Staying and Praying: Learning to Depend on Your Higher Power
In this episode of The Recovery Sessions, Nina shares her strategy for learning to stay and thrive, despite her disease.
I am fully aware that my disease wants to kill me and/or take me to hell. “She” (as I refer to her) will not give up on me. She made it clear at 17 years sober when she began to communicate to me one quiet night after I’d dropped my son off at a roller rink. I drove around to kill time and my teeth began talking to me. I KID YOU NOT, my teeth were craving alcohol “on them.” I didn’t want it in my body, I didn’t want to get high, I didn’t want to taste it…I wanted it ON MY TEETH. IT WAS LIKE SOME CRAZY ITCH THAT I SIMPLY HAD TO SCRATCH. I love to tell that story because up until then most people would have thought of me as a bit of an old timer with 17 years sobriety! I had a great support system; I was doing everything right, but this disease didn’t care. She came with a vengeance hoping to take me by surprise, and She did.
I drove to where an 11:00pm meeting was about to start but I was an hour early, so I knocked on the door and a couple of fresh-faced kids were putting chairs out for the meeting, as I’m sure their sponsor had told them to do. They came to the door and I asked, “Ya’ll want to go for some coffee?” I could tell as they looked at me and each other that they thought they had a “newbie!” But I never told them anything about myself. We drove to a nearby Denny’s and they shared their stories with me and poured into me all the love one alcoholic can pour into another. I drank it up, it was holy and beautiful. I hadn’t been loved on like that in 17 years. My teeth quieted down and I was at peace once more.
I have told this story many times; never again have I taken this disease for granted. Just so people know that the day may come down the road when you may want to drink. It’s great if it doesn’t, but it could, and if it does, you don’t HAVE to do it. You see that was long ago, but I know there is a battle that rages for me, for my soul. She knows the way in and for me it is alcohol. Over the years I have begun to understand that I exist on a cellular level as well as physical, and unless my cells are on board with my heart’s desire, then I cannot be who and what I hope to be. Communion with that part of myself brings me closer to GOD and I am at peace most of the time.
I begin each day with the 3rd step prayer. I’ve been doing it so long that I have many times awoken to the prayer already being prayed in my head. As if my “higher self” woke up before I did! Step 3 is actually what I am doing when I’m “Staying and Praying”. I’m literally not REACTING to what’s in front of me long enough to see how it plays out. I’ve found that my life is pretty amazing with very little effort on my part.
At around 7 years sober, and with no real success in my attempts at meditation, I had a profound spiritual encounter which left me with not only the ability to meditate on a deep level, but a thirst for it. I finally got a sponsor after 4 years of sporadic sobriety. I had a tendency to get sober, feel all fresh and new, and after a couple weeks or months I became just another face in the rooms and I would "run,” as in return to the dark bars and party scene where I was delusional enough to believe I was special. This was my M.O. and resulted in my failure to experience real life or develop emotionally the way a young woman might who was living in reality. As I began to put together some sober time I would hit these spots and still wanted to run...maybe not to the bar or to a drink, but to something that would make me feel New and Special again. My sponsor Mary B (long gone now) would say to me, "Can you just do nothing tonight, and in the morning we can talk, and if you still feel the same way we can look at your options?”
Invariably I didn't feel the same in the morning. The desire to RUN would have subsided and after a couple of years I had begun to refer to my new way of life as "Staying and Praying.”
To Stay and Pray is to feel and experience the things that you don't want to feel or experience. You stay in it, feel it, experience it; this is not easy, but praying while you are "staying" will allow you to carry it to fruition. I tended to react and move quickly away from whatever was uncomfortable for me, even if it was something or someone I needed to learn from. Before recovery I just left the situation or the person, never having learned what it was I was supposed to learn. For example:
Boss hurt my feelings...I'll just quit
Husband hurt my feelings...I'll leave
Co-worker pisses me off I'll quit
Boyfriend moved to a new job and didn't take me with him, so I broke up with him rather than wait and see if it might work out.
There were so many other opportunities I missed because I was not willing to "feel" the feeling. I made things complicated that could have been easy had I just waited to see what could happen.
I stayed and prayed in my job and have a successful career. I've stayed and prayed in my marriage and have a friendship with my husband that we only have because we endured and knew we would stay no matter what. Praying all along. Unbelievable! I cannot tell you the reward that comes from Staying and Praying. It is the reason I am sober 34 years and the reason my life is what it is.