I thought I’d laid my angst with the God talk to rest when I had my breakthrough last winter and came to understand that my challenge was with the God of my childhood rather than with the God of my understanding. I thought I’d finally gotten to the point that I could hear others talk about how God was doing things in their lives that they couldn’t do for themselves without having a visceral reaction. I thought that I’d made progress. And then I went to a Step meeting on a Friday.

I heard people sharing their truths in that meeting. I heard them talking about the God of their understanding. Intellectually, I knew that their understanding was theirs and not mine. Intellectually, I knew that they weren’t preaching to me — that their God talk was not aimed at me. But emotionally, I was not prepared to hear those things for what they were. Emotionally, I heard these people talking about the God of my childhood — God that I don’t believe in and even if I did we wouldn’t be in speaking terms. And I found myself in a foul mood questioning the one thing that had made a difference when other things couldn’t. Questioning the validity of 12-Step as a mode of recovery.

That’s the insanity of being affected by an addiction. If there is one thing for certain about my addiction to booze it’s that I was not able to stop drinking without help. And for me that help came in the form of 12-Step meetings, the fellowship, and the program.

I’ve spent some time wrestling with this. What is it about hearing other people talk about the God of their understanding that triggers me? Why do I automatically assume that they are talking about the God of my childhood when they use Christian terms and names for God?

After some soul searching I think that it comes down to this: I went to Catholic school in a rural area. While Vatican II occurred between 1963 and 1965 and, in part, attempted to reconcile modern life with Catholic orthodoxy, you wouldn’t have known that nearly 30 years had passed in the churches of the area. We had very conservative priests. One of the key messages that I received was this: “Roman Catholicism is the only true religion with a direct lineage between the Pope and God starting with Peter.”

While I rejected many things about the Catholic Church, this particular nugget stuck with me. So powerful were these words that I viewed all Protestant faiths as being somehow unworthy, not quite real if not outright false. This sense that there was no true religion outside the Catholic Church tainted my view of the world, so much so that I secretly struggled with getting married in the Presbyterian Church even though I consistently found the message of our pastor to be beautiful and in lock step with my understanding of the universe.

And so, I struggle when I hear the people talk about God because I haven’t let go of the idea that the only true interpretation of God sources from the Roman Catholic Church — a notion that I rejected long ago but one in which I still feel entrapped. I struggle with accepting that when people speak of the God of their understanding, they are not necessarily speaking of the God of my childhood — a God that repeatedly failed me.

And so, I have some work to do. The work of letting go of old ideas and sitting with the discomfort. And I have to work on accepting what I know to be true — that there are other faiths which are true and pure, that language gets in the way of spiritual connections, that we are all really speaking about the same mystery, regardless of the name we put on it.

7 thoughts on “Accepting the Language of Others

  1. Hey Damien, 12 step programs come with a God/HP orientation. My recovery foundation was built on those programs. I have struggled and often denied my own experience / truth to remain “a part of” a recover community based on concepts I reject. I am often amazed to still be abstinent after all the mind fucking and gut wrenching! I feel a strong kinship and deep appreciation with you and others in recovery. My only suggestion based on personal experience is to broaden the support (Secular, RR, SMART, etc…) base and continue being as mindfully honest accepting and open with myself and others as I can be on a moment to moment basis. Alomg the way I have found some internal comfort and ppeacefulness AND loving support by others. We are mot alone and our similarties outweigh our differences many times over. Keep sharing D. its helps us all 👍🏽👥

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  2. You are speaking my language in so many ways in this post. I carry so much about the “God of my childhood” with me that it gets in the way every time I hear others talk about their God. I cringe at the subject, even though I’ve been finding a new path of spiritual sorts, it’s still something I struggle with regularly. It’s amazing to me how much the religion that we are ‘born into’ can have a hold on us so many years later. I wish that I had not been raised in such a way that instilled in me that “our religion” (Jehovah’s Witness, in my case) was the only true one and all others were essentially evil. I am just thankful to see things more clearly now and can recognize what a terrible way that is to view the rest of the world, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still haunt me. Like many things from childhood, I see this now as one more neural pathway that I need to work at reconstructing and looking at it from that view has been the most helpful in this journey of mine. Thank you for sharing.

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  3. I was told by someone that I was going to hell because I didn’t worship on Sat.
    That God only accepted that.
    I just can not believe in that God.
    I can only find peace in a loving personal presence that gives me strength when I ask it. I have no idea what that is. All the dogma that separates and divides us, only hurts people.

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  4. Thanks for your insights here. I’ve been trying to run a recovery group on FB and struggle with religious Dogma that gets posted constantly. It is a reaction brought about by religious discontent left over from childhood and you are right there are many truths. My truth does not make your truth wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

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