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Finding Spirituality

By Teesie Vallero, Dan Anderson Renewal Center presenter

Teesie ValleroThe topic of spirituality is a broad one. In early recovery, it occurred to me that it would be necessary to sift through the religious beliefs I'd received throughout life and come to know my true beliefs. It was a process that required time and effort; to separate my concept of God from a religious concept to a spiritual one. The greatest tool in this endeavor has been the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The first three steps of the Program guide us gently to the space of the spiritual. Step 1 asks us to acknowledge our addiction and our powerlessness over it. For me, this was the first time I'd been honest with myself about myself in many years. Step 2 asks us to open our hearts as well as our minds to the concept of a Power greater than ourselves. In Step 1, we experience honesty. In Step 2, we experience open mindedness.

In approaching Step 3, we are opening to the willingness of trust – a trust that will allow us to decide to turn our lives over to the care of a Higher Power. This is our personal concept of a Higher Power, and One we believe in whole heartedly, trust, and understand with all the willingness we possess. In these first three steps of the Program, we experience the three essentials of honesty, open mindedness, and willingness that are written in Appendix II of the Big Book, entitled "Spiritual Experience."

In March 1988, I arrived at Primary Treatment. For the previous twenty years, the only Higher Power in my life had been alcohol and drugs. My re-awakening to a Power greater than myself occurred, while still in treatment, on a rainy afternoon early April. We had all been confined inside for days due to the continuous rain. To break the monotony, one of the graduate students came up with the idea for a game we could all play indoors. We were all immediately excited that we were going to participate in live entertainment!  

The grad student got her hat and began writing words on small pieces of paper. She folded the pieces and placed them in the hat. She also supplied a flip chart, a three-legged stand, and markers. We were divided into two teams, and each woman chose one word from the hat. The object of the game was for the others on your team to guess your word correctly by the pictures you drew on the flip chart. No talking or gesturing was allowed; only the drawing on the flip chart.

The word I had chosen was "alone." It didn't seem to me that this would be a difficult word to convey in pictures. I confidently approached the flip chart, chose a marker, and drew the earth with one lone person standing on it. My team called out all sorts of words. Nothing was remotely close to "alone." I added the sun, the clouds, the sea, fish, and an arrow pointing to the person in the Universe alone. Nothing close again. So I added the moon, stars, trees, animals, and another bigger, darker arrow pointing to the human figure alone in the cosmos; however, there was still no correct guess.

Suddenly I became gripped by a deep fear. I began to feel more alone than I'd ever felt in my life. This overwhelming feeling of fear came through my feet, up my legs, into my body, and through my head. This sense of being completely and totally alone was terrifying!

I bolted from the common space, ran down the hall, and into my room. I ran to the sliding glass door, slid it open and continued running out into the pouring rain. The driving rain brought me back into my body, and I instinctively jumped back against the building under the shelter of the eave of the roof. From the very depth of my being erupted these words, "Oh, God, please help me." It was in that instant that I'd come to believe in a power greater than myself. I actually experienced the words on page 55 in the chapter, "We Agnostics" of the AA's Big Book: ". . .for deep down in every man, woman and child, is the fundamental idea of God."

This experience was the dawning of spirituality in my life. I have never again felt alone, not since that rainy April afternoon in 1988. My Higher Power came into my life in that moment and has never left me. My concept and relationship with that Power, greater than myself, has evolved over the years. I can honestly say that it is this ever-evolving relationship that is the highlight of my personal recovery journey. I no longer ever feel alone. God is not only always with me, but also resides within me. These days, letting go and letting God is a matter of accepting all that is, as it is, not as I would have it, to the best of my ability.

When I returned home after thirty-five days of primary treatment and an additional ninety days at Kinnic Falls Halfway House, an old timer at a meeting of my home group said, "You know, religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those of us who've already been there."

I could understand that then and still do today. Keep it spiritually simple. Thanks, Bill.

Teesie Vallero is on staff at the Dan Anderson Renewal Center and the Midwest Institute for Forgiveness Training. She has a private practice as a forgiveness coach and Reiki master practitioner at the Well Healing Arts Center in Minneapolis.

Teesie Vallero is the presenter for these retreats at the Dan Anderson Renewal Center:

Recovery Matters, July 2014

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