Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.

By: Bobbi Carter

Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date.

A former patient stated: “I wanted to go to a treatment center that addressed all aspects of my eating disorder – my mind, body, emotions, and you know, my spirituality.” In their book, SQ Spiritual Intelligence; The Ultimate Intelligence ,Zohar and Marshall write, “Many of us are spiritually stunted to some extent – some degree of personal fragmentation is almost inevitable in our modern ego-dominated society. Yet the deep self is always there. Spiritual intelligence is an innate capacity of the human brain, and we don’t have to be spiritual heroes to hear its call. It may be evoked because the lifelong ego strategies with which we have coped cease to work – the psychic glue binding our fragmented selves together suddenly gives way. When we do hear its call, a spiritual crisis results.” (p.187)

The 12-Step Program at Center for Change offers the residents a non-threatening way to get in touch with their spirituality. In 12-Step, we incorporate AA’s five procedures, which are:

1.Giving to God
2.Listening to God’s direction
3.Checking guidance
5.Sharing, both confession and witness

The damaging effects of an eating disorder upon one’s relationship to their Higher Power can range from feelings of total unworthiness, to anger and distrust. Hence, women come to the 12-Step group with different views and in different places in regards to their spirituality. This works out well since our focus is on the personal relationship one has with their Higher Power. We talk about the difference between religion and spirituality. We use the term “Higher Power” and stress the importance of their own definition of their spirituality and how there are many paths to their own truth. “What does your personal relationship with your Higher Power look like?” and “How would you like it to be?” are just two of the questions we encourage the women to ponder. These questions open the door to looking at spirituality not only as a personal issue, but interpersonal as well. The journey we begin is intended to allow each woman to develop spiritually, to learn tools to get them where they want to be spiritually, and to use these “spiritual tools” in their recovery process. Spiritual tools include such things as prayer, meditation, nature, church, anything that allows a person to feel they are in communion with their Higher Power. “Once I was able to define my spiritual tools I felt I had easy access to my Higher Power.” We encourage the women to use their spiritual tools and to work on their spirituality daily. “I came to realize that if I put as much energy into my spirituality as I did my eating disorder I got to know myself better on a heart level. I began to actualize what I really wanted in life. The sky’s the limit!”

We look for miracles. In treatment it is easy to get bogged down by everything that is “not right”. In journals, we record three miracles a day which may include insights gained in therapy to something coming to us at just the right time. Sharing miracles in group enables a readiness to accept the natural sacredness of everyday occurrences. “When I started to notice miracles I realized for the first time that I don’t have to do this alone…In fact I’m not alone.” A common example of a miracle is how a woman gets to the Center. The women talk about how they hit “rock bottom” and just as they felt there was no hope “things just fell into place” for admission to the Center.

We work the steps. Packets are handed out weekly from the workbook, The 12 Steps, a Way Out….A Spiritual Process for Healing. We work on the same step together and each week we work on a different step. Working a step is then followed by an experiential exercise which may include a trust walk, writing down your most shameful secret, or letters to our Higher Power. For example, after we work Step 4 and have completed a self inventory, we write all the character traits we want to let go of on balloons and turn them over to our Higher Power. We then write character traits we have that we feel are negative and turn them into a positive.

And finally we share our stories. Fellowship is one of the most important aspects of the 12-Step group. When the women start reaching out by sharing or extending empathy, real relationships develop, shame can diminish, and healing will begin.

By participating in the 12-Step Program residents begin to understand the spiritual aspects of their recovery. How they choose to use their spirituality in recovery is of course up to them. In 12-Step we look at the many different ways to gain strength from our spirituality, turning ourselves over to our Higher Power, to the feelings of unconditional love and never being alone – even on our worst days in the recovery process.

Zohar, and Marshall, SQ Spiritual Intelligence: The Ultimate Intelligence , Bloomsbury Publishing, New York & London, 2000.

The 12 Steps, A Way Out …A Spiritual Process for Healing , RPI Publishing, Inc., San Diego, 1995.