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Clear Intentions

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The first time I worked the Steps, more than thirty years ago, I believed in a benevolent HP who was watching my back. I was sure of this because I was very happy at that time in my life. Twenty-five years later, I had a spiritual crisis when I lost my career, and now, I believe no entity was ever watching out for me. I came to believe that both good and bad things happen to everyone in a seemingly random manner. (I say “seemingly” because there’s obviously a wisdom in the universe that has ensured our survival so far, but it is beyond my understanding.) My spiritual crisis did not affect my commitment to or reliance on OA for a spiritual path and help with my food.

I’ve had a hard time relating when people share about God or HP as an entity whom they pray to and have a relationship with. I usually share my own experience, but sometimes I politely check out with a glazed smile. To me, God or HP is an outside issue. When I have shared my program success as an agnostic, people have thanked me after the meeting, but I’ve rarely heard sharing of a similar view.

I am close to OA members who believe in an HP who is an entity. We don’t argue about it. We bond over working the Steps, using the Tools, and following Good Orderly Direction, which seems accessible to anyone who seeks consciousness. I have sponsored and been sponsored by people who believe in God or are religious; they are, after all, in the majority. I have my sponsees work the Twelve Step Workbook of Overeaters Anonymous.

OA literature is fairly secular, and I can easily relate to it. I ignore what I do not like; thus, I can still find it valuable. When I need to do an inventory, I use the Twelve Stepping a Problem worksheet.

This is how I adapt the Steps:

Step One. I take it as it is. Obviously, my life would have to be unmanageable for me to ask for help. Thankfully, this Step does not mention God.

Step Two. I was a mental health professional, so I’ve had trouble with the word “sanity.” Once I understood what it means in OA, I was able to admit my insanity with food and other defects. I believe I‘ve been restored to sanity by working the program. I can easily slide back into insanity, so I work this Step daily.

Step Three. I’ve learned a lot about how willful and defiant I am around food and anything else I want. Fortunately, I’ve also learned I can survive without getting my way or eating mass quantities of junk. The Third Step taught me to defer gratification and be open to guidance from sources more evolved or detached than myself.

Step Four. I’ve journaled since I was an adolescent, so Step writing has not been a stretch. I’ve gained many insights from inventories I’ve done. It’s been humbling to hear others’ inventories.

Step Five. I used to babble about my thoughts to anyone who’d listen, which was of no benefit and an avoidance of intimacy. From doing Fifth Steps, sharing in meetings, and listening to others, I have discerned what will be helpful. I skip the “to God” part, but I am careful to be honest and thorough when admitting my vulnerabilities to myself and others.

Steps Six and Seven. God is mentioned twice, and the fact that God is a “he” is not lost on me. I ignore the “God” part. In my opinion, these Steps are the core of the program. If I didn’t think OA could help me become a better person, I would not waste my time. I do not pray for my character defects to be removed; rather, I make clear my intention to replace a defect with its opposite and to be open to opportunities to practice this. I humbly admit I cannot provide those opportunities, nor can I will myself into consciousness of them or willingness to take advantage of them. Change and progress is a mysterious process, but I have witnessed positive change in myself and others, and that encourages me to keep practicing.

Steps Eight and Nine. I didn’t have nearly as many amends to make as I’d thought, but I was ridden by guilt, so what a relief to learn I’m no better or worse than any other frail human. I cleared the wreckage of the past as much as was possible at the time, and I’ve continued to make living amends to my mother. I make amends as needed for an unkind word, angry outburst, and my part in a misunderstanding. For me, these amends are required about a couple of times a month. If I‘m in doubt, I practice first with someone else in the program.

Step Ten. This is my favorite Step. My three OA partners and I do a nightly Tenth Step in the A-E-I-O-U format. We share our Tenth Steps and accept feedback, and that is a perfect way to end the day.

Step Eleven. This is my least favorite. I translate “God’s will” to mean Good Orderly Direction. I am not inclined to meditate, but I do activities, such as yoga, tai chi, swimming, and walking, that promote quiet time to hear messages, which I receive regularly. I assume they come from my subconscious, which seems to be a wiser part of myself. Sometimes, I hear what I need at a meeting.

Step Twelve. I have had many spiritual awakenings, or epiphanies, as a result of working the program, and I continue to grow as a person. I give Twelve Step service to others when the opportunity presents itself; however, I am currently on a hiatus from sponsoring after sponsoring for many years. (I lost my willingness after a run of bad experiences.) I do service at the group level and have done service at region level. Certainly, I am committed to practicing the principles of the program in all my affairs; recovery is the organizing principle of my life.

— Mercy F.

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