“We must remember that ACA is a spiritual and not religious program. Faith and religious convictions are not requirements for ACA membership…yet, a Higher Power is a key part of the ACA way of life.
Many adult children have assigned the traits of their dysfunctional parents to God or a Higher Power. If their parents were shaming, vengeful, and inconsistent, then their God tends to the the same. Some adult children describe having a “gotcha God.”
…..One purpose of Step Two is to introduce the idea of keeping an open mind on the possibility of a Higher Power who can restore sanity. In some cases, our Higher Power helps us create sanity or wholeness for the first time in our lives.” p. 106,107, ACA Book, Chapter 7.
The nature of spiritual experience is often clear as mud. That is to say, it is highly personal and likely you are the only one who can describe it accurately to yourself. But one thing that ACA’s can explain readily and tend to share in common is the suspicion of a Higher Power. We all have the question, like a force field of resistance around our hearts, if God is so great, then why did I have to go through such hell?
This question often keeps us from opening our hearts and minds to the work of a Higher Power in our lives that can truly restore us to sanity. It is very difficult to become powerless and surrender to a Higher Power that we cannot trust will be there to help us put the pieces of our lives back together. Difficult but not impossible.
We know from human experience over millennia that suffering is a part of being in the world. In fact, the ACA book states that the love deficit an Adult Child’s experiences approaches Holocaust dimensions.(p. 438) So we know that we have suffered and in that suffering, the experience of trauma is still real for us, in fact, the emotions associated with traumatic experience are actually bonded to our very cells, according to Tian Dayton in her book, “Emotional Sobriety.” We know that we are in dire need of a program to re-program the information stored in our very cells. ACA is that program and we are here to restore our very lives.
Our first few steps in the 12 Steps ask us to risk trusting a Higher Power to restore us to sanity. But, how do we risk trusting a God or Higher Power who seemed to not notice us until we began recovery? This is a hard question and we can only each examine our own experiences to find the true Higher Power within. But the Higher Power has been in us since the beginning, this is the original self, the created being in us all that is present with us, even in suffering. To trust in a Higher Power is to trust that within us all lies a realm of healing and strength that we have not been able to access fully until recovery. Many of us have to work through layers of shame in order to perceive our Higher Power, to see a tunnel of light within. We often project shame onto God or our Higher Power because we feel it so intensely in our culture. These shame emotions may be bonded to us in ways that make it difficult to distinguish between shame and our Higher Power. But, over time and through our recovery process, we begin to be able to tell the difference. We need to understand that shame is pervasive in our culture at a very deep level and it is toxic to our systems.
“Darwin observed (shame) as a part of all cultures, both primitive and advanced, and one can identify it even in animals. For the person growing up in an addicted environment, shame becomes not so much a feeling that is experienced in relation to an incident or a situation – as is the case with guilt – but rather a basic attitude toward and about the self. ‘I am bad’ as opposed to ‘I did something bad.’ Shame can also be a condition imposed culturally from without or by living in a family that does not accept you as an individual or is ashamed of itself within the larger community. Shame can be experienced as a lack of energy for life, an inability to accept love and caring on a consistent basis, or as a hesitancy to move into self-affirming roles” The ACoA Trauma Syndrome, Tian Dayton, p. 107, 108
Layers of shame can not only effect our bodies in a physical manner (Tian Dayton) but can also prevent us from taking our recovery steps. But the only way we can begin to address shame in our lives is to take these steps with our hearts and minds each day, trusting that our Higher Power is there. It is frightening to let go but we can trust this Higher Power to lift shame from obscuring our hearts, showing us that there is joy at the center of chaos. If we are really honest with ourselves, we might admit that we have suspected there is spiritual treasure in us all along, we may have always longed for a process to discover it. We have survived long enough to arrive at the door of our souls. Now, through recovery, we take the steps to our authentic selves and we begin to experience the stabilizing power of God in our lives.
Prayer: I will trust my Higher Power to remove the layers of shame from even my very perception of Higher Power. I will seek a deeper contact with my Higher Power through meditation, step work and service. I will ask my Higher Power to be revealed in my consciousness today as love, self-love and love for others. I will risk walking away from my feelings of shame.