I grew up in the stereotypical Italian-Catholic household. We didn’t talk about what happened in the home. God was a punishing God. We took pride in our stubborn successes. Most importantly, crying is a sign of weakness. All of these ideas were all so familiar, yet I rebelled again each one.
I was an open book. I found solace in sharing my pain with others and craved compassion. I resented the idea that “God” was a man in a white robe, seeking vengeance upon all of His creation. I was the most open-minded member of my family. In fact, I was willing to try anything/everything…twice. Crying was the only way I knew how to express any emotion. The juxtaposition of my innate desire to rebel and the parameters set by my parents was uncanny.
I didn’t indulge in drugs an alcohol because of any of the things I listed above. The truth is, under any circumstance, I would’ve crossed over the threshold regardless. When I first walked into the rooms of AA, and realized this was a program reliant upon spirituality, I rolled my eyes and stood in rebellion once again. I knew it all. Afterall, why would a God, that reveled in punishment, want to do anything to help a despairing soul like mine?
The women that surrounded me kept it very simple… “Don’t complicate this, keep it simple. Just follow each step, one day at a time. Do as I do.” Finally, suggestions I was willing to take. I began reading the Big Book and started working the 12 steps in treatment. All of the information flooding my brain, I took every opportunity to over-complicate and intellectualize a very clear concise set of instructions. (As many other alcoholics do) I remember my sponsor having me black out words and replace them with words that didn’t offend my rebellion. She had me literally take the action, step by step.
- Admit you are powerless over alcohol
- Believe that a higher power can restore sanity
- Turn yourself over to God
- Make a personal, moral inventory
- Admit to the nature of your wrongs
- Allow God to repair personal defects
- Ask God’s forgiveness
- Make a list of those harmed by your alcoholism and be willing to make amends
- Work to make amends to these people so long as doing so doesn’t cause harm
- Take a personal inventory and admit wrongs each day
- Seek God’s guidance
- Carry the message to others
As I began to walk through the first few steps I grew increasingly skeptical of who, what, where, when this magic would happen. I heard so many women share their experience with a “spiritual experience”. In all honesty, it all sounded like foolery to me. I knew God, went to church, and even said many foxhole prayers… all of which, to my memory, were never answered the way I wanted.
It was explained to me, pretty early on, that everyone’s journey looked different and willingness is the main key. I was willing. Afterall, I tried EVERYTHING else and nothing worked. I found gratitude in the first 2 steps. I started to pray for willingness when I was unwilling in step 3. Steps 4,5,6 helped me find a newfound humility. My spiritual experience was one of the more educational value during 7,8,9. Victimization and self-loathing slipped away. Steps 10,11, and 12 is where I started to rebuild and cultivate my relationship with God.
Seemingly without provocation, my entire life began to change. I no longer viewed God as a vindictive judge anxiously waiting to lay down my sentencing. I began to see God, so full of grace and unconditional love. The kind of love I chased after my whole life. Looking back on my less than favorable years, there was certainly an outpouring of grace covering and protecting my life. I placed myself in a position to be hurt time and time again. Through it all, I am still standing. I work my dream job. My family has forgiven me. I have two beautiful children that love me unconditionally. I have real friends today. I have been given a second chance at life. I actually love and look forward to the future and I no longer wish to shut the door on my past. The obsession to drink again has escaped me. I finally found my purpose. Beauty for ashes, I have come to know a new freedom.