What is real?
At least in my part of the world, which is admittedly old school to a fault, first investigations into sobriety revolve around and are entirely dependent on God. And while the term higher power might be more accepted in some places, in West Virginia its God and no one else. And being a Christian when I was introduced to sobriety I was totally on board with that concept. My life during the worst years of my drinking and early sobriety was consumed with prayer, bible study and devotion in all aspects of everyday life. I gave it my all and was certain that an entity other than myself would heal me of my affliction.
A several year period of the worst years of my life are well documented privately. Those pages, as is typical of late drinking stories, have ominous and hopeless overtones, but are also permeated with talk of a God who knew what was up and waiting for just the right time to rescue me. Looking back, this seems to be a weird mix of perspectives that isn’t only typical of young desire chip takers, but of most Christians. Struggle is just a way of life. Life is hard. Persevere until the end and God will make it all perfect in the after life.
Even once the worst of it ended, I struggled. We all do for a while, at least. Too often forever. Looking back on it now, the first several years of sobriety were robbed from me. Well, not really robbed, as it was obviously my choice to believe what the hucksters were selling and to follow blindly someone else’s prescribed path of recovery rather than my own. This chapter of life was defined by faith, therapy visits, psychiatrists, antidepressants, mood stabilizers and periodic, although minor, relapses. All of that while still inexplicably believing there was purpose to it and that one day it would be different, even if that day came after I was gone from this life.
Chock full of bible knowledge and skilled in the language and lifestyle of the believer, I slowly reached the end of another chapter. Living with intimate knowledge and experience of three distinctly different realities at once was too much. First there was what the bible itself taught. Years of study, reading and re-reading the text made clear that this God I was devoting myself to was not even remotely admirable, let alone worthy of worship. Second was what the believers claim God to be like. Peace, love, kindness? Not the book I read and not the God I read about. They live a life they think they should live and claim those qualities come from God. In reality, anyone who has lived very long knows how they should live. God has nothing to do with it. Which brings me to the third reality. And that is reality itself. Not the one of rose colored glasses of faith or medication induced fog, not the one continually waiting for divine intervention that will never come, and not the one where talking to yourself is a virtue. We’ve each lived our own life. How we got here shapes who we are now. If you’ve lived any time at all and don’t know how to best treat each other, you haven’t been paying attention.
Not far from 10yrs from my first AA meeting, around the end of 2012, I changed my life. And thats the important part. I changed my life. No one else. Not a sponsor. Not my wife or my son. And certainly not this invisible monster hiding behind a facade created by believers. Faith is choosing to believe in things you know are unlikely, but make you feel good and must be plausible because most everyone else you know believes the same thing. When you come to the realization that you get one shot at life and when you’re dead, you’re worm food, you make better choices. The best you can hope for is to have lived a good enough life to be remembered.
Today, I do as I please and choose to invest my life in my wife, son, books and music. You certainly aren’t powerless. I don’t even buy that we have a disease. An addictive personality and tendency to push things to their limits doesn’t seem to be a disease to me. I know to remain vigilant about the first drink because a slip could easily open the door to the elevator that takes away the life I want to live or worse, simply takes my life. You know that too. You get one chance. The decisions are far too important to give over to other people and especially not an imagined deity who isn’t going to be there at the end any more than he is now.
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