LEADER'S SHARE ~ STEP TWO|
I remember my first 12-step meeting. I was overjoyed at first. It
felt so good to be around others who were suffering from the same problems
that I had been suffering from. This was home, I just knew it. This was
where I would find help. Then, to my horror, one person after another
started talking about God. My disappointment was deep and it hurt so bad.
My hopes were dashed. I had come to OA to get some help with my eating
disorder and instead all I had found was a bunch of religious zealots!
I had an intense dislike, maybe even hatred, for organized religion. I
was raised in a fundamentalist Christian religion that traumatized us weekly
with stories of fire and eternal pain. I remember being no more than 6 or 7
and the preacher would walk out through the pews and pick people at random,
point at them, and yell at the top of his lungs that we were going to burn
in hell forever. Sometimes he picked me. I hated that place. I used to
hide my shoes because I knew that even though I would get a whipping for it,
my parents wouldn't make me go there without shoes.
So what was my answer? I ate! I ate lots and I ate often and spent
the next two years eating as much as I could. I didn't even try to stop it
anymore because I knew that I had a compulsion that I wasn't strong enough
to fight off and I knew I wasn't willing to become one of those religious
nuts, so what else could I do? Well, pain has a way of humbling me and when
it finally hurt bad enough I went back to my second OA meeting - not with
any more belief in God than I had at that first meeting, but at least with a
willingness to take what I wanted and leave the rest. I figured maybe I
could work the program and just not do the God part.
I had been going to meetings for months and there was a guy who I
enjoyed listening to and who told great stories about his disease. I loved
his sense of humor and his honesty. There were a few things he often said
at meetings that really gave me hope. One was that God alone couldn't keep
him abstinent, that he needed the meetings, the 12-steps, and the fellowship
of the program to stay abstinent. The other thing he said was that we are
not responsible for what we believe, that belief itself is a gift from our
HP, that there is nothing we can do to make ourselves believe something we
don't already believe.
Since this guy had years of recovery and I needed a sponsor, I finally
got up the courage to approach him after a meeting and ask him to sponsor
me. He said yes and I was so pleased and grateful! Then I asked him what
he did for a living and he responded that he was an Anglican priest! I
think I regained consciousness about 30 minutes later! : )
I owe Father Tom my life. The things he taught me have been invaluable
and let me remain in recovery despite my tendency towards agnosticism. Of
all things he taught me, probably the most important and most useful was the
concept of acting "as if," and that prayer worked whether I believed in a
God or not. In one of our earlier debates, I had been telling him that I'd
been able to remain abstinent for over a month and hadn't yet had to resort
to prayer to make it happen. He asked me how many meetings I went to a
week. I told him. Then he asked me how they opened and closed those
meetings! LOL - have I ever mentioned how much sponsors annoy me sometimes?
I won't go into a long talk here about how my concept of a Higher Power
has developed over the years, that would be kind of jumping ahead. But with
the help of my sponsor, I was able to see that by going to meetings, staying
in contact with others in the program, and praying even when I didn't
believe anybody or anything was listening, I was able to remain abstinent.
I had no explanation for it, but there was a magic in those rooms - the more
I went, the stronger my abstinence became and the more hope I gained that
recovery was possible. The process of recovery itself became my Higher
Now you know how I came to believe. How did it work for you? What
kind of prejudices and biases did you have to overcome? How were you able
to do it? I told you my story; I'd like to hear yours!