The action of living one day at a time…today!

“One day at a time.”

It might be the most widely known and used slogan in any 12 Step program. It’s easy to understand, and it shines a hope-filled light on our difficulties. I don’t have to stop eating compulsively forever, just for this day. 

In the past we have been overwhelmed by the idea of permanently changing. We lose weight only to gain it all back. We try a healthy new diet on Monday, only to be cheating by Tuesday. Our new exercise program becomes a $35-dollar-a-month financial sinkhole after our diligent first week. We just don’t have it in us to change our lives. That’s why we need a spiritual solution to our problem with food.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a part to play. We, not our Higher Power, are doing the eating, so we draw strength from our God to take the action of abstaining from compulsive eating. We might think of it as a formula:

Our decision not to eat compulsively
+ Our will power
+ God’s strength and guidance
= A day of abstinence

We’ve always used the first two parts of the equation only, which has landed us back in the food, cursing ourselves as weak-willed or broken. Turns out that for people like us, we can exert all the will power we want to, but without God’s help it is not enough. As one member in our area says, “I’m a 40-watt bulb in a 60-watt fixture, so I need God to supply the other 20 watts.” We don’t have enough power to overcome both the physical craving and the mental obsession with food.

What does adding God’s strength and guidance mean when we are obsessing about food? It could mean any or all of these things:

  • Praying to have the obsession with food removed, for ease and comfort, and for guidance…then listening for a response
  • Making a phone call or texting someone in OA because spirituality flows through us when two addicts talk about their common solution
  • Dropping everything and get to a meeting, whether in person, on the phone, or online
  • Pausing to read a piece of OA literature whether a favorite pamphlet or a longer work.

Of course, that’s just the moment of crisis. To live one day at a time, we need to prepare each day to meet our challenge. The Big Book gives explicit suggestions for morning prayer and mediation (pages 85-87) that help us live in ways that are less self-centered. Thinking of others helps keep the obsession at bay because we aren’t focusing on ourselves and our own life problems.

Speaking of our life problems, they too can be addressed one day at a time. In fact, they have to be. Like the sports adage goes, when you’re behind by dozen runs, you can’t hit a 12-run homer. So, if we are in heavy debt, for example, we can’t pay back after a single paycheck. We work each day, cash our checks, and send payment to our creditors on a schedule. Similarly, if we have a looming deadline, we must do what we can each day to meet it, not try to get the whole darned thing done right now. If our family is in crisis, we will not solve the issue by perseverating all day on it. In every case, we must simply do the next right thing that our Higher Power suggests and move toward resolution of the situation.

A funny thing happens when we take this one-day-at-a-time attitude toward our personal problems. They often resolve themselves without our having to do very much! All the dreaded heavy lifting we thought we’d have to do ends up done by another. Or we suddenly realize it is unnecessary or less burdensome than we expected. Sometimes it is done by us with courage we didn’t know we had. OA members have walked through the most difficult circumstances with dignity, grace, and courage by taking it one day at a time and asking for their HP’s help and guidance.

We just can’t wrestle our problems with food or life to the ground by ourselves. We’ve tried and it doesn’t work. So have to add our Higher Power to the equation so we can lead happy, healthy lives. And after all, it’s just one day.

There’s No God in Gossip

Today a guest poster takes on a topic of subtle importance.

There’s no God in gossip. I learn this at work, at home, among friends. Sometimes by positive reinforcement (I don’t gossip, and I feel better for it), sometimes by negative (I gossip, and I feel worse for it or confused by it). When I gossip, it’s because I want control. By pulling the information I want out of others and by doling out morsels as I see fit, I feel like a master spy orchestrating events to come to a conclusion of my devising. The reality is, in fact, humiliating.

You see, when I’m gossiping and trying to gain control, it’s usually of situation that doesn’t exist now and probably won’t ever. Or it’s of a situation I can never control. It’s all a fantasy world ordered by my ego, designed by my mind, and shaped by my fears. When I gossip, I am trying to dictate the flow of information to fill in the missing parts of the fantasy world in my head. Is this person my friend? Who is allied against me? What can I count on happening? What surprises lay in store for me? What’s the real scoop?

The sad part about it? I’m wasting all my creative energies by taking bad things that happened before (and maybe not even to me) and projecting them into the future. What if instead of gossiping and indulging these dark fantasies I simply applied my focus to the task at hand? My work. My marriage. My friendships. To helping others, in other words. That’s where the program tells me God is. Not in controlling.

In fact, gossiping can be harmful not only to me, but to others. Obviously, I’m wasting others’ time to begin with. But by gossiping, I’m yanking people out of reality and into my projections. I’m potentially filling them with misinformation that they might act upon or that might negatively impact their perception of another person or a situation. After all, slander is gossip’s frequent traveling companion. I’m sowing seeds of confusion or even enmity.

At its most reductive, when I’m gossiping, I am substituting gossip for God. I am not trusting and relying on God, I am trusting and relying on my smoke-filled back-room skills. Just like I substitute food for God when I’m eating compulsively. The hit from food doesn’t last very long. It’s a poor and short buzz. Gossip is little better. I want to know more and more, and I like the surge of power that comes from sharing it with furtive declarations such as “This has to stay between us….” But anything that gives me that surge is suspect. It’s always my self-centeredness trying to wrest control of me from my spiritually awakened self.

There can be a fine line between gathering necessary information and gossiping. Anyone who has worked in middle management knows that when you are trusted with the care of others’ professional lives, it’s important to know what changes may be coming or what tensions exist between departments. The question is how to know the difference between necessary discussion and gossip.

It seems that, for the most part, my intuition signals me. When I’m about to cross the line from legitimate water cooler talk to gossip, I tend to get a strong gut-level indication. A wincing of my conscience, perhaps. Sometimes I listen to that signal, sometimes I don’t. When I do, I feel freer. As I write, I realize that the best way to handle these situations is to enter them with God. If I ask for help and guidance before beginning to speak with someone, I stand a better chance of listening to that intuitive thought. If I listen to that thought, there’s no doubt I’ll have a better day.

In the end, the biggest of the big pictures is that God will help me no matter what the outcome of any situation. I can count on that, so the need to control doesn’t exist. Literally does not exist. It only seems real, but it’s a figment of my addict mind’s imagination. Just like the magical powers I give to food when I eat compulsively.