Spiritualism & Alcoholism: Addiction & Recovery

I remember him picking me up.

I thought he was my coach and we were having fun. He seemed like a nice man; kind and supportive. Everyone liked him. 

I thought we were just wrestling. 

Then, he started to touch me. Handle me.

Hands all over my body, down my pants, grabbing at whatever they could before I tried to twist away. 

I remembering laughing, but inside it felt weird in my less than 10 year old body. 

I remember the day he took a video camera and told me he was going to teach me to use the urinal. I can never remember my exact age, but I wasn’t tall enough to reach the urinal. I can hear his voice in my head saying ‘Keep trying, you’re almost there’ as he filmed the whole thing. 

I was a kid and I didn’t know any better. 

I was confused and never said anything.

The memories got blurry quickly, until the next time I saw him.

This happened a lot in that basement locker room. 

It got worse over time—and, like my alcoholism and depression —it progressed. 

Ain’t that something: this man’s illness and my illness grew the same way. 

I remember the feeling of being forced, handled, abused. 

I remember it in my mind, and I can feel it in my body, on my skin. 

There’s a sensation with the memory of being used, it feels like there’s a knot twisting in my gut.

Sometimes I hear or see something - like a news article - that will bring up the memories. Sometimes it replays in my dreams. I’ve had this reoccurring dream about groups of men breaking in to my house and sexually abusing me in my bed. I wake up panicked and feeling helpless. I often get that same knotting pain right between my front ribs.

I try to connect and be present with everything that comes with remembering: the sensations, the physical discomfort, the skin squirming and the images. I turned it away for years and nothing changed, so I try to listen to it now. After dreams, I sit up, remind myself I’m okay right now, that it wasn’t my fault, and things usually settle down. 

I never thought of it as I grew up … well, that’s a lie - sometimes I did, but then I’d put on my headphones and my friend bartender would black me out. Like a good friend - and I don’t mean that sarcastically. 

He knew, he saw the pain and anger in my eyes, and soul: I didn’t want to talk … I wanted to hide in a corner and forget. 

Alcohol did that for me. In a perverse way, alcohol worked. It was a tool to forget, not effective in the long run, but it did it’s job in the short term. It made my depressions and actions more harmful, but I didn’t care because I couldn’t feel it. It’s hard to care about anything else when you don’t care about yourself.

Life moved on in this way.

I could never form a solid relationship, never fully trust anyone - one to one love has always been a foreign concept to me. I feared letting my guard down and I avoided getting too close to anyone, especially other men. 

I’ve had trouble dealing with men who hold positions of power over me yet I’ve continually wanted to live up to their expectations. This is an internal struggle, trying to satisfy these two opposite feelings at the same time. 

Some days I’d be okay to touch others and have others touch me, but other days I wouldn’t want to be touched or even looked at. 

God …what God?! A higher power wasn’t even in my consideration. 

Low self-esteem. No self-esteem. I felt I wasn’t good enough, and didn’t fit in. If anything ever went wrong, I’d turn on myself. It was always my fault.             


I could never figure out why I felt what I felt, why I feared and avoided, why the depressions got deeper and darker. Why every time something happened in my life, I just numbed out, ignored and dealt with none of it. Why I only ever trusted music, because any person or emotion couldn’t be trusted.

I never understood grief, or grieving. 

Bad things happen. 

That’s life. 

Move on. 

This was my mentality. 

In this world, it’s easy to push it down and disguise dis-ease with ambition, work, and ‘things.’ Work harder to get there, because being here is too painful. Trying to fill this hole inside, with things outside, I know now, never works.

By twenty-eight: I was done - ‘cooked,’ as they say. My mind was a rollercoaster. I had no control over emotions or thoughts and I didn’t know why. But I knew I was done. I was tired and my mind and alcohol had beat me down. 

Drinking had become the only way to relax, and once it started, it took over. 

Suicide had gone from a thought to a real, practical option. Every time I drank I was rolling the dice. 

I had lost the fight; the will to keep living. Many days I woke up hopeless; I had prayed not to wake up at all.

Very early in my second recovery, after a relapse, I remember telling my sponsor I needed to get things out soon - I was three months sober for the second time. He told me how to do step 4 and he wanted it done quick. Two or three days, he said - and we’re meeting for step 5 … get the big resentments out now. 

{In Step 4, the fearless and honest moral inventory, we write out our resentments, the events involved and our feelings about them. Resentments are the foundation of Step 4 as they illuminate our character traits, fears, attachments, habit patterns and why they exist. We see what we need to heal within ourselves, and with others, to move forward.  

There’s nothing left out of step 4, it’s a chance to honestly put my whole life on paper. The lying, cheating, abusing, family, friends, relationships, trauma - I had to put it all down - anything left out, left in my mind unchecked, could be the spark for a relapse down the road. 

In Step 5, we read our Step 4 to our sponsor.. We discuss past situations, play them through, and discuss options to resolve them. We talk about our emotions, what we did wrong, what we did right, and what needs to be cleaned up.

Step 5 lifted a big weight. It made me feel like someone understood and related to me. There was no judgement, nothing hiding behind the conversation.

You can check out all 12 steps here. It can seem like a simple process, but recovery programs don’t suggest anyone goes in to these steps alone. Reach out to someone with experience before doing this kind of deep dive work.}

These steps were intimidating and scary, but I had bottomed out and knew they were the steps I needed to take to move forward in life, to let go, and try to be free. It was time to begin clearing my side of the street.  

After my sponsor told me what to do, I got home and thought: ‘But I don’t have any resentments….’ 

I went and bought the folder to write out my Step 4. I grabbed a pen, sat down, and there he was: resentment number one. The man who molested me.

I could see his goatee and the outline of his face. 

I could feel his hands on me. 

I could see the locker room and the camera pointed at me from my right side. 

It was like it happened yesterday but this time, I was fully awake.

The human mind is amazing how it pushes trauma back in the file folder of memories to try to keep us safe, to not remember - things happened too quick, too fast, and at too young an age to process, so my mind hid it from me. I would remember this event briefly over the years, but never full details, and I’d often question if my mind was making it up. 

It’s like the event itself and everything that came with it was hidden in a cave, deep in my body and mind. It was controlling a lot of my life but I could never figure it out because I was so used to repressing it and just moving on - but it was always there, and here it was. 

I remember my sponsors face as I shared this experience with him in step 5.

He is the best, my sponsor - helped me through everything. Today, we mostly just laugh and joke, we get serious if we need to, but he’s a straight shooter and he helps me take care of issues quick before they balloon.

Beings who have been sober for many years, the ones who are happily sober, in my experience, see life differently. There is no dishonesty in their speech, they want you to live happy, big, sober and now. Their speech is steeped in experience of a higher power and an understanding of powerlessness and letting go. Some of the best teachings I’ve ever heard are from these beings.

What I remember most about my step 5 was the advice I got from him: forgiveness was the way to truly let this go. Forgive the man who repeatedly abused me. This was god’s will and the way to stay sober and move forward.

I understand now, after talking to others and accumulating a little sober time and connection with a higher power, why he encouraged me down the path of forgiveness. 

By all means, forgiveness was not my first choice to healing my past, it wasn’t even an option before this point. Violence was. I had planned to find this man and beat him with a baseball bat until he couldn't move, or walk. I imagined the day he saw my face, and I saw that same fear in him, which he put in me 23 years ago. 

But what my sponsor was trying to tell me, was that I must find a way to forgive, as a step to let go, so I could move forward. 

Happiness and sobriety is an inside job. 

I could change everything outside of me, but unless I changed my views, my perceptions and my beliefs, I’ll never truly live free of my trauma. 

Never be free from the weight of resentment. 

But there was no way I could do it alone. 

I know today that this is why it was suggested to me that I look to connect with some sort of a higher power. 

The steps talk about daily prayer and meditation, and having faith in following the will of something bigger then myself. I always heard others share about how their higher power helped them work through the steps, helped them change their thinking and actions, and with this stay sober, physically and mentally.

I had no god, no path, and I was never one for prayer, but meditation was something I was willing to try. 

I didn’t really want to, to be honest, but I was desperate. 

I started to meditate and read every Buddhist book I could find. 

I started going to temples, and groups.

I started asking questions. 

The readings talked about our Buddha nature: the true, big ‘S’ self and compassion within us all. The witness state of awareness, the acting body, the thinking mind, and the four noble truths. 

About forgiveness, letting go, and attachment to beliefs. The root of cause and effect and separating the actor from the action. 

I started to read about and try to understand emptiness, non-duality, and equanimity. 

There was nothing to lose. Slowly, to the best of my ability, I began to live by the ethics and teachings of Buddhism.  

This gave me a guideline on how to act and think properly. After years of drinking, over-working, trauma, isolation, depression and repression, I didn’t know what I liked or what was right, and I didn’t trust my mind or my decision making. 

The higher power was the path, the anchor for my recovery. 

The anchor for the process of forgiveness. 

I just had to choose to follow it. I’ll never do this perfectly, it’s progress, not perfection. 

Around 3 months in to 2 daily meditations, I felt for a split second that I was free from my mind. Viewing my mind think, rather then being thrown around by it. My body was calm and relaxed. 

This experience changed my relationship with meditation, my mind, my past, my body and my life. It gave me faith in the knowledge that within us all, is a true nature, an awareness, uninfluenced by our pasts, our actions and our trauma’s. Completely free, connected, egoless and loving of all beings, everywhere.

It gave me faith, that god lives within us all.

That meant that this must then be true for the man who molested me. That he was sick, and has probably had things happen to him which altered his mind and body, and drove him to commit these acts.

He’s suffering, there’s no way he’s not suffering. 

But he too as a human, is still rooted in love and freedom. He too is connected to all beings. His suffering became my suffering, and I can’t judge sickness, for I have also been very sick and have hurt many people. 

If we are all divine, and we’re always deeply connected to this divine, we would never intentionally harm another being. It is the trauma, the past which can drive our bodies and minds to act in harmful ways. 

Hurt people - hurt people, as they say in recovery.

It took me a year to understand this. I needed to forgive the actor, not the action. Forgive as a step to letting go. Not forgiving to condone the action, but forgiving the human being, who is also suffering, so I can move forward in life without this baggage. 

This distinction was fundamental in forgiveness for me.

There’s no side deals with god. I either followed the path as a law, and had faith in the process of forgiveness for all, or I let my bias say ‘No, he hurt me, he doesn’t get forgiveness.’ 

I know what happens if I don’t follow god’s path, because I lived that way and it almost killed me. 

For 3 months, I sat in meditation, pictured his face in detail, and sent him statements of forgiveness and compassion. 

May you be happy, may you be safe, may you heal, I forgive you. 

I did it in sets, like working out. Visualize him, 3 repetitions of forgiveness, let it go and come back to breath. Over and over and over.  

Meditation taught me how to stay grounded, present and non-attached to the outcome, to the event, and to my own beliefs and perceptions.

But of course, my mind was trying to make it’s own side deals. My mind is a tricky hustler, full of habits, always saying ‘but you fear this,’ and ‘this is my opinion!’ I tried to remember that day I viewed my thoughts, and remember to act from my greater awareness, rather then my habitual thinking.  

The mind is not inherently bad, we need the ego to live, and the personality to experience life and this great oneness of being human. But my mind was still recovering, and still got tangled up in emotion, memories and random thoughts. This is why the higher power helps in recovery, it keeps showing me the way. 

By the third month, I started to feel weight lift. I could feel myself beginning to let go of the resentment, the anger. I started to hope this man got help, and got a chance to begin his healing. 

I’ve thought sometimes about contacting him for a phone conversation one day. Not to yell at him, but to speak with another human who has suffered. To see if he has recovered, and to try to understand how he got the way he did. 

I learned through one of my yoga teachers that Compassion lives in the understanding that we all suffer at some level, and that we must direct our thoughts, actions, and speech toward freedom from suffering for all. 

After years of contemplating this and working with forgiveness, I decided a month ago to give my story to the police. I didn’t do this out of revenge or anger. I forgive him and have moved through this on many levels but we, as humans who take action, need to be held accountable for our actions, whenever possible, and these types, all types of abuse, need to stop.

I want to do everything I can to stop him from causing suffering for other children, if he hasn’t recovered himself. 

A few months after my step 4, I started to get very low again, and I wasn’t sure why. I was suicidal, cutting and scraping my arms. A friend from my group suggested I go see Dr. Steve,* an addictions / trauma therapist. 

I worked with Dr. Steve for a year and a half. He helped me process my trauma’s cognitively and physically, and taught me how to integrate this work with Yoga and meditation. We talked about the higher power, Buddhism, Yoga, forgiveness and the science and facts behind trauma. 

To be shown how trauma effected my thinking, acting, mind and body changed my perspective on working with it and I learned the valuable lesson that often times, even though recovery and the higher power is there, outside help was needed.

Recovery of any type is not linear. For me, it’s been a combination of the 12 steps, therapy, Yoga, meditation, Buddhism, drumming, shaking, studying and reading. There’s no one right way. There’s no good or bad. Whatever works, works, as long as I stay open minded.  

I’ll never be ‘done’ never be ‘healed,’ it’s progress not perfection. The trauma will never disappear, the past will never change, but how I perceive, grow and learn from it will, one day at a time. 

I have the power now, we have the power now. 

I never knew how much sex abuse effected my life, my mind and body. 

After 2 years of recovery, meditation, yoga, and therapy, I started to share deeply about childhood sex abuse in recovery meetings. It’s only the last month I’ve begun to speak about it more publicly. I only told my immediate family 2 weeks ago. 

Every time I speak about it in a group setting, at least 5 people come up to me and tell me their story about childhood sex abuse. Half of those are usually men. We often have so many experiences in common. For all of us, childhood sex abuse is something that effects our lives in so many ways. You are not alone. There is support, so please reach out. 

A life full of happiness and freedom, after abuse, depression and addiction, is possible. 

I remember being molested and I can now recall in detail the events themselves. I remember where I was, and where I am now. I remember the people who have helped me and the path that has led the way, so far. But mostly, I remember the humanness behind suffering, the power of forgiveness and the life that lives beyond letting go. 

• Dr. Steve is a made up name.

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