In my drinking days, before I was tight with god, I imagined god’s voice as an echoey Morgan Freeman cadence conveying various profundities. Today I believe more that god is all over the place, not only animating every living organism but also circulating among us in spirit forms, and it speaks to us constantly — although we’re largely deaf.
If I were to say, “God has spoken to me, and His word is blah-de-blah!” I’d have my head up my ass, no doubt. But I have received something. My conception of what that is comes mainly from my own NDE* and ensuing paranormal experiences, with gaps filled in by what I’ve heard from fellow NDErs.
By paranormal, I mean stuff like this: In 1999 or so, I was spacing out at the end of a freeway offramp in downtown Seattle late at night, waiting for the light to turn green. It did so. At the same instant, a “voice” spoke in my mind with a strong message, Don’t go.
Our brains are amazingly quick. In a millisecond, I thought, “That’s dumb! I’ll ignore it.” But in the next millisecond, the message came again, underscored, sort of like, DON’T GO; IT’S IMPORTANT. So… I, well… checked my rearview mirror. No car was behind me. What harm could it do to just sit there? So I just sat there… at the green light… which looked exceedingly green and all about GO. Quite shortly, I felt foolish. I asked the voice, “How long don’t go?”
WHOOSH!!! Like a bullet fired from behind a building that blocked my view shot an off-white sedan going at least 100 mph. It streaked through the intersection exactly where I’d have been. I remember, first, being amazed that a car could fly by so fast with so little sound, and second, realizing that my life had just been saved.
I thought, “Thank you!” Still I didn’t go. I couldn’t. I was too scared some car in pursuit might be next, or who knows what! Then I began to hear sirens, first one then several, a ways off. Shaken, I drove toward home.
Experiences like this aren’t so unusual for NDErs. According to an NDERF survey, 45% of us return with “psychic” aftereffects,** which amounts to many thousands of people. Leaving and reentering the body alters in some way the energy barrier surrounding each of us, so it’s more easily penetrated. At least, that’s my best guess.
“How can I tell the difference between god’s will and my will?” That’s a question we hear in countless AA meetings. I’m gonna offer some pointers.
Each of us has the ability to sense god’s guidance and, as we continue to work our program, increasingly distinguish it from our ego’s. The most important prereq is that we want to. We have to be listening for god and willing to hear what we often don’t care to. Another is that we have to cherish the goodness within ourselves and be awake to its resonance as a compass. Beyond this, in my experience, what comes from god bears a few telling hallmarks:
- It’s the opposite of what I was thinking. If I’m cruising down some avenue of thought that feels awesome in a self-righteous kind of way, and something intercedes and proposes the opposite with a striking ring of truth, it’s probably god. Far and away the most common input I get from god is “Bullshit, honey: you can go deeper.” By deeper, it means thinking more from my heart. Sigh! It’s always true!
- It’s about love, kindness, and service. The short explanation here is that god is love, as the ultimate power of the universe. And we are here to god. (Yep, that’s a verb!) Whenever we feel compassion and act on it, we are growing god. Recently, I found myself exiting a non-AA meeting near a fellow alcoholic with whom I’d just strongly and publicly disagreed on a policy. I so much wanted to jet, clean and easy! But as I looked at his back, something said, “Talk to him; make peace.” I told him the conflict was nothing personal, that I knew his intentions were good, as were mine. He looked relieved, I accidentally cried, and we hugged, disagreeing.
- While you’re actually doing it, it feels right, almost like déjà- vu. Sometimes when you make an important choice that aligns with god, it feels — and this is hard to describe — like everything has somehow clicked into place. There’s a “yes” in every second. When I heard that my former sponsee was pissed at me for never visiting now that she lived far away, I called and headed down there for dinner. So intensely during that drive, I sensed that I was fulfilling something significant. We shared dinner on Saturday. Thursday morning, she was struck dead at her construction job. Our last words had been, “I love you.”
- Serendipities reinforce it. These are the “coincidences” we hear about so often in meetings. “I decided to kill myself, and three guys from the meeting walked in and sat down at my diner booth.” “On my way to relapse, my car quit on me, and the guy that pulls over is my sponsor.” I, too have many such stories of statistically infinitesimal likelihood. Chances are, if you’ve been working the program a while, you’ve had a few of your own.
- It’s constructive. God is not big on wallowing. God is growth and unfolding, so for a recovering wallow-holic like myself, it’s been a tad disappointing that god won’t cosign my misery. Once, hiking alone in major emotional pain, I noticed a lone yellow wildflower on which a large branch had fallen. Smooshed but not broken, the flower had grown around the wood and bloomed anyway. God as good as told me, “Child, you’re smooshed but not broken: Bloom!”
One final note. For the reason listed directly above, god mourns the waste of life that is addiction. Yet god is never into shame or martyrdom. “Oh, I’m such a piece of shit!” or “Gee, I’m such a saint!” both stem from ego, from preoccupation with self. God wants us only to do our best, share our gifts, love freely. Beating ourselves up or codependently pouring energy into toxic people to wheedle self-worth — these ain’t about blooming.
I honestly try to live by this stuff. For instance, I’m aware that posting this exposes me to ridicule from both atheists (especially in my family) and religious folks. But the AA saying nails the truth: What you think of me (or my writing) is none of my business. My job is simply to click “publish” and then, as a bird lets the air keep its song or a wolf sends its howl to the moon, move on to whatever’s next.
Thanks for reading, open-minded alcoholics!
*NDE: Near Death Experience. This refers to a vivid experience that takes place while a person is clinically dead or close to death. IANDS definition here.
** See Jeffrey Long, Evidence of the Afterlife, p. 189.
PS: I’ll be presenting at the IANDS conference this summer. I’ll post details when I get them.