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  • Perspective: Something on the Inside

    by Joe S.

    I am First Nations of the Algonquin Wolf Lake Band.  I am very proud of my heritage. This is the first part of spirituality – being proud of where I came from and of who I am. Another big part to me is that 2000 years ago a Man came to earth and He taught us to love one another without conditions.  This is spirituality at its finest – to love unconditionally.

    I grew up in an alcoholic home with my brother and mother. My dad walked out on me at an early age. My brother was very violent. I didn’t grow up on a reserve but in little town in Quebec, northwest of Ottawa. We were the only native people in that town. My mother, God love her, taught me about my native traditions as a young man. But I started drinking at an early age and did not hear any of it.

    When I sobered up I started to learn about my native culture and traditions such as the sacred medicines: tobacco, sage, cedar and sweet grass, and the seven grandfather teachings: honesty, love, humility, courage, respect, wisdom and truth. These are the same principles as in AA. Today I want these traditions to be a part of my life.

    My last drink was on October 23, 1990 and I remember it like it was yesterday.  I had my very first spiritual experience that night. Something happened to me that was very powerful. I looked around the bar I was in and I did not want to be there.  I did not want to drink and I did not know how to stop. I was at a place of destiny with nowhere to turn but back to God. What a place to be.

    I guess at that time you could consider me an agnostic. God’s Grace entered me for the first time in my life that night. What an unbelievable moment. I do not believe we know when we are going to take our last drink because if we knew we would not need AA or treatment centres.

    My second spiritual experience was when I came back to a meeting and again something happened to me. I felt the Grace of God in that meeting.  I had been around AA since 1984 but had never surrendered. That night at the AA meeting the word God was mentioned and my fists clenched and I got upset. I was agnostic then so God meant nothing to me.  I wanted to leave but something on the inside of me told me to stay and listen.

    An old timer at that meeting said something and the penny dropped for the first time in my life. I heard what I needed to save my life. He said to join a group, get a sponsor, get active in your home group and put the word God on the backburner for now. He said keep coming back until you come to believe in something that makes sense to you.

    I could join a group and I could get a sponsor, this I could do. I did not know what to expect but I could deal with this. All I had to do was to get to meetings for now because there I knew I would be safe.

    I got a sponsor and we got to work on the steps. I started to come to believe in a Higher Power and I started to call that Higher Power God. Alcohol was my Power for a long time and now it was God and AA. I was praying every day, asking for help with my sobriety.

    My wife started to trust me again. We have been together for 30 or more years now. I put my wife through hell when I was drinking. Today I have a choice.

    What does spirituality mean to me? Spirituality is a part of surrender. It is also being okay with who and what I am today. Spirituality is helping another human being with no thought of reward for myself. Spirituality is from within. To find your own Higher Power or spirituality you need to wade through all sorts of different ideas and traditions to find what appeals to you, what you like and what makes you feel good.  A genuine relationship with God – that is the true essence of Spirituality.  God lives on the inside of me today.

    God gave me my life back – that’s His gift to me. When I help another alcoholic get sober, that’s my gift back to God.

    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 alumni@renascent.ca.