By Karen N.
I walked into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at 30 years old, completely broken by booze - an angry, hungover, atheist with no hope whatsoever that AA or anything else could help me crawl out of the bottle.
It had been years since I had been able to get through a single day without drinking. I'd wake up in the morning vowing to not drink that day. Within an hour, I had to have a shot (or two or three) of something just to stop the shakes. Just to "clear" the mind. Just to be able to function.
By midday, I'd be planning the next drink. And the next drink was earlier and earlier in the days and years that followed, leading to passing out earlier and earlier each evening. It was a degrading and humiliating progression. It was a personal prison from which there seemed no escape.
I Had Denounced God
When I came to the rooms of AA, I heard about and read about a lot of "God" stuff. I didn't relate to any of it. I had denounced God many years prior. I had abandoned the Catholicism of my upbringing. There was no God, and nobody was going to make me think there was.
But, in spite of myself, I did find something else in those rooms and those people. I found a hope that I hadn't felt in many years of alcoholic drinking and thinking. I found people who had been just as beaten by booze as I was.
They were amazingly forthright about their own history and the depths of their descent into the black hole of addiction, living and breathing only for the next drink. And yet, they got sober. And more than that, they regained life, happiness, and even self respect.
A.A. Was Their Path to Recovery
And while many of them shared how God had saved them, how a higher power was the only way out of the void, I understood that AA itself for all or most of them was their path to recovery.
I heard things said like, "If you don't have a higher power, use mine". And, "If you're God isn't working for you, you need a new God". And even, "AA became my higher power".
In some ways, AA certainly did become my own higher power. As an individual, I was unable to get or stay sober for even a day. But somehow, with others in those meetings in church basements, I was able to stay sober 24 hours. It was an amazing thing to me. And then another meeting and another 24 hours sober. And so on...
They Welcomed Me
Somehow, together we were a power greater than just me.
Nobody qualified me in AA. I didn't have to fill out any application. Nobody asked what my religion was, or how much money I made, or where I lived or even how much I drank. They didn't care about that stuff. They welcomed me. They shared with me. And they asked me to keep coming.
While I may still define myself as pagan these years later, what I have found is that spirituality is not always religious.
The spirituality that evolved for me over several years is probably best defined as "karma" or the "mystery of the universe", as we sometimes hear it described. It is people helping people, giving it away in order to keep it, doing unto others as we would have done unto us - the Golden Rule.
Spirituality Came to Me
Spirituality came to me when I was desperate enough to listen to those who came before me - people who suffered as I had suffered, who lived life from inside a bottle looking out at the world. Some had lost jobs, homes, family. Some had lost all. But they had found the way out. And they still showed up in order to light the path for others like me.
I didn't have to agree with everything that was said in those meetings. I didn't have to believe in anyone's definition of God. But I am grateful that I was desperate enough to be open minded and willing.
That "Gift Of Desperation" brought me to an AA meeting. And the gift of sobriety keeps me coming back.
Karen N. is still a very active member of Alcoholics Anonymous. She also does service work as a moderator in the online chat rooms at StepChat.com.
Learn more about How to Quit.