The Third Step of Alcoholics Anonymous states “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
As I sat at my Sponsor’s table and read these words, memories filled with pain and resentment washed over me. Recollections of bullying, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy poured out of me onto my patient Sponsor. He listened to my rant in silence. After I’d exhausted myself he said: “This isn’t about them. It’s about you.”
I had admitted in Step One that I was powerless over Alcohol and Drugs. I had “come to believe” in Step Two that only a “power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.” Couldn’t that “power” be the 12-step program itself? “Yes” my sponsor smiled, “for now.”
I started trying to pray. I asked “Whatever Was Out There” to help me stay clean and sober every morning and thanked my unnamed deity every evening for letting me go to bed without drinking or using. Within my first 90 days of recovery I found myself having to ask for help from my still unnamed higher power more and more often. I began to borrow the title “Spirit of the Universe” from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Despite the many resentments I had towards organized religion, I have always been spiritually curious and aware. As I gained more time clean and sober, my recovery deepened, and I became comfortable calling my higher power “God”.
I found myself having a greater willingness to expand my spiritual health. I read daily devotionals and meditation books, along with asking questions of “old-timers” in recovery who were walking spiritual paths that I admired. Although I respected their journeys and learned about different religious traditions from them, I couldn’t stop thinking of myself as a Christian.
One beautiful spring day I decided that on my lunch break I would attend the mid-day Holy Eucharist service at my city’s Downtown Episcopal Cathedral. The service was in a small chapel off to the side, and there were but a few worshipers there that day. Yet, I felt a great sense of fellowship in the communal readings that we did from the Book of Common Prayer as a congregation, especially the Lord’s Prayer.
For the first time in a long while, I felt “part-of,” rather than an outsider in a religious body. As I knelt at the alter rail to take the sacraments, I was overwhelmed with an emotion of a God that loved me so much that he sent his Son to us, a Son who endured barbarous agony out of love. Love for us, love for me. In that moment God didn’t seem distant, or “out there.” He was in the room with me, close to my pain, struggles and fears.
I walked back to my pew and knelt in prayer. I reflected not just on God’s love through Jesus, but the love that Jesus’s mother, Mary, had for her son. She stood by him to the end, even after all those who had pledged their eternal loyalty had fled him, in a supreme act of unconditional love.
I was struck that this was just the kind of love that I had received from my brothers and sisters in recovery. They had given me welcome and support from the first day I staggered, a beaten pulp of a man, into to their lives.
When the Priest gave the Blessing: “In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” I found myself making the sign of the Cross like I belonged there.
I walked out of the Chapel that day into the warm Sunlight of The Spirit. I’ve been walking with Christ ever since.