Posted by: innerpilgrimage | July 22, 2015


I have to be brutal today. Brutally honest with myself and with anyone who reads this who suffers from compulsive overeating disorder or is in relapse from her or his program.

I am absolutely flailing today. It’s as bad as it was before I walked in the door, though without the quick-fix delirium I used to have. I know this will take time to undo the damage I did to myself with food since I relapsed at the beginning of the year and simply gave up. Or maybe I relapsed earlier or later. See, I don’t really remember things too clearly right now.

I am in lost in the thick mental haze of compulsive eating today, and it is a horrible place to exist.

This won’t be a clear or clean entry today. It will meander. However, I want to remember this. I want to record what a spiral to a relapse rock-bottom looks like for anyone not willing to let go of life in relapse. This is me in full ego mode (not like I haven’t been before even during program), and this is me having fallen from that high place I climbed to and obviously proudly decided that I crossed a finish line.

I look back on that super-skinny time with longing, forgetting how everything hurt. All I was at the time was skinny. I wanted my bones to shrink, so I could fit into a world that isn’t cut-and-sewn right for any of us. Sizes . . . women’s off-the-rack sizes are insane. Not even models fit clothing; they are airbrushed or photoshopped into a lie. I hate that I still believed it.

I’m trying to distract myself from the reality that I just threw away program and gained some real weight. I expect 20 to 30 lbs. since I just jumped into a food void at Christmas. I definitely remember the sugar-fat-salt binge. I eat almost all of the time every day. Trigger food or not, I just eat. I want comforting foods over healthy foods, warm things over cold things. I have no actual idea what I’m doing or thinking at any given time.

Why would I do this if I know program works? Well, to be absolutely and brutally honest, I don’t want to talk to an invisible sapient being. It’s not sane to me, so I am letting myself drown in freaking food madness. That is essentially it. I believe in many elevating powers greater than myself. The cosmos is. Love is. Justice is. Compassion is.

I just cannot bring myself to talk to them and not feel like someone is going to lock me up and throw away the key for talking to something that can’t communicate back.

If this offends people who believe in deities, then I am sorry. It’s not my place to say, “Hey, you’re talking to nobody and possibly hearing voices, so you’re certifiable.” In fact, I am not so sure a deity doesn’t exist. It could. The problem is that I see existence as the result of natural forces and pressures causing it all instead of a deity. This doesn’t mean that program can’t work if I choose the cosmos as a higher power. It just looks a lot different.

When I talk to another person, I talk to the self-aware Universe. Since humanity is the Universe contemplating itself–a sapient Universe, a Higher Power with a will greater than my own–talking to any sapient individual within it is essentially praying and getting a response. Well, if that person doesn’t ignore or avoid me. That’s why choosing the worldwide fellowship as a higher power works well for people struggling with God; all of us together unite into a compassionate benevolence with a will for us all to live in recovery each day for the rest of our individual lives.

Fitting this kind of higher power with a will greater than my own is really hard to fit into 12-Step for me. I know others have done it, and they can express the experience, strength, and hope as they practice program one day at a time. Program works for the religious, the spiritual, the apostate, and the atheist.

For me, getting there as an apostate (I abandoned organizes religion, supernatural spirituality, and even neo-atheism) is very hard. I want to talk to a higher power and feel comforted that turning to a paranormal super-sapience which cares about my health and well-being. I just honestly don’t want to talk to myself, which is what I perceive I would be doing. The silence is deafening, and that void . . . well, it’s the same that I have returned to filling with food.

Yep, food is again my higher power, that thing which is greater than myself which I turn toward. Why did I return to it, knowing it doesn’t work?

I am afraid to show my feelings to people. I am afraid of being vulnerable. I don’t want people to see me cry it out, especially if I have no idea what grief I am purging right then. As an addict, I learned to hide myself and my truth–even from myself. I really, really want to let that go and let it flow like I did the first day I walked into an OA room. I wept in relief at the message; I wept in grief that I had not turned to it before right then. I let myself be weak, so the fellowship could strengthen me and I could strengthen them.

I’m at the edge of weeping, but I’m hiding it in a malaise, in an ennui, in a doldrums of mild depression. I see what I’m doing to myself. I know I am falling apart, that I’m concerned with long-term dieting results and nostalgia for the day I put on a pair of size 4 pants at a WalMart and felt smug that I was one of the skinny people. I was a winner despite having my joints bruise me nightly as I slept. Yes, I was so bony at 155 lbs. that my knees bruised my thighs and upper calves and my ankles bruised each other. I had a thigh gap I could fit my fist into–and I do not have small hands. But, damn it, I was thin!

I was unhealthy, losing my hair, sallow-skinned, constantly tired, but I was thin and I wanted to be thinner. I wanted to be underweight by BMI standards, so people could see me crying out for help yet again. I couldn’t let the people in the rooms see how hurt I was that I couldn’t get a sponsor to stick around or be available to me.

I always felt that I was inconveniencing my sponsors, and I wasn’t wrong some of the time.

So, to be brutally honest, I’ve retreated into the food again because I am tired and I am resentful and I am really hurt. I wanted someone to hold my hand in theirs and raise me up to do that for others, too. I wanted to take that compassion given to me by an individual and turn it into compassion for others.

So, I have a resentment that whenever I got access to a sponsor, something happened. They were too busy being sponsors to many people (we have too few in OA, damn it!), no one was willing to be bold and be my OA buddy (when two fellowship members decide to work together to get through the steps), and the one person who committed to it died only days after he gave me a gift of personal revelation. I haven’t grieved the losses I’ve had in program, the disappointment, and this sense of betrayal that will not go away. We are, however, addicts helping addicts, and none of us is perfect. I understand this. I worked an imperfect program when I was actually working it. I feel deeply guilty for having these resentments, for fearing being vulnerable to individuals in program.

I feel like if I “Let go and let God”, I will have my hopes dashed again and I will feel stupid for believing in program again.

I’m not sure where to insert strength here, except that I know compulsive food behavior does not work for me and program does work for me. I’m not feeling particularly strong, nor am I feeling particularly decent as a human being. I feel egotistical, selfish, intolerant, resentful, envious, self-loathing, lethargic, . . . all of the really juicy Step 4 feelings which make for a great Step 4 purgative self-awareness list.

To be brutally honest, I know I’m not working hard enough to find a Higher Power that I can work with. I am committing more effort to lamenting that I don’t have one than actually working the problem in program. It’s simple, not easy, as I’ve learned in the rooms and from literature. So, there’s that, as well, being strong enough to admit that I’m not trying to use program to work a very real spiritual problem I’m having. Like I said, atheists can and do work successful recoveries daily. I can be among them if I am willing to follow Step Zero: “If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it – then you are ready to take certain steps.” [Big Book, page 58].

Here I was, thinking Step Three was the problem, when I see it’s Step Zero. However, I don’t think that believing in God is necessarily one of those any lengths, having seen proof that agnostics and atheists recover. Doing it 24 hours at a time . . . that’s one of the lengths I’ve abandoned. Living today’s 24 hours as a recovering person and not worrying about yesterday’s 24 hours or tomorrow’s 24 hours is also a challenge.

So, I suppose, for hope, I know that if today is not my relapse rock-bottom, I will get to that point. I wrote here today, which tells me I was willing to act instead of react today.

I don’t know. I’m feeling bad today–achy, mopey, unreasonably tired. I am not taking care of myself at all today. I’m definitely in relapse for this 24 hours. Will today be my most relapse rock bottom, the one that returns me to program?

Oh, I hope so. I really, really hope so.



  1. Hello Inner Pilgrim. I’m going to thoroughly read your posting here, but I read enough for my heart to ache for you and where you are at. Please be gentle with yourself. I completely understand trying to fit into the 12 step model and feeling like the square peg. But who is to say, that there is only one Path? If you took what you needed and left the else, what would that look like? If you let go of trying to adjust yourself into something that doesn’t 100% work for you, you shed away all that reactivity.

    I had to step away from my 12 step food program because every time, I’d walk away reactive about the god stuff. It worked when I first got abstinent, but 150lbs lost, and the god factor still was bristling my secular sensibilities. Yes, I gained a lot back. But now, I have been charting my own path where the nexus of my recovery is yoga, mindfulness, and a lot of hiking. I stay connected to those fellows to whom I most relate, I frequent mediation/recovery groups, and I lead hikes with a number of people from my mother program (along with others). As of this past Saturday, I finally got 90 days without feeling white-knuckled. What would be the nexus of your recovery? The fellows? The accountability? An activity where you feel present and/or presence?

    Anyway… I wanted to give you encouragement. You have made yourself vulnerable. Thank you for that. Don’t give up. And it’s okay to cobble a path that works best for you.

    Karen in SF

    • Hi Pilgrim, I just found your site search for “more” agnostics in OA. Iv’e found two phone meetings now – this is 08/2016 seeing your last post was over a year ago. There’s a Wednesday 7:30pm ET Phone We Agnostics in OA and a Sunday 10am ET Unconventional Spirituality. Both are wonderful.

      I’ve done pretty much everything unhealthily possible with food, I understand your pain, and share it.

      I hope you get this message and know there are many like you, who don’t believe in a God or even a HP, and there is a place for us. I can – and do – believe in the program without believing in the God/HP. It doesn’t have to be a “door knob” or even the “group,” for me it’s knowing that when I meditate – or any contemplative activity that puts the “Board of Directors” in my head on pause, I am able to find peace and serenity and get in touch with what I do believe: there within each of us is true “knowing,” when I touch that, maintain a connection to that, I find the “power” to do what I can not do with my ego-self.

      Much love, namaste, cj

  2. Welcome back to the struggle. For me, Change really sped up when I read Changing for Good by JO Prochaska and came to understand the tools and step of the SMART program. I also believe there are five distinct issues with overeating: food addiction, maladaptive eating behaviors, physical causes, environmental causes, and food knowledge causes. The remainder is just narrative.

  3. I’m sad to read of your struggles, which I relate to strongly. If you want to (or are willing to) talk, please give me a call. I’m pretty sure you know how to reach me. ~ Michael

  4. Wonderful post that has helped me feel less alone…as well as the other replies clare x

    • Clare — I hope you are finding connection, whether that be in person meetings, finding like-minded people here online. It is possible to find recovery on your own path. Peace to you. Karen in SF

  5. I’m a new person to OA, starting my journey for the first time, and I’ve been reading the blogs/stories of fellow atheists/agnostics who have taken the path before me. I’m really struggling with the concept of a higher power. I fully admit that I am not in control of my own eating habits; I want to change, and if I could have done so by myself, I would have. I acknowledge the need for a “higher power” but have not yet found one I can believe in that exists for me in a suitable manner; the closest I have come is the “knowledge and experience of a fellowship who has journeyed before me.”…

    I went to my first meeting this week, and was in tears. I don’t think I really knew just how much I am struggling, and need both support, and success. Many elements of the program ring more true than I could ever fathom… “I put my hand in yours…”

    To the original poster, and to anyone else who feels the same, I could use your support and am more than willing to offer the same. email or text me (253) 652-8502.

    Stay as strong as you can, do not berate yourself over your mistakes, and if you need help, support can be found.

    • Alex — My name is Karen and my email is [deleted by request]. I can give you more contact information from there. Hope you are finding your path to recovery. Mine hasn’t been so good lately. Peace to you!

  6. Ugh. I picked up again after 6 mos of abstinence! Damn, what a miserable feeling. I am frustrated beyond description. Trying to get back on track is such a bitch. I know better, I know how this side of things feels compared to the being leveled and balanced in recovery.

  7. I know FB site for Binge eating disorders if your interested, I will tell you the name,

  8. Another mode of communication … anyone use yahoo or gmail messenger? Would be nice if we could garner support from a click away. My yahoo is [deleted by request] or [deleted by request]. Perhaps we can can find for a group chat? Sending out recovery thoughts to you all!

  9. @innerpilgrimage–please come back. The last post was months ago and filled with pain. If you can’t help yourself, please help me. I just found your blog and am just starting this journey. Just finding info on recovery for atheists/agnostics. I keep trying to find a substitute for a “higher power”, but that is EXACTLY what I can’t believe in, and which is fundamental to the 12 step process. I can relate to your substitute: reality. I can put my problems into the hands of reality. Exploring that: In reality, I have the tools to make a recovery. I just need to find, develop and use those tools.

    In reality, you and I aren’t perfect. There will be mistakes.

    Please come back. Just for a moment. Just post again your pain and struggle. Let us help you.

    • I totally agree and identify with all the sentiments here. It is tough to try and find a 12 step way when I just fundamentally do not believe in a Higher Power as such, but we can help each other. You are not alone. I am still bouncing on and off a food plan and its hard not to make it a moral issue, but it isn’t …we just do the best we can today. Come back and lets support each other Clare

    • Hi. I’m not sure if you’re watching this comment for a reply from me, but I’m back. I’m sorry I was so deep in relapse, in ego, in the food. I really am.

      Yeah, this is what Step 4 and 8 are all about–remorse for making something more important than someone. I really feel sad today for what I did out of frustration and resentment that I felt like an outsider even when I was in the rooms. But to work it fully in program . . . I don’t know if I ever could. Most people seemed really uncomfortable when I got agnostic-atheist at them. Some weren’t, but they came through my life as if to drop off the guidance I needed then move on.

  10. I hope you have found your way back to food sober living. All my best wishes for recovery.

  11. Well, I have returned to write here now and again. This mini meeting in the comments here . . . that is getting me schmoopy (Part of the price of clarity–actual and honest emotions).

    Program got hard to do. So very, very hard to do when I felt like I was just going through the motions and worked an insincere program, I guess. (This is months and months after-the-fact analysis. I’d have to read what I wrote again, and it’s painful to go back to even the good days).

    I’m easing back into it, hopeful that I can get the courage to find a meeting that won’t send me running to my trigger foods and weight gain. I will need to soon. Without a fellowship, the clarity and the real emotions are going to start making abstinence hard to maintain.

    But I’m here, working a recovery after relapse. What an adventure, hunh?

  12. […] hard part was looking back at the 22 July 2017 entry: Brutal. Oh, and the people who showed up to offer experience, strength, hope, and so much COMPASSION . . […]

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