Hello, I’m Masoud, a grateful recovering sexaholic. I have been sober for 17 years and 11 months. I am not a member of any other twelve-step fellowship.
I have chosen, for this session, to share my experience of Step 11, how to improve my conscious contact with my Higher Power. Conscious contact with my Higher Power helps so much to stabilise my recovery, to deepen my recovery.
My work, in the context of a Twelve-Step programme, to achieve a mature relationship with my Higher Power began at Step 2. I remember the initial work, taking me back to the God of my childhood, to the first spark of a relationship. I remember, when I was about seven or eight years old, I dreamed of a Higher Power while I was asleep. It was a very vivid dream, this dream of a Higher Power, of God.
When working Step 2, it was suggested that I try to visualise the Higher Power of my understanding. We did not have the book ‘Step into Action’ back then, nonetheless we had our own sense of the importance of trying to visualise the Higher Power of our understanding as we worked towards establishing a relationship with Him and trusting Him. I tried to recapture that picture that I had had in my dream. I felt there was something very profound in it.
Just on the point of visualising one’s Higher Power, it is important for me to mention the value of the inventory in the chapter on Step 2 in ‘Step into Action’. It asks you to list the people who held authority in your life over the years. For me, it was my parents of course, as it must be for everyone. But there were also teachers on the list; politicians, clerics… and on and on.
As I worked my Step 2, I listed the behaviours of all these people authority figures and I found that the behaviour of these people consistently fell short of their own standards, not to mention anyone else’s.
There was no Higher Power of my liking or understanding anywhere on that list. So, I went back to that dream I had as a kid to sharpen my impression of a Higher Power I could relate to. Then I went on the internet, dialling up pictures of God on the internet – we dialled on the internet back then. I entered the word “God” in different languages and 1,200 images of “God” came up.
The reason I am saying all this is to emphasise the importance to me of achieving in my mind a visual image of the Higher Power to whom I would build a trusting relationship. Around this time too I saw that I was not going to deepen my relationship with this Higher Power by studying books or researching on the internet; rather, I would achieve more by removing the blockages – those defects of mine – which stood between us. I saw now that my behaviours were anyone else’s on that list, that I was consistently falling short of my own standards and those of many others. Step 2 really helped to simplify my relationship with God; to connect distinctly and without effort, just like I did when I was a kid.
In that dream I spoke about, when I was seven or so, I saw what must have been a holy man; he was dressed in the style of a traditional Persian holy man – such people are revered in Iran; anyone who would kill or injure such a person would be cursed by society. In this dream I saw the holy man walking hand-in-hand in heaven with the man who had murdered him. And I asked myself, “How could that possibly be?” It occurred to me then that, of course, the holy man had forgiven his murderer.
When I first talked about this dream to my mother, she cut me short, telling me to “Shut up”, that it was impossible for anyone to claim to have God appear in his dreams. But after a time she grew curious and asked what the dream was about. When I told her, she started crying. When I saw the effect of forgiveness, how it could move such a prominent authority figure on my list, I realised the awesome power of forgiveness. From that point on, I worked harder at relating to God, getting rid of those defects of character which stand in the way of my conscious contact with Him.
When I reached my seventh anniversary of sobriety, I celebrated – because I like the number seven—by sending an email to Roy K. In my email I said, “Roy, I am sober seven years today. It is seven years since I last acted out. ” I expected a hearty congratulations, but his reply was short and caught me by surprise. He said, “Seven years sober, Masoud? That’s good. Welcome to SA.” He told me that, from now on, I should work as hard as I could to improve my conscious contact with my Higher Power so that I could practice Step 12 and become a tool in God’s hands.
I owe so much of my recovery to my sponsor. He has been hugely significant in helping me improve my connection with my Higher Power. There isn’t much between us in terms of calendar sobriety. What’s important for me is to know that I cannot trust my own mind. I cannot think my way through my own selfishness to better contact with God.
One of the best explanations of improving conscious contact with God came from my sponsor. He said that in Step 11 I need to be so transparent, so clear, so free of wanting things for myself that my Higher Power can easily talk to me, telling me what He wants me to do for Him—to be so well prepared by the previous ten steps that I am not praying for myself any more, only praying to do God’s will.
So, in the first ten Steps I ask for things for myself. Sure, they can be of a spiritual nature, my spiritual needs and wants; but by the time I get to Step 11, I had better be in a place where I am not asking for things for myself. If, by Step 11, I am still full of fear, stressed and worried; if I am still falling back on my defects of character to get by; if I have not practiced the virtues counter to my defects —the assets—or if I haven’t yet trusted God enough to turn my life over to Him; if this is how I am by Step 11, I can see my Higher Power smiling at me and saying, “Back you go and practice the previous Steps until you are ready for this one.”
This has happened to me as a sponsor and sponsee. Sometimes when a sponsee comes to me and talks about a specific problem and asks me what to do, I might suggest — even if he is sober for many years — I might suggest that he go back through the Steps again. It’s no different for me. If I am blocked by the same problem again and again, then I need to go through the whole process again so I can learn from these challenges that keep coming up for me all my life.
I believe that I achieve peak conscious contact with God in Steps 11 and 12. At this stage, I should be so rid of self-will that when I kneel down, I can comfortably ask, “OK, God. What do you want me to do for you now?” And so I move on to Step 12 when I can be of service.
I see now that in my Step 2 I attributed to my Higher Power many of the attributes that I had seen in the people on my ‘Authorities’ list. In the case of my parents for example, I thought that because my father was strong and impressive, then so was God; and that because my mother was forgiving and compassionate, then God was too. But then, I attributed to God some of my parents’ defects, like for example when they were short-tempered and beat me. I saw then that I needed to continue working my Step 2 until I achieved an understanding of a Higher Power to whom I could relate and trust. The best way to do this was by working through the columns of the Step 2 inventory, seeing what attributes I had given to my Higher Power from my parents and from the other people on my ‘Authorities’ list, attributes which I would not commend in anyone.
I was guided by the spirituality of the programme as I worked the Step, attempting to achieve a balance between head and heart, between rationality and compassion. This balanced understanding of a Higher Power helps me achieve good spiritual health; achieve a deep emotional connection with my Higher Power. Whenever I do not have this connection, then my mind begins to fail.
To be practical for a few moments, I need to have a place in my home which is my own little chapel, my designated place for prayer. Just as every room in a house has a designated purpose, kitchen, toilet, whatever, there should be a place for worship where I can feed my soul and get rid of the things in my soul that no longer serve me.
On my trips to India, I saw that people do that a lot. For example, someone at a shop, say, even a very small shop, a barbershop where only one person could be seated; yet, in the corner of the shop, they had a small sculpture of a Buddha. In the morning, when they arrived for work, the first thing they would do was go there and pray; then they would start working.
I am not saying that unless there is a specific place for worship in the house it’s not going to work. What I am saying is that the first thing I need to do every morning is connect with my Higher Power. That takes care of my spiritual needs. Every morning, on my knees, I ask Him to reveal His will for me and I commit to doing His will until I go to bed.
That is about all I have to share on improving conscious contact. Just to say in conclusion, it’s interesting to consider when we read in ‘The Problem,’ that the problem is physical, emotional and spiritual; well, in Step 1, we deal with the physical and the emotional parts. But from Step 2 on to Step 12, the focus is on the spiritual part of the problem. This tells me that the emphasis in my recovery needs to be on my spiritual condition. We have seen so many times in this program people who struggle to stay sober and others who are sober many years but are not enjoying their sobriety; if you dig into it you’ll find that they haven’t worked that much on the spiritual side of their recovery.
I believe if we focus more on the spiritual side, we will be better equipped to deal with the challenges that meet us along the way. Even if that challenge is a relapse or a slip, if we have worked on the spiritual side we will be much better equipped to accept it, learn from it, and move on.
I don’t claim to have excellent conscious contact with my Higher Power. If I had, I wouldn’t make any mistakes in my day to day life, and this is not the case. But just this little connection that I do have enables me to see the good in others. For example, just a few days ago my father was passing away. I was there, standing beside him, praying for him as he lay dying. And I experienced a deep sense of gratitude for my father because, when I did my Step 2 inventory, I had realized that some of the good traits I attributed to my Higher Power, were traits that I recognised in the first instance in my father. One of these was his emphasis on the importance of doing good deeds.
Here’s an example from his life. My father used to go to work very early, opening his shop at 5 o’clock in the morning. I used always ask him why he opened so early. One day I accompanied him, the two of us cycling to his shop and when we got there, I saw that a young man who was a spiritual seeker had come to the shop. The young man bought just one egg and left. My father said then, “Now you understand why I come to work at 5 o’clock in the morning.” I realized then that some acts might seem small but good deeds no matter how small can have a huge impact.
Hi, I’m Nancy, I’m a sexaholic. Thank you so much. I feel like what you shared was so wise. My question is, when you get overwhelmed and your head is in a muddle with all the problems and hustle and bustle of daily life, how do you recover peace of mind and that conscious contact with your Higher Power? How do you maintain and sustain it?
Yes, there is this spiritual teacher who says, “Every human being should have at least 20 minutes of meditation time per day, unless that person has a lot of things to do in which case he should meditate for an hour a day.”
This holds true for me because my connection with my Higher Power gets disconnected when I have a lot of things to do, when I have a lot of mental obsessions. The busier I am, the more I need to have that prayer and meditation time. I’m not saying that I can do this all the time. I would like to get to that state when I could just connect with my Higher Power all time. But, yes, that’s the way that I do it… whenever I feel disconnected I try to go back to the idea and the image that I have of my Higher Power. If I still don’t have the connection, then I just call my sponsor and do whatever he tells me, do whatever it takes, to establish that connection again.
Hi Masoud. You mentioned in your share that if someone follows a spiritual path and has a relapse or a slip, that it would not be so destructive; that he or she will have acceptance of it and get back into recovery. But the way I understand it, if someone is following the spiritual path in the first instance, then he can’t relapse. It is mentioned by one of these Sufis, by Rumi. He says, if someone falls in love with a Higher Power, they will not be obsessed with the self.
So, my question is, is it possible that someone who practices the spiritual principles of the program can still relapse?
The question is partially answered in the question. When someone is in love with a Higher Power, it is difficult to relapse. Of course. If it is a loving relationship, then it is very difficult for him to relapse. However, it is very idealistic to think you can maintain such a degree of loving relationship with a Higher Power all the time. We even have a piece of literature which says Recovery Continues, if I am not mistaken, and there it mentions that the relationship is one that continues, develops. Progress, not perfection. If someone has tried hard to live a good spiritual life and slips, then it’s not like a computer game where you have to start all over again from the very beginning. This is not to say that I approve of relapses. I’m not saying that relapses are part of recovery. I am saying that if someone practices the spiritual principles but still, through weakness and circumstances, has a relapse, he or she will be better able to recover, to get back on the path again, than someone who has not been practicing the spiritual part of the program.