God Could…and Would if Sought
I imagine the biggest concern for someone new to AA is the “not drinking” part. I’m consistently surprised at how many arrive at the doors with a goal of “learning to drink like a lady, or gentleman.” There’s a joke that says, “AA would be a much larger Fellowship if it weren’t for that not drinking part.”
I also imagine that for many, not all, another concern is the God language, the God “part.” And, for the suspicious ones, even the Higher Power references cause concern, for they quickly figure out that “HP” is just another name for God.
… even the Higher Power references cause concern, for they quickly figure out that “HP” is just another name for God.– Jay WestbrookNone of this should be surprising, as most, not all, come sliding into the folding chairs of our rooms with a less than ideal relationship with God: Some have no previous exposure to God or only vague childhood exposures and images. Others may have had a specific form of God forced on them, a forcing from which they rebelled. Still others may arrive with a rage towards and/or blaming of God for some specific tragedy or for a general “ruining” of their life and bringing them to AA. I guess still others are just looking for a way to justify backing out the doors, and God can make a handy scapegoat for that. Finally, there are some who arrive very comfortable with, and even comforted by, the language and presence of God.
I don’t believe my story is unique. I was raised in an atheist home. My mother abandoned me when I was five months old. My father remarried when I turned three, and he and my step-mom wanted to focus on careers. So they placed me in the home of “friends of the family,” where for the next three years I was raped and beaten on a daily basis.
The Result of Medicated Emotions
As I grew up, I medicated my feelings. The substances helped, but led to bad decision-making, and those decisions put me behind bars. Although I thought of myself as a tough guy, it took only five hours before I was gang-raped for the first time, and it continued throughout my incarceration.
Upon my release, I immaturely blamed a God, in whom I did not believe, for everything bad that had happened to me – as a child, and as a young man – while crediting Him for none of the good.
I acquired an education, earned lots of letters after my name, and professional success. But, I lived with a spiritual malady of “no God.” That malady produced an increasing misery. Finally, on the day of a well-planned suicide, I picked up the phone, called a 12-Step hotline; within 90 minutes I was in a meeting. In that meeting, I felt the breath of a God, in whom I did not believe, blowing on me with a gentleness that I had not earned and did not deserve. I called that breath of God “Grace.” That was in the eighties, and I have been clean and sober since that first meeting.
Finally, on the day of a well-planned suicide, I picked up the phone, called a 12-Step hotline; within 90 minutes I was in a meeting.-Jay Westbrook
While the God consciousness did not stick, I did become a struggling seeker. My first God in sobriety was just the “Group Of Drunks” in my 12-Step meeting. Then God became the mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and love in my heart. At the same time, I moved into bedside End-of-Life [hospice] work, and it quickly and undeniably became clear that the place where life and death meet is filled with God.
I acquired many Buddhist tools to use in my work, but continued to seek a personal God that “worked” for me, given my childhood, incarceration, and other experiences.
Finding God and Free Will
I finally found a God, one who is omnipresent and all loving, but who does not intervene, a God who designed us perfectly, but gave us free will, a God who co-journeys with me and who co-suffers with me, a God who looked at me being raped as a child and wept at my suffering, but who also looked at my rapists and wept just as hard at their suffering, at each of them having moved so far from His Grace. This God resonated with me, made sense in light of my experiences, and allowed a deeply personal relationship. I know today that God created me with everything I needed for resiliency, and created my rapists with everything they needed for redemption; I pray they reached for it. I know I did. My God is not a Santa Claus God, i.e., does not give parking spaces, winning lotto numbers, jobs, or relationships. But my God is a loving, non-intervening, co journeying and co-suffering ever-present source. That’s the God of my understanding, the God that works for me, but it took great seeking to arrive at that God.
My God is not a Santa Claus God, i.e., does not give parking spaces, winning lotto numbers, jobs, or relationships. But my God is a loving, non-intervening, co journeying and co-suffering ever-present source.– Jay WestbrookI have a friend who, when she spoke at meetings, told the group that as a newcomer, she heard we could have a God of our own understanding – a tree, the ocean, the Group itself, or even a doorknob – and she chose a dildo, and that it worked until she found she needed a bigger God. As you might imagine, that line always garnered laughs, and always managed to offend – sometimes deeply – those who were passionate about their God and/or who had not yet cultivated much of a sense of humor in that arena. Then, she became a sober mom, and her concept of God deepened, expanded, and changed dramatically.
I believe the most important aspect of finding a Power greater than ourselves is just that – realizing and accepting that there is a Power greater than ourselves, that that Power is not a Santa Claus with a bag full of “stuff” for us, and that as in all relationships, we must open to and cultivate the relationship. Seek God with the curiosity and openness of a child, and suspend your disbelief just as you do when watching a great movie. It is then that you are most likely to find a Power greater than yourself.
That Power might be the God of our original or adopted religion, might be the non-religious Power accessed through some spiritual practice or discipline, might be the Power of nature (the wind, the ocean, etc.), infinite intelligence, or loving-kindness. The fact is, that in seeking God or a Higher Power, we relinquish that role. And when we’re not playing God, there is space for miraculous transformations in our lives.
If you have any doubt about those transformations, just take a peek in our mirrors and our meetings; you can’t miss them.
The opinions presented in Pro Corner reside solely with the author, and do not necessarily represent those of Rehabs.com or its employees. Pro Talk exists to elevate the discussion around substance abuse, behavioral addictions and related topics and we appreciate the efforts of our professional content contributors.
Image Courtesy of Unsplash/Austin Ban