Perspective: How recovery changed my Christian experience

by George Z.

faith-hope-240x180When I was asked to do this article I immediately said yes, but then wondered if I’d been too hasty in my reply. The first question that popped into my mind was “Am I really a Christian?” and then “How would I define what that means for me?” So this is where I must start.

To be a Christian for me now simply means that I try to follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as laid out in the main text of the New Testament. I see his teaching and my experience of that teaching in the same way my Buddhist friends describe their experience of taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. So as a Christian I would say Jesus is the teacher, the gospels are the teaching and the community is believers who try to practice the gospel of Love, Forgiveness and Service, while bringing others who wish to the same experience.

My religious experience growing up was Roman Catholic with a French-Canadian mother and an Italian immigrant father. The church was very important to them and it became important for me too. I was an altar boy (who helped himself to the wine), I went to Catholic school, and I had the requisite guilt about all things sexual — and learned what could cause blindness in a “good Catholic boy.” I remember the fire and brimstone sermons by Father Hogan, I was shaking in my boots … but alas teenage years and a public high school, booze, drugs, parties … the guilt was still there, but now I’d decided that if I couldn’t be good, I’d be good at being bad!

Thus was my confused sense of faith as I discovered recovery in my early 20’s. So I took the Big Book seriously and tried to rediscover the religion of my youth. There I found some amazing people who taught me about life — a life motivated by love and healing.

I discovered how to have real relationship in marriage, and the humility and “all in” approach of St Francis, St Benedict and Monastic experience. In John Main I learned how to meditate, the true meaning of the Christian sacraments, and a real sense that I could never be far from a loving creator, only closed off to the reality of that presence in my life.

St Francis modelled a literal poverty, Jesus spoke of poverty of spirit in the sermon on the mount (translated humility), St Benedict showed me that discipline is freedom. As I continued to pray and meditate and went more deeply into the steps of recovery, I discovered a universal language that had its roots in Christianity but was able to translate and communicate the central message of love, forgiveness, healing and service in a way that was open to all beliefs … a miracle if there ever was one.

So how would I describe my Christian experience in recovery? How well do I follow the principles of my faith? Well I guess I’d have to say I am able to be a good Christian “now and then” and although I practice that faith in a Roman Catholic Christian church, recovery has taught me not to confuse the flavour with the ice cream … the teachings of Jesus are the ice cream … the church the flavour. And I do like my ice cream!!

About the Authors

Renascent Alumni
Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email