Woman leaning against a tree smiling up

Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.

Let me start this post by saying I am not a religious person. I rarely go to church. My daily prayer is two simple words, thank you.  The God of my understanding doesn’t expect me to perform. There are no standards I must achieve in order to obtain his/her love.  In fact, I’ve come to believe God loves me most when I am the least lovable.  God loves me when I am miserable and cranky. God loved me when I was dope-sick and contemplating death. God loved me even when I stole money from my children’s piggy bank. Or lied to my family. God loves me when I feel beat up by life and uncertain. God is my strength when I am weary.

I did not grow up with God or go to church. But I heard about God. There were many who spoke his name. My friend’s mother spoke of him often. Listening to her, I thought God sounded mean. She spoke of hellfire and sinning. She was a thin, angry woman and I wondered if God had made her that way. My grandmother also spoke of God. Grandma said I was a heathen – I was an unwed teen expecting a baby. She told me I was going to hell. What grandma didn’t know, was I was already there.

I grew up in an alcoholic home. A home that was rigid and fearful and tense. A home exactly the opposite, of what I would call godly.

The hell I came to know was not miles under the earth. There were no burning infernos or little red devils running around carrying pitchforks. My hell was here on earth. It lived between my ears, in my mind. It was the way I thought and the things I said to myself. It went something like this; you’re a loser, you’re not good enough, you’re too fat, you’re ugly, nobody likes you. My thinking created anxiety. Because I did not feel worthy, I didn’t believe I should be treated with respect. I was abused verbally, physically, emotionally and mentally, in many of my relationships. But no one ever abused me to the extent I abused myself.  Now that’s hell!

When I went to treatment I was told to seek a higher power. I fought this suggestion. Why would I want God in my life? Besides, there is no God. Right?

But here’s what I learned. The reason I needed a higher power was up until then, it was me who was in charge. I was self-reliant and trusted no one. If I couldn’t trust, I would remain closed to new ideas and continue down the very same path I was on. If I remained closed to new ideas, I wouldn’t change. If I didn’t change, I would live out the rest of my days sick and miserable.

I didn’t believe. But I was willing to give it a try. I’m not going to say, I got God overnight. It was little by slow. Not waking up dope-sick helped. Having a clear mind helped. Going for walks helped. Trees helped. Birdsong helped. Saying prayers even though I didn’t believe, helped. Giving thanks helped. But nothing helped more, than love.

Or more precisely, unconditional love.

It was when people showed me love with no ulterior motives, when they loved me even when I couldn’t love myself, when they didn’t judge me for being such a mess, or a letdown, when they said words like, me too. That’s when I understood what God really was. The God of my understanding was unconditional love.

At first, I wondered if I had gotten it wrong. Could God be love? It wasn’t long before I fell into my old negative, thinking patterns. I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not worthy. When a thought flickered in my mind. God. My self-berating litany came to a screeching halt. I could not continue to abuse myself with such negative, dishonest thoughts. If God was love, I must apply love to my thinking. I am good enough. I am smart enough. I am worthy. By God, I am!

It might sound weird, but it worked for me. That’s the cool thing about this. You get to define your higher power as something that works for you.

It wasn’t drugs that made me an addict, it was the need to escape. I was in emotional pain. I didn’t know I suffered from anxiety or low self-worth. I thought everyone felt that way. The fact that I’d always felt different from other people, and less than, didn’t seem odd to me.

Instead of escaping chemically, I was taught to embrace my spirit. Each time I imagined love, real love, the unconditional kind, I moved one step closer to the God of my understanding.  I found that my emotional pain lessened through envisioning a higher power I couldn’t see, touch or smell. But I sure could feel it. It was safe, warm and comforting.

I’ve come to learn God is in all of us. If I have a problem, I share it with others. When I listen closely, God speaks to me through the mouths of you. It’s impossible to love myself and hurt myself at the same time. With God’s help, I am no longer dependent on alcohol and drugs. Today, I use to love.

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