Sunday, October 3, 2010

Working the Steps

Yesterday I went to an AA meeting with my brother and sister-in-law. Half my life ago, I quit drinking, a habit compulsion that got me into a lot of trouble during my 20s and 30s; but I never went to an AA meeting, just quit cold turkey one day. Surprisingly it wasn't very difficult to quit. Guess I'd had my fill of the repercussions of excess alcohol, plus I had my real addiction, food, still firmly in place. Good, reliable food, easy to hide, perfectly legal and socially acceptable.

Yet, for others it's clear that alcohol is their primary addiction and for them maintaining sobriety must be a huge challenge. My brother, bless his heart, has been clean and sober for 17 years. And at yesterday's meeting my SIL was awarded her 16-year sobriety pin. Everyone there spoke very highly of her, saying how much they admire and are inspired by her honesty. How great it was to be there, filled with respect for both of them!

Once a person has been sober for a while, feeling whole and sane again, not gripped by the need to drink, their life back on track, it must be easy to slip out of the program. Yesterday's meeting, however, was filled with long-time-sober folks who are working the steps, dealing with character issues that lead them into alcohol addiction, issues that still affect their lives and are always a threat to sobriety. The meeting topic was Step 6, We're entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Ten thoughts I had while listening to others talk:
  1. Defects of character sounds so horrible, yet I know I have them and can name a number of them.
  2. Listing my defects of character happens in step 4, which is where I am at the moment in the OA program .
  3. How can God remove them? Why would God remove them?
  4. Would I be a genuine, whole person without them?
  5. I want to fix it myself. I want to identify and then remove my character defects all by myself, no help needed, thank you. I can do this. I think I can, I think I can.
  6. But I couldn't stop overeating by myself. That is a fact, proven over and over.
  7. I'd be more accepting of step 6 if it were worded differently, if it said, We're entirely ready to have God help us remove all these defects of character, leaving us somewhat in control of our own destiny.
  8. To turn it all over to God? Well, that's a concept I resist.
  9. Not there yet, I'm only working step 4. Maybe by the time I get to step 6, the concept will have grown on me.
  10. My will be done/Thy will be done.... that is the conflict.
What came to me in the meeting as a certainty is that following a food plan and remaining abstinent from my binge foods is just the tip of the ice berg. Yes, I feel much more sane. Yes, I feel more peaceful and less resentful since I began working the program six months ago. Yes, I've lost weight, am more healthy and more fit. Yes, yes, yes!

Yet, like the alcoholic, my underlying character, my unresolved issues, my lack of faith threaten to undermine progress and send me back to food for solace. I accept the challenge, with a nod to my brother, SIL and other participants in yesterday's meeting, of working the AA/OA steps as best I can, with the realization pointed out by my SIL yesterday that I can work the same steps over and over, each time learning something new, each time finding new levels of peace.


  1. What wise advice...Working the steps..or working on our self care and FOLLOWING the steps....That is the piece of recovery we all need. I have done the steps several times..for my behaviors...Alanon and codependency...They are not linear...Self will and God's will are separate things...What I have found in my journey is when I step aside..just focus and stop my SELF..then the will of my higher power just does its work!

    PS sent u an email about the comment issue

  2. Funny how we both had our SILs factor into our healthy living journeys this week. For me, the God thing would be a sticking point. I won't say more, because to me anything related to God and religion is potentially too controversial a topic. But I know those 12 steps, God included, have worked for so many others.

  3. Remember these steps are merely suggestions for us. If it works for you to have the words "help us" than do that. It is a life program that gives you tools to ehlp us in our struggles, not introduce new ones. But we can also get in our own way. Our meeting is called the slow learners for that very reason. Julie C

  4. The language is getting in your way (it would certainly get in mine!) so maybe you can reframe it to words you're more comfortable with?
    (I became sober 19 years ago and am an agnostic, so I don't use the word God at the occasional AA meeting I go to, but my "higher power" is the mystery of the universe...those words work for me, I'm sure you can find ones that work for you.)

  5. A lot to think about PB. You are so deep.... in a good way.

    It's great that AA helped your brother and SIL. Maybe start there, with gratitude that the steps worked for them.


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