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Working a Program Without God

If God is not a source of abstinence, then what is?

OA literature and the Twelve Steps say that finding God is the way to be free of compulsive overeating. Secular OA types don’t find that answer very helpful. So, what works for you?

If you would like to add your solution, use our contact form and let us know.

1. Clarity on the food problem:

  • Problem foods (often sweets, starchy food, junk food, fast food, highly processed foods, etc.)
  • Problem behaviors (quantity, frequency, cooking and tasting, night eating, and situations like travel, holidays, eating out, parties, etc.)

2. Focus on the food solution:

Avoid certain foods (your problem foods)

Avoid certain food behaviors (make plans for high-risk scenarios like travel, holidays, eating out, etc.)

Get help with designing a food plan (nutritionist,  MD, read books, etc.)

Weigh and measure some or all foods where volume is an issue

Get support to implement a solution

3. Get a sponsor:

  • Call in food, text food, report the next day, have accountability on food and body weight as it helps, talk through high-risk food situations, make action plans and strategies

4. Better awareness of self (personal inventory):

  • Prior life events
  • Patterns of thinking/feeling/living that are harmful to self/other
  • Current life issues 

5. Structure and support:

  • Live your food solution and adapt as needed
  • Manage your life

I have also explored the idea of intuition over the years. I used to think it was this mysterious idea or thought that came to me perhaps through my heart or the wisdom of others or who knows. Now I just focus on ideas, thoughts, and information that seem helpful, and what it is called or where it is sourced is not so important. Perhaps it is just calm reflection when in a state of abstinence. If I choose behaviors that keep me abstinent and reasonably serene and help others, I consider that a success.

Also, abstinence does not have to be black and white. It can refine over time. Things can be tested and learned from. Self-honesty is key. At the end of the day, if I get to a weight I like and am mostly at peace with food, that is a win. If the rest of my life and relations with others improve, that is a home run. If I can help others achieve the same, that is a grand slam. We are all in this together and need each other’s help. Thus OA is a SUPPORT GROUP. It’s that simple.

—Alan S, Alexandria, VA USA

Structure for me means using these tools:

  • Sponsor call daily to give accountability
  • Sponsees calling to share ups and downs
  • Contact with fellows between meetings both in and out of food to keep it real and give me connection

Outside sources include:

  • Therapy to help understand my unskillful ways of handling emotions
  • ACA [Adult Children of Alcoholics] to help me understand and untangle  unskillful childhood patterns

—Edie E, Northampton, MA USA

I wondered when I first came into OA how I could possibly be successful when I could not work the Steps as written. As much as my wonderful sponsor tried to help me translate all the god writings into a non-deity for my higher power, the rather heavy-handed theme running throughout many of the Steps is that you cannot be successful without the Judeo-Christian god. I also balked at the thought of turning over responsibility to another entity to handle this disease, as all aspects of my life are ultimately my responsibility.

I can remain abstinent with the help of other OA members, and by allowing my best self to make the healthy and kind decisions that lead to abstinence.

—Kathie S, Grass Valley, CA USA

My own comfort with “higher power” as a term (as an atheist) has been tied to my notion that the wisdom of the group (at its ideal best) is larger than my own reality and therefore higher. Or that “reality”—the natural world, science, being present and/or other real things outside the machinations in my own head—is bigger than me, so perhaps also a “higher” power.

But looking at the Steps and alternative versions—and trying to see past the evangelical/patriarchal/hierarchical roots of the Twelve Steps—I think the core thing I really need for my spiritual recovery may not be a HIGHER power, but an OUTSIDE power. Looking outward for new thoughts, answers, help, and support—and leaving the false internal reality of negative/obsessive/addictive thinking.

My definition of spiritual recovery is unrelated to deities, spirits, or mystical thinking—just healing and strengthening of the human spirit.

—Mark S, Santa Monica, CA USA

God is not the answer, in my opinion, because there is no god. There is no god to watch out for us and god to give our problems to. We cannot recover on our own. We need help from OA fellows, and we need the collective wisdom recorded in OA and recovery literature.

—Matt J, Emeryville, CA USA

"No More Regret or Shame." Collage by Carol G