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April 1994

God-hungry

All alcoholics are searching for God; an alcoholic is God-hungry." I've heard this idea many times since I've been in AA. Until now I've believed that I began looking for God, Unwillingly and tentatively, after I came to AA--a long time after. Now I'm not

Now I think I was searching for God while I was still drinking, before I started on the program, but I just didn't know it.

When I was a child, I didn't stop to think about God. I went to church and said prayers just as I went to school and worked math problems. I did it because that's what I did and it didn't occur to me to wonder why. But as I got older, I did begin to wonder.

I never understood much about math, and as soon as I escaped from geometry in high school, math didn't trouble me any more. I never took another math class, and though I had to perform a few mathematical functions in the daily course of living, math stopped being bothersome to me.

It seems reasonable that if you don't understand something, you can put an end to a lot of frustration by avoiding the source of that frustration. So, I figured if I could shed the terrors of math by not taking any more math classes, then I ought to be able to get rid of God by not taking any more God classes--that is, by eliminating the church from my life.

Consequently, I severed relations with God just as I had with math and left it to other people to take trigonometry and to believe in God.

As a firm atheist in college, I had many arguments with silly people who believed in God. Over and over, I proved to my satisfaction that there was no God. I really enjoyed these altercations, especially the ones which raged all night long. I was very skillful in presenting my evidence, and the more I drank, the sharper my argumentative powers became. There seemed to be some relationship between my degree of inebriation and the magnitude of my brilliance--at least until I passed out.

Nevertheless, I considered my position unassailable. I knew there was no God and could list concrete reasons to support what I said. The believers said they believed just because they believed. Sloppy thinking--how were these people ever going to get on in the world?

After I graduated from college, I persisted in my unshakable assurance. I read dozens of philosophy books and books about religion. This, of course, was meant only to satisfy my intellectual curiosity, and as I read, I sniffed in my superior way at each religion and dismissed as untenable every philosophy which included a belief in a power greater than man.

I also wrote against God. One of my finest poems, inspired by a cigarette pack, paralleled God and the surgeon general. I explained in a series of quatrains that the surgeon general had diagnosed that smoking was dangerous to my health. I didn't know who this surgeon general was, though, so he was like God, whom I didn't know either and therefore didn't pay any attention to. The analogy made perfect sense to my scotch-soaked brain.

It seems I spent a great deal of time proving that God meant nothing to me. The odd thing about this is that while I had decided to live without math, too, I can't remember having one argument with a math major about the absurdity of his devotion to his field. After I turned in my geometry book I never opened another. And I never wrote any poems about math, not even a short one.

So if I could forget about math that easily, why not God? If all I wanted from arguing was the stimulation it provided, why didn't I argue about issues other than God? If I read only to fulfill an intellectual need, why were so many of the books I chose about religion and philosophy?

At the time, I couldn't admit or accept--nor did I even know--that I was searching for God. Today I think I was. Although I told myself I was stockpiling additional evidence that God didn't exist, I think I kept returning to the subject of God in all my endeavors on the slight chance that I might find a scrap of proof that he did. Then I would have denied this as adamantly as I would have denied that I was an alcoholic. And I conducted my search in the only way I knew--with my head, because I had no idea how to use my heart.

Now, the search is over. Math is still out, but God is in my life. I didn't get to know God by talking, reading, and writing. If I wanted to know how to ski, I couldn't learn by discussing slaloms with a skier, reading books about stem christies, and writing poetry about powder on the slopes. Those things might help prepare me to ski, but I wouldn't actually know how to ski until I went out and tried it. I'd probably fall down, get wet, grow discouraged, and break a couple of legs. But I would have learned firsthand what skiing is, and, if I chose, I could continue practicing so I could improve my skill and eventually stand up all the way to the bottom of the hill.

That's how my belief in God has developed. I didn't actually know God until I tried him. I've gained faith, lost faith, felt angry at God, and become discouraged. I've tried to hold on to my old ideas. I've had to fall and try again. I have to keep practicing to improve my conscious contact, but most of all I have to remember to use the proper equipment--my heart, rather than my head.

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