Alcoholics Anonymous Step 3 says, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.” It’s one that seems to get discussed often at meetings and also rattles around in my mind a lot.
As I journey through sobriety the idea of a higher power is a very murky one. Having spent most of my life somehow connected to Christianity as a Sunday school kid through my adulthood heavily involved in service to the church, it’s an awkward step for me.
Why so awkward? It really is strange because I abandoned Christianity and accepted my lifelong agnosticism when I became sober in 2012. My god as I understood it for many years was a version of god that was connected to but perhaps not certainly the popular version of a Christian deity. I was a Jesus guy, I loved the love aspects, and after years of denominational and theological research I was for the most part a very hopeful universalist. As a minister I was known as a secular Christian, a bit of a walking contradiction to most believers, but my love for grey areas and overall push for total forgiveness and restoration despite the sin factor left me isolated. In the end I lost the faith and found my freedom from alcohol within a few short months of each other.
I took on sobriety alone, surrounded by drunks and drinkers who surprisingly supported my discussion to get clean. The first year was hard but full of love and care. I met other sober drunks and sought out help, including some meetings and other resources. I wasn’t part of AA but was part of a community that was helping me. I still had some church folk to go to as well but my god was a grey mist of sorts. A cloudy idea that seemed far away as ever.
Fast forward to 2015, I’m heading into year 3 and my wife asks for a divorce. I accepted the request and through some painful self-analysis I realized I had to venture out on my own. Just myself, and my sobriety. I entered a very shaky road ahead. Turning 40, moving to Ohio after 20 years away and leaving behind a 13 year marriage as well as a decade of relationships with people I shared every day with.
So I did it, I moved into my parents home, traveled alone to various places where my sobriety was often tempted but through the support of my various friends along the way, some in recovery themselves, I managed. Soon I found my lonely heart wanting familiarity, so I returned to Pennsylvania to my old town but it wasn’t the same. Many of my friends had lived forward or backwards and I no longer felt like I was home. I met a few people I hadn’t known who to this day remain beautiful reminders of the universes care for us but overall I was a mess of a man.
So by summer 2016 I was 4 years sober, no god, no program and no idea what the fuck I was doing. I had my AA app and the tools I learned through various sources. I was back at my parents, I was working on jobs that do nothing for me and I was alone, no community, just work and home. I was near the edge of my rope, and suicidal ideation was quite a familiar term in my life.
Then in the spring of 2017 I found myself, due to a new friend, in the rooms, reluctantly but I saw the way it was good for her, so I tried. Since then I’ve reached year 6 of sobriety, that friend is my partner and my AA journey is just really becoming a real thing for me. I’m doing the step work and trying to learn and listen as much as I can. The higher power though is a tough one.
I’m not perfect, obviously, and I’ve walked backwards through my sobriety. I started off abandoning faith and taking a no program approach. I still have no sponsor, I’m six years sober but still struggle with diving into the program, and frankly I’m lacking a community because of my mental struggles and fear of strangers. So my higher power as I understand it, is grey and changing daily. Sometimes it’s the blue sky or the rainy day or even the room I’m in listening to drunks tell their story.
Will I get a sponsor, work the program as a disciplined AA member and serve the program with enthusiasm as so many do? I don’t know? Will I find a sponsor, call them, build relationships and get sponsees? I don’t know? Will I turn everything over to God as I understand it? Again I don’t know? What I will continue to do is try to stay sober, grow, learn, love and hopefully survive as I do it. It’s all new to this 6 year sober ex-pastor and completely frustratingly messy ragamuffin still searching for myself through the wreckage of my past.
God, whoever or whatever you are, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.