Recognising Wellbeing in Overeaters Anonymous
May 13, 2022

How does the Inside-Out message translate into the 12 Steps Programme? One of our Community Listeners, Sharon S, has explored this as part of the programme. Here is her project in her own words.

Introduction from Sharon S
You may wonder why my full name is not shown here. This is because I am a member of a 12 Step Programme that addresses food issues called Overeaters Anonymous (OA). One of a 12 Step Programme’s traditions is ‘personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films television and other public media of communication’ and that is why my surname is not written here. However, if anyone should wish to contact me through this project write up, I would be very happy to talk or meet up. Please contact The Inner Compass Guide in the first instance info@innercompassguide.com

The 12 Steps is a set of steps/directions culminating in Step 12 ‘Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to compulsive overeaters and to practice these principles in all our affairs’. The Steps introduce us to a Power Greater than ourselves/Higher Power or God of our own understanding and relieve us of our compulsions to use food to self-medicate.

What I describe below is my personal experience and observations and does not represent OA as a whole.

Background
My project is about how I have used Wellbeing Listening within my 12 step community, at my regular home group and in conversations with fellows and Sponsees (a Sponsee is someone I work with closely to guide them through the 12 Steps and share my experience, strength and hope with).

For me and many of my fellows and Sponsees we came into OA after years of trying to diet, control food intake and use other behaviours to stop gaining weight. I thought if I was slim, all my relationship and life problems would disappear. I thought my discomfort with life was coming from being overweight (or thinking I was). I was gently and lovingly introduced to the 12 Steps by my Sponsor and by using a food plan and other tools shown how to put the food down, feel my feelings and begin to create a relationship with a Higher Power. However, my experience was of having periods of abstinence and recovery, and then of relapse. Although I was experiencing much less anxiety and food compulsions, I still used food to ‘sate my fears’. At times I still felt anxious and a I continued to feel a ‘victim’ of outside circumstances.

When my fellows and I experienced relapse, we would often come to the conclusion that it was because we weren’t ‘working our programme hard enough’. We needed to use the tools more, pray more, do more service or the external circumstances of life were working against us. As a Sponsor, I would ask my Sponsees to journal their feelings, do more inventory and service. This all felt very ‘heavy’ and for me at times became more work to do on top of a full-time job, family and other commitments. What I experienced and also witnessed happening to my fellows was we left the OA programme or still participated at a distance, but overall we decided we couldn’t do this, we were too far gone. The spiritual awakening alluded us.

Wellbeing Listening
After years of slipping and sliding in OA, I came across the Inner Compass CIC around May 2021 and quickly enrolled on the Wellbeing Listener Introductory Webinar and the Wellbeing Listener Foundation course. Following those courses, I felt a huge shift in my understanding of my innate wellbeing (Higher Power) and how my thinking creates my feelings. Then how my behaviour comes from believing my thoughts and feelings. At that time, I recorded the following track to share with three of my OA fellows.

This is the feedback from one fellow:

“Everything you’re saying is the simple version of the big book – and what the big book is about – when we are resentful – worried (fear) we block ourselves from God because instead of thinking about doing the right thing we start to obsess about people places and things we start making up stories and scenarios in our minds which in fact is insanity. You know Sharon I can spend hours being like this and not even realise it because it’s like second nature to me – it’s only when I start to feel emotionally unwell I start to unravel what’s truly going on in my head x I loved listening to you Sharon xx”

As my understanding has grown, so has how I am in the world, how I share at a meeting and how I support my OA fellows and sponsees. Addiction is traditionally spoken of as a very heavy, chronic illness that you never truly recover from. When I share my experience, strength and hope in a meeting it is now full of lightness, pauses and I point in the direction of my innate wellbeing. I share that my thoughts are changeable and cover up my wellbeing. To access my wellbeing, I can use the catalysts or tools, but it’s not the tools that are important, they are just a vehicle to access what is already there – this is our Higher Power or spiritual awakening.

I share this understanding with my fellows and listen for their wellbeing and point them in the direction of it, which is ‘upstream’ of their personal thinking.

Here is feedback from a Sponsee:

“I think my faith and growth in understanding of how fallible my mind is, coupled with noticing my thoughts and then not letting them impact my feelings and behaviour has really helped. Also realising (excuse my ego) that I can manage really well despite my life experiences and adversity. I’ve also lowered my high standards of myself and everybody else. My heart has softened.”

I have created the following Wordcloud which I’ve shared with a Sponsee. The Inner Diamond of Wellbeing and the catalysts, i.e ‘ways’ of accessing it.

Inner Diamond Diagram

 

I created the document ‘The Steps and The Way We Work’ pdf for a Sponsee to provide a resource of our discussions to refer back to. Here is The Steps and The Way We Work PDF

This is her feedback:

“The information you shared and then summarised has been very helpful.
The need to accept that we cannot do this alone and can only overcome our eating addiction with the help of God is very powerful.

As you explain, looking to the source of the river and not just deal with the sediment or symptoms we have developed is the only answer. We cannot simply keep pruning the leaves of a weed, we need to deal with the root. The lies that we have come to believe about ourselves and the misconceptions about people, places and things that we have developed need to be dug out.

Using the term ‘Looking up the river’ was a good way to describe steps 1-3. Since I have started doing this I feel stronger in this area. I can hear God more clearly speaking to me, not just in this area but in other parts of my inner world.”

 

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About Inner Compass

Liz Scott & Stu Newberry are trainers, coaches and speakers. They work with individuals and groups across the UK. They also help develop coaching cultures (founded on wellbeing) within schools and organisations.

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