An Atheist’s Struggle To Find His Higher Power

Growing up, I honestly never even considered the possibility of their being a God or any kind of spiritual anything. I mean, my dad’s parents are pretty Jewish—or they were when I was a kid—and I remember when they took me to a synagogue for the first and only time, I complained to my dad that they’d brought me to “that God place.”

The very first thing I saw was a framed poster on the wall that said, in big, bold, black letters, “LET GO AND LET GOD.” I ran to the pay phone and called home. “Dad,” I said. “You gotta get me out of here. It’s a crazy religious cult where they talk about God and stuff.”

That was as much religious stuff as I knew about.

And another time at my aunt’s wedding when I was about five, my dad tells me that when everyone kept saying, “Amen” after the Rabbi read another verse from the scripture, I thought they were saying, “Hey, man!” So that’s what I was shouting out the whole time.

My dad obviously encouraged this religion-less childhood of mine. Hell, if anything, I was brought up to be vehemently anti-religious.

And not just anti-religious, but anti-God and anti-spirituality all together.

In fact, I’m pretty sure nothing but militant atheism would have been tolerated. And I never questioned that at all.

But then, when I was 18, I got strung out on crystal meth and I had to go to rehab for the first time. That’s when everything changed—or, well, when everything had to change.

I remember walking into the main group room and the very first thing I saw was a framed poster on the wall that said, in big, bold, black letters, “LET GO AND LET GOD.”

Well, that was enough for me. I immediately ran to the pay phone and called home.

“Dad,” I said. “You gotta get me out of here. It’s a crazy religious cult where they talk about God and stuff.”

My dad told me I was just gonna have to deal with it, because, at that point, he was willing to do anything that might help me.

And, well, eventually I got to that place, too.

That is, four or five rehabs later—after I’d started using needles and ended up on life support and blah, blah blah—I guess I was finally willing to do anything that might be able to help me. And so, for the first time, I started giving the whole God thing (or, at least, the Higher Power thing) a try. The truth is, I was never offered any other possible solution besides a spiritual one. I mean, not only is that the crux of the 12-step program, but it was the crux of every treatment center and rehab I went to as well.

So—what I did was—I tried.

I tried super fucking hard.

I went to 12-step meetings every day.

I prayed and prayed and prayed all day long.

I tried to do what I’d heard around 12-step groups was the way to experiment with prayer—you know, to try it out to see if it worked in my life so that each time I prayed and had a positive experience related to that prayer, it’s like I was gathering evidence in a scientific experiment. And it’s through that process that I was able to “come to believe” in a power greater than myself.

Because praying does work.

Or, well, it did for me.

Prayer made me feel better. It made me feel grounded and hopeful. It helped me to feel connected. And, I’d say more than anything else, it just helped to distract me. I mean, prayer thoughts help me replace the thoughts I’d normally be having—you know, thoughts about what a piece of shit I was and how much I’d fucked up my life. So prayer definitely gave me relief.

And so, I guess ‘cause I’m an addict, right? I kinda got addicted to prayer. I mean, there’s a part in J.D. Salinger’s book, Franny and Zooey, where the Franny character talks about how she’s trying to basically reach a state of constant prayer. She ultimately wants to have prayer be as natural and consistent as her beating heart. She wants prayer to become an unconscious, unceasing action. That way she will never break her contact with God and she will always be doing His will and following His guidance.

Once I stopped trying, that’s when everything changed for me. I let go of my need for answers and explanations and ideologies.


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