This blog is not intended to be dogmatic (tell you what to do) or sway you towards a specific recovery program, religion, or spiritual movement. As the founders of Alcoholics' Anonymous said, "Everything here is merely suggested; take what you like and leave the rest." In this blog post, I am going to be talking about the importance of working a program, which has the off-shot topics of being a part of a community and having contact with the Higher Power of Your Understanding. When I mean "program," I mean anything that helps you find inner-peace on your journey.
Why Community and Conscious Contact?
When I attended Al-Anon, it was often mentioned, "There are a lot of sick people out there (from their family of origin issues) that don't have a program." In a motivational talk titled "Why Go to Church?" at Mile Hi Church, a large New Thought-Science of Mind spiritual center in Colorado, the minister mentioned the quote, "Addiction grows in isolation but is arrested in community." The theme of this motivational talk was not about going to church/spiritual center out of moral obligation or obeying a god sitting on a throne somewhere in the sky world because the New Thought-SOM spiritual movement is not religious and dogmatic like that. Rather, the main theme of that that talk was about the importance of having a community and place to connect with the Higher Power of Your Understanding to the degree that you are comfortable for your Highest Good.
Last week at my home spiritual center (picture above is of their beautiful altar), my minister was talking about how she did not have a community or connection to a Higher Power for much of her adult life until she found New Thought in her 40's because the Catholicism that she was raised with did not speak to her soul. She said that she had a closed heart and lacked self-love during that time because she felt empty without that conscious contact with a Higher Power. When I was on a hike with several women from my spiritual center today, one of the practicioners said she felt a spiritual (soul) void before she came to New Thought after leaving the Episcopal Church of her youth that she grew in conflict with.
Alcoholics' Anonymous was founded on the principle of recovering from alcohol use disorder by connecting with others who struggle and sharing ideas on solutions. When my counselor was giving a lecture on "G.o.d. as I understand G.o.d." this week, he talked about how there are many paths to recovery/spirituality. Twelve-Step programs work for many, but there are also 12-Step-alternative programs, religious-based programs (e.g. Celebrate Recovery, Recovery Bible Groups, Buddhist Recovery Groups, etc.), spiritual movements, and many other types of programs out there. The key is finding the program/ path that works for YOU. If someone else such as your parents, children, friends, others in a recovery program have judgements, dislikes, or disagreements, do not take it personally. That is THEIR problem, NOT YOURS. It is about what YOU do well on. I and many other members of my recovery programs say, "The whole world can use a program." Today, there are 12-Step Programs for any type of problem such as Emotions Anonymous, Codependents' Anonymous, and Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families and non-12-Step-Programs such as Recovery, Inc.
My Personal Experience with Needing Concious Contact and Community
Before I got into an Al-Ateen meeting, I read Al-Ateen literature, but I did not learn anything from it. Only when I started attending meetings and hearing others' stories and solutions was when I started to learn. Growing up as a casual Catholic and later Evangelical Christian, my mom and I went to church every week. She would always tell me the importance of having "God in my life" and going to "a church." These were ideas I resented because neither religion was for me. Even though I do not subscribe to either religion, believe in that concept of the Higher Power, or believe in mandatory church attendance for morality or to please the Higher Power, I now understand what she meant: having conscious contact with a Higher Power and having a program as a self-help guide is beneficial. My mom had the right idea but wrong religion for me, but it still gave me a foundation. When I was reaching age 18 and finally got my mom to stop bugging me, I was not in an spiritual community for about 2 years, declared myself agnostic leaning atheist, and swore I would never be a part of a spiritual community again because I violently disagreed with the Evangelical Christian religion. During this time, I progressed to my worst in my addiction of codependency (I was still in active codependency when I was actively practicing Christianity because I always had a lot of doubt about it but there were numerous other factors as well such as low self-esteem and trauma that attributed to my addiction). When I got into codependency recovery, I started to miss having a spiritual community even though I was active in Al-Anon, which I considered my spiritual community at the time and practiced the principles religiously. I believed in the Universe (G.o.d
as Divine Energy) at that point, and I thought, "I wish there was a place that is like a church, but not really a church in a traditional sense, where people sing positive songs and learn Universal Self-Help Truths." I looked into the Unitarian Universalist Church and the Episcopal Church because it was a liberal type of Christianity, but I still did not feel like either was a good fit for me. My counseling center had a New Thought-Science of Mind (aka Religious Science) spiritual center on-site. After months of reading and researching about it, I decided to give it a shot one Sunday in June of 2019. It took a while to feel comfortable with going regularly, and now I go almost every Sunday. The reason I go is because I always feel better after going there, always learn something new to help myself and understand humanity, and love being a part of a community of people who think like me about spirituality and the Higher Power. I no longer attend Al-Anon, but I get the same recovery benefits from my spiritual center, self-help lectures, and counseling. At this point in my journey, those three things do it for me.
Working a Program
I know that I mentioned 12 Steps, spiritual movements, religion, and Higher Power a lot in this blog post. If you have an issue with the 12 Steps, spiritual movements, religions, or a supernatural Higher Power, I completely understand. That is where you are at on your journey, and I respect that because I have been there. In fact, I believe everyone should respect where each other is on their journey. When I talk about "spiritual" or "spirituality," I am referring to having an awakening to your personal soul/spirit, not a particular religion or spiritual belief system. The main point of this blog post is to find a program that works for you and work it. By a "program," I mean any belief system (preferably a community but if that does not seem to work for you at this point in your journey, I get it) that can guide you on your journey. Remember your Higher Power can be the program itself. It does not matter if you are in recvery from codependency, adult children of alcoholic/dysfunctional family issues, substance addiction, behavioral addiction, or just the craziness of life. You will benefit from some source of self-help. Famous addiction interventionist Kristina Wandzilak said, "The most effective medicine for all human suffering is human connection. It transcends medical research and science. Addicts are dying for connection. We die of loneliness, isolation and shame long before any substance. At the end of the day, all we have is people. Find yours. Your life and recovery depends on it. Doesn’t matter where, recovery rooms, religious communities or spiritual movements, they will celebrate your life and one day, when you least expect it, they will save it." There are many paths to one destination (recovery, spirituality, inner peace, etc.); find yours.
Bria Riley is a published author, recovering codependent and adult child of an alcoholic, who is active in several recovery programs. She knows the turmoil and heartbreak of growing up in an addiction-stricken family and wants to help others who have also been affected by addiction through her writing.