Beating Your Addiction/Eating Disorders with Twelve Step Model

Addiction/Twelve-Step Model

By: Carolyn Costin

  “If you get rid of the pain before you have answered its questions, you get rid of the self along with it””

Carl Jung  

Source: A Comprehensive Guide to the Causes, Treatments, and Prevention of Eating Disorders- The Eating Disorder Source Book. Third Edition


Dear Readers,

Please find below a twelve step model from Carolyn Costin’s book, A Comprehensive Guide to the Causes, Treatments, and Prevention of Eating Disorders- The Eating Disorder Source Book. I have had an honor of meeting a very brave person who overcame her Eating Disorder with this model. She spent most of her childhood and adolescent years in the Eating Disorder Unit. At the end it was her faith, her devotion to her church that saved her life. Last month she became a mother to a beautiful little baby girl. There is hope, If you’re mid-way in your recovery or are fully committed to beating your eating disorder addictions and other destructive behaviors and habits, then you  have a great shot at success with this model.  Eating Disorder addictions are when a person becomes powerless to stop a destructive behavior such as binging purging, over exercising, losing weight and  misusing substances causing their life to become unmanageable. Please try everything in your recovery. No recovery is perfect and we will all make mistakes, but then the road to recovery is all about taking one small step at a time.

We all know about brilliant Carolyn Costin,  an advocate and activist in the field of Eating Disorders. She received the National Eating Disorders Association’s Award for Advocacy in 2008 . I have used her book and  this should be one of the few books one must buy to help them understand eating disorders. It offers practical, compassionate, and useful advice for parents and all caregivers.  I also adopted the following twelve-step model to my own needs.

Please don’t forget that these Twelve-Step Groups are free and available to all. Many have found success with this model, but as Carolyn Costin said, “If a Twelve-Step is used, it must be with caution and adopted with the uniqueness of eating disorders”.

Addiction/Twelve Step Model


The addiction model of treatment for eating disorders was originally taken from the disease model of alcoholism. Alcohol is considered an addiction, and alcoholics are considered powerless over drinking because they have a disease that cause their bodies to react in an abnormal and addictive way to the consumption of Alcohol. The Twelve-Step Program of Alcoholic Anonymous was (AA) was designed to treat alcoholism based on this principle. When this model was applied to eating disorders, and Overeater Anonymous (OA) was originated, the word food was substituted for the word alcohol in the Twelve-Step OA literature and at OA meetings.

The basic OA text explains, “The OA recovery program is identical with that of Alcoholic Anonymous. We use AA’s Twelve Steps and twelve traditions, changing only the words, ‘alcohol’ and ‘alcoholic’ to ‘food’ and ‘compulsive overeater'” (Overeaters Anonymous 1980). In this model, food is often referred to as a drug over which those with eating disorders are powerless.

The Twelve-step Program of Overeaters Anonymous was originally designed to help people who felt out of control with their overconsumption of food: “the major objective of the program is to achieve abstinence, defined as freedom from compulsive overeating” (Malenbaum et al. 1988). The original treatment approach involved abstaining from certain foods that were considered addictive or binge foods, namely sugar and white flour, and following the Twelve-Step adapted for OA.

Twelve-Steps of  OA

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over food – that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than our-selves could restore us to sanity.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Step 4:  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all those defects of character.

Step 7:  Humbly asked Him to remove our short givings.

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we wrong, promptly admitted it.

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

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.