Spiritual, not Religious: When “God” is a Barrier to Recovery

I’m featuring a guest Blog today from my friend Alicia Schenck. Alicia and I recently discussed how ideas about Christianity and religion can be a barrier to getting one’s needs met in 12 step programs. She shares her experience here in the hope that it will benefit of others.

Alicia embraced the K.I.S.S. system and in so doing, found a Higher Power and her true self.

Finding Faith

My first year of AA was absolutely horrifying. Every meeting began with prayer. Every meeting ended with prayer. Not only did it make me uncomfortable, but it also made me mad. I began to harbor resentments. AA wanted me to have faith in something that I couldn’t see. Every meeting I went to had some huge Christian component.

I didn’t know how I was going to survive sobriety in this setting, so I didn’t. I went back out. I was out for almost two years before I nearly destroyed myself for a second time. I had convinced myself that I was cured and that I could be responsible. I forgot to tell myself that I was a big fat liar.

I crawled back to AA; it was my only chance at survival. I had to give myself up COMPLETELY, and I was scared to death. I had to turn my addiction over to a higher power, and that scared me even more. How could I turn my addiction over to something that wasn’t real?

The first time in AA I had tried many things. I even made up my own goddess hoping that she would fill the gap, but she couldn’t. How could I practice the 12 Steps when I can’t even get past the second one? I found a way. A magical, wonderful way to enjoy a sense of spirituality and I became willing to have faith in a power greater than myself. It has been smooth sailing since then!

I can’t take all the credit; I did have some help. I found a book through the Amazon Kindle store called “Understand and Complete THE 12 STEPS of Alcoholics Anonymous, Your Guide to ALL 12 STEPS” By Anonymous Guest. I’m not trying to sell this book, but I want to give credit where credit is due.

The section on Step Two provided me with insight that I had never experienced before. It told me that I didn’t have to have faith in a Christian God, all I had to do “is find a willingness to believe” that there was help beyond my own mind. The reading suggested that I write down FOUR CHARACTERISTICS that I would need a higher power to possess.

I took out a little piece of paper and wrote them down. It wasn’t hard; I got to choose the very traits of my custom made higher power! Because of this, I was able to accept my higher power and move on with my recovery and step work. It sounds so ridiculously simple that it doesn’t seem like anything, but the relief I felt after reaching this epiphany was amazing.

I continue to trudge through my steps (I’m currently writing a 3,000 page thesis for my fourth step), attend meetings whenever I can, take care of myself, and enjoy my fancy new SOBER life. I’ve been sober for 14 months and I am so full of peace and gratitude knowing that my higher power will take care of me as long as I let go absolutely.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.