We are told in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous that we must have a spiritual awakening in order to achieve lasting sobriety. This spiritual awakening will bring about a “personality change sufficient enough to overcome our drinking problem.” To someone who is just getting clean and sober and is fairly new to recovery, this can sound like an impossibility. I can remember thinking, when I first got clean, that maybe I could have this spiritual transformation by meditating in a cave for a week straight or something. There is also the idea of seeing a flash of light and hearing the voice of God Almighty, with the obsession to drink and use drugs being miraculously lifted out of people. To be honest, for the first year or so of my sobriety, I was genuinely seeking a spiritual transformation of this nature. I wanted the flashes of light. I wanted to get excited about spirituality and about connecting with my higher power, just like some of the other people were that I was seeing in AA meetings.
The truth is not very exciting, but it is no less miraculous. I have had a spiritual awakening, and my personality has been transformed–to the point that I am now a content and happy person without the need to self-medicate all the time. This is a miracle. This is the miracle of recovery. I have become happy without drugs and alcohol. Unbelievable, to me.
I have read a number of things about the search for enlightenment, and about individuals who have attained enlightenment, and have then written about their experience. What they say seems to correspond very well with the path in recovery. They say that in order to achieve enlightenment, you have to seek, and keep seeking, and be a seeker. And after you have sought for so long, you seek some more. Eventually you will exhaust all possibilities and find peace and contentment. This is the path to enlightenment. The seeking is necessary….but you find enlightenment beyond the seeking.
The quest for a spiritual awakening in recovery is similar to this search for enlightenment. By all means–seek! Get yourself a sponsor and start going to meetings and work the steps as best you can with that sponsor. Get various recovery literature and read it. Soak it all up. And continue talking and sharing with others. This is the journey. By all means, seek. Your spiritual awakening is going to reveal itself to you in retrospect–as the sum total of all that seeking. If you happen to be an atheist, your sponsor will have you praying each day anyway. And if you follow through and go through the motions, your open mindedness and willingness will eventually let some light spill in. There won’t be any great flashes of light maybe, but you will look back some day and realize that you’ve been sober for a whole year and you’ve become open to prayer and meditation and receiving some guidance from outside sources.
Let me illustrate my own Spiritual Awakening
When I first got clean and sober, I was pretty miserable, and I was always thinking about using drugs and alcohol. This was obsession. My mind was constantly fantasizing about using and drinking and finding ways and means to get more drugs. This was what I had become. My mind constantly focused on this. I was in my first week of treatment and someone was chairing a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and they told me that my obsession over drugs and alcohol would go away someday. They went so far as to say that I would be happy again without using drugs and alcohol. I told the man that my obsession ran deeper than that, and that I must be somehow different, and that my obsession was not going to go away. I told him that even if I managed to stay clean somehow, that I would always be thinking about drugs and alcohol for the rest of my life. I genuinely believed that to be true, and at the time, it was a perfectly reasonable assumption. There seemed to be no cure for my obsession.
So fast forward to when I was clean and sober for about 9 months, and I had a day when I got home to the long term treatment center and I was climbing into bed and I had my awakening. The awakening was this: the realization that I had not thought about using drugs or alcohol all day. Not once. The man from the NA meeting had been right. My obsession had been lifted. Now, I couldn’t tell you for sure that this was the first day it had happened–probably wasn’t. But the realization was there. I had followed through and done what my sponsor told me and life had gotten better and my obsession had been lifted. This was my glorious awakening, and it was a miracle. It still is a miracle.
No flashes of light or voices from above for me. I just did what I was told and took some suggestions. The transformation was only apparent to me in retrospect. It had already happened and I couldn’t see it until one day I looked back on it.
Today, I maintain this spiritual experience by working with other struggling addicts and alcoholics. I believe this is a vital part of the experience–to carry the message and attempt to help others who struggle as I once did. This spiritual principle of reaching out to others is a big part of what makes recovery meaningful.
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