If God is for us who can be against us?

 

Is this not a strange way to open up our blog today? Depends. It centers around what our topic might be. Today our topic is centered on spirituality and depression.  As a member of a 12 Step fellowship, Depressed Anonymous,  we talk and reflect  upon the fact that  we believe in a Power greater than ourselves.  We also commit ourselves to the belief in Step two  that “a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.” Following this  we reflect on Step Three which states  that we “Made a decision  to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand God to be.”

It was here at this point that Bill W., and Dr. Bob made a very important decision in how God would be presented  to the alcoholic, who  for many different reasons would reject the idea that the God of their understanding had their best interests at heart.  Their idea of what the “preachers” had to say about God was not what they were looking for. In fact, there were the “preachers” in New York’s Bowery, during the Great Depression of the 1930’s who set up store-front churches where the practicing  alcoholics come, get off the street, get a free meal, and hear a Christian message about salvation, redemption and  freedom from drink. But it appeared that some of the preachers emphasized hellfire  and fear instead of giving the alcoholic a way out that included a plan – a simple process of surrender and how “to turn over our will  and life over to  God as we understood God to be.”

I believe with  poet Robert Frost, who wrote that memorable poem, The road less traveled, where he was faced with a fork in the road, one road  went one way and one the other.  The one he eventually took was “the road less traveled.”

This poem speaks to me when I think of Bill W., the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, who by his personal experience with the God as he understood God, provided him with a way to understand God, not just a Christian God, a Buddhist God, a Muslim God, but a God as we understand God.  It was only when he had his own epiphany with God, did it prepare him to share this understanding with other alcoholics so  all could choose the God of their own understanding–not just the God of the Christian “preachers.”

This was the freedom that the early A.A., pioneers brought into the discussion where anyone could believe whatever they wanted about a Higher Power. In today’s modern world, you can find AA, NA, DA, Al-Anon in almost every nation on the planet.  If he had not traveled down a road that only God knew where it led, would we have the Twelve Steps be open to all, regardless of their own spiritual beliefs or religious dogmas.

The following is an autobiographical  account of Bill W.,s  own encounter with God.

“My depression deepened unbearably, and  it seemed to me as though I was at the very bottom of the pit. For the moment, the last vestige of my proud obstinacy was crushed. All at once, I found myself crying out,  “If there is God, let Him show Himself! I am ready to do anything, anything!

Suddenly the room lit up with a great light. It seemed to me, in my mind’s eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing. And then it burst upon me  that I was a free  man. Slowly the ecstasy subsided. I lay on the bed, but now for a time I was in another world, a new world of consciousness. All about me and through me there was a wonderful presence, and I thought to myself, so this is the God  of the preachers!” A.A. Comes of Age. p.63.

And finally, there was another road that Bill W., and others traveled and that was how one alcoholic talking with another alcoholic, sharing their story, would make all  the difference in the world.  It’s a simple story, one recovering alcoholic being open, honest and willing  to share their own painful story with another alcoholic, one person at a time. One day at a time.

I am one of those persons with whom a recovered  alcoholic shared his story. Today, I am celebrating  my 32nd year recovery birthday. I am a friend of Bill W.

Hugh

 

Drinking Depression

Drinking depression: One man’s story of recovery from alcoholism and depression and the parallels between the two.

I have had experiences with alcohol abuse since childhood. I have also struggled since childhood with depression. I quickly learned to rely on both.

I call this paper “drinking depression” because that’s exactly what I did when I no longer had the alcohol. The following thoughts will express my feelings and the parallels that I have seen between these two addictions.

RELIANCE

There was always an excuse to drink, mostly I was upset with something. I should really say angry, for it was anger at the root of my depression that I was trying to suppress  in medicating myself. Later, I learned to do the same thing with my depression except to be in a depressive state High. I didn’t even have to leave the house and after awhile I didn’t want to break the cycle of reliance that dependency had begun. When I was absorbing alcohol into my blood stream I was now injecting the depression into my soul and absorbing it like a sponge.

FAMILIARITY AND COMFORT

As a recovering alcoholic I can look back on my drinking and see when I took comfort in being drunk because after awhile the numbness became the only way I could feel better because when I was drunk I could retreat into myself and not have to deal with everyday life.

The same escape tool was used in the form of depression. I could ball up like a woolly worm and the outside world was not going to hurt me. However, the more I wallowed in the darkness of my depression the deeper I got stuck in the mud of despair and hopelessness.

DESPERATION

In order to deal with alcoholism and depression I had to hit rock bottom. I had reached a point in both, that I had to call out for help or drown in my addiction. I called on my Higher Power to help me with my depression. With guidance of the holy spirit I am harnessing   my talents now and I am seeing incredible results. My recovery has not been overnight, but it is a day by day and step by step recovery process.

THE PHYSICAL

After some time had passed, the drinking affects the physical body breaking it down. Once I saw a film in which the brain of a heroin addict and the alcoholic were very similar. The depression I experienced also has physical implications. For over twenty years the way my body would respond from too much emotional stress was to pass out. Instead of blacking out from   alcohol I was using depression to numb my brain and myself.

THE SPIRITUAL

When I was drinking I felt alienation and guilt. I felt professing  Christians did not drink  and the more I drank the more guilty I became. I felt that much more distant from God the more I drank and spiraled further down into a cycle of despair.

In my depression I felt God had no time for me and that I was unworthy of his love. Again it was a carousal filled with guilt and anger going round and round so that I couldn’t get off the merry go-round.

SELF ESTEEM

When I was drinking, I was sure that no one cared or understood what I was going through so I had many pity parties and I was the guest of honor. Why should I care if no one else cared- this was my way of thinking.

From painful experiences in my childhood I felt I was of no worth  and just taking up space. It has taken therapy and the support of family and friends to finally look in the mirror and begin to like what I saw.

HOPE

I have been sober over two years although  I often have the desire to drink.  I daily call on my Higher Power for help and march on one day at a time experiencing serenity and a release from my need to  take the first drink.

I have been in therapy for almost a year off and on, although in order to recover one has to stay with it. I have to take my emotional and spiritual healing like my drinking.– one day at a time and know when I can make it because it is only opening the door to the past can the light of the present get rid of the darkness today and have hope for the future.

It is my hope and prayer that this has helped you, the reader,  in some small way. It has helped me by writing about my experiences. May God put walls of protection around you so that the way ahead for you may be crystal clear and that today be your first step towards recovery.

God bless.

—Steve P.  A member of the Louisville Depressed Anonymous Group.

 

Spiritual Kindergarten

 

“We are only operating a spiritual kindergarten in which people are  enabled to get over drinking and find the grace to go on living  to better effect. Each man’s theology  has to  be  his own quest, his own affair.”  Letter. 1954.

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“When the Big Book was being planned, some members thought that it ought to be Christian in the doctrinal sense. Others had no objection to the use of the word “God,” but wanted to avoid doctrinal issues. Spirituality, yes.  Religion, no. Still others wanted a psychological book, to lure the alcoholic in.  Once in,  he could take God or leave Him alone as he wished.

To the rest of us this was shocking, but happily we listened.  Our group conscience was at work to construct the most acceptable and effective book possible.

Every voice was playing its appointed part. Our atheists and agnostics widened our gateway so that all who suffer might pass through, regardless of their belief or lack of belief.”

A.A., Come of Age.

 

I said to myself, “if I ignore it maybe it(depression)will go away.”

“There was a time when we ignored trouble, hoping it would go away. Or, in fear and in depression, we ran from it, but found it was still with us. Often, full of unreason, bitterness, and blame, we fought back. These mistaken attitudes, powered by alcohol, guaranteed our destruction, unless they were altered.

Then came AA (and DA. OA, NA,  Al-Anon etc). Here we learned that trouble was really a fact of life for everybody – a fact that had to be understood and dealt with. Surprisingly, we found that our troubles could, under God’s grace, be converted into unimagined blessings.

“Indeed, that was the essence of A.A. itself: trouble accepted, trouble squarely faced with calm courage, trouble lessened and often transcended. This was the A.A. story, and we became a part of it.  Such demonstrations became our stock in trade for the next sufferer.”

COMMENT: It was with my own experience with depression that I tried to deny that it was anything that could keep me from a life lived with hope and joy. I thought that if I just ignored it, like Bill W., stated so well above, it would just evaporate like the morning midst. Of course this just didn’t happen.

As I commented on this denial factor which is a big part of all addictions, I also came to believe that,  “well, what I am going through will surely pass. It isn’t so bad, really. I can put up with a little discomfort.”  Sorry. It didn’t work that way. And as I pointed out in   I’ll Do It when I feel Better  I said  ” we also learn that our depression is a defense and predictable and for some, depression is even come to be a comfort and as has been said before, at least one knows what they have with depression. And to change and risk removing this numbness is better not to be undertaken  because it’s better to know what one has than to risk getting something worse. Much like the example cited before of the debate within ourselves to go to the dentist for the toothache or just tough  it out and hope for the best.  We call this denial.” Page 17.

To examine more literature about depression and using the Twelve Steps in your personal recovery , please taker a look  at VISIT THE STORE here at our website.

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SOURCES:

1) As Bill sees it. Page 110.

2)  I’ll do it when I feel better. (2014)  Depressed  Anonymous Publications.                                  Louisville.

3) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

 

6 ways to help you through depression.

1) Don’t bottle things up: if you’ve recently had some bad news, or a  major upset in your life, try to tell people close to you about it and how it feels.  It helps re-live the painful experience several times, to have a good cry, and talk things through. This is part of the mind’s natural healing mechanism.

2)  Do something: get out of doors for some exercise, if even for only a long walk. This will enable you to keep physically fit, and you may sleep better…This will help you take your mind off those painful feelings which only make you  more depressed when allowed to sweep over you.

3) Eat a good balanced diet: even though you may not feel like eating. Fresh fruits and vegetables are especially recommended. People with severe depression can lose weight and run low in vitamins, which only makes matters worse.

4) Resist the temptation to drown your sorrows. Alcohol, actually depresses mood, so while it may give you immediate relief, this is very temporary and you may end up more depressed that ever.

5) Don’t get into a state of not sleeping. Listening to the radio or watching TV (it’s on all night now!) while you’re resting your body will still help, even if you are not actually asleep, and you may find that you drop off because you’re no longer worrying about not doing so!

6) Remind yourself that you are suffering from depression –something which many other people have gone through — and that you will eventually come out of it, as they did, even though it does not feel like it at the time. Depression can even be a useful experience, in that some people emerge stronger and better able to cope than before.  Situations and relationships may be seen more clearly, and you may now have the strength and the  wisdom to make important decisions and changes in your life which you were unable to do before.”

Source:  Depression: P.9. Pamphlet published as a service to the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

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I find these 6 ways as very helpful for anyone making a choice to change their behavior, the way they  feel and the way they think. With a fellowship of like minded persons, such as Depressed Anonymous,  there is a greater capacity to make better choices as well as to learn ways to gradually move out of the bondage of depression.

Sources: Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition.(2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

  The Depressed Anonymous Workbook (2001) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

THERE IS A PRINCIPLE WHICH IS A BAR AGAINST ALL INFORMATION…..

Most of us think this awareness of a Power greater than ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience. Our more religious members call it “God – consciousness.”

Most emphatically we wish to say that any alcoholic (or a person with depression) capable of honestly facing his problems in the light of our experience can recover, provided he does not close his mind to all spiritual concepts. He can only be defeated by an attitude of intolerance or belligerent denial.

We find that no one need have difficulty with the spirituality of the program. Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery. But these are indispensable.

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man  in everlasting ignorance — that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

— HERBERT SPENCER

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Source: AA Big Book. Page 184. THIRD EDITION 1976.

“WE NEVER APOLOGIZE TO ANYONE FOR DEPENDING UPON OUR CREATOR.”

In an effort to promote a spiritual sixth sense in ourselves as is discussed in Alcoholics Anonymous, we find that what is applicable to one addiction is also applicable to all  addictions. One enlarges their  personal  belief that there is a Force in our universe  which is bigger than ourselves. And as Step Three states in Depressed Anonymous , “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood God to be.”

“As God’s people we stand on our feet; we don’t crawl  before anyone.” AA Big Book (p.83).

”  We never apologize to anyone for depending upon our creator. We can laugh at those who think spirituality the  way of weakness.  Paradoxically, it is the way of strength. The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage.  They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead we let Him demonstrate, though us, what He can do.  We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us to be.  At once, we commence  to outgrow fear.”

AA  Big  Book, page 68.

“Joel Goldsmith a spiritual writer contends that the more we gain  this consciousness of God’s presence you have the whole secret of success in every walk of life.” He continues to remind us that  “there is an invisible bond between all of us. We are not on earth to get from one another, but to share those spiritual treasures which are of God.  Our interest in each other is, in truth purely spiritual. Our purpose in life is the unfolding of the spirit within..” (Goldsmith, Joel. The Infinite Way. Pages 145-146).

DEVELOPING THE VITAL SIXTH SENSE

“Much  has already been said about receiving strength, inspiration, and direction from Him who has knowledge and power. If we have carefully followed directions, we have begun to sense the flow of His Spirit into us. To some extent we have became God-conscious. We have begun to develop this vital sixth sense. But we must go further and that means more action.”  AA Big Book (p.85).

“…We now believe that we can tap into this God consciousness and let it unfold its plan, its purpose and mission for our life. It will not plan something small and insignificant but will, by small steps, lead us, cause to unfold in our lives what it has for us to accomplish”  I’ll do it when I feel Better. (p.45).

If we stick to the spiritual plan that God gradually reveals to us in the quiet moments of our reflection and meditation we can grab hold of the power of the Twelve Steps –integrating each one of the Steps into our consciousness –and moving out of the dark into the light. To accomplish this saving process of recovery we recommend the HOME STUDY PROGRAM and/or a Depressed Anonymous in one’s own community.

WE HUMANS ARE ABOUT CREATING MEANING! IS IT TRUE THAT WHAT YOU THINK IS WHAT YOU GET?

One of the main paths that leads out of the prison of depression is for those of us who are depressed is to begin  to believe that a power greater than themselves is what is going to set us free. Bill W., a cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous reminds us of the reality of that power greater than ourselves.

“I had always believed in a  power greater than myself. I had often pondered these things. I was not an atheist. Few people really are, for that means that blind faith in the strange proposition that this universe originated as a cipher and aimlessly rushes nowhere. My intellectual heroes, the chemists, the  astronomers, even the evolutionists, suggested vast laws and forces at work..Despite contrary indications, I had little doubt that a mighty purpose and rhythm  underlie  all. How could there be so much of precise and immutable law, and no intelligence? I simply had to believe in a Spirit of the Universe, who neither knew time nor limitation. But that was as  far as I had gone. ” Bill W., AA. p10)

Like any person addicted to a chemical substance, a relationship or a behavior, we know that our will power doesn’t get us free. Our disabling attachments are more forceful than the power of our wills. Our will is essentially like an alcoholic’s first  drink or that first dip of ice cream. (I have an attachment to ice cream!)

All of what I have written down so far (Depressed Once-Not Twice) has to do with creating meaning. Humans have as their occupation to constantly create meaning for their lives. Whatever we do has to have meaning for their lives. Whatever we do has to have meaning. I saw that my Dad was gone, my girlfriend was gone, a ministry of 20 years was gone, friends of many years were now gone, and my role as a Christian minister were gone, and most important of all, I had felt that I had lost myself. I lost touch with my real self. I felt alone and worthless. I even had the thought that if someone were seen laughing or having a good time  –this made me angry. How dare anyone could smile while I felt so miserable, This feeling made me think that my brain felt as if it were made out of cotton. I couldn’t shove another thought into my head –not even with a jackhammer. It was as if the cells of my brain were filled to the brim.

There was nothing that I could do to shake these horrible and painful feelings. My mind like wise  was unable to focus or concentrate on anything. My memory was affected and it was impossible to retain a passage from whatever I happened to be reading. I no longer could keep my mind on anything and to read even a paragraph from a book wore me out.

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FREE OF DEPENDENCE

” ‘ I asked myself  “Why can’t the Twelve Steps work to release me from this unbearable depression? ”  By the hour, I stared at the St. Francis Prayer:”  ” It is better to comfort than to be comforted.”

Suddenly I realized what the answer might be. My basic flaw  had always been dependence on people or circumstances to supply me with prestige, security and  confidence.  Failing to get these things according to my perfectionist dreams and speculations, I fought for them. And when defeat came, so did my depression.

Reinforced by what grace I could find in prayer, I had to exert every ounce of will and action to cut off these faulty emotional dependencies upon people and circumstances.  Then only could I be free to love as Francis had loved.

SOURCE: Bill W., co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous

THE MYSTIC EXPERIENCE OF BILL W., CO-FOUNDER OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS.

Granted that this site is not about alcoholism but about depression. But let’s face it, many of those addicted to alcohol are also depressed. I think many depressed try and medicate the pain with alcohol and then end up with two conditions that they need help with. We call this a co-morbid addictive illness.
A few days ago I wrote about the “spiritual awakening” that gave Bill the jump start that he had to have in order to quit his drinking. For Bill it came down to either lose (surrender) his life to this mystic power or to the disease of alcoholism. After this special illumination of the hospital room and to his mind, he knew he could not continue his drinking.
Bill describes his thoughts about this epiphany in the following light:
I was the recipient of a tremendous mystic experience or “illumination” and at first it was very natural for me to feel that this experience staked me out as somebody very special.
But as I now look back upon this tremendous event, I can only feel very grateful. It now seems clear that the only special features of my experience were its suddenness and the overwhelming and immediate conviction that it carried.
In all other respects, however, I am sure that my own experience was essentially like that received by any A.A. member who has strenuously practiced our recovery program. Surely, the grace he received is also of God; the only difference is that he becomes aware of his gift more gradually. Source: AS Bill sees it.