In a single AA meeting you might find a couple of Christians, a Buddhist, a Jew, maybe a Muslim, and a handful of people that identify as “spiritual but not religious.” They all believe different things but enjoy the same result: sobriety. This is because they all follow the same course of action. A pragmatic spirituality focuses on how you believe, not on what you believe, which can be difficult to grasp if you are accustomed to propositional religion.
Noting the differences between religion and spirituality is necessary for recovering individuals and addiction recovery professionals. Both populations need to understand that spirituality is something that already exists within every person, just like emotions and cognitions. Religion, however, is an external force – a manmade and organized set of beliefs which are typically taught.
Sometimes it’s almost unfortunate that our Creator has endowed us with this thing called “free will.”Free will has gotten me into a lot of jams. God, if you knew me, you totally wouldn’t trust me to me. You know, the will that keeps telling you that you don’t have a disease called addiction. That you can stop anytime you want. That you have a plan and it looks like doing what you’ve always done. But if nothing changes, nothing changes.
My early sobriety was bedeviled by unnecessary struggles and overdue surrenders. Incredibly, even though I was D.O.A. at my first meeting—Defeated on Arrival—willingness and an open mind didn’t come automatically. I always wanted more than I needed; here, I needed a lot more than I wanted. A long, bumpy road lay ahead.
Over the years, my old belief system has been replaced with a realization that my life belongs to the Divine and that when I am giving to others, I am participating in my own healing and the revealing of myself as a Divine being having a human experience. The poison that once “pre-occupied” my consciousness has been transmuted. It has become a new way of thinking, believing, feeling, and behaving.
I think it was Mark Twain who was credited with saying, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” Certainly when I think of some of the crazy-making days when I was “howling at the moon,” I can now crack a smile. On occasion I even find myself about to roll on the floor and laugh out loud when I think of some of the antics I found myself pulling off. I’ve heard it said that the problem with insanity is that it doesn’t tell you it’s insanity. Sometimes it sounds like a perfectly good idea. It’s only in hindsight that I find myself saying; “What the heck was I thinking?”
I get asked all the time: what is God’s will for me? Indeed… this can be one of the most difficult questions to successfully answer, at least in the beginning of recovery. On the surface, it would seem, from the traditional language, that we are asking to know the will of something outside of ourselves. Something we can’t understand, can’t define and really have no clue about. And yet, this Something, we are told, is what guides and shapes our lives. If we let it.
In the past, I was always more concerned with what things seemed like on the outside. I had a glamorous job, an affluent boyfriend, a great body, the newest designer handbag, friends, status, education, health, family, opportunity, and potential. Success was my fuel, and it gave me a false bravado that everything was perfect. I always kept up with the Jones’, so it was hard to compare “normal” drinking to problematic.