In recovery, I’ve learned how important it is to celebrate all pathways to recovery. It doesn’t matter what’s worked for me. I need to respect everyone’s process whether that is a 12-step fellowship, harm reduction, or another pathway. All pathways save lives. I was yet to discover the importance of my faith and recovery.
My Fear About Sharing What Works For Me.
One of the amazing things about the recovery community is that we meet each other where we are. I do think, however, because of recovery’s hyper-inclusivity, sometimes we might be afraid to talk about the specific pathways that have worked for us. I’ll re-phrase that. Sometimes I have been afraid to talk about my recovery pathway. Why?
Along with worrying that I’ll step on someone else’s path in the process, I’ve been afraid that I might not say it right. That I won’t be relatable or I’ll push you away instead of draw you in. I fear that I’ll focus too much on the “promotion” and not on the “attraction” as they say in some circles. Out of fear and insecurity and timidness, I’ve felt constrained to use platitudes or generalizations. I’ve had a hard time just coming out and saying it.
Today, I’d like to change that.
And I’d like to encourage you with these words:
God can do a new thing with our old mess. And I say this with boldness because He did it for me.
Faith has been a long, winding, broken road for me. I remember in kindergarten (I went to a Catholic school for exactly one year of my life) crying uncontrollably because I had no idea who John the Baptist was. The teacher brought him out of an old shoebox. He was a little piece of peach and brown-colored felt with a creepy beard and eyes. His gaze seemed to follow me where ever I happened to sit in the circle. I tried to take it in who this little bearded man was. The greater story of humanity’s salvation as we sang “this little light of mine,” was a concept I couldn’t understand.
All the other kids smiled and nodded and sang the songs when they were supposed to. They looked on in wonder when the long, flowing white felt-robed Jesus came out on His grand popsicle stick to save us all. Between sobs, I just remember thinking: “What the—!”
At five-years-old I didn’t know how to cuss but had I known, it would have been entirely warranted.
For years, this was my experience.
I was in the dark. I knew there was a power greater than me out there, but I had no idea it had a name or that it loved me. Fast forward a couple of years into my heavy drinking, drugging, and self-destruction. My inkling about knowing there was something out there turned into anger, even hatred. If there was a God, how could He or She or It let me feel like this? How could any God let these things happen to me? Why was life so hard?
Even though I didn’t know who I was talking to, I tried asking but heard nothing. One night I looked up to the night sky covered with innumerable stars. Instead of finding answers it only added to the mystery. Would I ever experience faith and my recovery working together? I pleaded for whatever was out there to take me home. Like where I came from was another planet or black hole and stardust could swallow my pain.
Finding the answer.
Later, in my early twenties, a friend introduced me to his church and I started attending regularly. There was something bright about being in a church building. The way people smiled and said hello and helped the community all seemed like something I could connect with. Eventually, I decided to get baptized. I hadn’t been baptized as a child and didn’t go to church with my family growing up (not even on holidays). Now, as I was trying to stay sober without support and failing, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt. I’d like to get to know this elusive God who they called Jesus that had been troubling me for a long time.
And that’s when my recovery story takes an interesting twist. I didn’t get sober right away and I certainly didn’t stop my self-destructive patterns overnight. However, I did start to see things a little bit differently. Maybe there was a name, a way, a direction—and maybe it didn’t have to be so mysterious after all.
A Spiritual Experience.
After getting baptized and struggling for several more years, I had one of those “spiritual experiences” that they talk about in recovery. Or more appropriately, a series of experiences had me. It all began with a simple turning or change of mind. Instead of thinking I only had myself to rely on (and I wasn’t that reliable), I started to turn to God. I started to talk to Him expecting to get an answer. And then one night, to my surprise, He answered.
I heard it as clear as day in my heart: “It’s time to be alive again.”
At that moment, I knew that it was time to break out of the isolation and pain. When I started to let others in, let God in, the death that surrounded me through years of substance use started to vanish. I knew I was being given a new opportunity to heal. An opportunity to ask, seek and knock. Importantly, I had the opportunity to trust that God was there, He did care and in fact, He had been there all along. I was the one who had run away. All I had to do was come home and allow my faith and my recovery to connect.
My Faith is my family.
Faith has been a home for me in recovery and Jesus like my brother or father or mother. Without this solid foundation, I would not be writing these words today. I am so grateful and so humbled I can now speak about my faith and recovery are intertwined. My God that is not out there and far away, but in me, loves me so much. And what is more, He loves me so much that I am able to then extend that love in some small way to others. To you.
Wherever you are in your journey and whatever your pathway, know this: your journey is beautiful. You are traveling your path and are reading these words for a reason. Maybe it’s time for you to be alive again and allow something new to happen with your old mess. Maybe what you are seeking, you already have.