When I came into OA, I met a longtimer I particularly admired. She was slender and energetic. She shared wisdom and love with everyone in the rooms and had an irresistible sparkle about her.

When we passed around the phone list, though, she did something that confused me. In the “Comments” column, she wrote, “Always a beginner!” Why on earth, I wondered, would she claim to be a beginner when she clearly had it all together?

Now, ten years later, I think I understand. We never have it all together in OA. We are always powerless over food and this disease. I can never control it, and I can never manage my life, at least not by myself. The best thing I can do for my recovery is to keep being teachable and follow instructions, like a beginner.

From the example of this member and others, from working the Steps, and from using all the Tools, I’ve learned that a beginner’s attitude as expressed in Step One is a very good place to be. When I remember I am powerless over pretty much everything except my own response in this moment, I can stay abstinent. Here’s how I use Step One every day:

  • Every morning when I wake up, before I even open my eyes, I pray Steps One, Two, and Three to remind myself of my true relationship to life and my HP
  • When something doesn’t go my way or when life hurts, I remember I’m powerless over it. I am not supposed to control it, so I don’t need to be frustrated or disappointed when I can’t.
  • I ask for help and support from anyone at a meeting, no matter how long or short their time in program.
  • In OA, I’ve walked through drastic changes in household income, going back to work after twenty years, raising kids, my father’s dementia and death, and kids moving out—all abstinently— by remembering I am powerless.
  • As I write this, my elderly Labrador seems to be dying—he hasn’t eaten in days. Since I’m powerless over this, instead of trying to force him to eat, I am doing what I can to make him comfortable. He is peaceful, and I get to feel my sadness and grief without eating over it.

When we pass around the phone list at a meeting, I often write the same thing as that longtimer did, because it works for me: I am “always a beginner.”

— Joan P., Mountain View, California USA

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