Okay, I am not a fan of clergy in any form really and when I went into treatment and when I was told that I HAD to go to chapel or a spirituality group I was ready to exert every defense in my arsenal to defend my militant Agnosticism. They were not under any circumstance going to convince me that I needed religion or had to follow some doctrine in order to maintain my sobriety or live a positive life. I had it in my head that part of A.A. was based on religion, and while I was perfectly willing to get sober and change my life; I was unwilling to join another religious cult…
Then I met Father Bill.
Father Bill (AKA “Bad Ass Priest”) holds the same opinions about the Catholic church as I do. He thinks they are a bunch of hateful morons that simply don’t get the point of God and spirituality. He is 83 years old, is a Vietnam Vet, and a recovering alcoholic (taking a few too many sips of the communion wine among other things). He is a no nonsense, set in his ways man who demands respect from those of us who forgot how to respect others. He will call you on your shit in the middle of his talking (he doesn’t preach). One guy was talking and laughing while he was speaking and he stopped and said, “Tell that guy to get the fuck out of here! Some people are trying to listen!” So yeah. He takes recovery, spirituality, and respect for others very seriously. More on him and the rest of the spiritual care team in a minute.
For me, I have always been a spiritual person. I have always longed to find God since I was young and every time I thought I had it right I was always disappointed. The reason for that is simple really, I put my faith in the wrong things. As an adult, I left the church and started to study other religions, ways of thinking, new age spiritualism… you name it, I tried to learn about it. The conclusion I came to was simple; we are spiritual beings and we all try to find something at some point in our lives to fill that need. It isn’t about God. It isn’t about religion or doctrine. It is about connection. We are social creatures and we crave fellowship. Some look to religions to fill that void but there are quite literally hundreds of ways for humans to connect and most of those have nothing to do with a church.
I believe (and always will) that religion is dangerous. Anything that limits ideas and concepts of divinity and God is limiting the possibilities and potential for humans to interact and truly love one another. Religion is behind nearly every war and human atrocity against one another ever committed because they all seem to focus on the “I’m right, you are wrong” mentality. I have never believed that God is that petty, and if God was that petty I sure as hell wanted no part of it. So my spirituality has resided in my heart and holds no doctrine. I believe in God – but not the God defined by man. I believe in the power of connection. The divine spark in each one of us that gives us life, the ability to come together, and the power when people come together for a common goal. Almost every religion actually addresses this concept; when people gather, that is where God is. I think that is true; I also think we have managed to seriously distort that concept with our own ego’s and selfishness by limiting the gathering place. It shouldn’t matter of you gather at a church, mosque, temple, synagogue or a coffee shop. The point is to gather. To gain strength and hope from one another. To allow the strength of community and connection to lift our spirits, remind us that we are not alone, and to celebrate life.
Now a huge part of the A.A. program is the concept of a “Higher Power” and many of us are hung up on the God thing. They capitalize God and in the literature they refer to God as Him and He (you know those cringe worthy pronouns). I don’t mind the grammar. I am used to it as I spent much of my life as a Christian. While I no longer believe in the whole God the Father thing, or think of God as any one particular entity – I am comfortable with the capitalization of God as I find it easier to type God over and over again instead of saying every time – “The connection between humans when they gather for a common purpose.” Yeah. God. god. Whatever. However, that little quirk in the program gets a lot of people hung up. I truly understand it. Society has warped our perception of a power greater than ourselves into an almost evil oppressive thing. For those us of who are lairs, cheats, and thieves (which many of us were in our active addictions) we have been ministered to, preached at, and condemned to hell so many times of course we don’t like God. God is an asshole.
For a long time my Higher Power (HP) was alcohol. I would do anything for it. I would go to any lengths to get it. I would ditch my own values and morals to feed my desire to drink myself into oblivion. I would try and ignore it, only to find that I couldn’t. It had such a hold on my heart and mind that anytime I was without it I was sick. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually ill. We all have a Higher Power whether we like to admit it or not. It is that thing that drives us. For some financial success (money) is their HP, for some it is their spouse or partner, for some it is a Christian God, for others it is meditation, or the universe… we are all ruled by something. The question becomes then, are we ruled by something that helps us or something that hurts us? For me, my faith was almost always in people if it wasn’t in alcohol. After people failed me over and over again, the only thing that was consistent was alcohol. Have drink, feel better. People fail you, have a drink. Celebrate with a drink. Commiserate with a drink. Loosen up with a drink. To feel emotions, have a drink. What a friend booze is! Always there when I needed it. Unlike God, the judgmental invisible sky wizard just waiting for me to fuck up – alcohol would always meet me right where I was. Right where I needed it. Right where I wanted it when I wanted it.
Well we know where my friend alcohol took me. Not much of a friend in the grand scheme of things. However, I did get to listen to a Bad Ass Priest, a Reverend, and a Minister say the words I have been saying for years about spirituality. I saw in them and heard in their words and stories the things I was missing. The things I had always been searching for. They understood it! They are ordained people – which usually to me means closed minded bigots, and judgmental people who insist you do it their way or God will punish you for eternity. These men weren’t like that though. These men were just as flawed as I am and made no attempts to disguise it. They didn’t try to convince me to be Catholic or Christian; they simply helped me find a power to identify with greater than myself, and greater than my character defects. The thing is, I always had that Higher Power. I just stopped acknowledging it. I let people ruin my faith, and I let alcohol feed my bitterness and emptiness.
So know that when I talk about God I am not talking about any certain entity. There is no person-hood behind it. There is no doctrine or dogma. Just a power to believe in. The power of connection. The power of the universe in its amazing and awesome splendor. The power of love and the knowledge that when we connect with one another we are stronger than when we try to go it alone. Alcohol wanted me alone, and it almost killed me. My higher power now is hope, love, and connection and I am okay calling that God.
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