Faith is the essence of the unseen. I could not survive without believing in God, my Higher Power. Although I was raised in a Presbyterian Church, my own faith is a personal matter. It has more to do with a gut-level feeling than theology or religious dogma. My parents became alcoholics through no choice of their own. My mother used to drive under the influence with me in the car. At eleven years of age, I was calmly telling her when she was going off the road.
My folks died a year apart when I was in high school. Both of my sisters became alcoholics. I studied self-help books; I studied psychology. I tried to understand what had happened to my family. I tried to find what to do to keep it from happening to me. According to the statistics, I should be alcoholic. Grace of God, I’m not.
I begin having depression and I went to a counselor. I found out that I have recurrent depression. When I looked it up, I found that many people who suffer from it try to self medicate with drugs or alcohol and become addicted. It was like a light bulb coming on in my head. My great-aunt always said, “In our family, you’re either in the bar or the Amen corner, there’s no in-between.”
So, my family has a real spiritual need. We have had many ministers and elders in the family. We’ve also had a lot of alcoholics. We also tend to be intelligent and arrogant. This is not a good combination when you need help. You are too smart for your own good. You think you can fix yourself and that no one is as smart as you are.
My depression turned out to be a good thing. I accepted that intelligent, or not, I couldn’t fix myself. In pursuing counseling and eventually taking anti-depressants, I had to accept my own limitations. Accepting my own limitations and accepting my definitely flawed self saved me from the family arrogance. Guess what? I was human after all and no better than the next person.
Accepting my own powerlessness, gave me a strength and power I had never had. I had to turn to someone greater—God. I like the terminology Alcoholics Anonymous uses, my Higher Power.
I had survived and not become alcoholic, not because of any virtue on my part. I strongly believe that God had a purpose for me. I also felt that any change for the good in me was not due to me, but due to calling on my Higher Power.
The Serenity Prayer says it all to me. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” I have accepted that the recurrent depression is part of my life. I have accepted that my intelligence, or whatever qualities that I have, cannot fix everything. I have also accepted that my Higher Power can love me in spite of my flaws.
It does not love me because of anything I do or I am. It loves me because of its nature. When I surrendered the power I didn’t have, I achieved power. I can always call on my Higher Power. I can always turn over to It the problems that are too great for me.
I came back home to care for my grandmother, who was very controlling and difficult. The last five years of her life, I could not have survived without my faith that my Higher Power could do what I could not. I loved my grandmother, but alone I would not have made it through dealing with her, her debilitation and death, and all my family members.
I was way beyond my own abilities.
The Higher Power I trust in is Good, an ultimate good. It does not depend on our following the rules, or wearing the right clothes or going to church every Sunday. When we accept It’s existence and our own powerlessness, It is there.
This doesn’t mean everything is always wonderful. This doesn’t mean that I will always get what I want. This doesn’t mean that I won’t have bad things happen to me or those I love. It simply means that I can rely on a power and strength not my own. In the dark reaches of the night when I consider all the things that can happen, this reliance is an anchor.
Faith is the essence of the unseen. I cannot touch it. I cannot see it. It is not measurable. However, the belief in my Higher Power is crucial to my own existence.