Ok so I think I've made it pretty clear in the past that the words God and religion are generally pretty icky to me. Organized religion gives me anxiety. No really, I think it's been at the crux of global wars, pandemics, hate crimes, child abuse cover-ups, and terrorists attacks since the beginning of time. Thousands of dollars go into religious entities each year while around the world millions starve. I didn't grow up with religion in my home. My dad grew up Catholic and my mom grew up Protestant, but both were disenchanted with religion and didn't want to force my sister and I to go to church. Religion was never a part of our lives and we were happy that way. We spent Sundays playing soccer, while my peers attended church and Sunday school. The closest we got to religion was a children's book explaining the bible and the basics of religion that my sister and I used to sometimes play "church" with each other. My mom generously offered to take us if we really wanted to go and see what it was all about, but we weren't that interested. I considered myself to be agnostic all my life, mostly because I was too afraid to declare myself an atheist. And I always believed in mediums, the supernatural, and astrology, enough that I felt like I disqualified myself from being an atheist.
I never really gave much thought about a higher power in my life, even after getting sober. It's part of the reason I avoided going to 12 step meetings until I was over a year sober. Word on the street was that 12 step = God and I wasn't about that. However, after finally deciding to go to a 12 step meeting learning about spirituality and a higher power were required. The God rhetoric and traditional masculine concept of a higher power that are embedded in 12 step literature were hard to get past for me at first. It's very discouraging for those of us who are agnostic or atheist. Even the chapter "We the Agnostics" basically says that you'll change your mind after going through the steps.
It helps that the program details a higher power of your own understanding, but it took me awhile to get comfortable with being the odd one out who didn't use the word "God" or refer to "Him" as my "Creator." Shudder. However, I could relate to believing the group is a higher power of sorts and I could agree that putting faith in this power felt good. For me, 12 step meetings have never been about going through the steps. It has always been about connecting with others who've been where I've been and are on the same sober journey. Sitting in those meetings and listening to women talk, cry, and interact feels spiritual to me and it's a feeling I never had when I was drinking. When I go to a meeting, I leave feeling more connected. In a way, meetings are my church and sobriety, my religion.
Most recently I've been attending a Wednesday night women's group where we're reading the book A Woman's Way Through The 12 Steps and this book has just been amazing so far. It's really making me feel included in terms of not believing in a traditional God and it not being necessary for going through the 12 steps. We just finished step two where it was defined as "to entertain the possibility that help is available, that we cannot and need not rely on our ego selves to break from our addiction." Simply, in step two, we need to acknowledge that help is available. What a simple concept! I was blown away. That's really what it's all about, knowing that you do not have to fight addiction on your own.
Another takeaway that I loved was this, "Where does the power exist for you? Outside or inside? Neither or both? Perhaps you believe in a Power inside you that is greater than your 'ego' self, the self that represents your outer identity but is really only one part of you. Your deep, inner Self is the self that is greater than who you seem to be on the surface." I just loved this description. It resonated with me because since getting sober, I've felt in touch with my inner spirit for the first time in my life. I honor it and connect with it. After feeling dead inside for years, this is very much a part of what I define as spirituality.
I've received many messages over the last year and I've noticed there is a common theme with people who want to get sober who aren't yet, and/or those who are curious about 12 step groups. They can't stand the God thing. Well, I'm right there with you people, but there is a way around it, or should I say, through it. Even though religion has never been a part of my life, sobriety has turned into my religion. It's what keeps me grounded, what I look to when I'm scared, anxious, sad, or content. It's helped me believe to be connected is a good thing.
If you're endlessly searching for something, it's not going to be at the bottom of a bottle, but you might find it in sobriety.
"In our addictions, we were isolated and alone. Now we have an opportunity to experience belonging. We belong to a recovery community that shares the power to give and receive support. We are also part of a larger universe that supports us. With the support of this foundation, we participate in the transformative work of our own recovery." - p.42 A Woman's Way Through The Twelve Steps.