I have not had a “burning bush” moment in my recovery — a moment when the blindness suddenly fell from my eyes and my faith in a traditional religious God was restored. In fact, I’ve had to deal with a great amount of contempt for religion.
This contempt has driven me to relapse time and again, until I was finally broken enough and desperate enough to abandon my contempt and seek a higher power in my life.
I have always known that I am not the greatest thing in the universe. If I have a fault, it is not an inflated ego but a complete lack of ego — a total lack of self esteem. I believe I deserve punishment. I believe I must work very hard to prove that I am good and worthy of love.
These beliefs stem from my childhood and the religion I grew up in. My childhood God was vengeful, judgmental, angry, and hateful. He would kill you and throw you into a lake of fire if you sinned. He demolished cities, wiped out entire nations, killed children and babies, and promised a soon-to-come apocalypse on all the non-believers in the world.
This is the God I knew. This God judges me for being an alcoholic/addict (I Corinthians 6:9-10). This God condemns me for cutting myself (Leviticus 19:28; I Corinthians 6:19). There is no room for love or acceptance in this God.
So my faith in this God wavered and finally broke. The more I drank, the more I thought I would somehow beat the drinking game. One day, I truly believed, I would be able to drink like other people — have just one or two drinks and then stop. But one or two was never enough.
One or two of anything was never enough. When I was prescribed Xanax and Ativan, I couldn’t take it as prescribed. I needed more. The truth is, no one needs 10 mg of Xanax at a time on top of alcohol. That’s actually deadly. I was trying to fill a black hole in my soul. I just kept pouring alcohol and drugs into it.
When I got to AA and learned I could create a God of my own understanding, I thought, “Choose my own God? That doesn’t make sense.” What was I going to do? Go shopping for a God at the God-mart?
How could there be any God but the God I had been taught was the one true God? How could I let that go? But I was stubborn and growing more desperate the more I drank, so I stuck around.
And I learned. I learned that a Higher Power could be a doorknob — because you can’t get through a door without using the doorknob, therefore the doorknob is greater than you. It’s a stretch, but you get the idea.
In rehab I tried creating a feminist God, but she was angry and vindictive. She was me, not a Higher Power. My rehab sisters validated my feelings, telling me I had every right to be angry against men and the patriarchy, but the point of a Higher Power is to have a spiritual connection that feeds your soul. I was just feeding off my own anger.
Five months ago, when my contempt finally broke and I became willing to do whatever it took to get sober, I did not have an epiphany about my Higher Power. I did not have a startling moment of clarity. I did not hear a voice speaking to me in the dark stillness of the night. I simply accepted my brokenness.
In the Big Book of AA, it says:
The terms ‘spiritual experience’ and ‘spiritual awakening’ are used many times in this book which, upon careful reading, shows that the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different forms. […] With few exceptions our members find that they have tapped an unsuspected inner resource which they presently identify with their own conception of a Power greater than themselves (pg. 567-568).
Today, I do not limit my Higher Power. I do not pretend to understand it or know what it is. It doesn’t come with gender pronouns. It doesn’t come with any sort of religious history. It is a light in the darkness. This is the image I think of when I pray.
I have found that inner resource which has made a personality change possible. What it is, where it came from — I don’t know. I feel like if I look at it too closely it will vanish. So I simply accept it for what it is. And I’m grateful for it. Because it’s given me a new way to live. A new way to think. A new way to breathe.
I can tell you it’s not a doorknob, and it’s not the God of my childhood. I can tell you it brings me peace and fills me with love and kindness, even towards myself. I can tell you it will always be a great mystery to me, and I’m okay with that. I’m grateful to my Higher Power for bringing sobriety into my life.