Twelve Steps

It is our experience that many people walk into an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, read the Twelve Steps off the wall, and try to do them. That's like seeing a complex set of algebra problems and deciding that (2x-3y)x equals z, without knowing what x or y are, or even how algebra works. (You're not alone, trust us.) Or, alternatively, it's like thinking that you need a desk, buying a nice Swedish one with a funny name like Bjørn, arranging it in the order it comes out of the box and trying to hammer things without figuring out how to put it together.

That's okay -- the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, helpfully contains instructions. We recommend that you find a recovered sponsor who will walk you through the steps in the way outlined by the authors of the Big Book. If you do not know someone who can do that, we will be happy to assist you further. Please contact us at or call or text us at 205-295-OAPP (6277).

It is our experience, as stated in the Big Book, that, to recover, you should take these steps rapidly. We took them in a matter of days rather than weeks, and our lives improved literally overnight.

A few points on wording to contemplate:

      • the unmanageability referred to in Step 1 does not necessarily mean that we were lying on a bed surrounded by food, empty boxes, packaging and other detritus, though some of us were. It refers to the fact that we as compulsive eaters simply cannot manage the decision to not eat compulsively.
      • the italics in Step 3 are important: we refer to our personal concepts of the divine, our Higher Power, as "God" for clarity and brevity. (There aren't that many three-letter words left, after all.) We encourage you to discuss your personal beliefs and understanding of the Power greater than yourself with your recovered sponsor and other recovered compulsive eaters.
      • being written in 1939, some of the meanings have changed over time. The word "moral" in Step 4 is one of these -- rather than "righteous", it then had a more common meaning of "truthful".
      • similarly, in Step 11, "meditation" did not mean sitting on a rock going "om". (Many of us like to sit on rocks going "om", of course. Whatever works for you.) Rather, it meant thinking, reflecting, and planning. Generals meditate over their plans on the evening prior to battle, and in the morning before action. It is our experience that meditation as intended by the authors of the Big Book is a genuine asset to our lives.

The Twelve Steps

      1. We admitted we were powerless over (compulsively eating*) food -- that our lives had become unmanageable.
      2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
      3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
      4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
      5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
      6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
      7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
      8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
      9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
      10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
      11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
      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.

* We have found it helpful to clarify that our specific problem is compulsively eating food.

NOTE that the ideas expressed in this article are solely those of the author and are not representative of OA as a whole. Many of us have found this document useful in our recovered work.

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