Many of my early memories are set in the Episcopal Church: Easter’s flowering of the cross, Vacation Bible School and children’s choir. When I was nine my mother began working in the church office. In summer my sister and I accompanied her. One day someone brought pretty pens to the office. Mom let me have one. Praying hands were on the clip and the Serenity Prayer on the barrel. I thought it was a nice prayer and memorized it.
Although I was quite happy, I also struggled with insecurity – never feeling pretty, smart or popular. I didn’t know how to talk to people outside my circle of friends. I was terribly shy.
As I got older I looked for a solution to those uncomfortable feelings. Did I turn to God for help? I tried but found a more tangible solution, alcohol. I drank a little in high school but it was college where I experienced alcohol’s power to help me shed my shy, good girl image for one comfortable with dancing and flirting.
Alcohol was effective for a long while. Then I noticed my friends getting married and I couldn’t maintain a relationship. Others were climbing the career ladder while, in spite of an advanced degree in education, my insecurities caused me to give up my teaching career.
I became more withdrawn in middle age, preferring to drink at home where I pondered over all I didn’t have. Ultimately, I determined the problem was God. He wasn’t attending to his part of what I currently call “The Santa Claus Contract.” I attended church regularly, gave money sporadically and helped others when it suited me. I was a good person for Heaven’s sake! It was God’s fault! Certainly, I had no part in how my life was unfolding.
Alcohol silenced those voices. Alcohol seemed to medicate my growing depression and help me unwind. Alcohol confirmed my suspicions that God was a sham or He just didn’t give a fig for me. I turned into a C&E Christian, Christmas and Easter.
Eventually, I began to suspect that I was an alcoholic. I drank throughout the day and awakened at night to drink. I determined that if I was an alcoholic, I’d be the finest one I could be.
My body had other ideas. The morning nausea was worrisome. In business meetings my hands were clasped tightly under the table to control my shaking. I couldn’t participate in discussions because my voice trembled. Apparently, living as an alcoholic wasn’t going to be easy.
One cold, rainy night I knew I couldn’t continue to live as I was living. I left work and went to AA. A man full of the enthusiasm that only a newly sober alcoholic can be led the meeting. He greeted me warmly and seated me near him.
As the meeting started, I listened hopefully. They were talking about God. That’s all it took for the tears to flow. How could this work when God ignores me? Yet, the people were nice and the meeting began with the Serenity Prayer I learned in childhood.
I continued meetings and found a sponsor. I said the Serenity Prayer dutifully but with little faith. I began the Steps and at Step Two “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” found a modicum of willingness to believe again in God’s love.
In AA I learned about “The Santa Claus God”. Instead of asking God what His will was for me, I tried to make deals. “If you will get me out of this jam, I’ll change.”
My sponsor listened to my history and suggested I try church again. I relented and returned to the Episcopal Church. I was awestruck when the sermon ended with the Serenity Prayer.
I heard similar lessons in AA and church. At my Third Step, I gave my will and life to the care of God. My sponsor emphasized the word “care”. God wasn’t going to control my life or will but He would care for them. That was a turning point for me.
When I got to Step Twelve, my spirit truly was awakened. The awakening continues daily. When afraid or unsure of myself, the Serenity Prayer and the assurance of God’s love dissolve the fear. If I can quickly find someone to help, I’m relieved of worry as I turn my thoughts away from me. Finally, I have a community of sober alcoholics and parish family to support me as I hope I support them.
I believe that God had a long-range plan I couldn’t have known when I received the pen with the Serenity Prayer. The pen was lost long ago but its prayer and my God bless me daily.