I arrived into 12-step with full willingness to concede the first step. My life was unmanageable. Those next two steps stomped the brakes. To come to terms with God of My Understanding, I had to reconcile the God of My Upbringing. That meant recognizing the latter was a convenient representation crafted by my mother. Growing up, God was an invisible third parent who could inflict punishment into eternity when she was tired of doing it herself in the present.
On Sundays, the smiling adults talked about a supposed loving God the Father. I knew my earthly father was an unhappy drunk who had affairs. So, no thank you to a second one.
Years went by and I replaced God with science. And I replaced hope and joy with wine and whiskey. My world got smaller as I drew the shades figuratively and literally.
I don’t hang the stars. I don’t beat my own heart.
Notice what you’re noticing
In sobriety, I started noticing my surroundings. From looking down all the time — watching for pets and other trip hazards as I stumbled to the kitchen to refill a glass — to looking up and out and noticing the stars and the trees... The expanse of Nature. I don’t hang the stars. I don’t push the trees through the earth toward the sun. I can’t even beat my own heart.
After a sober year I returned to church, curious what I’d hear and which Father would appear. The God of Punishment or God of Love. I heard love. I heard faith. I heard hope that God and I could open a dialog. And I came to realize God the Father had nothing to do with parenting. My sober journey has allowed a spiritual journey to unfold.
Max Ehrmann’s poem Desiderata provided markers that guided my earliest days in sobriety. One sentence at a time, I found a toe hold in the rocks I was climbing. Then there it was…
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive him to be.
Which came first: God or Sobriety?
I’ve heard that “all this God talk” keeps people out of AA. And that “God brings people to AA and AA brings people to God.” Likely both are right and it’s a matter of how many creases remain in one’s own unfolding universe.
Getting sober is the first stage. If drinking was your brilliant solution that became a terrible problem, getting physically well is the step that allows everything else to follow. Reconciling our pasts, our relationships with others and with a Higher Power — as we understood him (or her)— and with ourselves are spiritual gifts of recovery. Smooth the creases. Soften the edges. Find your manageable.
There are many ways to get sober, clean, free from whatever form of addiction is tugging on you. While my reference point is AA — because that’s what is accessible in my rural area and has worked for me — there are Anonymous programs, Smart Recovery meetings, churches and other houses of worship, Y12SR, therapists, in-patient rehabs, IOP, peer groups… If you’ve been thinking you might need help, you’re probably right! Pick one, try it three times, and if it’s really not right for you then go to the next option on the list. Don’t stop before the miracle happens.