How I Reconcile Free Will in My Recovery from Addiction
In these increasingly secular times, I make no apologies for my faith.
“Hello, my name is Corax, and I’m a Christian."
I don’t identify with any particular denominational theology or congregation — but I’m pretty sure evolution is a thing. I’ll not be damned to hell for my fashion choices. And fitting two of every animal into a big boat without them eating each other would be an administrative nightmare.
I don’t think God gives a rat’s arse if we’re born fancying people of our own gender, both, or neither. I’m not sure what my view on abortion is, but I’m certain that it’s not down to me to make a woman’s decision for them anyway. I’m a feminist, but I don’t believe that God is a woman. Or a man. When it comes to that bone of contention, I’ve never really been able to work out why God would feel the need to have genitals — it seems like it would be something of a pointless inconvenience.
I believe that my personal relationship with God is a far more reliable guide than a big book. I’m even open to the idea that all faiths converge at heart. My Christianity boils down to love God, trust in Christ, be nice to each other — the rest of the dogma all just seems a little trivial.
I’m probably a heretic. I await the angry mob at my door with bated breath.
Nonetheless, as far as I’m concerned I’m a Christian, a follower of Jesus. In fact, even at my most sorrowful and despairing, repeatedly relapsing after losing my job, my relationship, and my home — I never lost my faith for an instant. I’ve never asked God why he’s forsaken me, fully cognizant that it was me that wasn’t in the mood to listen.
I’m also a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and new AA members will notice that God is mentioned a lot. Especially in the bits of text used to open the meeting. I see the looks of fear on their poor bewildered faces, wondering if they’ve unwittingly joined a cult. It’s crossed my mind to tether a goat in the corner, just for laughs. Funnily enough though, in the group I attend most frequently I’m one of only two alcoholics that believe in him (or her, if you like). Others find their ‘higher power’ elsewhere, most frequently in the fellowship of other recovering alcoholics.
Whatever works for them, I’m all for it. If it keeps them sober that day then it’s cause for celebration. I can’t help but feel though, that it must shade my experience of recovery in a slightly different colour to theirs.
In particular, it's my understanding of free will, and divine intervention.
A lot of Twelve Step recovery is about submitting to a Higher Power, admitting that you’ve tried your damndest to beat it on your own, and been about as successful as Sean Spicer trying to form a coherent sentence. Giving in, and letting your Higher Power — whatever that may be — take the reins.
For me, that bit was easy. I firmly believe that I suffered over a decade of alcoholic torture for a reason, and that all the mental, emotional, and physical agony will eventually be for the good — somehow, somewhere.
Those rides in the ambulances, seizures, shame, vomiting of blood, injuries and incontinent episodes will all be put to use. I don’t know how that will be, but I figure that God’s probably a bit brighter than me, so I’ll not waste my time worrying about it. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t understand about the way the world is — but with technology these days I’m not even as smart as the phone in my pocket, so that’s hardly surprising. I don’t think I’m ‘chosen’ or ‘special’, I just reckon the Big Man (or Woman or the Big It) has a plan mapped out.
And a lot of people struggle with that once they start to analyse it, because they see a conflict with the idea of free will.
But we (like it or not) are temporal beings, and we find it incredibly difficult to think outside of our mundane constraints. For us, time is a linear and constant thing. That’s what we experience every day, no matter what Einstein tells us about it. If you’re not already familiar with the ‘twin paradox’ then go and google it now, and tell me you don’t feel like your brain’s been put through a blender. Physics at school mainly involved dangling weights from springs; I never knew how awesome and messed up it could be. And that just involves variations in the speed of time; it makes no claims on influencing its direction.
Essentially, we’re quite shit at thinking outside of our own frame of reference.
But God, however you may understand him (or her, it, whatever), is meant to be omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. Why should God be constrained by time then? Even us jumped-up monkeys have established that all it is, is another dimension — no different in essence from up and down, forwards and backwards, or left and right.
So if you take time out of the equation, things start to look a little different. Instead of standing on Now, with Before behind you and After in front of you, you have the entirety of existence presented to you all at once. It’s a tapestry, rich and colourful, detailing everything from the big bang to the eventual heat death of the universe.
And phrases like ‘free will’ and ‘divine intervention’ become meaningless. You have your free will, because you’ve already made the choices you’re going to make. Look, it’s in the tapestry just there, those topaz threads just next to the picture of a windmill. That divine intervention has already happened as well. Or has already will happen. Or something. I’m not sure we’ve developed the vocabulary to get the tenses right yet.
It’s at this point that I realise that my shoulder’s damp, and that my brain’s started dripping out through my ears.
It’s an idea that I can’t claim to get my head around fully. But that’s okay, because I’m a temporal being, living in a temporal frame of reference. It’s okay that I don’t understand; it’s enough just recognising that it’s there to be understood. By someone much brighter than me. Or by the 2025 release of Siri, probably.
And through that, I can be very comfortable with the implications on my recovery. I can ask God to keep me sober today, and to guide my thoughts, words and deeds. I can ask God to make me fit with the world around me, and the world fit with me. That doesn’t encroach upon my ability to make choices, or anyone else’s. It just already has will happened.
About the Author
Corax is a recovering alcoholic with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Having lost everything due to alcoholism, he’s now in the process of rebuilding his life from scratch in a spirit of acceptance and optimism for the future. Writing creatively is one of the things that vanished from his life when drink took over, and he finds great joy at welcoming it back home. He’s a lifelong supporter of Tottenham Hotspur FC, which has possibly traumatised him more than anything else. Corax can often be found annoying people on urban75.net. He’s also attempting to grow some stupidly hot chillies.
Corax’ blog is Circumstances Allowing and deals with life as a recovering alcoholic as well as anything else that crosses his mind. Get on board quickly, before it’s bigger than Kanye. Then you can say you read it before it was cool.