“There is no sin in being poor, but it’s damn unhandy.” This is something my grandmother used to say, and it reminds me of my recovery journey.
I was raised as a Lutheran, however, by the time I was in my late thirties, I had been a member of three different congregations, and they all disappointed me.
After my divorce, my social drinking morphed into a full-blown addiction. Like so many addicts before me, it helped me to escape the pain I was feeling, and like so many addicts before me, it brought a host of new problems to suffer through and try to deal with.
It wasn’t until I lost custody of my daughter that I gave any serious thought to quitting drinking, but I was hesitant to go to AA for help, because of my prior experiences. Religion had been full of hypocrisy, and I didn’t want to be a part of that.
Since it seemed like every rehab facility I researched promoted some sort of faith aspect in their programs, I decided to see a therapist instead. It wasn’t enough.
After several sessions, she finally convinced me that I would really benefit from a program like AA. She explained that being involved in a program that promotes a spiritual aspect doesn’t mean I have to embrace that part of it. There were so many other benefits to be had simply by being part of a group of people who understand exactly what I am going through.
So I went through a 30-day inpatient program to dry out and began to attend AA meetings when I got out.
I really liked that I could tell my story without judgement and that I had a sponsor who was available to me at any time, day or night. And while they emphasized relying on a higher power, no one tried to force me to do so.
Leaving the spirituality out of the equation, I was still able to stay sober, but I never seemed to reach the point where I felt that I could breathe. Each day’s struggle was just as difficult as the last, while it seemed to get just a bit easier for everyone else in my group.
I confided in my sponsor who explained to me that spirituality can mean many different things to different people. For many, it is theistic, believing in God, or it can be non-theistic, relying on inner strength and moral values. I had never thought about it that way.
So I spent the next several months devouring all sorts of self-help books that focused on the many life experiences that can lead to addiction and how to work through them and leave them behind. While I maintained my sobriety, it was still such a struggle. Did it really have to be this hard?
It was during that time that my adult son shared a copy of The Watchtower with me, and there was an article in there that explained that there is no Hell, that Jehovah is a loving God. The fear of going to Hell was one of the things I had been taught that I could never reconcile, and I was intrigued. Seven months later, I was baptized.
The temptation to drink has never left me, but I turn that over to Jehovah, and I feel an invisible buffer between my desire and giving in. So while I am living proof that you can maintain your sobriety without spirituality, I have found it to be damn unhandy.