Clean and Sober Without God… But Wait


I’ve been clean and sober in a 12 step program for 28 years. During most of my sobriety, I’ve had a dubious higher power or none at all. In the beginning of my sobriety, “turning it over” to a higher power of my own understanding seemed idiotic. I created my own suicidal tendencies with alcohol and drugs, so why would I now trust myself to chose a higher power of my own understanding? My choices almost destroyed me.

Here’s an example of my first Higher Power. “A greater power that shall obey and fulfill all my needs and desires and stop pranking me about being an addict.” I was told by my first sponsor that my higher power would fail me because it was filled with expectations. I replied, “So, there are restrictions to choosing a higher power of my own understanding?” He said, “No, you can chose that higher power but you’ll probably relapse because our entitlement and expectations can easily defeat us.” I immediately felt manipulated toward the AA religious and supposedly spiritual God that plagued the books and literature. I’d had the biblical God force fed during my childhood and have always believed the “church God,” was man-made, overrated, hypocritical, and came with a boilerplate that was dogmatic and destructive.

Before I describe my quasi-spiritual awakening, I’ll back up and explain my short history with the nurturing and annihilating God concept. When I was five years old, my life was about surviving my abusive family. My family were masters of the love crumb factory. They tossed me love crumbs to make me feel a part of and then humiliated and abused me if I complained and felt left out. My childhood quickly became about not showing any emotions, good or bad. I walked around feeling that my emotional life could fit into a matchbox and my repressed anger could light up a major league baseball stadium. What my family created from the love crumb factory was a repressed, angry child who wore concentric circles and gravitated toward relationships that gave me love crumbs, abused me, and I hypnotically came back for more and more was never enough.
When I was six years old, I was baptized and explained that the ritual was to cleanse me of my inherited sins. So God, who is in charge and created everything, placed me with my abusive family (gee, thanks) and on top of that, I was a born sinner. I soon discovered that the beliefs of my church were completely different from my friend, who lived down the street. My friend’s church believed he was not a born sinner but perfect in the eyes of God. If I went to his church, I would be considered a perfect child of God, who decided to place me with an abusive family. Believing in either church God was a lose-lose proposition, and by the age of ten I resented everything the God word represented.

In my late teens, I became an active addict. My God became an alcohol and drug fueled higher power named “Oblivionville.” Oblivionville is a temporary and euphoric hiding place where I felt in control, bigger than life, and above my “less than” default setting. The problem with a drug and alcohol created God is that it always handed you a big bill at the exit door to reality, and toward the end of my worshiping wanted my life. Etch another failed attempt on my short list of seeking a connectedness and spiritual experience. It seemed my life had been a series of failed attempts that started out hopeful and then disintegrated into pile of disbelief, resentment and cynicism. I adamantly complained, “God is not loving or moral. The planet is a giant parasite feeding on itself to procreate. Man made and natural disasters are happening everywhere. The facts are that babies die from horrible diseases, loving people die from stray bullets and corporate criminals prosper. If there was a loving God, he/she/it created us to be easily disposable by its powerful forces and man’s chaotic self-will and destructive behavior.

In the 12 step programs, I limped along with a dubious higher power. I did all my step work and sponsored other members but stayed away from any belief in a God or a higher power that was suppose to comfort and support me during my sober trudge. One day, my sponsor broke down the AA Big Book’s interpretation of it’s God-spirituality concept. He simply pointed to the second tradition. The AA God was an unconditional, loving God of service with no strings attached. I personally believed Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob did not create a clear enough path for the agnostic/atheist, and the bible God still contaminated the 12 step programs and created several psychological road blocks. I became bored and irritated listening to AA members sharing about how they turned their life over to a loving God and how God would take care of all the results. I felt this was an escape hatch and excuse not to exhaust all necessary footwork and fed the addict’s procrastination and fear of confrontation.

During my 13th year of sobriety, I became obsessed with uncovering the root causes of psychological addiction. I have always believed biochemical addiction was secondary and psychological addiction was the mother ship. “Obsession on the mind,” “brain disease” and “isms” were too vague and did not describe in detail the addict’s collective behavioral patterns. I have always believed addiction came from an inherited, unconscious hard-wiring and learned behavior that created a destructive coping mechanism.

During several of my addiction workshops in treatment centers, I discovered an unconscious (no awareness) duality in most addicts. The addict was plagued with powerful and destructive “dependence” and “control.” I also discovered the dependence and control belonged to two inherited and opposing codependent roles, which I have named the “Controller” and the “Dependent.” Most of the general population inherits one of the roles, either the Dependent or Controller, and attracts the opposite role to create a codependent relationship. The attraction of the Controller and Dependent roles creates a destructive loop that I have named The Addict’s Loop.

What I also discovered in my coda/addiction workshops is the addict inherits both codependent roles, the Controller and Dependent, and rotates them. One role is usually dominant while the other codependent role takes a back seat position. The addict’s two codependent roles can rotate and switch places at anytime. Basically, the addict unknowingly attempts to enable his own entitlement using addiction “fixes” and recreate the codependent relationship dynamic in himself to feel connected, in control and above his pain and self-loathing. The addict’s psychology exists in a codependent dungeon where there is no spiritual connection, only a self-centered black hole and vacuum that repeats the addict’s defeating internal loop, “I am better than (Controller), I am nothing (Dependent).”

I believe for the addict to break out of his unconscious codependent dungeon, a psychological or spiritual shift must occur. The psychological or spiritual shift moves the addict out of his two unconscious, codependent roles back into his authentic self and root honesty. I remember during my child-teen years completely abandoning my authenticity and rotating my Dependent (needy, broken, “people pleaser”) role and my Controller (dominating, over-controlling, enabler) role. I continued to rotate both codependent roles through several years of my sobriety and had no idea I was trapped and enslaved by unconscious codependence. Today, spirituality and meditation are my new internal tools and guidance system that shifts me out of unconscious codependence (the Dependent and Controller roles) and centers me in my authentic self.