Copyright Rights for Recovery - 2016

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Finding God in Recovery

Finding God in Recovery

(Disclaimer: Finding Faith, God, or any religion/spirituality is not a prerequisite for recovery, and there are many ways to the same goal. For those that find these things in their journey there are those that won’t or don’t need to – we can all coexist)

For much of the early years of my life, I went to a Methodist church with my mother and brother (my father sometimes went, but not often). This consisted of service, Sunday school, and fellowship. I didn’t know of alternatives, and I never really questioned religion, God, and simply enjoyed being able to learn the watered down teachings made available for adolescents. Religion didn’t fill any deep-rooted desire and was simply just fun to go to, and I doubt that the weight of what it really was ever occurred to my younger self.

As I grew older, church was replaced by Sunday baseball and soccer tournaments; Sunday school with interests in girls and video games. I hadn’t lost faith, as I don’t know if I ever really had it. I knew about religion and God, but never had internalized the messages. Flash forward a few more years, active in my substance use disorder, and the only relationship between me and God was the typical “God, if you are listening, get me out of this and I promise to change my ways”, a relationship out of necessity and manipulation (which I am sure many of us in recovery can relate to). I also spent a lot of this time questioning the very existence of any type of God, the fundamental philosophy of organized religion, and whether it was just all some big hoax meant to loosen pennies from avid believers.

Like many in recovery, I was indoctrinated and still actively work a mutual aid program which relies upon a God, or spiritual connection, of ones own understanding. The new-found principles of recovery, and a deeper sense of self and ability to think clearly (without substances proliferating my system), I finally found the time to ponder God, my faith (or lack thereof), and religion as a whole. Being exposed to the “God of my understanding” mantra was extremely helpful in this endeavor. What I quickly came to find was that I really had no understanding, perhaps even a misunderstanding, of what it was all about. When I could embrace that I didn’t have to know, that the simple admittance that it was okay to be ignorant, was freeing and a spiritual experience in and of itself.

Today, I am still convinced that I have no idea what God is or isn’t, but I do understand that it is not me or anything I can control. I have found solace in the Christian faith for a variety of reasons, am a member of a congregation, and regularly have prayerful conversation with the God of my own (mis)understanding. I still find myself taking a too academic approach to historical accounts of doctrine, rationalizing my selfish actions, but I also find myself asking for forgiveness and trying to live a life by the golden rule of love and forgiveness.

Recovery allowed me to find my faith again, and I was lucky enough to find meaning in religion and spirituality. I do not know if it was crucial to my recovery, but as with who and what God is, I am comfortable not knowing. My choices have helped me find comfort in the hard times and be a better person. My faith in God as I know him allows me to actively engage in my recovery, in my relationships, and in my life today – and it is a firm part of my recovery.

On this Easter Sunday, I urge all of you to explore what your faith (whether it be in God, the Universe, or simply in yourself) means to you. There is no right or wrong answer, as all of us have definite self-truths that are rooted in diversity and true equity. I found my truth in recovery and the Christian God, and I hope that you have found your truth as well.

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Robert Ashford, BSW is a man in long-term recovery who advocates for recovery, behavioral health policy, criminal justice reform, and many other social justice issues. He holds a BSW from the University of North Texas, and is currently at University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice to complete an MSW program. He is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, Renew Magazine, Addiction Unscripted, and the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy. He is also the founder of the multi-author advocacy platform, Rights for Recovery.


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