Call With Questions:
The interesting thing is that some of these relapsers have been in the church for years. Although they can co-exist, religion and spirituality are two very different entities. Spirituality is essential for recovery; religion is not. By the time most alcoholic/addicts enter recovery, their self-esteem is somewhere in the sub-basement, and they have disappointed or alienated almost everyone in their lives. They lack the capacity to understand the difference between conviction and condemnation. When the word, “sin” comes up, it simply compounds their hopelessness and adds to their all-consuming fear that they will never be able to meet the expectations of God, themselves or others. Many alcoholic/addicts, especially women, have been traumatized by the authority figures in their lives. The ensuing mistrust of earthly authority figures makes it even more difficult to believe in a trustworthy, loving God, which is the cornerstone of spirituality.
The God of my understanding today is Jesus Christ, God the Father and the Holy Spirit; however, in 1982, when I took my last drink/drug, I was nowhere near ready for that! I share who my God is with others, but I don’t tell others who their God should be. Twelve step principles allowed my spirituality to develop at a non-threatening pace, and had it not been for that, I’m not sure I would be alive today. I still believe in this approach. In 1995, 13 years into recovery, I started studying the bible in earnest. Here again, many people are confused. Religion and the bible are two very different entities: the bible comes from God. Twelve step recovery allowed me to develop a trusting relationship with God, but the Word of God took this to a whole new level. Believing with our heads and believing with our hearts have very different effects on us. When my heart finally grasped how much God loved me, something I could only get from His Word, my priorities changed. God is a Gentleman. We have to invite Him into our lives, but once we knock on that door, He pours His Love into our hearts and we are never the same.
I don’t mandate church attendance. I encourage it for those who are interested but it will not help those who are not ready. We do attend one bible study per week. We also do a group study on developing spirituality in recovery. I introduce recovery related scripture here and point out some of the roots of the 12 steps which can be found in the Word of God. I also like to point out some of the individuals who were mightily used by God after having done things in their lives that could be classified as, “somewhat less than holy.” One of the promises of 12 step recovery is that no matter how far down the scale we have gone we will see how our experience can benefit others. If God used murderers and adulterers, He can use those in recovery too. Often this is the beginning of hope and I have seen many alcoholic/addicts cling to it. Working with others is a tenet of 12 step recovery—we have to, “give it away to keep it.” But it is also well known that we have to first have something to give away. Working the 12 steps is the best way to get started on having something to give away and it changes us in the process, opening us up to the sunlight of the spirit.
Those of us in recovery have known for years that without a profound psychic change of a spiritual nature, there will come a time when an alcoholic/addict will have no effective mental defense against the first drink/drug. This deep seated spiritual transformation is what differentiates sobriety from so-dry-ity. It involves complete surrender to a God of our understanding, a God who is far better equipped than we are to run our lives. In my 30 plus years of continuous sobriety I have encountered many relapsers and chronic relapsers. They all have one common stumbling block: a failure to develop a trusting, personal relationship with a God of their understanding. They have no effective mental defense against the first drink/drug.