How to grow spiritually

I hate prefacing myself, but when I talk about spirituality, I anticipate objection and so I lead with, “I’m not religious in any way.” Organized religion is usually off-putting to survivors and people in recovery of every kind.

Working as a trauma therapist, I get asked a whole lot of questions about “God” and they’re most often asked from a place of anger, pain, and shame.

I’m not an expert on spirituality, but I have a whole lot of things that work for me, and progressively, they’ve become a lifestyle.

My friends in AA got me started in the right direction with the adage, “Religion is for people who are afraid to go to hell and spirituality is for those who have already been there.”

The first time I heard that saying, Pat Benetar’s “Hell is for children” played in my head. I started putting it together. The most devout atheists I’ve known are people who suffered terribly as kids. They would ask, “What kind of God would have me be born to such sick and selfish people?”

I offer them a theory based on life experience: A narcissist met a severely depressed codependent. He became the center of their world. They had children for what were assuredly misguided reasons and promptly ignored them. I don’t think a great bearded white guy in the clouds made that happen. I think crazy people fuck and sometimes, that makes a baby.

Conversely, while I don’t believe my Higher Power had anything to do with who I was born to, I do believe they’ve had everything to do with putting the amazing people who are in my life today on my path. Alternatively, I’d have to believe that I’m so clever that I found them all by myself.

I believe in a lot of things, but not coincidence or luck.

On top of all the other ways that I’m fucked up, I also happen to be a minister’s kid. I was raised in the church, taught to believe in the love of “Our Father” while I could not receive the attention or approval of my father.

For the longest time, I didn’t know how to refer to what I believe. I could not associate anything beautiful or loving with anything masculine. Through the literature of 12 step programs, I discovered that I was free to choose what worked for me. I combined that with William James’, “Faith is a bet you can’t lose.”

I chose to believe there was something and that it cared about me. I began talking to it, reasoning that in the worst-case scenario, I was just talking to myself, which is helpful.

I became open-minded and willing to learn. I learned how to believe in myself by allowing others to believe in me. I learned that chosen family is the best kind. I discovered that if I was going to spend my career serving others, that I must serve myself and allow myself to be served. Nothing else is sustainable.

Today it’s easy for me to have faith. I’ve seen too many miracles not to. I know this for certain: God loves drunks and junkies. I’ve sat with hundreds who should be dead and today they’re thriving.

The simple truth is that spirituality is about connection – it’s about having a relationship with something more powerful than self – whether that’s family, nature, or a 12-step organization. The more we connect and learn how to have healthy relationships; the results are inherently spiritual.