Bartering With My Higher Power

By John Dee 04/15/16

I'm still not in a great financial position. Not even close. But something has shifted for me, for sure. I can still freak out about money, but it doesn't paralyze me the way it used to.

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I'm Financially Insecure
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Close to seven years into my sobriety, I can think of nothing more daunting than financial insecurity. This is the thing that can create a huge rift between myself and my higher power. It certainly has in the past and I imagine, until something changes, will continue to in the future. It can be quite confusing in the rooms sometimes. I hear folks talking about their mansion, yacht, or third home and connecting these things directly to “gifts of sobriety.” Well, I must be doing something wrong because I don’t have any of that. 

I had an experience recently where I didn’t get a job that I thought I deserved. I had a great interview. The job was all but guaranteed to me. I started planning on how to spend the money. I was going to be comfortable, financially, for a decent amount of time. I was going to pay off my debt, start traveling, and buy a new pair of shoes. This was going to solve my financial woes. But alas, when I got the call saying I didn’t get it, I went into full-on mental chaos. My first thought was to jump in front of the next moving truck. Instead, I called some friends from the rooms. I got in touch with one and he talked me off of the ledge. Then I was able to speak with my sponsor. 

We were talking about the experience. I told him I deserved the job, that I sat through shitty meetings, listened to sponsees whining on and on, I prayed, called him regularly and listened to him drone on, so why wasn’t I getting mine? He said, "I want to say something to you. You’re not gonna like it, but here goes." The fact that I was connecting going to meetings and the work that I do in the program to getting this job or that job suggests that I am bartering with my higher power. I told him that it was a ridiculous idea. There’s no way that there is a connection. That was that. 

I woke up the next morning steeled to the idea that I was right and he was wrong. As the day progressed, it became more evident that he was right. I started seeing the idea of I do this for you and you’ll give me that, over and over and over. Oy. I was frustrated. Because, after all, I do a lot of work in the program and I thought that it had genuinely switched to altruism, as is suggested will happen. But the evidence was slapping me in the face. 

What was I to do? 

I felt completely separated from my higher power. I felt like the proverbial jig was up. This was bullshit. I felt really angry. I now had this new knowledge about myself and my actions and so what? I continued going to meetings. I continued all of the things that I had been doing. 

A shift started to occur. 

I started praying differently. 

I pray every morning and every night. I have done so since very early in sobriety. It was suggested to me and was a suggestion that I took begrudgingly at first. My first prayer, looking at the ceiling, was, “This is dumb. I’m talking to the ceiling.” It eventually evolved to include some of the prayers that are recommended. Over time, I stopped using those prayers and started creating my own. They were mostly asking for what I thought I deserved. Essentially, if I do this for you, higher power (i.e., be of service, help other alcoholics), you can give me the things that I want. It certainly wasn’t as cut and dry as all that when I was praying, but that was for the most part what I was doing. 

Then this shift/epiphany occurred. I felt like I was back to square one, completely starting over. My first prayer in this shift was, “Fuck you.” It was the most honest thing I could say. I was in so much pain. I was so angry at my higher power for not giving me what I thought I deserved. Now a few months later, it has shifted into more of a conversation. I can tell when I’m saying something to try to manipulate things during my prayers, and I immediately stop the prayer and call myself out within the context of the prayer. It’s been a practice and something that continues to evolve. It feels more like a conversation that I’m having with someone than it ever has. 

I’m still not in a great financial position. Not even close. But something has shifted for me, for sure. I can still freak out about money, but it doesn’t paralyze me like it used to. I have less of a feeling that my higher power is going to throw a financial bone my way for good services rendered. My relationship is less transactional than it used to be. I can still fall back into that thinking very easily and the only thing I can say is, I get disappointed every time I do. I feel much more at ease in my life. I see that I have more responsibility than I was giving myself credit for. This whole process is very exciting, as painful as it is, because without drinking and drugs, I have the opportunity to explore all of this stuff. But still, “pain is the touchstone to change.” It sucks to go through it. 

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