an emotionally challenging moment. “God, what you have me do in this situation?” is another. But ultimately, we must follow up on the answers we get. Guess what? Following up on our spiritual intuition sometimes leads we do one of the most intensely spiritual things we can do: To take an action we’re afraid of or avoid an action we desperately want to take thanks to the courage that comes from the faith we’ve learned in the 12 Steps.

And that is how we live in the other fourteen hours of the day.


Step of the Month: Step 12…A Small Word with HUGE Implications

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to compulsive overeaters and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

There are three parts to Step 12 as you can see:

  1. spiritual awakening
  2. carrying the message
  3. practicing these principles

Today, let’s just look at the first of these by focusing on one very simple word that appears in Step 12. That word is the. As in “the result of these Steps.” If we remember back to our high school English classrooms, the expresses “definiteness,” while a/an are the indefinite article. So what? Consider these two phrases:

  • Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps…
  • Having had a spiritual awakening as result of these Steps…

Bill, Dr. Bob, and the early AAs were telling us very specifically what the Steps are doing for us. They are causing us to enter into a relationship with a Higher Power that will change our lives. Had they used the indefinite article, as in the second example above, what would they have been claiming were the other results of the Steps? Not drinking or eating, of course. Getting one’s spouse back? Or house? Restoring one’s health? Having one’s children move back into your home? Maybe money is coming our way? We could increase the list ad infinitum, which is precisely why the appears in Step 12. AA made no guarantees about circumstances and situations, rather they guarantee that, done honestly and thoroughly, the Steps will help us “enter into a new relationship with our Creator.”

Or we might say that they promise that the promises of the Big Book will come true. There are dozens of those sprinkled across pages i to 164, and they are not exaggerations if the experiences of millions of drunks, overeaters, junkies, gamblers, sex addicts, debtors, and others are any indication.

But what about our food??? The Big Book book has plenty to say on this. Here are three examples:

“The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power.” (43)

“When the spiritual malady is over come, we straighten out mentally and physically.” (64)

“We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it.” (85)

In other words, our food is no longer our problem. It’s God’s food now, and God is the one who removes our insanity and our compulsive eating through this process. Step 12 need not mention the food because it is already covered by the spiritual experience.

And that’s why the is so important. Because no other possible result from the Steps conquers our problem with food. But this one does, and it takes care of all our other problems too. Now that’s a great result!!!