As an atheist, it was difficult for me to come to Overeaters Anonymous. I knew I was a binge-eater, but I also knew that the program was heavy into spirituality and that kept me suffering with my disease for ten long years. After reading The God Gene by Dean H. Hamer, it’s easier to see why OA (and other 12 Step Programs) work, even if you are an atheist.
There is a reward in my brain when I overeat that is triggered by dopamine, but even stronger than that reward is the one triggered by spiritual experiences. One of them is the feeling that I call, “On The Roof.” It is a feeling of lifting up and being able to see the whole world: the past, present and future. This reaction is much less common than the feeling of the other presence and even less common than the feeling of being at one with the universe, but it is also far more powerful. So powerful that it can make you feel like you are going a little crazy.
You are not.
That feeling of lifting up and being able to see the whole world is a natural reaction in your brain that can be caused by psychotropic drug use, prayer, meditation and sheer desperation. It is a very rare reaction and highly sought after. Why?
BECAUSE IT FEELS GOOD.
The physical reaction that comes with the feeling of lifting up and being able to see the whole world makes your brain feel good. It feels even better than bingeing on the most sweet, salty or fatty foods you could imagine. If you do it on a regular basis, it can replace your craving for food and you no longer feel the need to overeat.
I have been On The Roof only once in my life, but it was such a powerful experience that it shaped my destiny. It was my first year of college and I was having trouble with Calculus. I just couldn’t understand it. At spring break, I went to my grandparents’ house (because I’m a wild and crazy girl). I brought my Calculus homework with me, hoping my grandpa could help me with it. He was the only one I knew whom I could turn to, but when I asked him to help me, he said, “With Calculus, you just get it or you don’t. I can’t help you.”
I was desperate and in tears. I remember vividly sitting in their kitchen at the round table. I can feel the vinyl tablecloth on the table with its fleece backing making it difficult for me to write on my paper. I had to put my paper on my folder to do my work. I was so desperate, just staring at my Calculus homework and crying when it happened. I felt as if I were lifting up from the kitchen table. Lifting up above all of mathematics. I could see the entire field of mathematics before me. To my left I could see my favorites of the past: Trig, Geometry, Algebra and even simple Arithmetic spanning in the distance to my left.
In front of me, I could FINALLY see it! Calculus and how it fit into the world of Math. It was easy to find the area of a square using Geometry. Once we knew about that pesky Pi, even the area of a circle was easy to calculate. But a curve! A curve was so hard! How could we calculate the area under a curve?! I could see the rectangles under a curve getting smaller and smaller until they reached an infinite number and finally achieving that perfect curvature. I could UNDERSTAND differentials!
Even more elusive, I could see into the future of Mathematics for me. I could see that if we knew the area under a curve that we would want to know the formula for it. I could see the need for integration as clearly as I could understand the need for division after learning multiplication. It was an awe-inspiring moment for me.
After that, Calculus was easy for me. Even the third semester of multi-variate Calculus did not daunt me because of that spiritual experience “On The Roof.” If you are lucky enough to have an experience like this, cling to it. Bring it up in your memory again. That awe-inspiring emotion got me all the way through college and it can keep you from bingeing.
OA depends heavily upon a spiritual awakening within its members for the program to work and the reason why is because that spiritual practice retrains the brain to deliver “feel-good” messages without eating too much food. It is the reason the program can even work for an atheist like me. If you have been avoiding going to OA because of the spiritual aspects of the program, read The God Gene and learn how spirituality is a physiological reaction that you can harness for your own benefit.
Overeaters Anonymous does not approve nor endorse this website or any of the views posted here.
On The Roof image via: Battle for Libya: Nichole Sobecki