“Came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.”

My food addict’s mind is endlessly creative. It will tell me that changing my diet, arguing with my sponsor about food amounts, thinking I need to lose more weight, and impulsively trying a new food are all perfectly reasonable.

My thinking is my problem.

I used to “think” that if I just found the right diet, the right sponsor, the right medication, did enough therapy, lost enough weight, that I would stop having “problems with food.” I didn’t want to be a food addict. I lived my life by what I wanted, or didn’t want to do; what I felt like doing, in the moment. If I think it, then it’s right.

I would plan to eat abstinently, and then change my mind.

Because I thought all those things, I believed I was right. I would run ideas by myself, and of course “my self” would agree. I spent endless hours counting calories and planning what I would do when the weight came off. Meanwhile, being fat was depressing, so I told myself it was “OK to have just a little,” which would invariably lead to a binge.

I tell myself a lie, and then I eat.

I spent 10 years in and out of relapse with food addiction. I didn’t “think” I needed to stop eating flour and sugar. I didn’t “think” I should have to ask another food addict for decisions about my food. I didn’t “think” I needed to commit my food on a daily basis, and keep my commitment. And I certainly didn’t “think” I needed to do those Steps exactly the way they were written. I did them “my” way, the way I thought “worked for me.”

I utterly believe my own lies.

I felt vaguely offended by Step Two. “Restoring me to sanity?” I wasn’t insane! I told myself “I just have a problem with food.” Insane people are those drug-addict homeless people lounging on the street talking to themselves, not me. As a therapist, I told myself that “insane people” have fixed delusions and problems with reality. I didn’t “think” I was anything like them.

And yet I kept eating. My best efforts would provide me with a day or two of “abstinence,” clenching my teeth all the way through. What was I doing wrong? I tried everything, I “thought.” But I didn’t want to admit what I wasn’t willing to try. Which was most of the program.

I (the big I) was trying to do it by myself, my way.

Finally, I gave up. I gave up trying to do it my way and became willing to follow directions. I committed my food every day to a sponsor and ate only what I committed. Another food addict “held” my food plan, and I agreed not to make changes without talking to her first. If she didn’t think it was a good idea, I didn’t do it.

I stopped lying to others about my food.

But after 2 1/2 years of clean abstinence, I was still obsessed with food. Candy in the drugstore would “sing” to me. I knew everything that was in the vending machines at work, even if I didn’t want to. I knew what everyone else was eating, all the time. Going to the grocery store was still torture. I had to stare at the floor when I walked down the aisles. Hearing others talk about food could trigger a food obsession I would have to talk about for days in order not to eat it. I hated watching normal eaters have dessert and other things I told myself I “couldn’t have.” I was still lying to myself about food.

Food was not my problem.

I wasn’t eating compulsively any more, I was a normal weight, but my thinking about food was making me crazy. I started to wonder if I hadn’t always been this crazy. I still believed that food would make me feel better, even though I had enormous evidence that it never had. That actually qualified as a “fixed delusion,” now didn’t it? I believed I had to do food a certain way, with very strict rules, in order to stay abstinent. I “thought” it was my abstinence.

My thinking about food is fatally flawed.

I finally knew I really was insane. It was my thinking that kept taking me back to the food, over and over. But how could I possibly change my thinking with my thinking? Simple answer: I can’t. But God can. I didn’t believe that God (or whatever) cared about me or my food problem. I was so busy living life my way, “thinking” that my way was the right way. Finally, I heard the question: “What if my way is wrong?”

Being “right” and doing it “my way” is playing God.

I didn’t think I was egotistical; I just had to do it my way, and things would be fine. Except that it never worked out. I finally understood about the actor in the Big Book of AA in Step Three, the one who keeps trying to be a director and get everyone to perform his way. I was selfishly chasing after what I wanted all the time.

What if abstinence was a gift from God? A gift I could take really good care of and return, with thanks, at the end of each day? I didn’t have to be “in charge” all the time. I could practice trust. I could turn my thoughts and my actions over to the care of God.

Making that Third Step decision meant I was no longer running my life based on what I wanted; the four-year-old inside of me was no longer in charge.

According to the dictionary, what does restore” mean?

  • To return to its original or usable and functioning condition;
  • To regenerate: return to life; get or give new life or energy;
  • To give or bring back
  • To repair: restore by replacing a part or putting together what is torn or broken

After doing the work in the 4th and 5th Steps, I could truly see how insane my thinking was, not only about food, but about life. The lies I told myself built an enormous tower of resentments I could have never dismantled without the help of God and a wise sponsor. Before every slip or binge was a resentment. Under every resentment were lies and fears.

I have only one “problem:” being separated from God.

If I am practicing rigorous honesty and a daily spiritual life (Steps 6-12), I am not obsessed with food. It no longer calls to me, or bothers me. I can focus on being of service, being happy, joyous and free. This freedom is more wonderful than I could ever have imagined with my limited thinking.

The problem has been removed.

© Arian Eigen Heald, M.Div.