I am a recovering religion-aholic.
Yes, I just made up a word.
Two and a half years ago I chose to leave a church and get sober.
Religion did not work for me.
I tried it. I studied it. I listened attentively as others shared with me what it looked like to be a good Christian.
I wanted so badly to check that box. I wanted other people to see me as “good”.
BUT I just kept getting in the way. My very personhood just kept messing up my chances of being a “good” Christian. So, I quit.
The day I got sober from religion was also the day I started drinking too much.
The pain of quitting. The pain of not fitting in. It was all too much.
AND then I felt guilty.
Drink to numb.
Wake up with guilt.
This was the cycle and I lived there for a long time.
For me, recovering from religion was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was painful. Numbing felt easier.
One day I woke and decided I needed to stop numbing and start feeling. All that feeling made me strong again. I can now say I do not drink to numb, I drink because I love a good glass of red wine.
Feeling was a huge part of my recovery but so was looking back.
There were so many things I was “taught” over those eight years that I had to unearth. Messages that were inconsistent. Ideas of who God was and is that were just wrong. The effects of those years are still with me today and sometimes when I think I have turned a good corner – religion rears its ugly head and screams: “you are not good enough.”
I sometimes think religion needs a recovery group like AA where we can all sit around and talk about the lies we were taught, the conditioning we received, and the hope that we now have once we got sober.
Sobriety says: YOU are enough. You are loved by God.
Since nothing like this exists I thought I would share a story with you that still has it effects today.
In the summer of 2015, I had been a stay-at-home mom for three years. It was a LONG three years. Staying at home with young kids is exactly like that movie Groundhogs Day.
Everyday is a repeat loop – get up. Feed kids. Make sure they are well cared for. Put them to bed. Repeat.
I am so thankful I had this time with them BUT I am also tremendously glad it is over.
In the summer of 2015, I kept thinking I wanted to go back to work. I was really unsure what I wanted to do so I decided to solicit the advice of my pastor’s wife. I felt it was important that she pray with me and ask God to provide some direction.
Her and I decided to meet at a local park to discuss. We spread blankets out over the grass as we sat by the creek that ran through the park.
I share my desire with her to work again. I knew my season of staying-at-home with my kids was coming to end I just did not know which direction to go from there.
One of the things that religion convinces you of is that you can trust your leader. After all, they were commissioned by God, what is there not to trust?
So I trusted her. I trusted the advice she would give me. I trusted her to pray.
That day as we sat on the blanket by the creek she said to me, “You cannot work. You will have an affair.”
As she continued to speak she told me that God was warning her that if I chose to step out into the workplace again I would ultimately find another man and have an affair.
THIS terrified me.
I was so confused, why would God tell her that?
What about me is untrustworthy? Does the workplace really lead to affairs?
I left that day and resolved to not work. My marriage was more important to me than any additional money I would bring in by working.
AND for another six months I did nothing. I did not work. I did not share what she had said to me that day. I was ashamed.
Yet, something within me kept saying go back to work.
And by the beginning of 2016 that voice became louder than her “warning”. I got my real estate license and started working again.
It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It was probably the beginning of getting sober. Although, I did not know it at the time.
I also later learned that my pastor’s wife had had two affairs throughout her marriage. One with a person she worked with and another with her husband’s boss.
While I do not believe her affairs were any of my business of had I known in the summer of 2015 she was coming loaded with that experience I probably would not have taken her words so seriously.
She showed up that day with “godly” advice filtered through her own personal experience.
I believe she was well intentioned – just misguided. I was not her. I did not share in her struggles. My desire to work had nothing to do with my marriage. In fact, I wanted to work for the very opposite reasons.
Her own fears showed up that day and because I was so knee deep in trying to be a “good” Christian I believed her.
Even long after I started working her words would swirl through my mind as some sort of warning system.
I avoided men in the workplace.
I thought I needed to protect myself.
I finally realized I did not need to avoid or protect, I needed to trust myself. I needed throw off this SHIT advice and realize who I am.
I am loyal.
Who also happens to love her husband. A LOT.
Part of my recovery from religion has been to shift through the lies and accept the truth. AND most of that truth has come in the form of who I am as a person.
Do yourself a favor today: throw off those lies. Accept the truth even if you are SO unsure what that truth is.
You are kick ass person.
Don’t let someone’s misguided advice tell you otherwise.
If I could leave with any advice today it is this: don’t take shit advice. You are braver than that.
Your recovering religionaholic,