The good thing about having an author write a column or an article is that you hear about a new book before the book is published; in my case, I’m talking about The Happy Heretic. It is the result of my spiritual awakening that happened years ago when I realized that everything I was told I didn’t believe. Or, to put it another way: we believe a thing until we don’t believe it anymore.
I think everyone who enters into recovery soon realizes that they are not only seeking healing for their drug and alcohol use, other things are involved. For some it is food, sex, gambling; in my case it was religious codependency.
Is the phrase religious codependency new to you? Well, that’s why I wrote this book. More importantly, that’s why it is being published by Health Communications Incorporated this month. It speaks of a toxic message I heard growing up: God is everything and I am nothing without God’s grace. Well, I don’t believe that. Oh, I realize that I’m not God, but I am something. Yes, God certainly wanted me to get sober, but I needed to want it enough to change my behaviors. The God that I believe in today, so very different from the God I was raised with, has given Leo something of himself (free will) at birth. I am a child of God who, with this gift of free will, is able to make creative choices. I’m no longer nothing; I am something.
For the alcoholic who was riddled with guilt, shame and low self-esteem, this belief has proven to be transformational. I’m an essential part of my recovery.
Today I am able to understand the word responsibility in a new and challenging way because I’ve moved away from that religious codependency that kept me waiting for God to fix or rescue me. God’ grace requires my involvement; I have become part of the change process.
This spiritual awakening has also helped me understand that I have not inherited the sin of Adam and Eve. They were responsible for their behaviors, and they paid the price; I’m responsible for my actions and behaviors. The term original sin has come to mean for me, original blessing. I’ve moved away from sin into a state of blessedness. Their sins, your sins, they are not my sins. As the saying goes: I was born an original, I’m not going to die a copy.
For me, this spiritual awakening has created an amazing shift in my life. Notice I said my life, not just recovery. Yes, I need to take responsibility for my recovery from alcohol and drugs but this healing from religious codependency has affected health, finance, relationships…and prayer.
I’m no longer praying for God to take away my problems and challenges, rather I’m affirming in my prayers the need to think differently and act responsibly. Health issues became my issues. If I want to pray about my cough, and I’m a smoker, then I need to act differently. Asking for God to remove my financial insecurity, if I’m spending too much money at Starbucks, doesn’t make sense. Requesting a loving partner, without doing the footwork, is really a cry for magic, not miracle.
Has this spiritual awakening made me critical of the words and prayers used at recovery meetings? Not really. I’ve always realized that the program is inspired, not dogmatically dictated, and it is necessary for me to interpret what I hear and read. True, the prayers on the wall are not as I would have written them, but I look to the meaning behind the words. What is said with one hand always needs to be balanced by what is being said in the other hand. I need to let go and also be responsible. I need to be quiet and listen, but there is also a time to speak. I need to assist others, but also take care of myself. Yes, you can say it: Leo will never become a bleeding deacon!