Growing Up Religious
I never had any intention of growing up and becoming a drug addict. It just sort of happened. I saw things I’d been sheltered from my entire life. I did things I swore I’d never do.
I was born into a way of life where God, and the Bible, were more important than anything else. I grew up a Jehovah’s Witness with a loving family. I was raised with spiritual principals and a deep love for God. When I was around sixteen, I switched high schools. I ended up with friends who were Jehovah’s Witnesses and friends who weren’t. My family always warned me “bad associations spoil useful habits,” but I just heard another restriction being placed on my life. I started becoming resentful at my upbringing.
I never felt connected to the religion I was raised in. It was what I was supposed to do, not what I wanted to. I went through with the motions, trying to be part of a life that was so important to my family. I thought religion was the only option if I wanted God in my life. I was either a Jehovah’s Witness, or I was nothing. I chose nothing.
I felt being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness was the reason I didn’t fit in anywhere. I couldn’t celebrate Christmas. I couldn’t date the boys I wanted. I felt different than everyone else (turns out most addicts feel this way, but I didn’t know that at the time). I became angry at God.
How Dark It Is Before Dawn
Just like I was angry at God, I thought God was angry at me. I thought God was angry at me for smoking cigarettes, for drinking recreationally, for having premarital sex.
Being angry at God is a dangerous thing for an addict like me. I had this empty, and ever growing, hole in my chest. This space, as a child, was filled with God’s grace. This hole was painful, shameful, and unbearable.
The shame I experienced for dishonored my family only brought me to darker places. Soon, I was spending all day, everyday, trying to numb my feelings. I’d do anything to distract myself from the pain and anger I felt as soon as I opened my eyes each morning. I was exactly what my family never wanted me to be, a junkie. I didn’t care about anything besides getting high.
After a couple years of couch surfing, and the occasional dirty apartment, I moved back to my parent’s house. This quicker my spiral to rockbottom. I saw, everyday, just how badly I was living. Shame, guilt, and love for your family are powerful motivators. I finally confessed to my parents all of what was going on. They immediately went into “save our daughter” mode.
I was ninety pounds. All the life had left my eyes. I was a walking dead woman. It was horrible for my family to see me this way.
My Experience With a God of My Own Understanding
My family placed me in a treatment center, where my real work started. I was afraid to believe in God. I thought if I believed in God, I’d have to take responsibility for how bad of a person I was convinced I was. In treatment I was given a gift.
My therapist told me early on that I wasn’t restricted to believing only what my family did. This was the first time I’d ever heard those words. I always thought I was a Jehovah’s Witness, or nothing at all. For the first time in my life, I could choose a God of my own understanding.
It took me a few days to believe this was actually true! Soon, I got a sponsor and began working the twelve-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. My sponsor also explained I was free to choose whatever conception of God I wanted.
I created my own God. This God was all about love and forgiveness. A lot of the concepts I used came from the religion I was raised in. However, I put my personal spin on God. I was raised with good morals and spiritual principals. Once I learned to accept my family’s way of life, I was free of all resentment towards the Jehovah’s Witness religion. In fact, I feel that being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness gave me some help while learning learning how to live God’s will. I was created by a spiritual being, but let myself get in my own way!
I’m no longer a Jehovah’s Witness, but I do have an amazing Higher Power. This Higher Power’s brought me from the darkest misery to the most beautiful happiness. I have a great relationship with my family. Today, we can talk about God and life without anyone leaving the room.
I was given the gift to have my own conception of God and my life’s been nothing but wonderful since!