Step 11 – The $64,000 Question

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for God's will for us and the power to carry that out

The $64,000 Question
by David D. (Milwaukee)

I didn't come into SCA to develop conscious contact with God. I came into this program to stop cruising for sex in parks and on the streets and to stop having anonymous sex. What I've found though, in the nearly four years I've been in recovery, is that my sobriety is intimately linked to my conscious contact with God.

I stopped going to church when I was fourteen years old. The religion that I had been raised in didn't seem to support me or answer the questions I had about life. It wasn't until twenty-some years later, after I had been in program for a short while, that I thought about going back to organized religion to find a system to support my spirituality. After checking out a number of different practices and religions I found a Soto Zen Buddhist center in the town where I lived that felt like home to me. I began attending classes and meditation sessions that have proved invaluable. I mention my specific religious practice not in any way as a recommendation, but simply as a way of making my story more personal and hopefully more meaningful. There are many religious traditions out there, and just as no one type of diet would be appropriate for all of us, no one religious tradition could possibly serve all of us. And in fact I know people in SCA who don't belong to any organized religion, but who are deeply spiritual people.

What I have seen for myself in my recovery is that my spirituality, just like my program, is constantly changing. For example, I have never really been very good at praying, and yet at difficult times I have relied heavily on prayer. The serenity prayer has been a mantra for me at times, and its importance and meaning have been unfolding and growing for me over the years. I have also relied a lot on the prayer in the AA Big Book which asks our Creator to remove our defects. [Page 76 of AA Big Book, and page 45 of Hope and Recovery. Ed]. 

Actually, one reason I find it hard to pray is that I have never believed in a personal God. I don't think of God as a spirit or a being. I tend to think of God simply as the way things are. And if you're even remotely like me, you'll understand the problem with that is that I like to see things the way I want to and not the way they are. I fantasize; I fabricate; I deny. The more I am in touch with the world as it is–life on life's terms–the more I feel I am in conscious contact with God. How can I manage to see life the way it is and not the way I want it to be? Well that's the $64,000 question, isn't it? I don't think there's any one simple answer to that question. I do many things to support myself in seeing life as it is. I talk a lot with program people; I go to meetings; I do sponsor/sponsee work; I read spiritual texts. I meditate four or five times a week. In Soto Zen Buddhism, meditation is the fundamental key. We call it zazen, or simply sitting. When we sit, we sit cross-legged on a pillow facing a wall and we let our thoughts come and go without attaching to them and without resisting them. In our day-to-day lives we tend to give our thoughts a lot of power. I begin to think about someone I don't like at work and what he did Friday afternoon, and I become angry and tense. Over the weekend the thought can easily compel me into a bad mood.

I begin to plot revenge. Monday morning I drive to work early so I can park in a certain space to annoy the person, and it just goes on and on. Zazen is an opportunity to practice letting go of being manipulated by thoughts and of manipulating them. To me, that is God's will for me: to quit letting my thoughts play God, to have thoughts come and go without compulsively being at their mercy. In other words, to let go and let God.

Perhaps the most important thing I've discovered about working the Eleventh Step is this: I don't think we need to have it all figured out before we can work the step. We don't need to be able to define or understand God before we can work the step. The process of finding what God means to us is the process of working the step. I have asked more than one sponsee this question: How does God figure into your recovery? There is no one definitive answer. It's a question I need to pose myself every day. It's not as if I ever intend to fully understand the question, but I've learned that I don't need to understand God to have conscious contact with God or to carry