"Twelve step recovery is a program of empowerment. Many people erroneously assume that the fact that first step involves admitting powerlessness means that 12 step recovery disempowers people. The Truth is exactly the opposite.It was only when I admitted that I was powerless to control my drinking that I gained the power to stop drinking. As long as I was trying to control my drinking out of ego and will power, I was powerless to stop drinking alcoholically. It was when I opened up to getting help from a power greater than myself that I gained the power to transform my life."
"If I had been told in January 1984, at the beginning of my recovery from alcoholism, that the only way I could quit killing myself with alcohol was to accept the standard version of "God" - I would never have gotten sober. I would have been dead long ago. But what I was told, was that I needed to find a concept of a Higher Power that worked for me - a Higher Power of my own understanding. That was what saved my life - the revolutionary concept that I could develop my own idea of a Higher Power, and develop a personal relationship with that Higher Power that did not have to conform to what anyone else believed."
"The caterpillar and butterfly quote was incredibly powerful to me. I saw quitting drinking as a great tragedy - as the end of life as I knew it. And gratefully it was the end of life as I knew it, and the beginning of life as an adventure in learning to Love."
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and how those beliefs have developed and evolved over his time in recovery.
This article A Higher Power of my own
understanding 2 - the beginning of empowerment was originally
published online February 25, 2005 on Robert's Inner Child / Codependency
Recovery page on the Suite101.com Directory. There is a list of
- and links to - the other articles in this series on Suite 101 on
the Suite101 Articles
page. The original article was used to create this
page on Joy2MeU in October of 2005.
A Higher Power of my own understanding 2 - the beginning of empowerment
"This revolutionary idea was that an unconditionally Loving Higher Power exists with whom the individual being can personally communicate. A Higher Power that is so powerful that it has no need to judge the humans it created because this Universal Force is powerful enough to ensure that everything unfolds perfectly from a Cosmic Perspective.
This reintroduction of the revolutionary concept of an accessible Loving God has been clarified to specifically include the concept that the individual being can define this Universal Force according to his/her own understanding, and can develop a personal, intimate relationship with this Higher Power.
In other words, no one is needed as an intermediary between you and your creator. No outside agency has the right to impose upon you its definition of God."
"Enlarging my perspective means changing my definitions, the definitions that were imposed on me as a child about who I am and how to do this life business. In Recovery it has been necessary to change my definitions of, and my perspective of, almost everything. That was the only way that it was possible to start learning how to Love myself.
I spent most of my life feeling like I was being punished because I was taught that God was punishing and that I was unworthy and deserved to be punished. I had thrown out those beliefs about God and life on a conscious, intellectual level in my late teens - but in Recovery I was horrified to discover that I was still reacting to life emotionally based on those beliefs.
I realized that my perspective of life was being determined by beliefs that I had been taught as a child even though they were not what I believed as an adult. That perspective caused my emotional truth to be that I felt like life was punishing me, and that I was not good enough - that something was wrong with me. I felt like a victim of life, like a victim of myself, at the same time that I was blaming others for not making me happy.
I had to start trying to find a concept of a Higher Power who could Love me even though I was an imperfect human. If my Creator is judging me then who am I not to judge myself? On the other hand if the Goddess Loves me unconditionally then who am I not to Love myself? And if the God/Goddess/Great Spirit/Universal Force Truly Loves me then everything has to be happening for reasons that are ultimately Loving. . . . . The only way that I was able to make significant progress in the process of stopping self-judgment and getting rid of the toxic shame was to become conscious of the larger perspective. When I started to believe that maybe a Higher Power, a Universal Force, existed which was Truly All-Powerful and Unconditionally Loving then life started to become a lot easier and more enjoyable."
Twelve step recovery is a program of empowerment. Many people erroneously assume that the fact that first step involves admitting powerlessness means that 12 step recovery disempowers people. The Truth is exactly the opposite.
It was only when I admitted that I was powerless to control my drinking that I gained the power to stop drinking. As long as I was trying to control my drinking out of ego and will power, I was powerless to stop drinking alcoholically. It was when I opened up to getting help from a power greater than myself that I gained the power to transform my life. (There are some people - alcoholics - who can stop drinking using will power. They are what is referred to in the program as dry drunks. They are some of the most miserable, resentful, angry people on the face of the planet - because they have no spiritual belief system that is Loving.)
In the beginning for me, that power greater than myself was just the group - the people I met at AA meetings. Those people shared their stories, their thoughts and feelings, in a way that I identified with. Previously I had thought I was the only one who thought those kind of insane thoughts and had those kind of feelings of utter despair and hopelessness. When I first got to AA, I realized that I was not alone - I felt a connection to these people, felt a part of something larger than myself.
I however, had a real problem with the talk of God that I heard at meetings. I was raised in a shaming religion that taught me I was born sinful and shameful. I was emotionally and spiritually abused as a young child by being taught that God loved me but might send me to burn in eternal damnation in hell. I was taught that being human was shameful and sinful. (In one of my articles in my series on sexuality, gender, and relationships, I explained that it is not necessary for a person to be raised in a shaming religion to get the message that it is shameful to be human: Sexuality Abuse - the legacy of shame based culture.)
So, I had a real problem with even using the word God. And this was not just because of my personal experience, but also because of what I had learned about the history of the planet. I saw that throughout history "God" had been used as an justification for genocide, torture, plunder, and rape. I saw that a civilization based upon the "command" to go forth to subdue and conquer, not only destroyed peoples and cultures that were much kinder and more Loving than the conquerors - but was an integral part of going a long way towards destroying the planet we live on.
In my younger days I had been involved in activism with Native Americans - whom I could clearly see had been victimized by subdue, conquer, and slaughter mentality of the dominant culture. I found much beauty and harmony in the respect for nature and natural laws that was involved in the Native American concept a Higher Power - The Great Spirit. In the beginning of my book, I state some reasons that I wrote it - which included the following sentence.
"This is my way of standing up for my Truth, and of honoring "All My Relations," which is a Native American term that refers to the Great Spirit whose essence is present in everyone and everything. We are all related to everyone and everything."
If I had been told in January 1984, at the beginning of my recovery from alcoholism, that the only way I could quit killing myself with alcohol was to accept the standard version of "God" - I would never have gotten sober. I would have been dead long ago. But what I was told, was that I needed to find a concept of a Higher Power that worked for me - a Higher Power of my own understanding. That was what saved my life - the revolutionary concept that I could develop my own idea of a Higher Power, and develop a personal relationship with that Higher Power that did not have to conform to what anyone else believed.
So, in the beginning of my recovery, I allowed the fact that people in meetings - whom I identified with - seemed to have found a way to live life that worked for them, to help me stay sober one day at a time. I used the group as a power greater than myself, while I worked on trying to find a concept of a Higher Power that would work for me.
In those early days, I would call that Higher Power The Great Spirit - or The Force. I remembered clearly that when the Star Wars movies first came out, I strongly resonated with the idea that "The Force is with you."
It was when I was about 3 months sober that a book came into my life that altered my life, and my perspective of a Higher Power, immeasurably. The miracle of the "coincidence" of discovering that book - a book that reached out and grabbed my attention from the paperback rack in a grocery store - is something that still reduces me to tears of Joy and Gratitude 20 years later. I quoted that book several times in my book - and in this article I am going to use a quote from an online book I wrote that includes a quote from my book within it. That online book is the one that I wrote about the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. I wrote that online book because I saw the terrorist attack of 9/11 as a blatant manifestation of the human condition of codependency - and I will in this series of article be touching on some of the cultural and international manifestations of codependency that are causing the world conditions we are facing today.
"One of the first things I was guided to, when I was only about 3 months sober, was a mind boggling, paradigm smashing book called Illusions by Richard Bach. It presented me with concepts that it took me years to understand intellectually. But I knew instantly that the book was full of Truth.The caterpillar and butterfly quote was incredibly powerful to me. I saw quitting drinking as a great tragedy - as the end of life as I knew it. And gratefully it was the end of life as I knew it, and the beginning of life as an adventure in learning to Love.
It was the concept that I could develop a belief in a Higher Power of my own understanding that helped to empower me to realize that I had a choice in the beliefs and definitions about "God" that I was allowing to dictate my relationship with life. It was this revolutionary concept that started me on the path to realizing that I was Lovable - that I could reconnect with, and access, an Unconditionally Loving Universal Force in a way that would help me remember that I am a beautiful butterfly that can Fly.
So are you. At least, that is my Spiritual Belief.
Spirituality - a broader perspective
"I feel that my life Truly began on January 3rd, 1984. That was the day I entered a chemical dependency treatment center (aptly called the Independence Center) and started to learn how to live life clean and sober. One of the reasons I was able to stay clean and sober was because I had a considerable amount of ego strength. I had some strengths and talents that caused me to think that I was better than other people. That ego strength was my defense against the shame I felt at the core of my relationship with myself. I had a capacity for denial and rationalization that had helped me buy into the lie that other people were to blame for the failed wreckage my life had become.
I used that ego strength - and the false pride that told me I was better than other people - to help me stay sober. One of the ways I did that was to make my sobriety date very important to me. If I drank again, I would lose my sobriety date - and there was no way I wanted people who had less sobriety than me to get ahead of me. My twisted, distorted codependent thinking allowed me to turn sobriety into some kind of race that I was winning over some people.
My ego strength helped me to stay sober in the beginning of my recovery. It helped me to stay sober long enough to get into recovery from my codependency. My recovery from codependency led me into starting to dismantle my ego defenses. Breaking through my denial and rationalizations helped me to start getting emotionally honest with myself. Emotional honesty forced me to start owning the incredible reservoirs of grief and rage I was carrying. By the spring of 1988, my ego defenses had been weakened enough that the dam broke and my feelings started pouring forth. That was when I got the gift of entering another treatment center where I started learning how to deal with that grief and rage." - Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Chapter 6: ego strength and self worth
"I am what researchers are now calling a "Type A" alcoholic. That means that my genetic predisposition to alcoholism was so strong that the only way I could have avoided being an alcoholic was to never have taken a drink. I got drunk the very first time that I had the opportunity to get drunk. I also had a blackout the first time I got drunk. A black out is when someone loses consciousness even though they are still walking and talking and appearing to be somewhat normal. There is a gap in the memory (What did I do last night?) because of the effect of the alcohol on the brain. I would wake up the next day not remembering anything after a certain point in time. I wouldn't know how I had gotten home, where my car was parked, and sometimes I wouldn't know who I was with. I had blackouts - with increasing regularity - starting with the first time I got drunk and continuing for the 17 years that I drank.
Alcohol saved my life. I think that I would have killed myself if I had not discovered alcohol. I was so terrified of life and people and felt so inadequate to cope with life. Alcohol (and later drugs of various types) gave me permission to be human - which the environment I grew up in had not. With alcohol I could loosen up and interact with other people.
At the end of my drinking days - which had been hell for a number of years - the Universe led me through many applications of the Cosmic stick to go home to Nebraska for the Holidays in December of 1983. While there my parents - who had learned about alcoholism because a cousin of mine had gotten sober - did an intervention on me. They asked me to go into a 30 day treatment program.
I can remember sitting with them in the office of the person who did the intake evaluations and feeling completely trapped. By this time I had no money and no car, and I had been counting on them to be good enablers and loan me the money to get me going again. The thing that really got me though was when my father said to the intake person "We want to get help for him because we love him a lot."
I had never before heard my father use the term love in reference to me. (He still to this day has never been able to tell me that he loves me. (My father died in May 2005. On his death bed I told him I loved him - and the best he could say in return was "Same here.")) I can remember thinking at that moment, "Oh crap, now I have to do this." As if his using the word love was some sort of currency that obligated me to do whatever he wanted.
So I went into a treatment program in Lincoln Nebraska. For the first two weeks I really resisted being there. I thought the people were weird and I certainly didn't need any of this religious God crap that they were talking about. I called friends back in LA and complained about how I was locked in this horrible place. (No doors were locked.)
The turning point came for me when some druggy friends back in LA offered to buy me a plane ticket back to the coast. That was the point where I had to admit to myself that I had a choice. I had spent my whole life being the victim because I didn't believe I had choices - now I had a choice.
So I had to take a good look at myself and my life and see if I wanted to return to the way I had been living. When I looked at how messed up -
(God, what an understatement. As I wrote that last sentence, I started crying remembering what a hell I had been living in. At some point in treatment I realized that the song that described what my life had been like was Desperado - "Your prison is walking through life all alone." "You'd better get down off you fence and let someone love you before it is too late." After I got sober I swore to myself that I would kill myself before I would ever take another drink.)
When I took a realistic view of what hell my life had been, I had to admit to myself that I didn't ever want to live that way again. So I turned down the plane ticket and surrendered to trying to learn the things that those weird people were trying to teach me." - The Path of one Recovering Codependent ~ the dance of one wounded soul The Awakening Begins in the Joy2MeU Journal
"I celebrated my sobriety anniversary on January 3rd. I have now been clean and sober for over 18 years. The reason I got clean and sober was because my parents did an intervention on me and set a boundary that they would not rescue me financially one more time." - Enabling & Rescuing vs Tough Love
"I celebrated my 17th sobriety birthday on January 3rd. 17 years is pretty much incomprehensible for someone who couldn't go for 3 days without a drink or a drug. It doesn't seem like it went fast though - rather it seems like I have lived 7 or 8 lifetimes since 1984. It is important for me to remember where I came from, and how far the Spirit has lead me on this journey. As they say, the qualities of my problems has greatly improved. ;-)" - Joy to You & Me and Joy2MeU Update January 2001
"On January 3, 2002 I will celebrate 18 years of being clean and sober. I have actually been clean and sober now for longer than I drank and used. An amazing miracle that has unfolded one day at a time. Some of those days were excruciatingly painful - full of hopelessness and despair. In early recovery, I didn't make it through those days sober because I wanted to be sober - or because I wanted to be alive. I made it through one day at a time because I was terrified of returning to, and getting stuck in, the hell I had been living in for the last 4 or 5 years of my drinking.
There is an old AA saying that: Alcoholics Anonymous doesn't open up the gates of heaven and let us in - it opens up the gates of hell and lets us out. When I got released from my alcoholic hell, what I found myself experiencing was life. The very thing I had been drinking to cope with!
What I realize now, is that I was released from alcoholic hell and found myself in codependent hell. My relationship with my self and with life condemned me to codependent hell - and alcohol and drugs had given me a vacation of sorts from dealing with the fact that I did not have a clue of how to live life in a functional way.
I am very, very grateful now that I am a recovering alcoholic. If I had not found alcohol and drugs, I would have killed myself in one way or another in my late teens or early twenties. My 17 plus year drinking career kept me alive long enough to be present when planetary conditions changed so that the New Age of Healing and Joy could dawn in human consciousness. Long enough to have available to me, the tools and knowledge to be able to heal my wounded soul and learn to live life in a way that works. Long enough that first Adult Children of Alcoholics, and then Co-Dependents Anonymous meetings, were available to help me in my healing process." - Co-Creation: Owning your Power to Manifest Love
"I am profoundly, deeply, everlastingly grateful for the gift of the 12 steps. The process of learning to apply the Spiritual Principles in my life has changed my life from an unendurable hell to an adventure that is exciting and enJoyable most of the time. The twelve steps work. That is the bottom line. They work to help a person transform their experience of life into something better. They work to help a person learn to develop a relationship with life and self that allows room for inner peace, happiness, and Joy. The twelve step process works to help a person open up to Love." - The Miracle of The Twelve Step Recovery Process - a formula for integration and balance
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A Higher Power of my own understanding 2 - the beginning of empowerment was originally published online on February 25, 2005 on my Inner Child / Codependency Recovery topic page on the Suite101.com Directory.
Grateful acknowledgment is made for permission to quote from: Illusions "The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah" by Richard Bach. Copyright 1977 by Creature Enterprises, Inc. Reprinted in Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney by permission of Bantam Doubleday Dell, New York, NY.