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Recovery and Spirituality
"I don't believe in God", said I.
"That's okay Michael, he believes in you", said he.
"God" was a dirty 3 letter word to me. The way I perceived the world at the time, there was no way I wanted to believe in him. And if he did exist, I wanted nothing to do with him.
I still remember my one of my first brushes with AA. It was while I was a full-time resident of a psychiatric hospital. I say resident, because my various ID cards had the hospital details as my address -there was nowhere else to call home.
At the first meeting I attended, I got up and spoke about my life. Several people cried as I told my tale. I found that strange as my story really wasn't all that different to anyone else's. Perhaps it was because I was only 21 and at that time a young person seeking help for addiction was still relatively uncommon - I was usually the youngest in the group. Many people that attended congratulated me on my courage. It wasn't a case of being brave. I had no intentions of being on this planet in a fortnight from then. I no longer cared.
The hospital was releasing me and I had made firm plans regarding my departure from this life. The doctors had supplied me with all the drugs I needed to carry this out and I had researched the toxic levels of all the medications I was prescribed. "Game Over Man".....or so I thought. They gave me tranquilizers, sedatives, trycyclic anti-depressants and drugs to slow my heart down, as I had problems with tachycardia. I was prescribed these things as I was still displaying signs of depression and anxiety. My condition was in reality prolonged withdrawal symptoms consistent with cross-addiction. As it turned out the overdose didn't work, which to this day still puzzles me. I had planned it carefully, ensuring that one drug didn't cancel out another and tripled toxic dosages to make sure. Maybe someone had other plans........
When I was at that meeting, I remember hearing about and seeing the 12 steps to sobriety. When I read the word "God" in many of them, I cringed. It was my first stumbling block that kept my mind resistant to AA/NA for another couple of years. But the seed was planted. The words spoken to me by that man stayed with me.
When I finally hit rock bottom, it was very strange. I still had money in my pockets, enough to stay intoxicated for a few days. My life had become split into a few hours of drinking followed by a few hours of unconsciousness. I can't remember too much of the events leading up to me making that phone call, but something inside me broke. I was emotionally desolate. I couldn't live and I couldn't die. I had not only walked through the gates of hell, but was rapidly becoming the gatekeeper. Pride had been washed away, and there was no energy for manipulation. I was a carcass with a heartbeat -there was only pain. I remember screaming internally for whoever was running the show to end it, or help me. I then made the telephone call and began recovery.
I have often questioned this chain of events. Maybe "whoever was running the show" saw that he/she/it finally had something to work with. It was useless before as I would always manipulate and try and do things my way. But in this state; broken, sick and confused I was the perfect pupil to learn some very hard lessons.
I came to learn that "whoever was running the show" was my Higher Power, the God of my understanding. Over the years that followed, I realised "God" is not a dirty word, although it is a term I rarely use because it seems to have lost it's meaning in our society. I have come to know "God" by a different name, a very personal name. It is merely a reference to the source of everything that is good, creative and loving in our universe. It is the force that I try and listen to. I fall deaf often, but keep trying.
The "Higher Power" referred to frequently by AA and similar groups simply means the power that is greater than you. When you think about it, how many times have you tried to give up the drink and drugs but failed? Being an addict means that you cannot control your substance intake or successfully cease taking it on your own. For all of us who have recovered, a higher power must have been involved. As to what your Higher Power is, that's not for me to decide, it is something that you will discover yourself over time. It will be a powerful force that you can develop a personal relationship with. It will be your friend and confidant in the darkest hours. It will never fail you.
Some people find that their "Higher Power" is the God of their childhood, or perhaps it is the concept of another Creation Force, for others it is a concept that is so abstract that they cannot explain it to anyone else, but they understand it themselves.. As one of the steps says - it is the "God of your understanding"
Many addicts are agnostic or atheist, which is totally understandable. Our childhoods and current lives of continual strife and torment lead us to believe that this is a normal way of life. We think that God must be one sick puppy to sit back and let it all happen. Some of us were raised with the concept of God being a spiteful, fearful entity who would quite happily send us all to Hell to burn forever.
"whether it's God or the Bomb, it's just the same
And it's only fear under another name" - Ollie Olsen
The above verse basically summed up how I felt about the "big guy".
In your recovery, try and put these types of opinions and conditionings aside, open yourself up to whatever your "Higher Power" is - I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised.
A gentle word of warning: Be careful in your choice of a "Higher Power". Choosing other recovering addicts as your sole source of inspiration is very dangerous. They are people who are quite entitled to make mistakes and "fall off the wagon". And I am sure that they don't wish to take others with them.
I remember the story of a man who chose a very old tree to represent his Higher Power. He admired the tree, it was hundreds of years old, had withstood many storms, diseases and pestilence. It was beautiful and bursting of life. His recovery went very well and he would visit the tree often. He would sit under its branches and contemplate. This went on for a number of years.
On one of his visits he found that the tree had been cut down. The man immediately went to the closest liquor store, bought a bottle and returned to the tree. He then sat on the stump and drank...then drank some more..and more....you get the picture. It was many years before he could get back on track again. In this instance the man put his faith in something tangible, that could be affected by other humans. Perhaps he should have focused on the force that created the tree... that which is eternal.
I may not have believed in God, but I know now that He believed in me... and I am greatly humbled - especially after all the rotten things I said about Him!
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