Most people would agree that spirituality is the foundation of recovery. Even those who initially struggle with the idea of a Higher Power usually discover a spiritual hunger within themselves. Fortunately, twelve-step programs urge us to find our own definition of God. I believe the primary reason New Thought harmonizes with Alcoholic Anonymous so beautifully is that neither approach attempts to tell us what to think; rather, each offers an effective model for how to think. For those of us who adhere to both philosophies, this is a match made in heaven.
Today is my sobriety birthday! On June 29, 1988, I enjoyed an early, three-martini lunch just before checking into a treatment center for a 30-day inpatient program. To be clear, I did not enter treatment for alcoholism, as I was not one of those awful people with a drinking problem. I knew people like that, and I certainly was not one of them. At the time, I had been abstinent in OA for a year. After months and months of abstaining from starving and bingeing and purging, I was an emotional wreck. I was working a strong program, but I need serious help, so I opted for treatment.
I went to comical lengths to hide my drinking. I guess it’s part shame. And for me it was also related to the basic fact that I drank to try to achieve privacy. Some weird not-grounded-in-reality need for privacy, because I drank even when I was as alone as humanly possible. Like, in a tent in a state park in Maine where the nearest person who knew me was hundreds of miles away. I drank then. In an idyllic place on an idyllic vacation. A topic for another post.
My son is a recovering heroin addict and his addiction lasted fourteen years. At the end of his using, he was shooting heroin into his neck, having destroyed his veins in his arms, legs and feet. Today, he is ten years sober. That doesn’t mean his addiction is over, but it does mean that Jeff made the decision to change his life.
After my first dramatic encounter with God that previously detailed, I stopped drinking, joined a religious order and went through 5 years of seminary. I also obtained a Bachelor’s in Philosophy, a Master’s in Divinity, a Master’s in Moral Theology, was ordained a priest and was assigned to a large parish in Delaware. A lot of stress to be sure, but I went into it free of alcohol.
Growing up, most of what I knew about God was based on what I was taught, not something I had ever spent time figuring out for myself. It came down to “do what you’re told or God’s going to send you to hell.” Not a very pleasant view. My homiletics professor in seminary summed up my relationship with God very aptly: “We are all sinners in the hands of an angry God.” Up to that point, that’s basically what I believed.
Today’s post is a video from Jewish.tv on Chabad.org. In it, Rabbi Shais Taub delivers an intense yet liberating talk on emotional independence. Rabbi Taub is the author of G-d of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction. Enjoy!
We experience pain deeply, sometimes a backlog built up over a lifetime. If we’re lucky, we have a sponsor who advises us to bring that pain to god. But sometimes, our amygdalas decide god’s just not concrete enough. We need safety precautions, emotional helmets and hazmat suits! So we reduce our vulnerability by learning to edit and hide our true selves. We develop strategies like people pleasing: whatever we think will smooth our path, whatever others want or would approve, we try to appear. The goal is to be accepted. We need it because we so intensely fear rejection’s pain.