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Pathway to Salvation

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I don’t consider myself a religious person. Although recovery has reconnected me in some ways to the religion of my youth, it does not define my concept of Higher Power. Too often a physical manifestation of Higher Power eludes me. As a child I yearned for the simple belief depicted in the church where I attended a youth program—a gentle shepherd smiling down upon the children gathered at his feet. He would protect, love and teach them. It confused me how my friends could consider this “human” their God.

I didn’t realize my view of God was no more reasonable. My God offered no warmth or comfort. He didn’t have a human form; he was just some shapeless, eternal entity in the clouds. I experienced God as indifferent to my childhood traumas, or at least incapable of intervening. I never thought human events involved God.

Most often I feared his judgment or the eternity of nothingness that came with death. Sometimes it comforted me to know God killed everybody, not just me. Many innocent people deserved a better fate, but I didn’t group myself among them. God became associated with my religion, which I rejected as hypocrisy: people talking about holiness, yet violating religious laws. I could not separate the “rules” from religion. I had no concept of spirituality.

As a young adult I chose art, literature, and especially poetry as my spirituality. I was “spiritual,” not religious, and was too sensitive to pain to survive the world. I felt total isolation, even as a poet. At my worst I could only spew adjectives of anger and hopelessness, which silenced my pen. Words could not convey the magnitude of my emotional wounds.

As my pain grew larger, my world grew smaller, constricting my interests to those things granting instant, brief respites from misery. Food filled this role, although for years I was oblivious to its lack of success. I was like a battered woman who stays with her husband despite the inevitable abuse. Who was I to expect better? Time and again food proved its destructive indifference to my well-being. Nothing anchored me to the world.

It was a miracle I survived those bleak years. Food played a major role in my survival, despite its progressive abusiveness. It deformed my body and imprisoned my spirit, but it helped me hold on until recovery found me. I did not know how to live without food or how to live a sane life with it. That admission of defeat was the pathway to salvation. I wanted to live; I just did not know how.

OA’s simple structure gave me a blueprint on how to live. My belief in my food plan and the support of the Fellowship made the frightening prospect of living without excess food manageable. The stories, transformed bodies and tangible new lives of recovering OA members proved it worked. I just had to do what they did. At last—a Higher Power I could understand! My belief in believing changed my life and my relationships with the world and myself. Following Good Orderly Direction was a relief from my constant thrashing to find my way.

To a large degree, I have not changed my view of the Fellowship because my Higher Power remains the same. I witness miracles, am granted freedom from obsession and have room for other sensations that “eat” into my daily life. I have space in my soul for the possibility of God and depend on this humility to survive. I need help to live. I never knew I could admit this. How could I admit it, then have it ignored or rejected and still find a way to keep going alone?

Now, asking for help is one of the most freeing actions I take. It quells my ego because I don’t have the power or talent to run the universe. I can experience gratitude for what I have been given, which is the highest form of spirituality I’ve known. I am grateful to be alive; to have my recovery; and to have the moments of clarity, insight and inspiration that accompany these gifts.

— Ellen S., Mt. Laurel, New Jersey USA

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