A key-phrase people Google to get here: “finding a higher power.”
At left: God as imagined by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. (Actually, Michelangelo painted a bunch of pictures of God on the Sistine Chapel. This is from his picture of the creation of Adam. The strong man, the Old Country Creator.)
Once upon a time, G was a little girl of 7… overweight, shy, always either drawing or hiding her nose in a book—or else sneaking cupcakes from the cupboard. She went to second-grade Sunday-school in a mill-town that was still populated by old-country folks, where even the priests spoke with an old-country accent, and where the teachers were old-country ladies who told stories about God that, Little G assumed, came from the Old Country.
G’s second-grade Sunday-school teacher, let’s call her Mrs. Grdic, prepared her pupils to receive the Body and Blood of Christ at First Communion by entertaining them with all sorts of gruesome stories about God. The one that G remembered most vividly for years afterward was the story about the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima in Portugal, specifically her revelation to the three children of the First Secret, the Vision of Hell, in which (bitter old Mrs. Grdic gleefully reported) the children at Fatima were shown the souls of all the Bad People being tossed and thrown like black coals, forever and ever in huge flames, from which they could never escape, and all around them were cries and screams of horror and pain.
That night and for some nights thereafter G lay sleepless in bed—7 years old, with insomnia—tossing like one of those little embers in the flames of her sheets, because she was sure she was one of the Bad People.
When she tried to tell her mother about it, her mother said something like, “Stop saying that stupid shit.” Which was how G learned how to keep her feelings secret.
Later G grew up and she lost her baby fat and got braces that straightened her impossibly crooked teeth, and she went to college and then put herself through graduate school and married a nice, handsome and very smart man with whom she had a child, but even so: the seed was planted way back when. G’s mother (a formidable woman) had told her: God is infinite, eternal, unknowable, definitely a strong man, and you don’t get to mess with Him.
When you grow up with this concept of God, and suddenly someone tells you that in order to get better, you have to choose a God that cares about you, it doesn’t compute. I was given this information back in 1999 when I joined AlAnon. I rammed smack into the Third Step and kept banging my head into that wall: “choose” a God? God “as I understand God”?
I’m not allowed to “choose” a God, or “understand God.” God just is. Isn’t God the Great I Am?
After four or five months, my sponsor told me I had willingness, and to move on. And I moved on and did the rest of the steps in AlAnon. But I failed to turn my will and my life over to the care of God, because I fucking hated God:
• He gave me a mother who didn’t love me till the last weeks of her life, then he killed her
• He gave me a father who was an alcoholic
• He gave me a childhood full of fear and loathing and ostracism
• He He He, blah blah blah.
I kept this hatred secret, of course. I couldn’t sit in an AlAnon meeting and say, “I fucking HATE GOD.” … I mean, I now know that of course I could have. But this shows my ability to tell the truth, even to myself, was somewhat compromised.
Instead, I kept it secret (really: I lied, I pretended, I behaved like a toddler), I got even more headaches, I couldn’t sleep, I had pain all over my body, I went to the doctor, I was given drugs, and I took lots of them for a long time, thinking they were the solution to my pain.
I fell into Step 3 again before my first AA meeting in 2008, when I realized I was addicted and I needed to get help. When I was desperate and I asked for help, and help came, that’s when I knew: God Exists, God Cares, to this extent: God at least intended for me to live, and was willing to put people in my way to help me live. God was not waiting for me with a pitchfork and a can of gasoline. At that moment, God was like a net made of a bunch of people, all connected, none of whom I knew but all of whom I trusted, ready to catch my sorry ass when I fell, and for what compensation?—none.
That was “God” to me, that day: the so-called Group Of Drunks who took care of me.
Now I get to be part of that group for other people.
Life is full of disappointments. We lose jobs. We get sick, or people close to us get sick, or maybe die. I used to blame God for everything that went wrong in my life: “You made my mother get lung cancer.” Well, no, actually: she smoked 2 1/2 packs a day for 30 years; she did that on her own.
My rationale was, if I was supposed to thank God for life’s good things, why not blame God for the bad things?
I’ve been encouraged, in sobriety, to thank Higher Power for the “bad” things as well. “Good” and “bad” are the labels I choose to put on events. Everything is as it is. This is called “Acceptance.” And man, sometimes it’s hard.
I still have tough days when I can’t hear Higher Power and I have to “act as if,” just doing what I know is right: putting one foot in front of the other, without expecting the “feeling” of being all connected and wired-up spiritually—which is basically just another high.
How do others find their Higher Powers? How does Higher Power change over time?