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Starter Recipe

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My spiritual breakfast is Step Eleven, and it’s the most important meal of each day. It nourishes my brain with fuel I need to have a fighting chance of serenity and abstinence in the twenty-four hours ahead. I try to do Step Eleven as soon as I wake. If I give my brain even half an hour in charge, my day can fall to pieces, with all the ingredients for a mental meltdown—anger, guilt, shame, jealousy— possibly leading to a binge or starvation. Without my spiritual breakfast, I might be heading out the door with both barrels of my imaginary shotgun ready to shoot anyone who dares get in my way.

My spiritual breakfast is this:

I read my own amended copy of “How It Works” from the AA Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., pp. 58–71). Depending on how agnostic I’m feeling, I replace the word “God” with “Our Creator,” “Mother Nature,” or simply “the Power of the goodwill of people choosing to be good.” Each sunrise gives me the freedom of choice to do and say good things—or I can let self-defensive, worst-case thoughts run the show. My Twelve Step journey has shown me that short-term gain can mean long-term pain, and that’s what my insane behavior around food (or the lack of it) was about. I know which gain I choose, for today.

I write a gratitude list of ten things I’m grateful for, things I could so easily take for granted: eyesight, mobility, hearing, nature, clean water, healthy food in the fridge, and living in one of the freest countries on the planet.

I read words from five books of daily inspiration, including OA’s For Today and Voices of Recovery. Life is about finding what makes my heart sing, from a variety of sources. Everyone is on their own life journey, free to discard the metaphorical book of life at any time and free to choose the order of chapters (currently, I’m enjoying the chapter on paradise; it’s such a good “read,” I can’t put it down).

Continuing with my spiritual breakfast, I remind myself of my journey through the Steps. How this agnostic came to believe in Steps One through Three. How my negatives and secrets were highlighted—some of which I swore I’d take to my grave— through a fearless and thorough Step Four.

What a miraculous bridge of trust was built when I was comfortable enough to start revealing those secrets in Step Five. My sponsor laughed with me, not at me. The bridge felt so safe, I revealed everything; in my experience, this seems to be the most important part of the journey. How “God” had given me these negative human traits so I could learn and be prepared, and I found myself entirely and humbly ready in Step Six to have them removed. And just as I did in my first Step Seven, I chat with “God”—pray aloud—so I can know I’ve been heard loud and clear.

With Steps Eight and Nine, I remind myself of the miraculous and unexpected results of my direct amends. Hopefully, I will be making indirect amends every day, if I choose, for the rest of my life. Another miracle is that “God” has turned my indirect amends for past moral low points into present saving grace against picking up.

I then remind myself that, as a human, I will make mistakes; I can learn from them, not beat myself up and try to hide them. I’ve cleansed my conscience. I try not to give my disease any ammunition; I promptly admit my mistakes—Step Ten.

Then I say an Eleventh Step prayer from the AA Twelve and Twelve (p. 99), which breaks down the “give, don’t take” message into a clear set of instructions for the day ahead. And I chat away with my new best friend, who is with me all the time. All I have to do is ask, then wait for a reply in meditation. The reply is usually, “Just try to be one of my sunbeams, and leave the rest to me.” I say a prayer to ground me to the truth that I’m not God. Then I choose some music, hymns, that I find inspirational or calming. And I give gratitude for answers I’ve been given.

Miraculously, I find myself spiritually well-prepared for the possibility of another abstinent day.

I then eat actual breakfast with food from my plan, giving thanks for being lucky enough to have food on my plate. Before recovery, I was scared of starting to eat too early in the day because I thought I wouldn’t be able to stop once I started. Now, I realize that breakfast is the second most important meal of the day (after spiritual breakfast). By being entirely honest with myself about which foods, for me, fall into the category of “one is too many because a hundred is not enough,” and removing them from my home and my shopping list, I find that now I actually feel happy and full after a regular-sized breakfast.

I don’t know how it works, but experience has taught me it does. Keep it simple. Enjoy the day. Life is the miracle.

— Anonymous, England

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