I was a 26 year old junkie, a street kid whose only profession was “squatter”. I had been using for more than half of my life and going hard for the past 10 years. I came to treatment with all my belongings: two pairs of identical brown pants, a handful of black tee shirts that had become belly shirts over the years, a beat up black hoodie and a random book I had “acquired”. I slept my first day away in treatment and most of the second too until they told me it was time for a meeting. I zoned out, fully prepared to not pay attention when something read aloud broke my glazed over daze. “Did he say God?” I thought to myself as I wondered where the fuck I was.
This treatment center had to be some kind of religious trap. They prayed before the meeting. They read the 12 Steps (which I’d previously only heard of in jokes about alcoholics) and it seemed God was a part of almost half of the steps. I was worried and angry at the same time. Worried because I had nowhere to go and angry because I was detoxing and the last thing I wanted to hear about was somebody else’s religion. I was not religious, had never been religious and hated whenever people tried to talk about religion to me. I wasn’t sure this rehab thing was going to work for me.
My resentment towards the word “God” didn’t ease up for a long time. However, the pros outweighed the cons and I stayed in rehab. Nobody tried to force religion on me. Actually, nobody cared what I did or didn’t believe in. The more people I got to meet, the more I came to realize that I didn’t have to convert myself into some kind of Holy Roller to recover. All I had to do was want to stay clean. When the time finally came for me to work the 12 Steps that old familiar resentment came creeping back. There was part of me that wanted to avoid the 12 steps altogether because I was that opposed to working any step with the word “God” in it. That’s where the ability to be open-minded came into play.
I started talking about how I felt and surprise, surprise, nobody made a big deal out of it. They actually showed me how to get over those feelings without changing my beliefs. I didn’t have to become someone I wasn’t or believe in concepts I wasn’t comfortable with to stay clean and work steps. A lot of people had these feelings before me and worked through them. Like everything else in recovery, it was up to me to speak up and find the solution I was seeking.
Over the years that I’ve stayed clean I have become a more spiritual person – but still not religious at all. I’ve encountered all types of people in recovery with varying beliefs and views. We don’t have to share the same views to stay clean. In fact, part of the beauty of the fellowship I belong to is how diverse we are. If you’re new and the word “God” makes you want to run, don’t. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stay clean. Stay.