When drinking and using drugs, I only thought I was connecting with the Universe and its people, when, in reality, it was keeping me cut off from making any actual connection with anyone.
From my first drink, being intoxicated was a spiritual experience
I had my first sip of alcohol when I was about 9 years old. I remember it vividly to this day. My father was mowing the lawn. He always had a can of beer while he did any yard work. During one of the passes around the house, he left his can in the freshly cut grass. I wandered over and took a big gulp of it. It tasted nasty. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to drink something so bitter. Then I felt the tingling sensation afterward. I didn’t know it then, but I would chase that sensation for years.
It’s amazing how formative that experience was and its lasting impression in my brain. Looking back on it now, that was my first Spiritual Experience. I didn’t get drunk, but I knew I liked the feeling. Being able to change the way I felt by ingesting alcohol was amazing. My first drunk wouldn’t happen until I was 13, and then I would really know what alcohol was capable of.
I don’t know if I was an alcoholic from my first drink. Being told that alcoholism ran in my family with many heavy drinkers in our ranks didn’t really deter me from pushing it to the bitter end. I was enthralled with the effects produced by alcohol into my college years. I lived to drink and be around people. Thinking of it now, if I stayed drunk and surrounded by people, my racing thoughts weren’t as painful. I felt connected to the world around me when I was drinking. It was my only real concept of Spirituality or what GOD must be.
We were a “weekend warrior” church-going family. Holidays and special occasions were the only times I ever entered a church. I never minded religion, but it really didn’t do anything for me. This isn’t a judgment of any religious group; I just never found comfort there. When I speak of GOD, it’s just so you know what I’m talking about. I do believe that every human being has a capacity for spiritual matters. People have written about it for centuries. For me, I was always searching and seeking a deeper connection with the Universe within my drinking and drug use. Using was the only time I really felt alive. Drugs and alcohol were my Higher Power.
In recovery, I struggled with the concept of a Higher Power
At 25 years old, I reached the end of my drinking and drugging career. I was physically and emotionally bankrupt. I didn’t want to live but I was too afraid to take my own life. I felt empty on the deepest level I had ever experienced. When I chose to go into rehab, I walked through the big doors of the hospital and felt a sense of relief. It was very similar to the Spiritual Experience I felt the first time I got drunk. They took care of me inside that hospital, and I started listening to what the people had to say in the 12-step meetings we were required to attend.
One of the things I heard, and which is common amongst 12-step recovery groups, was that I would have to find a Higher Power or God in order to get sober and stay that way. I really wanted no part of that. I never felt, if there was such a thing as God, that It ever cared about me. But I was willing to try anything to not go back to the suicidal life I had been living.
Something that opened my mind to the willingness to even conceive of a Higher Power were the words in Step 3, “as we understood Him.” I talked to my then sponsor and asked him “What if I don’t want to call it ‘God’?” He told me I could call It whatever I wanted to. The important part was that I tried talking to It. So, for me, being able to look into the 12-step literature and notice that there were many proper nouns like Spirit of the Universe, Creator, Sunlight of the Spirit, etc. lead me to believe that they all meant the same thing. The first name I settled on was Higher Dude. Some of my first prayers or attempts to communicate with this newfound Higher Dude went like this, “Higher Dude, please help me not drink behind the dumpster at work.” My sponsor told me that was perfect. He never told me how to pray, and to this day, I don’t think that there is a wrong way to do it.
My spirituality has changed over time
Over the years, I’ve gone through peaks and valleys with my spirituality. I stopped believing in a Higher Power at year 7 of my recovery. The only concepts that seemed to sit right in my chest were using the acronym G.O.D to represent Group Of Drunks or Good Orderly Direction. So, I hung on to those. I still went to meetings and still helped others. That worked alright for a while … until recently. Because life gets rough and the pain can be all encompassing, I reached an Emotional Bottom in my recovery and I felt hopeless and alone again. I think it’s because I stopped seeking a connection with something greater than myself and went back to running my life based on self-will. Now, this might sound like recovery dogma, but it’s just my own experience and shouldn’t deter anyone from finding their own path. It’s a place I had to reach in order to start back on the path of spiritual discovery.
I look at spirituality today much like I look at the news. There are hundreds of news stations, channels, and newspapers. Not all of them are for me, and I can use as many, or as few, as I need to get the information. That’s what spiritual-seeking is for me. I’m trying to remain curious and gentle with myself. An idea that doesn’t serve me is an abusive punishing God. So, I don’t use it. I only take what I need and leave the rest.
I actively try to communicate with a Higher Power. A morning prayer I say today is, “Higher Dude, please take my will and my life. Show me how to live.” I take long walks in nature because for me, that is another example of a power greater than myself. I look inward and outward for connection. I feel that, as long as I’m trying to communicate with “something” greater than me, I have a better chance of maintaining my peace and recovery. It’s far from perfect, but it is my own seeking and understanding of a Spirit of the Universe, unique to me and nobody else, that gives me the power to keep on this path of recovery.