by Claire A.

I was deeply skeptical of the “God thing” when I joined A.A. I was accustomed to the icons of the Christian church, crosses, stories of miracles: Stuff I called hogwash. Asked to believe in a higher power, I was basically stumped. It wasn’t just that I rejected the idea of a god of some kind, it was that I rejected faith. I didn’t really have faith in much at that point. I guess I thought my parents would always be there for me, though those relationships were starting to crack. My mom died three years before I got sober.

I had faith in hard work. I believed that if I worked hard enough, anything was possible. Effort: I had faith in effort. I ran a lot. That was effort, too, and I had faith in exercise. I had faith in doing the right thing, too, but that was also starting to fall apart.

The idea of faith in a higher power was strange to me, something I had heard about but only distantly. When my sponsor started talking to me about prayer, I said, “Um, OK,” not wanting to be disagreeable, but inwardly rolling my eyes. Prayer. Like that was going to do anything, I scoffed.

An outer consciousness? An inner voice?

I looked OK. I had the perfect life: Two lovely, healthy kids, a loving husband, lots of friends, a nice house, a job, a car in the garage. But I still drank to pass out at night, every night. Drinking to “finish the job” became my goal, and it was scary. I felt I had to drink. I had suicidal ideations by this point.

Prayer didn’t fix everything

I couldn’t square my behavior with my morals. I mean, I justified things, sure, but I could never really bury the behaviors that I didn’t like. Toward the end of my drinking, they were multiplying. I hadn’t yet gotten jailed or had a DUI. But I had damaged many, many relationships. My life was totally out of control internally.

I saw no way out, and my therapist warned me that I needed to go to A.A. I thought, “The nerve of her!” but I came to A.A. She said what I needed to hear.

It gave me a moment of peace

At a later meeting, she asked me whether I had prayed, and I had to admit that I hadn’t. I don’t remember when exactly I first prayed, but I do remember it was by my bed. I knelt, feeling foolish, and put my elbows on the bed, hands together. My sponsor told me to read off the prayers we all learn: The Serenity Prayer, the Third Step Prayer, the Seventh Step Prayer. I did that.

At first, I felt silly, but also a sense of quiet. I was able to take a deep breath and let it out. Prayer didn’t fix everything, but it gave me a moment of peace, and it gave me something else: A connection to something I still can’t name. An outer consciousness? An inner voice? I don’t know how to describe it, but after many years of prayer I feel that my higher power is part of me and outside me, too. There are times when I feel utterly in sync with my HP and at those moments I feel incredibly happy. And there are times when I lean on it, specially when I am scared and I feel that somehow I can give up the fear without falling apart.

And there are times when I feel separated from it. When that happens, I need a meeting, because I know I will find my higher power there.

Photos by Branislav Belko + Sawyer Bengtson

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