This blog may upset some people, but, oh well.
Over the years I’ve sponsored a lot of women in AA and developed some of my own ways that make me a good fit for some and not others. For example, many of my newcomer sponsees have a problem with “the god thing” and thus a problem with prayer. They aren’t sure if they should get down on their knees or clasp their hands, whether to look ceilingward or what to call their god. It all feels so contrived.
In this case, I suggest they try dropping a few F-bombs while they pray. That is, if I’ve gotten to know a sponsee a bit and in telling me her story she’s dropped a few, I suggest she do the same with god. Not in anger, mind you, but as she might with a close friend. I ask her to try it for a week and check back with me.
Why do I do this? To help that person separate god from religion. Religion works fine for some, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But for an increasing number of people who desperately need god, religion is not an option. Fortunately, the 12 Steps give us the freedom to conceptualize god in whatever way works for us. Chapter 4, “We Agnostics,” urges us: “Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you” (p. 47).
In my view, many of us assume that our conception of god has to import with it a shitload of trappings from religion. We carry these prejudices around with us, i.e. ideas based on thinking we have not “honestly” examined. We may have gotten far enough to let go of the old dude with a white beard image, but many hesitate to go further than that.
Among these imported God-trappings I will, for the purpose of keeping this blog short, limit my discussion to the the assumption that God can get pissed off by a lack of respect. In this case, to appease Him, we should address God as we would any other authority figure: a police officer, a professor, a judge. And since God is wa-ay old, we should definitely avoid language that would shock, let’s say, our grandmother. For that matter, we need to capitalize every friggin’ pronoun referring to the Dude because He, essentially, demands Ass-kissing.
Approach prayer as our regular farting, burping selves? Heavens, no! Much of religion involves an effort to partition God off from the vulgarities of real life. Over the centuries, our urban religious ancestors built temples, mosques, and cathedrals as sanctuaries, in part because there was just too much sheep shit and caterwauling and flies everywhere to let them string two thoughts together in prayer. Prayer became a solemn supplication devoid of spontaneous personality because religion drilled into us that God wanted it that way.
I am so done with this view of God! As I explain more fully in my essay, “God Evolved,” this view of God runs counter to my spiritual beliefs in every way. It’s founded in feudalistic traditions and furthers agendas of classicism, sexism, and species-ism – not to mention personal hypocrisy. Neither does it match the experience of anyone who has undergone an NDE. What people experience when they die is an inundation of overwhelming love that exceeds our capacity for description.
There are, however, certain spiritual principles that hold true in life, many of which religion has accurately named. When you act from unselfish love, you grow. Any connection between us and god has to be initiated by us. Anger and fear cut us off from god. These principles aren’t god’s “judgement.” They’re just spiritual equivalents of the laws of gravity or thermodynamics.
So, why would I recommend swearing in prayer to my sponsees? Because… they swear! And they’re the one who’s seeking god. What matters when I approach god is that I show up as Louisa, 100%. Sure, there are times when I feel solemn and ceremonial, but there are others when I’m flippant or pissy or frustrated. It goes without saying that my god knows and loves all these modes of Louisa.
My sponsees, by contrast, are standing in the shadow of a cold, religious idol that requires thee-and-thou-style grovelling. Swearing defies that idol, lets it tumble aside, and might just open them to the light of a god they can put their trust in.
As I describe in my addiction memoir (which also contains “God Evolved”), I was somewhere between atheist and agnostic throughout my first years in the program. But then from a tattoo artist with a huge afro, I heard these words: “A relationship with god is just like any other relationship: the more you hang out, the tighter you get.”
I hang out with god all the time now – when I’m teaching a class, when I’m peeing, when I’m chopping broccoli. I talk to it honestly, and I listen. So far, I’ve been healed of more maladies than you can shake a stick at: active alcoholism, clinical depression/anxiety, sexual obsession addiction, social phobia, (most of my) codependence, and the pessimism that kept me from living the adventures I dreamed of. Most importantly, god has broken down my walls of isolation and opened me to love freely and try to help others – by posting this, for example, because it may help some reader move a bit closer to grasping their own truth.