Home Steps First Willingness, Then Ability

First Willingness, Then Ability

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The other day my sponsee was telling me how grateful she was to have me in her life. I had to agree—I was also grateful. Had I not been willing to be a backup for her sponsor then none of the following would have come to pass.

This member, who was in her second pregnancy, needed to reach out by making phone calls to me twice a week. Eventually she asked me for some additional help, so I took a closed meeting to her home. I came to the meeting with a selected story from OA’s Abstinence book, plus I suggested reading the Step Three chapter from The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous. My preference was to read from Abstinence, but the group conscience decision was to read and share on Step Three. I am a long-timer in our Fellowship, and I accepted that mine was the minority voice, so I abided by the choice of the other four.

At the time, I was also working with a nutritionist to help with my physical recovery, and I was struggling with her recommendations and with the food. The expectant mom read and shared from Step Three in the Twelve and Twelve: “As we become aware of what our eating guidelines should be, we ask God for the willingness and the ability to live within them each day. We ask and we receive, first the willingness, and then the ability. We can count on this without fail” (p. 23).

I must have blanked out during this reading because it went in one ear and out the other. (I don’t know if this happens to anyone else. My sponsor talks about “Big Book gremlins” that move sentences and paragraphs, so the next time you read the text you find yourself saying, “I don’t remember reading that before.”) So when this expectant mom later shared about “willingness and ability,” I quickly went back to my book, where the passage was clearly marked in several colors.

My nutritionist was beside herself about how she could help me, and I was clearly making her work for her money. What worked for her other clients didn’t work for me, because I am a real recovering compulsive overeater and they are “normies.” I remember taking a walk with my sponsor and telling her I didn’t think I could do it anymore. I believed the nutritionist didn’t know what she was doing.

I kept putting the issue in my “God Can” and asked my Higher Power to help.

It is truly miraculous, but I found the willingness and ability to work with the nutritionist. I have found the willingness to go to any length, no matter what. Every morning in my prayers, I acknowledge God for my abstinence and ask him for the willingness to stick to my food plan and the ability to physically move my body every day, and he has not failed me. God has directed me with loving messengers, like my husband and my sponsor, whenever I’ve had to make minor adjustments. Today, I am maintaining a weight release of 121 pounds (55 kg) and learning to love my new body and life. And to think, it was only possible because I said yes to service and agreed to abide by the group conscience.

— S.S., Sunnyvale, California USA


In “First Willingness, Ten Ability,” the writer overcomes an obstacle in her recovery as a result of following the group conscience. Reflect on your experiences with group conscience decisions. List ways these decisions have been challenging for you and whether you came to acceptance. Now list the current obstacles or challenges in your own recovery. Is there a connection? Could a lesson from a group conscience experience help?

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