Readers of these pages may have noticed that I have a “thing” about the God Controversy in our fellowships. In fact, I’m pretty sure I mentioned it at some length recently. :-) The subject interests me because I remember well the philosophical contortions I went through for my first ten years or so in recovery. I came to need to believe, or thought I did, but I just couldn’t. Having rejected, for what still seem excellent reasons, the religious beliefs of my youth (which never made much sense to me anyway once I reached the age of reason), I looked around desperately for a different path because I found pseudo-Atheism unsatisfying to my need for a spiritual practice – which I firmly believe has been hard-wired into Homo sap in some fashion. (Good opening there, Theists.) The biggest problem was with prayer. Continue reading
This was originally posted on 22 May 2014. It’s been edited slightly because I can’t ever read my own stuff without messing around with it.
I heard another newcomer at a meeting complaining about how she’d had God shoved down her throat by her parents, and she wasn’t having any part of this Higher Power stuff, blah, blah, blah. I find this sort of thing tedious, to put it mildly, having listened to and read about it frequently over the years. Even when I was claiming to be an atheist I thought it was shallow and ill-considered. So I thought I’d write about my take on the matter. Continue reading
We, my wife and I and thousands of others, are about to lose a friend. His family are about to lose a husband, father, son-in-law and so forth, as it always is. None of us walk alone, not really, and few of us pass unnoticed and unmourned. In his case, many will notice and mourn.
Bill has terminal cancer. It arose suddenly and was misdiagnosed for far too long. Maybe he could have beaten it if things had been different. But there it is. It is what it is. He and the family seem to be dealing with it about as well as can be expected.
We have never met him in person. I’ve spoken to him once on the phone. We know him from his blog, podcasts, and Facebook. His signature is in a book his wife wrote, signed to Shel and me by the whole family (and their dog). We can’t really claim to know him at all, and yet in many respects we feel as if we do. We do know and love his wife and kids, who are all three the kind of people who make you feel as if you’d known them most of your life and just need to catch up a bit. We know them well enough to be absolutely certain that the man who married that woman, who fathered and helped raise those children to young adulthood, was a good man who lived an essentially good life. None of us are perfect.
Of all the addictions, food has to be one of the trickiest. Let’s face it: we don’t really need tobacco, heroin, cocaine, booze, shopping, sex, religion and so forth in order to survive, although we may think we do. It’s hard to convince an addict who’s shaking it off cold turkey, or an alcoholic who’s in the midst of an unsupervised detox, but people do survive these things every day and, despite how it may feel, no one is going to die if he doesn’t get laid today.*
Food — well, that’s a different issue. Continue reading
I’ve heard it said that guilt is a useless emotion. I disagree.
If I stub my toe, it hurts. That brings my attention to possible damage to my body. If it’s more than superficial damage the pain hangs around, reminding me to take it easy and allow it to heal. The same is true of a headache, which could be a symptom of tension, high blood pressure, or even a brain tumor. A headache that’s severe or doesn’t go away in a relatively short time is cause for further investigation. And so forth.
I think of guilt as another form of pain. Guilt reminds me that I’ve “stubbed my toe” spiritually. By some commission or omission I have failed to live up to an obligation, duty, or my own moral and ethical standards. Just as physical pain is a warning to look to the health of my body, so is guilt a warning about my behavior: something needs to be fixed, a duty discharged, amends made. Like pain, it remains until I do something to allow it to heal.
Shame, on the other hand, is without doubt undesirable. It’s a spiritual bruise, perhaps a scar. Rather than influencing us to right a wrong, shame tells us that we are a wrong. It causes us to behave unskillfully, as well. In a very real sense, we can say that guilt keeps us honest; shame keeps us dishonest, with ourselves and others. In attempting to make ourselves feel better, we may fail to react to the pain of guilt in useful ways. If we stuff the guilt, instead of fixing the problem, it is likely to turn into more shame.
I think it’s useful for our spiritual development and repair to keep this distinction firmly in mind. People like us addicts, who come from a place of shame, are likely to find it hard to react usefully to guilt, because we were taught to believe that guilt makes us less worthy. The reality is exactly the opposite. As we learn to admit our mistakes, wrongs, and other transgressions, we move farther from shame, collecting reasons to feel better about ourselves. In time, lesson builds on lesson, and we begin to think of ourselves as worthy, rather than “wrong.”
That’s far easier said than done, but it’s a path necessary to the self-esteem that we addicts crave.