When I first heard the word “God” mentioned in my recovery support group, I felt a dark, ewwy gooey feeling in my chest. I immediately thought, “Oh boy, I can’t do this. This won’t work for me.” Underlying my fear and skepticism was a feeling of failure.
I’d already tried a few different religions and philosophies, and was never able to really click with them. It took a few years for me to find a concept of a higher power that I could relate to. Gradually, I developed a deep connection with what I now call God and learned to listen to the guidance I was given, for myself and others.
My addictions eroded my spiritual beliefs
My spirituality was strong when I was young. I learned to pray in Catholic school and would kneel beside my bed every night, blessing my family and friends. It was comfortable and made sense to me, until my addictions kicked in. When I was ten, I began drinking and starving myself and binging. By 9th grade, I seriously questioned my religious teachings.
In high school, while my addictions progressed, I enjoyed talking with philosophical types who turned me onto “Be Here Now” by Ram Dass and the work of Carl Jung. I also researched Buddhism for an English paper. I was fascinated by spirituality and philosophy, but my addictions controlled me, so I couldn’t put the teachings into practice. It was all intellectual.
I stopped drinking for my religious boyfriend
In college, I met a really dysfunctional guy (surprise surprise — alcohol impairs judgment!) who was raised in a fundamentalist religion and didn’t drink. Three months into our relationship he told me, “We can’t progress any further unless you adopt my faith and stop drinking.” Lacking a strong sense of self, I agreed, despite my lack of belief. I became a proselytizer in no time. The positive side was that I stopped drinking for an entire year. But my motivation was to keep my boyfriend, and that wasn’t a long term solution to my alcoholism.
He and I attended various types of churches together and I played the part of the devout girlfriend, but inside I felt very uncomfortable and was sure others didn’t accept me. Shame, due to addiction, told me I wasn’t worthy of being in church. But I kept up the facade, so my boyfriend wouldn’t leave me. He was really good at convincing me that I was lucky to be with him. He manipulated me into believing that I would be lost without him. I didn’t have enough experience or confidence to realize that was a lie.
Thankfully, I left him. I didn’t get sober right away, but leaving him sure was a step in the right direction. But he was still in my head; I felt intensely guilty about leaving his religion. It was as though I couldn’t be “good” unless I continued practicing it. I thought people could see how dark and “sinful” I was.
Not long after that, I get sober. I went to my first support group meeting in West Philadelphia. At the end of the meeting, we joined hands and said the Lord’s Prayer. I felt a connection with everyone in that room; something I’d been longing for, although I didn’t know it until that day.
I experimented to find my own concept of God
I liked the group right away but then I heard people talking about God. Yikes. I almost left. But I’m glad I didn’t. That was in 1988 and I’ve stayed sober since, because I took suggestions and kept going to support groups, in spite of my skepticism and fear. I experimented with creating a concept of God that worked for me by incorporating qualities that I liked about people I met, like my friend Arthur.
He was tall and strong, with a gentle, warm smile. I wished that I had the courage to ask people about their Gods and how they prayed. But I was too afraid to admit I didn’t know what I was doing and too worried they’d want me to sign up for their belief system.
I prayed even though I felt phony
But I did start praying again. It was hard. I felt kind of phony and was undisciplined. I would pray one morning, and then forget to pray for a few days. Then I’d pray again for two days in a row, and stop for no apparent reason.
I asked a friend to teach me how to meditate
I love the saying, “That which you are seeking is also seeking you.” As I continued praying, a higher power met me more than half way. My intuition improved and I started handling situations in a healthy, calm manner. I wanted more. Eventually I got in the habit of praying every day; surrendering to a loving, wise force which I call God.
11 years into my sobriety I asked a friend to teach me how to meditate. I quickly fell in love with it and the revelations it brought me. My mind was quieted long enough for God to slip me practical solutions to my issues. I didn’t have to rely on my own, limited thinking anymore.
Spiritual awakening: Blissfully one with everything
After a few years of daily meditation, at 15 years sober, I had a profound spiritual experience. For five days, I was blissfully at one with everything in the Universe. I realized that I wasn’t separate from trees or other people. Wow! I wanted to feel that way forever. But it slowly faded. As I talked about it to my doctor, he directed me to an ashram two hours from where I lived. I went and after learning more about the spiritual master and her belief system, I decided to join the community. I never predicted this path; it wasn’t something I had ever heard of but it feels so right and compliments my recovery support groups perfectly.
From skeptic to spiritual counselor
After several years in recovery, I decided to honor my intuitive gifts and share my “meditation riches” with others. I became a Spiritual Counselor and a Psychic Artist. It’s an honor to give guidance and support to people around the country. I never would have guessed that someone who was as lost I was, would end up such a role.
I no longer feel like I have failed at “the God thing”. By showing up, however imperfectly, one day at time for prayer and meditation, I continue to develop a strong relationship with a loving God and myself. If you are struggling with your concept of God or a higher power, I encourage you to talk to your support group friends about it. They’ll have plenty to share, I’m sure. And remember — do the foot work, stay clean, and the results will come, in perfect timing. You too, can succeed at finding a higher power that works for you, under all conditions.