When I got clean the first time, I was forced into AA and 12-step ideology. I found much of the language and focus on a “spiritual” life to be either painfully ambiguous or horribly dogmatic. I had already spent years studying religion and various spiritual paths and was glad that I had closed the door on those efforts – it led me nowhere but further into my addiction. Go figure. Now those doors began to slowly open up again, and sure enough, brought me plenty of restless nights, headaches and existential lethargy.
Needless to say, I became utterly fed up with “spiritual” things. The fact that I was now being told that if I did not or could not find a god, higher power, spiritual life—whatever— I was doomed to use again left me with a seriously damaged first impression of recovery. Had I been offered an alternative, secular approach, I might have spared myself four more years of substance abuse and hurt.
I don’t believe in any god(s), supernatural phenomena or other outlandish mystical claims. However, I do understand how belief in one or all of these things can be useful to an individual. For me, beliefs based on no real proof offer little but knowledge of the fact that a belief is just that – a belief. It is admitting that you don’t know if what you think is true and that it may not necessarily matter so long as it feels good or “works.” It is admitting that said belief is merely an invention of the mind, either one’s own or someone else’s, and does not exist outside of the mind (see: empirical/objective).
I am a person who has no room in my life for belief in the unknowable. As Carl Sagan put it, “I don’t want to believe. I want to know.” How honest and how beautiful! What could be more humble than admitting you don’t know and can find virtue in choosing to not make claims that suggest otherwise? I will be the first to admit that I rarely, if ever, talk about something I have no knowledge of, be it about the plumbing schematics of a house or channeling past lives into a crystal ball.
It baffles me how in some circles of recovery, honesty is praised as one of the noblest of virtues, while belief in god(s) and divine intervention are often spoken of as if they were facts. I have never gone out of my way to openly discredit or question someone’s claim that “God did this and that,” but I do firmly disagree with that kind of thinking and believe that certain events can be explained in a much more rational, less emotion-fueled manner.
I am finding that people are going to believe whatever they want to believe and that it is alright for anyone to think anything so long as those beliefs are not being imposed on anyone else. For me, this is an exercise is acceptance and letting go.
By Cameron C.
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