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M(3), 3/29/15: Evolution of Prayers from Fox-Hole to Sincerity

Today’s reading selection came from the book Came to Believe, an anthology of stories that detail the spiritual journeys of  75 different 12-step members.  Today’s story fell under the category called “Coincidence?” which any regular reader of this blog knows is a topic of interest for this author!

Today’s story of spiritual evolution mirrors multiple journeys in my life.  Most directly, I can relate to the idea of a generalized belief in God thanks to upbringing, but an ambivalence to the concept as it applies to everyday life.  Like the author, I needed that gift of desperation that many of us in recovery have been given, which then gave me the motivation to give prayer a try despite my skepticism that there is anyone “on the other end of the line.”  As life proceeded, and circumstances improved, I was left to wonder:  which of the changes that I made was the turning point: staying sober?  praying?  meeting attendance?  The initial answer that gave me comfort was:  who cares?   All three bring me peace, confidence, and joy, so it doesn’t matter if one holds the key, because I’m sticking with all three!  The further along the road of recovery I travel, the more I realize that, in fact, there is a power greater than myself, and that power is the key to sobriety, to peace of mind, and to a happy, joyous and free existence.

In sharing this with the group, I was met with a lot of nods, and one or two people who shared after me had similar stories in which they reached the moment of truth, be it external circumstances or internal angst, where they were willing to give prayer a try, and had a similar outcome to what I described.  And then a woman, let’s call her M, raised her hand to share.

M had been to my meeting maybe 3 or 4 times before, but always with months in between.  She was recommended to my meeting by her parish priest, and although she had expressed an interest in sobriety, almost everything else she had to share seemed to contradict that interest.  Basically, M spoke like me and most others, still in active addiction, who see that their drinking is a problem but don’t want to actually stop drinking:

  • she notices all the ways her drinking story is different from everyone else’s
  • she speaks of all the times she can stay sober, and keeps quiet about the times she does not
  • she likes to share all she knows about the 12 steps because of various people in her life who are 12-step members, but does not seem to learn from doing her own 12-step work
  • the infrequent meetings she does attend never quite seem to gel with her, and she can’t seem to find a meeting with which she is comfortable

To those of us who regularly attend 12-step meetings, this story is familiar, because, first, we’ve been there ourselves, and second, we hear it regularly at the meetings we attend.

Most of the time a story like M’s ends with my not seeing the discontented person again.  This time I was lucky enough to see her turning point.  M raised her hand today and shared that her belief in God is strong, she was born and raised Catholic, and she prays to God every day of her life.  “So what I don’t understand,” she says, as she breaks down in tears, “is where is God when I’m driving to the state store?”

It was a powerful moment, and the kind that humbles me as I witness the members of the meeting rally to support her.

Every comment that followed M’s cry for help centered around turning points in sobriety.  Every comment that followed talked about weeks, months, years of tried and failed attempts to stay sober.  Some had a relationship with God, some were atheists at the outset, one member still considers herself agnostic, but all talked about their personal evolution to a healthy relationship with a Higher Power, even if the Higher Power is simply the collective wisdom of the 12-step fellowship.

One of the attendees commented on prayers in active addiction versus prayers in sobriety.  In time this particular woman came to realize that God was always there for her, she just wasn’t always there for God.  In addiction, her prayers ran along the lines of a fox-hole prayer:  God, please just get me out of this mess and I’ll never drink again.  Now she starts with gratitude and the mindset of how she can give back.

M suspects that her attempts and failures to stop drinking center around her inability to accept sobriety as a permanent way of life.  “I just can’t envision not drinking forever,”  she insists.

The meeting attendees that spoke after her (myself included, one of the perks of being the chair of the meeting is you have the ability to choose who speaks next, you can make it yourself if you really want to!) all shared the importance of taking sobriety one day at a time.  Most of us believed we were far too clever to accept the idea of “one day at time.”  You’re not fooling us!  We know that at the end of the stupid “one day” we promise you’re just going to ask us to do it again!  In time, however, every one of us agree that one day at a time is in fact all the time any one of us really has.  Managing our entire lives, not just sobriety, one day at a time makes everything easier to handle.

I am hoping that M was able to hear something that resonated with her.  I’ll let you know if we see her again next week!


Today’s Miracle:

One of the regular attendees asked for all of our collective prayers in the upcoming weeks, as he has every team in the final four for March Madness.  Now, I’m not a follower, but I’m given to understand that having all 4 teams this year counts as a miracle!  I’ll let you know how he makes out, he says to say a few extra prayers for Kentucky…


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