09/11/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Is 'Spiritual' A Dirty Word?

My last boyfriend hated when I said the word "spiritual." Suffice to say, the relationship didn't last. I used to be like him, I condemned things prior to investigation because I was afraid and angry, because I didn't know who I was so I used hate to define what I wasn't. When I finally went into Overeaters Anonymous, I was faced with a choice: Accept a power greater than myself or continue to suffer alone. 12 step groups don't ask you to accept god, they don't even come close, but they ask you to have faith--to believe a power greater than yourself can do for you what you cannot do for yourself: stop the binging, stop the gambling, stop the pain. I resisted at first, as a good atheist always does, but as my ego fell away I realized they were just guiding me towards salvation.

When they say your higher power can be a lamp post, the group itself, nature, they mean it. I don't believe in a Christian God, or a creator god, or a god of anyone's understanding but my own. I have faith in humanity, and while I've personified this idea enough to pray to it and confide in it daily, faith in this abstract concept has done for me what I could not do by myself: It has lifted my eating disorder. I binged every day for 25 years. I would have died, either by my own hand, or from obesity related diseases, but I didn't. Isn't that amazing? It's so simple, yet there are so many out there that would call me flighty or silly or discount me as a freak for talking about it out loud.

We live in the least spiritual time America has ever seen, going through a terrible economic period, along with war, political scandal, and major health crises. Couldn't we all use a little faith and reflection? Even if we don't believe there is anything to pray to, maybe the simple act of humbling one's self, getting down in one's knees and asking for help can be of great use. As Oswald Chambers once said "It is not so true that 'prayer changes things' as that prayer changes me and I change things. God has so constituted things that prayer on the basis of Redemption alters the way in which a man looks at things. Prayer is not a question of altering things externally, but of working wonders in a man's disposition."

Faith gives you the freedom from the pretense that you can do it all alone, and knowledge that whatever may come you have a relationship that can sustain you. If this simple concept has worked to save hundreds of thousands of addicts, maybe we should re-examine our cultural distaste for the word "spirituality" and all that it entails.