I was only 19 years old when I attended my first 12-step recovery meeting. It was a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. My motivation for attending A.A. was not that I was dying from a merciless addiction and an unrelenting alcoholism. No, the driving force was that I had a problem getting caught. It seemed that I got caught a lot, a whole lot! Somehow my behavior was not that of an upstanding young man with a bright future ahead of him, but instead, that of a little, young, spoiled, rich, rebellious, and spiteful brat.
At the meeting there were the usual-unusual folk, mostly old and weathered—like an old shoe that’s been worn too long in the rain. At the time I thought they were old and haggard—at the very least they weren’t relevant to me. Looking back I would probably say they were just normal men and women from all walks of life, rich and poor, young and elderly. It’s kind of funny now I am the old and weathered one… worn too long in the rain!
At this first meeting, my first exposure to AA, it took only 15 minutes for me to hear to word God mentioned. Ouch that hurt! I was sitting on a chair along the wall of the room. I thought to myself,
“What are these people talking about? God! What does God have to do with staying out of trouble?”
I had never thought of needing God to get me out of anything in the past. The people in the room certainly did not look like they would know much about God. All I needed was a way to quit getting caught.
Nope, this was not what I wanted to expose myself to… I really did not know what it was I was looking for. I just wanted to get my folks off my back and give me what I needed: money to pay my rent and bills, since I sort of drank and used it all up. I was broke and could not survive in the condition I was in. I took a deep sigh of relief, stood up and left the building. I said, “Thank God that’s over with.”
During my childhood, my family rarely attended church or religious activities. We would go to church as a family only when we went on vacation and visited relatives. I suppose it was the right thing to do when visiting family. I do remember being very uncomfortable during the services. I never did like being forced into going to church. It must have been a carry over, stemming from a type of fear from when I was very young.
I was born in 1958, in Edinburgh, Scotland. My Mum was not married to my Father and in Scotland that was not such a good thing to be an unwed mother.
My father had left us with no support, and Mum did all she could to make sure I would be safe and taken care of. Even if that meant that she had to let me go! I remember riding a train. We were on our way to London. Mum had made arrangements for me at a place where kids without mums and dads go.
I was in a room with tile floors and funny windows. Outside there were other children playing and having fun. I obviously did not know what was going on but Mum was talking to some people and they came over to the window and grabbed me by my hand. Then my Mum gave me a big hug and kiss, turned around and walked away. Something was terribly wrong and I did not know what it was. I would eventually end up in an amazing place.
This happened over 50 years ago, and it still feels like it was yesterday! I still get a feeling of dread whenever I hear high-heels clicking on tile floors.
Mum had taken me to Barnardo’s Children’s Home.
The home I was sent to was a huge old English mansion in the City of Leicester, a bit north of London. Most of the children there did not have any mothers or fathers. Mum always denied that she had to give me up to the orphanage. She always told me it was a Boarding School. That’s ok Mum, I understand!
Now, mind you, the orphanage was the best place I have ever lived, ever. It was really, really nice. It was great! I was never alone. I always had fun and friends to play with. A motorcycle club took us for ride in the sidecars of their bikes. We all went to parties and festivals.
The other children were just like me. Not wanted. Left alone, and abandoned. I knew even then that something was wrong with me but I was having such a great time, it didn’t matter. We went to school and played games.
I remember actually making daisy chains out on the big front lawn of the property. In the back, there was a garden and a greenhouse. We even had horses. We would vacation on the beach at Great Yarmouth, England’s version of Santa Cruz or Atlantic City.
Well you get the idea.
Alright , now lets get on to the God thing.
On Sundays we would all go to church, and this is the place where I first learned something about God.
Inside the church it was big and cold, with pillars rising from the ground and reaching to the ceiling. The walls had statues and pictures of cruel looking people dressed up with swords and shields. The light reflected through the room and casted shadows, dark and damp. There were men wearing long cloaks and they were yelling and shouting at everyone. They took turns telling stories of which I could not understand. I just knew it was scary!!!
After, about an hour of this, they took us children to a room off to the side, I’m guessing it was a classroom. I was terrified and crying. All of a sudden I was in a room that was nice and warm. There
were toys and fun pictures on the wall. There were rainbows and bunny rabbits, and finger painting and coloring books.
A lady was singing and playing a guitar. We learned the song about how Jesus loved us – yes Jesus loves us!!!
So this was my problem: Is God a nice guy, or is he mean and frightening?
This confusion started when I was 4. From that moment on I did not have much more exposure to God and religion and for quite some time afterwards, except on the family vacations. I also never had anyone explain this “God Thing” too me and help me to be ok with it. I was never ok with it!
So, it was in August of 1995, where after being arrested and charged with two additional D.W.Is, that I finally met a man who knew what he was talking about, and to whom I could relate. He was the very first man in recovery that was able to get me to the point of accepting the 3rd Step prayer.
But I still was thinking the thought: how could a book written in the 30s have anything in it that would help me? That’s impossible. But then in the book, on page 45, I came across something that hit me hard:
“Some of us have been violently anti-religious.”
“To others, the word God brought up a particular idea of Him with which someone had tried to impress them during childhood”
I thought: “I’m stuck.” My friend showed me in the book that if I were to live, I had to trust and rely on some kind of “God Idea”, and you know what kind of idea I had. It wasn’t looking good for me, and I knew it.
I did not resist the effort of my friend to process me through the step work that he said that was necessary and vital for me to find what he had found.
At the time I was detoxing from very heavy drinking, my parents were extremely upset. They presented to me an ultimatum – get help or else. I really did not want to find out what “else” meant. I had to continue the journey with my new friend.
So, the 3rd step prayer that my friend was guiding me into . . . it goes like this:
“God, I offer myself to Thee-to build me and do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always.”
Now, being that I was in such bad shape, I certainly was not going to complain or object to this prayer thing I was doing. I just needed, like before when I was 19, to get my folks off my back, and get my life back together.
I did the ritual, holding his hands, on my knees, repeating the words after him and then I was done. Ok, now what? I had put as much thought into this God Idea thing, as it would take to blink my eyes. Next!!!
Today, I know what it states in the book, directly after the prayer. It says, and I quote,
“ We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last utterly abandon ourselves to Him.”
Wow, I certainly did not think about the God thing at all, nor did I know I was supposed to!
When he asked me the question –
“Do I believe or am I even willing to believe that there is a Power greater than myself?”
Of course my answer was yes, as I was in no position to say, “No”, or “I really don’t believe”. I ended up on my knees saying the words of the 3rd step with absolutely no faith or understanding of any type of “Higher Power”.
That particular period of me staying sober only lasted a few painful months until I got the folks off my back and made another attempt at living life like a normal type person. Which was totally impossible!
From 1995 to 2009, I spent fourteen more hellish years of getting caught, getting sober, getting high, getting found out, getting clean, getting caught, getting sober, getting caught, again and again, over and over and over again! Well you get my drift. Some of you really understand this turmoil too well.
I remember when the people I knew, who were clean, sober, and happy about their recovery, spoke about God, I would feel extremely uncomfortable and a very resentful. I did not feel like they did, and why were they so damn happy all the time. I felt like, even while I was sober, that I was missing something. I just felt like I was missing a piece of something that others seem to have.
I could try to do the “fake it till you make it” thing, but what was it I was supposed to fake. People in the program said it was an honest program, so why did people suggest that I lie about how I’m doing. This made no sense at all, and gave me good reason to doubt them. Things just did not make sense to me. I was a fish out of water.
Maybe all those happy campers were “faking it”.
Well, after a long and difficult number of years, struggling and suffering I finally made it to the part of my addiction where I was done. This was the end of me. I was standing in front of a felony court Judge, another type of Higher Power, and I was asking him if I could plead guilty and get on with it. I expected 16-25 years in prison for my 5th D.U.I., that was my 5th here in Texas, but it was my 13th since I was a kid!!! The Texas Department of Corrections was in my immediate future, for sure!
As I was speaking to the Judge, trying to plead guilty my court appointed attorney stopped me abruptly and told the Judge that he needed to talk with me first. Something was going on here, I wasn’t sure what, but it did not feel quite right. My attorney told me that he and the D.A had been talking about my case and they were willing to give me a break. Ok, I’ll take it. Whatever it is.
Back to the Judge… I stood in front of him while he read the sentencing guidelines, and explained my rights to me, and so on. He asked that if I understood, and I answered, “Yes Sir, your Honor!”
He then asked me, “So how do you plea? Guilty or not guilty? “So how do you plea, guilty or not guilty?”
I took a very deep breath and replied: “GUILTY, YOUR HONOR”. What happened next changed everything about everything I have ever known.
I’m sure I was in a state of shock, as he then sentenced me to just 3 years.
I quietly mumbled to myself - ”Three years in T.D.C., that’s sure better than 25.”
My attorney slapped me in the back of my head and said; “Not T.D.C. dummy, 3 years probation. Do you think you can manage that”?
I was asked by the Judge if I understood his sentence, but I couldn’t talk. I could barely breathe. The District Attorney, the bailiff, and my attorney had to support me as I looked like I was going to pass out! It took around 5 minutes for me the utter my response to the Judge.
“Yes Sir, I understand”.
Part of the probation agreement was that I would have to live in a recovery residence until my term was completed. Now, I don’t know what it was, but I certainly did nothing to deserve such mercy. If true justice had been served that day, I would still be locked down in prison. The only explanation I have ever been able to conceive is that God had once more given to me his grace and mercy. Abundantly!!!
Whatever kind of ideas or beliefs I had about the God thing changed in an instant. Right in that courtroom, I had the Spiritual Experience that my friends had talked about. How could it be anything other than God? There was no other logical or reasonable explanation of what just happened. It was as if I was transitioned from one type of universe into a completely different one. Reality changed in a Nano-second. Like a brilliant flash, bang, boom!
Over the next few hours, I was released and heading back to the little cabin I lived in. My broken life just took a U-turn. Nothing else was important. I immediately packed my luggage, 2-Hefty sacks with drawstrings, and headed to a sober living house. That was a little over six years ago and I would never have believed it possible for me to have the life that I have today. I consider what happened in that court to be as much a miracle as when Moses parted the Red Sea.
This is how the Big Book explains it on page 25,
“We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.”
“The great fact is just this, and nothing less: That we have had deep and effective spiritual experiences which have revolutionized our whole attitude towards life, towards our fellows and toward God’s universe.”
The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves”.
“If you are as seriously alcoholic as we were, we believe there is no middle-of-the-road solution. We were in a position where life was becoming impossible, and if we had passed into the region from which there is no return through human aid, we had but two alternatives. One was to go on to the bitter end blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help”.
Again in the book, “Alcoholics Anonymous” it speaks to the experience of men and women – page 50:
“Here are thousands of men and women, worldly indeed. They flatly declare that since they have come to believe in a Power greater than themselves, to take a certain attitude toward that Power, and to do certain simple things, there has been a revolutionary change in their way of living and thinking. In the face of collapse and despair, in the face of the total failure of their human resources, they found that a new power, peace, happiness, and sense of direction flowed into them. This happened soon after they wholeheartedly met a few simple requirements.”
Once confused and baffled by the seeming futility of existence, they show the underlying reasons they were making a heavy going of life. Leaving aside the drink question, they tell why living was so unsatisfactory.”
“They show how a change came over them. When many hundreds of people are able to say that the consciousness of the Presence of God is today the most important fact of their lives, they present a powerful reason why one should have faith.”
On page 52 it goes on to say: “When we saw other solve their problem by a simple reliance upon the Spirit of the Universe, we had to s top doubting the power of God. Our ideas did not work. But the God idea did.”
Now if all this God stuff bothers you, well that’s ok. Just ask yourself:
“Self, how much more does the God thing bother me, than does the unrelenting torture and misery of my alcoholism and deadly progress of my drug addiction?”
The answer looks obvious to me, but you decide for yourself. PLEASE – Try to do this before you die!
A little rough for your sensitive ideology? Go discuss this with your friendly bartender or ask your local dope dealer what he thinks!
I am alive today and I know countless others just like me who once had a God problem. They gave up fighting their logic and reason. They came to believe in a Power—a Power that renews lives, dreams, and restores hope. It’s still one choice you have. Good luck, but if you your idea of luck is that you don’t have any, then get a hold of someone like me that will show what it means to be recovered from a hopeless state of mind and body.
In my case it was a hopeless state of having a God problem! Thanks and I’ll be in touch.
Chris P.H.R.C in Recovery 24/7/365 www.powerhouserecovery.com
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