As a longtime agnostic, I had a lot of hesitation as I walked into a church basement to attend my first OA meeting. My doubts quickly multiplied when I heard them read the Twelve Steps. I was distressed by the references to God, especially to a male God to whom I was supposed to “turn over my will”. As a feminist, Step Three was not at all acceptable to me! Certainly, I did not feel welcomed.
So, why did I come back?
First, I was in absolute despair. I weighed over 300 pounds (136 kg), and felt trapped by physical pain, mental torture, and emotional exhaustion. I could not stop eating. My cardiologist told me I would be dead within five years if I did not stop gaining weight. I’d always been a strong woman, with lots of determination and will power, but when it came to food, I was totally beaten.
Second, I got a sponsor. My sponsor had me read the Big Book, and we discussed it line by line. Wow—there are a lot of sentences (even whole chapters) that are archaic and horribly sexist! Of course it was written in 1939, so the Big Book is from my grandparents’ generation. If I view it as a historical document, it makes more sense. In fact, I imagine myself talking with my grandfather when I read it now.
My first sponsor was a deeply religious woman, but she never pushed her own personal views on me. She was calm, patient, inclusive, and tolerant and truly embraced the spirit of OA’s Unity with Diversity Policy.
As I slowly worked through the Steps, I came to regard Step Three not as a surrender or submission of will but a simple commitment to myself: I recognized that my solitary, human power could not repair me. However, I could rely on the group for support and consider OA as “a Power greater than myself.” With my sponsors help, and the help of many other accepting OA members, I have found recovery.
I came to regard Step Three as a simple commitment to myself: I recognized that my solitary, human power could not repair me. However, I could rely on the group for support and consider OA as “a Power greater than myself.”
The third reason I came back? OA is a program of action. When I got too muddled in my own obsessive overthinking, my sponsor would often smile and say, “Remember, we are here to utilize, not analyze.“ Through action—small daily actions, working the Steps, attending meetings, using the OA Tools—all of this action works! I am recovering. I eat three meals a day and have not binged in over twelve years.
I am still an agnostic. This means that I believe humans know nothing with certainty about our creation, existence, or our purpose. I am always interested to hear about the beliefs and spiritual experiences of other OA members, but I have stopped debating spiritual issues and have started acting my way to daily recovery. Through respect and tolerance, I believe there is ample space in OA for many different beliefs and nonbeliefs.
The program works, and that’s why I keep coming back. If you are like me or have questions, I encourage you to attend one of the many atheist/agnostic/secular OA meetings. You can find them at oa.org/find-a-meeting by opening the “Additional search options” and then looking in the “Special focus” menu. Hope to see you there!
-Lifeline September 27, 2022