I am 57 years old and I am writing this article to discuss the differences between religion and spirituality. I grew up in very I would consider it a religious home, and not necessarily spiritual. You see, as a child my parents required that we go to church twice on Sundays and also go to Wednesday night prayer meetings. Now I don’t necessarily think that was the worst thing for me, but as I look back on it, I have often wondered why my parents were so strict in regards to church.
This has been a very difficult question for me to answer throughout my life. I experienced many things as a child while attending church and that created many questions in my mind regarding the validity of church and its benefits. When I reached high school age my parents decided after 25 years of marriage that they were going to call it quits. Now I know, that many kids go through divorces. I’m not writing this to whine about my situation, but I do believe that in my case this had a huge effect on my life and my current belief system.
This bitterness and resentment that I have towards organized religion grew out of watching and seeing the hypocrisy that I believe is rampant in many churches. My mom who was a Sunday school teacher throughout my childhood made a decision when I was in high school that she no longer wanted to be a part of the church or our family. She began to start drinking, which at the time was very puzzling to me. In fact my mom was the first person that took me to a bar at the age of 16 and I saw a lot of what I perceived at the time many happy people. This began a career of drinking for me, and at that time I loved it. Alcohol gave me the ability to overcome shyness and fear of talking to people in many other wonderful ways to overcome those feelings of inadequacy.
Now I know, without a doubt, I became an alcoholic immediately. I loved the effects of alcohol, and the false sense of courage that it gave me. Over the years, alcohol became my best friend. But in time, my best friend turned on me, and I was forced to face reality. Which turned out to be the best gift I could have received my life.
It took a number of years, for me to admit that I had a problem with alcohol. I became a father at a very young age and as a result, my alcoholism and selfishness created a lot of problems with my relationships with my daughters.
Today, as a result of my alcoholism, I have discovered many things about my life and my path of spirituality. I have been sober now for 19 ½ years and my life really could not be better. My alcoholism has given me the ability to seek spirituality instead of religion. I have tried recently to attend churches again thinking that would be the right thing for me to do. Every time I attend churches today I seem to have a feeling of inadequacy and all the old thoughts and feelings come right to the surface. I get frustrated with organized religion, I get frustrated with their requests for financial support, but most of all I get tired of them trying to convince people that they are bad and are going to hell.
Over my years of being in alcoholics anonymous I’ve heard many sayings and quotes that have helped me to realize the importance of spirituality. I heard a gentleman say one time ” churches for people who don’t want to go to hell, and alcoholics anonymous is for people who have already been there!” That made so much sense to me, and still does today. I thank God every day, that he loves me, and I am so grateful to be an alcoholic. I could not have received a better gift, as a human being.
Today I can look back on my life, and be truly grateful for every thing I have experienced. All of the good, all of the bad, has made me the person that I am today. I wouldn’t change it for anything. I love the fact that AA gave me the ability and opportunity to watch people turn their lives around and become productive members of society. It doesn’t matter if you are a Christian, Muslim, atheist, or an agnostic, AA gives you all of the tools you could ever need to get sober and save your life. This program is amazing. I love reading the history of the program. To think of what has been accomplished as a result of a stockbroker and a medical doctor having a meeting at a kitchen table in Akron, Ohio in the 1930’s is nothing short of a miracle. It’s a story of spirituality that has never been matched by any other organization.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article, and if you have any questions or comments please visit my blog. I love the fact that I can share my experience, strength, and hope with others. In the past few months I have been introduced in to a guided meditation program that has changed my life. You see, AA is a 12 step program, and the 11th step of the program states “sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God” which to me, is without a doubt the most beautiful step of the whole program. Meditation to me is more important than food. This conscious contact with God that I am experiencing today is what I have been searching for all my life. It is taken many years for me to explore the possibility of meditating.
So, for me, spirituality is something that comes from within, and religion is what people seek on the outside. Religion, in my opinion is nothing more than a place for people to show off what they want others to see. Spirituality is a result of finding an interconnection with the universe. I know that meditation is a perfect means to connect with God as you understand him. I wish you the best, as you seek to find your own spirituality.