I am not a powerless alcoholic atheist. Wow, I know. That seems like a loaded statement right? It might be tamer to say that while I believe in a higher power, I do not attribute the liberation I feel, the peace of mind, or the clarity I have gained from my sobriety, to a higher power, in any sort of traditional sense. I attribute it to myself…and my wife, my family, my support network, the books I’ve read, my education, online sobriety groups, and yes, the prayers I know that have been said, but mostly it’s been me. Since god, personal strength, and sobriety are not paltry issues. I think the mantra, “strong words, short sentences,” is more than apropos here. I am not a powerless alcoholic atheist. Let me tell you why.
Choosing your own personal belief system, and adhering to the convictions that lie within that system, is paramount to not just success in sobriety, but success in life.
No one gets to tell you what to think, plenty of people think they should, but fortunately it’s not up to them what you believe. I believe a person has been given freedom of choice, and is responsible for his own self-direction. Making one’s own choices will lead to a progression of personal growth and a more positive view of one’s self. Do I believe it is a level playing field? No, but I believe that the struggles we face are motivating forces for change and that change will result in a more independent and complete life. The tools to deal with struggle were granted to us in our birth. The ability to show, and to have, grace, serenity, compassion, and strength have always been there and it is up to us to find them within ourselves.
The thing about my beliefs is you don’t have to believe any of them. Just like there is no one belief system, there is no one way to become sober. Anyone telling you there is, for either, you might want to guard yourself against. Snake oil salesmen come in all varieties. Just because it works for me, doesn’t mean it will for you. Just because I am right, does not mean you are wrong. Very few truths are universal. I was hesitant to tag on the “atheist” part, to I am not a powerless alcoholic atheist, because it is bound to aggravate. My beliefs, just as many others in recovery, are still forming. They are still fallible, and I can feel very naked around them, but it is too much a part of people’s recovery to be shied away from. Some people believe in the Trinity, some in Allah, some in an un-nameable higher power, some people don’t believe in god, and in regards to being supportive, for those in recovery, it shouldn’t be an issue. What is important is respect and acknowledgement that the sober community, if it has one underlining belief, is that it is sobriety that matters, sobriety is the key to unlocking the truth, and that, that truth may come in many different keys, that unlock many different doors, that lead us down many different paths.
What we must remember is that which brought us all to a common garden, and that was our search for something different, something truer for ourselves, and that while our journeys may be different, our sobriety should still unite us. When we can’t be supportive of each other and respectful of our differing journey towards a better sober us, we undermine one another’s beliefs, and that is not the foundation in which we can build a community on. This can be said not just of sobriety, but of life.
To be clear, I’m not advocating against the idea of grabbing hold of a belief in a higher power to help catapult you towards sobriety. I’m just not advocating for it either. I would argue that it can be a potent, transformative way in which people gain immense power over their addiction. It just wasn’t how I conquered my relationship with alcohol. However, there is much to be said about laying it all out there, by baring one’s soul, so to say, when it comes to sobriety. When people tell me that they were finally able to get sober, when they admitted that they were powerless over alcohol, and were able to become sober after they turned their will and lives over to God, as they understood them. What I hear is this:
“I am finally able to be honest enough with myself and to realize alcohol has created a world that doesn’t have room for the person I want to be, the person I have the potential to be. Now that I am being honest with myself, it is possible for me to put a form to my problems and conquer them with the strength I was born with.”
I find this statement to have true power because whatever manner this strength I was born with, was bestowed upon me, be it by god, the universe, or a biological mechanism for survival, it is mine. It was either magnanimously given to me by God or I received it through biological maturation from a laisezz-faire universe, but it has always been there. I did not recently come upon it, human strength has always been a part of our biologies and histories, and the ability to overcome addictions, just as in all adversity, is a part of those biologies and histories. So however you give credence to your accomplishment of overcoming, changing, growing, and teaching, know that the lion’s share of that praise should be heaped upon yourself, because it was you who had the humility, it was you who had the will, it was you that made the decisions, and it was you that had the strength.
I am a powerful, recovered being, with a complex system of beliefs.