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An Atheist's Struggle To Find His Higher Power

 I've generally had no use for religion, until I realized my life depended on a spiritual connection.  But it was only when I stopped searching for a direct line to God that I actually found one. 

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By Nic Sheff

07/28/11

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Growing up, I honestly never even considered the possibility of their being a God or any kind of spiritual anything. I mean, my dad’s parents are pretty Jewish—or they were when I was a kid—and I remember when they took me to a synagogue for the first and only time, I complained to my dad that they’d brought me to “that God place.”

The very first thing I saw was a framed poster on the wall that said, in big, bold, black letters, “LET GO AND LET GOD.” I ran to the pay phone and called home. “Dad," I said. "You gotta get me out of here. It’s a crazy religious cult where they talk about God and stuff.”

That was as much religious stuff as I knew about.

And another time at my aunt’s wedding when I was about five, my dad tells me that when everyone kept saying, “Amen” after the Rabbi read another verse from the scripture, I thought they were saying, “Hey, man!” So that’s what I was shouting out the whole time.

My dad obviously encouraged this religion-less childhood of mine. Hell, if anything, I was brought up to be vehemently anti-religious. 

And not just anti-religious, but anti-God and anti-spirituality all together.

In fact, I’m pretty sure nothing but militant atheism would have been tolerated. And I never questioned that at all.

But then, when I was 18, I got strung out on crystal meth and I had to go to rehab for the first time. That’s when everything changed—or, well, when everything had to change.

I remember walking into the main group room and the very first thing I saw was a framed poster on the wall that said, in big, bold, black letters, “LET GO AND LET GOD.”

Well, that was enough for me. I immediately ran to the pay phone and called home. 

“Dad,” I said. “You gotta get me out of here. It’s a crazy religious cult where they talk about God and stuff.”

My dad told me I was just gonna have to deal with it, because, at that point, he was willing to do anything that might help me.

And, well, eventually I got to that place, too.

That is, four or five rehabs later—after I’d started using needles and ended up on life support and blah, blah blah—I guess I was finally willing to do anything that might be able to help me. And so, for the first time, I started giving the whole God thing (or, at least, the Higher Power thing) a try. The truth is, I was never offered any other possible solution besides a spiritual one. I mean, not only is that the crux of the 12-step program, but it was the crux of every treatment center and rehab I went to as well.

So—what I did was—I tried.

I tried super fucking hard.

I went to 12-step meetings every day.

I prayed and prayed and prayed all day long.

I tried to do what I’d heard around 12-step groups was the way to experiment with prayer—you know, to try it out to see if it worked in my life so that each time I prayed and had a positive experience related to that prayer, it’s like I was gathering evidence in a scientific experiment. And it’s through that process that I was able to “come to believe” in a power greater than myself.

Because praying does work.

Or, well, it did for me.

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