By Charles LeVoir
My history with God prior to entering recovery in December 2014:
I was raised Roman Catholic largely through my mother’s insistence that all three of us boys be raised and confirmed in the Catholic faith. I hated church (except some of the singing, which I secretly liked). My mom was diagnosed with Cancer when I was 9 years old and died from Cancer when I was 11. I still remember the day we found out, getting called out of School early and walking home to have my dad deliver the news to us while us three boys were sitting on the couch. The overwhelming grief and pain that struck me, my dad and my brothers was totally devastating.
My relationship with God changed at that moment in a way that would have significant consequences. I was taught to believe up to that point that everything that happens, good and bad is God’s doing. I remember crying myself to sleep while listening to my dad wale while I cursed God. In short order I made two very clear decisions: that I didn’t need a God that would take Mom from us, and that I should not get too close to people because it will only hurt when they go away. I spent the rest of my adolescent and adult life up until entering recovery in December of 2014 half believing God didn’t exist and half believing if there was a God, he wasn’t a God I wanted any part of based on my personal trauma and the endless list of tragedies and evil that exists in the world. I felt vindicated and powerful when I actively rejected God, and empty as hell. I felt fiercely independent and hopelessly alone.
After 20 years of substance use, abuse and ultimately alcoholism and addiction along a toxic relationship with most people, and God (if there was one) I surrendered to my alcoholism and addiction initially in an attempt not to get divorced for a third time. I can only describe what happened during my intake at Hazelden as nothing short of an act of providence. I was trying not to get divorced, and I had no plans to get completely honest about my drinking, substance use and addictive behaviors – but I did. For the very first time I got completely honest with another human being about all of addictions and alcoholism and what came next was a total surrender. I was done trying to constantly convince myself and others that I didn’t have a problem. Immediately following my honesty and surrender was a willingness to do whatever it took to get better, and if that meant abstinence then I was willing do that and anything else that was recommended to get well so I didn’t have to feel the way I had been feeling for so long anymore.
Along with treatment, it was required for us to attend 12-Step meetings, which I had attended in two other prior stints of sobriety. One in my teens and one in my early twenties. I didn’t work any Steps either time, but I was perfectly willing to wax poetic about Steps I wasn’t willing to work. Bless the hearts of those folks that put up with my extra-long shares that weren’t based on any personal experience. Part of me really wanted what the folks in 12-Step recovery had and part of me really believed I didn’t have a problem and didn’t need what was on offer in 12-Step Recovery, especially the God stuff. When I came back to the rooms of 12-Step Recovery it felt like coming home. I truly related to folks who felt like I felt, drank like I drank, used like I used, did what I did – and got better. There was a unmistakable serenity about them and they spoke of a relationship with a Higher Power, which varied greatly from person to person, but it was clear that those who got well and had that certain calm had a relationship with a God of their Understanding.
A God of My Understanding:
I wanted what these people had, and I was willing to do whatever it took to get it, so I started doing what they did. I worked all 12-Steps in order with a sponsor. As I was working Steps 2 & 3, I was listening to the Joe and Charlie “The Big Book Comes Alive” series and reading the Big Book. The big message I kept getting was to just try this Higher Power thing. Run the experiment. Don’t judge the process, judge the results. So, I wiped the slate clean on all things God and acted as if I didn’t know anything. It didn’t make sense to me to “Create” a Higher Power, because if I could create this Higher Power, it wasn’t big enough for me to believe it could help restore my sanity. I suspended my disbelief and gave the possibility that there is a power greater than myself the benefit of the doubt. I was willing to entertain that there MIGHT be a Higher Power because others who were just like me also didn’t believe, and then they CAME TO believe, and it changed everything for them. Practically that meant praying to a God I had no concept of and no understanding of every morning simply asking for help to stay sober and every night thanking this unknown entity for another day sober. Continuing to work the 12-Steps and continuing to read spiritual literature and my simple prayers along with a mission to be of maximum service to this God of My Understanding, which I had an infinitesimal understanding of, yielded a profound change that I could not deny. After just a couple of months, my entire outlook on life had changed 180 degrees. The boss and job I hated became a wonderfully promising career. The relationship with my children began to transform. The ankle biter problems, disappointments, and frustrations were suddenly rolling off my back without causing old familiar restlessness, irritability and discontentedness that invariably led me back to drinking and engaging in addictive behaviors. It suddenly occurred to me that it wasn’t the world that had changed. I had the same boss, same job, same children, and same everyday problems. No, the world didn’t change, I had been changed by this Higher Power. I know that because I had tried changing many times before with no ability to sustain it. The only difference was this budding relationship with a God of My Understanding. The ingredients that manifested this change was Honesty, Open-mindedness, and Willingness followed by simple actions that were genuine and authentic. Out of these genuine, mindful, and simple spiritual actions a God I once hated and doubted turned into the single most powerful aspect of my recovery. A God I hated and doubted to a God I didn’t understand, to a God of My Understanding that truly changed me and actively worked in my life. This experience changed everything for me and is one that I draw on still today 7 years later. My spiritual journey has evolved since then in some profound ways but that early experience of beginning to pray to a God I didn’t understand, and that God changing me is at the core of my understanding of what God means and how that God works in my life.