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Thought, Preparing for Action

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Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.


When I first joined Overeaters Anonymous, the first three Steps annoyed and frustrated me. What were these Steps that could not be proven with any tangible evidence? I wanted to be writing my inventory in Step Four so I could check off a completed task with satisfaction. How could I actually know I had completed Step Three? What does making a decision look like? Like any typical newcomer to OA, I was praying to my Higher Power to “Grant me patience—now!”

Recently, I watched a sponsee say her Third Step prayer and couldn’t believe how excited I felt—what a shift in perspective! Now I understand: even though these beginning Steps are based in thought, they are the foundation, preparing the compulsive eater’s mind, body, and spirit for the rigorous action that is to follow. The first three Steps are summarized, “I can’t; God can; I think I’ll let God!” (The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, Second Edition, p. 17). Considering all the ways I’d tried to control my life, I had a few more things to do before fully taking those first three Steps (beyond what is directly stated in the Steps themselves). I had to:

  • Try to continue relying on my own willpower and fail utterly.
  • Put down the food.
  • Get a nutritionist to guide my food plan.
  • Find a sponsor, even though I thought I was smart enough to do it on my own.
  • Make an action plan. • See a therapist to help me process my emotions.
  • Learn how to pray and integrate prayer into my daily routine.

I write this list not to overcomplicate things, which I believe compulsive eaters tend to do. The first three Steps can be accomplished with a thorough reading of the Big Book, guided by a sponsor, and a recitation of the Third Step prayer. However, looking at my list, I recognize that while I felt stuck in those first three Steps, my HP was working in my life in his own way and time. In hindsight, I took significantly more action than I realized. As I bumbled my way through those “pesky” first Steps, eagerly awaiting my chance to move on to the meat of the program, he helped me discover willingness, humility, and yes, even patience—all of which were necessary for the actions of the subsequent Steps. I’m thankful for every setback, every slip, and every frustration that were part of my first three Steps.

— Elizabeth H

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