Those practicing a 12-step lifestyle often summarize the program as “Trust God, Clean House and Serve Others.” Even in the best of times, there are those that struggle with the concept of God. For many, that conjures up an image of a cloud-surfing, grandfatherly figure who stuffed a smattering of every living creature into a wooden boat so he could destroy 99.999% of humanity. It evokes images of TV hawkers and shills whipping folk into a frenzy so they will part with hard earned cash. Or one pictures a rather angry and punitive figure who is a little trigger happy with eternal damnation. Not surprisingly, many balk when confronting the “G” word in recovery. And that’s during the best of times.
Given that these are hardly the best of times, how can anyone—in or out of recovery—profess that they “Trust God?” So, before you get your panties or boxers in a knot (I haven’t the corollary to describe what happens to those of you who go commando) let’s define “God.” If there is a common thread in the recovery version of God (which can range from Higher Power to Group of Drunk)s it is love (read about surrender to love here). Love doesn’t judge, punish or shame. Love is a steady source of power. Long dependent on drugs and alcohol to power our near nonexistent existence, it is a healthier power than we addicts are used to. Whether taken as a verb or a noun, love is the most active and powerful concept there is. Its polar opposite is not hate, it’s fear. And perfect love—when used to guide our thoughts and actions—enables us to make gerbil droppings out of even the most corrosive of fears. But it takes a little faith.
Like flipping a switch and having faith that unseen electricity will power a lightbulb, calling on Love to help us walk through our deepest fears demands belief that love is that powerful. Funny thing this faith deal is, my mind struggles with that concept. I see the light bulb come on and “know” that electricity is real. I call on love and walk through fears–fears I long tried to drown with drugs and alcohol–and I want to give myself credit. My fear of what others think of this God thing tempts me to hide what I believe. I dare not name it. But if I am to be honest, I shouldn’t downplay that which I choose to call God. It is my healthiest source of power.
That’s not to say I wake up every day fully charged and ready to take on the day. When I wake up, my first thought is to pee. Then, too often, I thoughtlessly go about tackling the day. Whether it’s that day or sometime that week, however, life gets overwhelming and I have to dig into my spiritual toolbox to find a little faith, Faith that if I get still and ask Love to guide me I will be blessed with intuitive thought.
So, talk is cheap. What does trusting God (or trusting love) look like? Let’s get practical.
A few weeks back, the company were I had worked for the last 5 years reassessed their ability to survive this Covid-19 economy. Some bad decisions and failing projects in another division of the company had been bleeding our scant reserves dry for months. The sales pipeline in my division bore an uncanny resemblance to the toilet paper aisle at the local supermarket. It was bare. HR started working the phones. That’s never a good thing. I was one of the “lucky” ones who got a call.
I was stunned. Though I knew things were getting bleak and was actively looking, I thought I was good for a couple more months. For hours I gave fear the floor. It was physically exhausting. I turned into bed early. (Which is often the best thing to do when needing a reset).
Upon arising I got back into a routine that has served me well for years. I peed, got a glass of water, and got quiet. For me, prayer has little to do with talking. Whatever force out there is holding the universe together probably doesn’t need my guidance and petty demands. Prayer is not about changing God’s mind, it’s about changing mine. So, I got quiet and listened.
No voices came from above (when that happens it’s usually a good sign to change my psych meds) but my mind was clear. Like an impartial third party I just watched the thoughts that appeared. If they were negative or fearful I didn’t judge myself. We all have negative thoughts. But neither did I seize upon them and give them voice. I just gently motioned for them to move off the stage of my mind. The more positive thoughts–the ones that resonated–I noted. In short order I was able to plan my day and go about executing that plan with my fears at bay.
I’d love to say I have maintained this morning ritual every day since. That would be a lie. However, I have practiced stillness many times since. Job offers have come, the bank account has fattened up a bit and, most importantly, I experience peace of mind a reasonable amount of the time.
Cynics might argue I just tapped a hidden resource. Perhaps. Of perhaps that which is divine has embedded a personal GPS in all of us. A GPS only accessed with stillness. I am not here to argue the existence of God. Nor could I. Words fail to describe those moments where a connection is made. Like trying to describe the scent of a rose, there are not words in our vocabulary to describe that experience. But with stillness and faith it is attainable. I am not going to let my fear of what you think about that statement cause me to downplay what I know to be real.
Still doubting? Turn off the smart phone and TV, close the laptop and get still.