I am wanting to begin attending 12-Step meetings
but hear they talk about God a lot. I'm not into God-talk. What can I do?
The 12-step concept of the "God of my understanding" gives you a great deal of flexibility
in working with the spiritual part of 12-step recovery. The founders of AA wisely
recognized two things:
- 1) that human efforts and human ego appeared to be ineffective in overcoming
addictions and that, therefore, a spiritual solution was needed;
- 2) that many persons have had hurtful experiences within the context of organized religion.
Thus, it became important to point persons toward the spiritual domain but away from an
understanding of God which had been a source of pain.
Many of us grew up with an image of God as something negative and punitive. Others of us
turned away from the God of our youth in anger. Some
of us have experienced judgment and shaming within the context of religion.
Whatever the reason, many persons enter 12-step programs with either no
belief in God or a very stagnant belief. By emphasizing the idea of the God
of one's understanding, 12-step programs allow us the opportunity both to
heal our old spiritual hurts and establish a new, fresh spiritual foundation
to our recovery.
Some 12-steppers find the God of their understanding in
Nature. Others find that God in community. For some, that God is not a
"person" as such, but rather a force or process not unlike the Force of Star
Wars fame. Still others have found the God of their understanding in the
works of physicist Stephen Hawking.
The idea is to be open to the possibility of a process or entity much greater than our own human ego, a force or entity that is essentially
positive in nature and oriented toward health and growth. A good place to
start in trying to find such a God is to read the chapter titled "We Agnostics" in the basic
Alcoholics Anonymous text, known in AA circles as the Big Book.
Richard B. Patterson is a clinical psychologist
in private practice in El Paso, TX. He is the author of three books on psychology