6 Lessons Learned from a Secular Recovery

In my early twenties, I sought help for an eating disorder. I spent five weeks at a treatment center where I went through a refeeding process and can to terms with my illness. Later I was also diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. I still take medication to lessen my mood and psychotic symptoms, but it’s actually been a long time since I’ve had any symptoms. 

Today, after years of recovery, I have a very nice life. I’ve been working in the mental health field since 2006 and I tend to be a cheerleader for those in recovery. If I can do it, they sure as hell can.

One thing I don’t get to talk about very often is how being an atheist has been beneficial to my recovery. I run into a lot of vocal religious people in this field and I’d really like the chance to share my story.

So I’m writing a book! Here’s a little taste.


6 Lessons Learned from a Secular Recovery

  1. Mental illnesses are medical disorders that require medical treatment. Taking my medication is a very simple thing I can do to give myself a better life. 
  2. Give yourself credit. God didn’t do it — you did. While you’re at it, give your doctor, science, and your support team credit, too. There’s so much that goes into each individual recovery and god has absolutely nothing to do with it.
  3. Humans are strong and resilient. I don’t find strength in god, I find it in myself. I’m independent, capable, and responsible for my actions. When it comes to recovery you can praise god or curse the devil, but it doesn’t really matter. Ultimately we have to rely on ourselves.
  4. A belief in a higher power is not necessary for recovery (even though many say it is). I’m doing really well despite (or maybe because of) the absence of spirituality.
  5. There is no guilt, shame, or punishment in having a mental illness. Recognize the illness for what it is — a medical disorder. Receiving a diagnosis is absolutely no fault of your own. I am responsible for my wellness — not my illness.
  6. Be open to change. In recovery, we explore, evolve, and find what makes us happy.


Before coming to Freethought Blogs, I was writing for a popular mental health site, healthyplace.com. There were strict rules there and I wasn’t able to share my story as an atheist in recovery. I’m so glad I’m now at a place where I can open up about my recovery and not leave any of the important parts out.


  1. blf says

    Turning this around (in a sense), is being (devoutly?) religious a possible indicator to some mental illness?

    E.g., being terrified that if each morning when the Sun rises (except on certain days proclaimed by the elders) you don’t tap your nose three times on the larger nostril, and then turn in a full circle on the spot yodeling “yee ugg ugga!” if you turn widdershins (only males and pregnant females), else “yaa uee ugga!” if deisul (anyone except those prone to dizziness), does not sound like a practice conducive to a balanced mental outlook. Not a mental illness in itself, but a factor suggesting or — sorry, I don’t know the correct word(ing?) — “encouraging” a mental problem? (Which, I suppose, could then be “reinforced” — again, perhaps not the best word(ing?) — by some mental problems in a feedback-loop.)

    Apologies for perhaps being a bit muddled here. As you can perhaps tell, this is outside my area of expertise.

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