Of the myriad concepts, principles and practices thrown at a newcomer when first entering Twelve Step recovery, nothing creates more confusion than the suggestion to seek and do the will of a Higher Power. Personally, I struggled with this suggestion in the early years in pronounced fashion. It still crops up to throw me from time to time.
As alcoholics and addicts we are self-centered to the extreme. It is the root of our problems. How, when all revolves around us, can we seek a higher calling? It requires a leveling of pride and a focus on something other than our own selfish wants and desires.
In working with the newcomer, it is often easier to explain what God’s will is not, as most of us who have been around for a few years have made many mistakes in judgment in this area. It is not our rationalized selfish desires.
I am reminded of a story that my wife shares with some frequency. But first, a little background is in order.
My wife is beautiful and for many years was quite successful as a hair dresser. She flew from Hawaii to California and New York to train up and coming hair dressers. She worked with some of the world’s top designers to prep for their fashion shows.
She has known ten years of remaining abstinent, when career, not Twelve Step recovery was that priority. She went out for six years because she had not spiritual foundation and when a significant other–whom she had made her higher power–cheated on her, she had no tools to deal with the pain.
For six years she gave in to her addiction. In the process she pulled down a successful career and lost everything she had–the designer clothes, the BMW, the career and the roof over her head. When the sheriff’s department came to evict her they wore masks and rubber gloves. They carried disinfectant spray. She knows what a low bottom looks like.
For the first five months of her second journey through recovery she lived on a former client’s couch. This time around she threw herself totally into recovery–working with a sponsor, praying regularly, attending meetings throughout the day and working on herself.
At five months sober she moved into a tiny studio on the corner of crack alley in Honolulu Hawaii as only a slum lord would rent to her. She returned to work and started to rebuild her life.
At six months sober she met an older, married man who was more than eager to take her out to eat. She was broke and hungry. She took him up on his offer.
Apparently the man had a little more than dinner on his mind. He made her an offer. He would buy her a whole new wardrobe, he would buy her a convertible BMW and he would put her up in one of the many high rise apartment buildings that he owned.
Though that may appear to be a rather indecent proposal to someone looking on, she was newly sober, doing everything the program required and saw it as blessing for doing what was required of her. She believed in her heart that it was God’s will for her. Fortunately she had a sponsor that had gotten her into the habit of calling every day and talking about what was going on in her life.
“Wilma,” she asked on one such call, “can I have a sugar daddy?”
“No you may not!”
“But I think God sent him to help me”
“No, God sent me to help you,” came her sponsor’s reply. “And if you do it you will get drunk and loaded.”
My wife did as she was told. But, as she tells it, she let go of that proposal with claw marks.
As alcoholics and addicts we can rationalize and justify just about anything. I know a man who quit a job and relocated to chase a girl because it was “God’s will” … until it wasn’t. I have seen people make all kinds of absurd decisions because they thought they were following a higher calling.
For me, and I have wrestled mightily with the concept of God’s will, I have learned to keep it simple. First, I look at all the defects of character uncovered doing step work. Then I try, however imperfectly, to do the exact opposite.
Second, whenever I am thinking of making a major life change, I have learned not to go it alone. Our literature points out that even people of high spiritual development run their ideas by others. My Higher Power speaks to me through others. I try not to go it alone.
Third, I have found through experience that I need to get quiet and listen more to my heart than my head. I can think myself into all sorts of absurd decisions. And then there are the decisions that are not absurd, just misguided. But if I can get quiet and contemplative there are those ideas that just resonate with my heart. They are few and far between. My side of the street needs to be rather tidy. But when it resonates there is no mistaking it.
For the next couple of blogs I am going to be writing on the meditative techniques I have found most helpful in seeking guidance. Techniques that I unfortunately let slide by the wayside with too much frequency. I write not to preach, but to remind myself of what works. You are welcome along for the ride.
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