I am doing the 12 Steps from AA. Does that surprise you? I think we should all do the 12 steps and build a recovery lifestyle together. By that I mean a lifestyle that is self aware, gentle, living in the present moment with gratitude, affirming of others etc. I am just learning all this.
The book that is taking me through the steps is Keith Miller's A Hunger For Healing. It is a Christian perspective of the 12 Steps, using them as a model for growth.
The first step is "I admit I am powerless over my sin." I have worked through the list of questions in the book - pretty pointed questions - and face that there are five areas in my life over which I truly am powerless. (I think the real insight comes when we realize that we are actually powerless to create our own blessing, to construct and control our life. All of it. But I start with five areas.)
Now here's the rub - I always thought that this idea of being powerless over my sin was really that I am powerless but with just a little help from God I am powerful and I will fix things. Nope. This is more difficult to admit - I am powerless.
Full stop. I will not ever fix it.
Take eating. (One of my five areas and not too embarrassing since so many of you are in the same predicament.) I am a compulsive eater. I don't have an eating disorder but I have disordered eating. I can, for a period of time, exercise incredible discipline and maybe lose weight. I can keep to a plan and be very firm with myself. But shortly after that I zing back to my disordered eating.
What makes it disordered? I eat when I am lonely or stressed to cover my pain. I don't stop eating when I am full. Sometimes when I am eating a plate of something tasty I am already planning the second helping and ignoring the experience of the food I am eating. I also eat when I need a reward.
I seldom eat because I am hungry, and then eat only to a reasonable and thankful fullness. Nope.
I also eat to make people happy. Instead of saying "no thanks," I eat because I want them to be happy (with me.) So I lie in my eating. Basically I eat to cover my pain, to make people happy and like me, and I eat without enjoying or thinking about the experience. That is disordered eating. I have done this all my life. I am apparently powerless to change.
It is a really radical thing to pray this - "I am powerless to change," instead of "help me stay on my diet tomorrow" (which means, 'with a little help I can do this.')
My friend works at a clinic in a poor area and she had an obese ten year old girl in her office. The girl's health is severely compromised and not helped at all by a sneering, sarcastic step-father who goads her about her unattractiveness. When my friend was with the child alone, the girl tearfully spoke, "I just eat to feel better." Sheesh. Isn't that what we all do?
Step one. I am powerless to get life right. I am powerless to manage this (and other) part(s) of my life. I cannot manage life with will or character or good training. I am powerless.
"We can't have joy because we can't stand pain, but pain evidently comes into the heart through the same doorway as joy. When we use something, from a vacation, to buying new clothes, to tranquilizers, [to food] - to blot out the pain of life, we block the joy as well. We are therefore often numb people, who have plenty of everything but can't feel the love for or from [our] people..." (Keith Miller, page 20)