I was raised in an Italian, Roman Catholic household and by the time I was 13, I was staunchly anti-religion. Coincidentally (or not so coincidentally), this happened to be the time when I began drinking and using drugs. From early on in my childhood, I could not understand how a God whom I was taught was all loving and forgiving could be punishing and vindictive. I often felt afraid during Religion class hearing about the Great Flood, or an eternity spent in hell for committing sins. So out of fear and immaturity, I turned my back on religion and ultimately on God.
When I got a little older, I began seeking other spiritual knowledge in the form of yoga, meditation, and psychedelics. I loved writers like Ram Dass who wrote about having spiritual experiences as a result of LSD and meditating; so, I experimented with yoga, meditation, and psychedelics as well. Unfortunately, by this time my addiction had progressed, and spiritual knowledge or experience was no longer a priority in my life.
We often hear about “foxhole prayers” in meetings and when I was active in my addiction, I was certainly somewhat of a foxhole pastor. I would beg and plead with God to magically come up with enough money to use one more day, or for the power in my apartment to not be shut off for non-payment again. When things got much worse, I would pray not to go back to jail or that when I did my bond would be small enough that someone would be able to bail me out. I would bargain and cry out to God that if I got out of the situation, this time would be different, and I would never use again; I always got out and I always used again.
When I finally made it into treatment, I harbored a lot of those resentments and I heard a lot of talk about God or a higher power. I was immediately taken back to those Catholic school classrooms and the old feelings began coming up again. When I was meeting with my therapist for one of our sessions, I brought all of this up. He calmly and empathetically listened as I went on and about the misinterpretations in the Bible, my disdain for religion, and how the nuns and the priests mistreated me in school. I was using a lot of profanity as I unloaded all of this on him and I said something to the effect of “see according to them I am going to go to hell for talking like this!” He smirked and said “well my God curses, he’s funny, and he’s sarcastic. I bet he’s getting a huge kick out of this right now. No one ever said anything about having to be religious, you just have to be willing to believe. You can even believe that we believe, and you can start there.”
I was blown away; I had forsaken all of the Eastern philosophy I had previously learned during my 25 plus years of addiction. It was really all I needed to hear to start believing again. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says “be quick to see where religious people are right.” And although I still harbor some resentment toward organized religion, that is no longer a hindrance to my seeking something greater than myself. Now, almost 4 years later, my relationship with a power greater than myself is one of the most important ones in my life as I continue to stay sober, one day at a time. I hit my knees and pray in the morning and at night and I am always seeking spiritual knowledge; my sponsor is even a Christian pastor. Found in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, Spiritual Experience “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all argument, and which cannot fail to keep man in everlasting ignorance. This is contempt prior to investigation.” Just for today, I will strive to keep an open mind on all spiritual matters.