Twelfth Step Within

As a person who has been in very long term relapse (in and out of relapse for over 20 years), the Twelfth Step Within concept is very near to my heart. I know quite well the despair of going to meetings and thinking that I must be “one of those unfortunates,” perhaps not constitutionally capable of honesty. I know the pain of thinking that I have nothing to share, nothing to offer; of skulking off quickly after meetings, as I watch everyone else sharing fellowship, fellowship in which I deem myself unworthy of inclusion. This is a very lonely and hopeless feeling. I saw the recovery in others. I remembered when I felt the same hope. Now I began to have serious doubts about ever being able to recover. I worried as I ate. I wondered how much longer this could go on. What would come first, a disabling stroke, death or just more years of torture?

A few years ago, my friend and I decided to start a Recovery after Relapse meeting on a Tuesday evening. There was no other Tuesday evening OA meetings nearby, so we decided it was the best night for it. Well, the meeting puttered along, sometimes with two people, occasionally with 3 to 5 people, then just one … me. The meeting limped along for a few more months, but eventually closed. Total running time? About 8 months. Fortunately, all was not lost, as one member became abstinent. In my eyes, that categorized it as a success.

As the Twelfth Step Within Chairperson for our Intergroup, I wondered if there could be a more popular way to offer this specific kind of fellowship to those in our midst suffering in active food addiction. I decided to try to attach an “after meeting” to an established Beginners meeting at a local clubhouse. The Beginners meeting typically attracts between 25 and 45 people. I announced during this meeting that any members in relapse and any members who want to share their recovery were invited to meet briefly following this Beginners meeting. This new meeting has been consistently attracting up to ten people ever since! We dispensed with all structured readings, and chose instead to read a page from New Beginnings or another OA book and jump right into sharing. Food references are permitted, as it is helpful for members to openly share about their experiences with trigger foods.

We felt it was important to go around the circle, allowing each member the opportunity to share (or pass) as they wished. So often, individuals in relapse are reluctant to share in larger meetings or in meetings where those with long-term abstinence tend to dominate. This small, informal group provides just the kind of intimate setting, which allows members to open up and shed light on their secrets and unhealthy eating behaviors in a very accepting and healing atmosphere of recovery. I believe that HP is present at all of our meetings and there is so much hope when old timers share their recovery experiences. For example, one member explained that she called herself the “Queen of Relapse” for many years and now, through the grace of HP and this program, is celebrating 6 years of abstinence. People with solid recovery provide inspiration and those in relapse are encouraged to talk, share their feelings and heal.

Even though this idea is quite simple, I offer it to anyone who would like to try it. This has become a very special and strong meeting. I hope a lot of recovery will result from this as we try to carry the message of recovery to those who still suffer among our ranks.

We dedicate our meeting to those who have lost their lives to this disease and at every meeting we pray, “God, please get between me and the food today, so that the food does not get between me and you.”