Fooled into Faith

April fool’s day is said to have begun as far back as 1632 when prison guards in Nantes laughed away as the Duke of Lorraine donned peasant garb to escape from prison one April day; the guards assumed it was a prank. The first of April has become a day of harmless hijinks and tomfoolery.

I celebrate the day for a different reason.

We weren’t a religious family growing up. My mother practiced astrology and served up a slew of new-age spirituality that I resisted the way a child resists sunscreen. A product of public school, I never contemplated God until World History Class.

The teacher spoke in monotone. He slouched his shoulders and walked with his hands swinging side to side instead of straight ahead, like the world’s slowest speed skater. He taught me how the church in the Middle Ages sold indulgences—tickets to Heaven as I remember them—to turn a profit during tough financial times.

The intellectual seeker in me banished contemplation of the Almighty. My dad told me if you don’t know who the sucker is at the poker table to look in the mirror, and I was not about to be some patsy, waiting in line for a phony pass to the hereafter.

I perceived self-reliance as the ultimate trait. Fittingly, when I was stumbling through a sleepy Mexican farm town in a drug-induced psychosis—my first day sober—I carried with me a Dylan flip-book inspired by his “Subterranean Homesick Blues” video, two packs of Camel Cigarettes, a scribble-pad for my non-sensical musings, and a hardcover copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance.

Like a Shakespearian comedy, I was tragically unaware of the irony that a life of self-will left me utterly powerless and insane. When I stripped naked in the church, perceiving a crashing wave through my body that was most likely another bout of withdrawal, I left Self-Reliance with all my other possessions in that church 185 KM  south of the border.

My first admission that I was alcoholic was painstaking. I thought in my battered heart that admitting I’m alcoholic would be admitting I was insufficient. But that day, when my intellectual pride left me unable to read the prayer I was given to start the meeting, I was fooled. With nothing left in my scrambled brain, I uttered “My name is Mark and I’m an alcoholic.”

My mind reeled—they tricked us. What the hell was that? YOU lock it up!

But it was too late. My body experienced a rush of endorphins and I had to laugh when the group of 28 men responded in unison “Yes you are!”—this tradition was reserved for newcomer defiant knuckleheads like me.


My fear of being a fool was transformed into my greatest strength: faith.


 

Searching outside of myself for power was not a sucker’s move as I had thought for so long. It was empowering. I have strength today I never imagined existed. Whatever your concept of a power greater than you is, imagine for a moment the ramifications of it working in your life. The force behind the cosmos and distant galaxies, behind this expanding universe and our ever-expanding globalized species, cares for YOU—wants to help YOU—wants to solve YOUR problems. 

If reliance on faith has not been your cup of tea, it’s April 1st, try on a pair of new shoes, and if they fit, wear them.

You just may be fooled into a life beyond your wildest dreams, as I was. Perhaps the greatest joke played on us mortals is the bliss of simple-living, how the miracles of simply being infuse our mundane work-a-day woes and trifles with jaw-dropping wonderment.

16 Responses to “Fooled into Faith

  • Anonymous
    1 year ago

    Wow this post makes me angry! Angry at you for posting it, angry at me for being angry about it and just angry about everything because I can’t stop drinking for good. The whole God thing makes me angry, attending several AA meetings near where I live makes me angry cos they were full of the most miserable unhappy people on earth I have ever seen – that is ALL OF THEM not just the wannabe sober people but the real life sober people. When I listen to people bang on about AA I always think ‘wow come to a meeting near me and you will be back on the sauce within an hour’ I am happy for you and want what you have but I cannot bear the thought of going into one of those meetings.

  • Anonymous
    1 year ago

    Sorry, just to clarify. I get what you are saying and realise the anger is all mine but I am baffled by how people can have these epiphanies in a place where I only saw more unhappiness than ever. Is that me or could it be the meetings by me are unique? I am speaking from the heart and totally get what you are saying, I too would try to intellectualise the whole god thing and I would be holding On Walden Pond. I am just jealous of sobriety and angry I am not there but I’ll drag in anger for other things to suit my purpose.

    • Dear Anonymous – I am so glad you visited and posted your thoughts. I’m used to people commenting that agree and relate more than anything, so to have someone come in with some personal truth with where they are is really refreshing. You are the reason I write and post my friend. These epiphanies or moments of clarity occur at different stages for different people. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. It doesn’t make it any more right or wrong.
      All that anger–you sound like me when I came in! Although I wasn’t as willing. I had no place to go because I was in Rehab so I had to sit and hear what other people had to say. The main thing I learned in those 28 days was that I am better off identifying IN rather than identifying OUT. Meaning, I need to listen for similarities, not differences. If you don’t like the meeting you’re at F’it, find a new one. The internet has great resources as well, podcasts etc. Many of them are here on this blog. Click around, comment like you’re doing. Get feedback.
      Last thing I’ll add my friend is that I have a disease, I’m convinced, that wants to get me alone so that it can kill me. There’s not much else in this life that I am positive is true. If you relate to what you read about alcoholism, stop feeding it fuel. Get with others, listen, share, get angry, get sad–eventually, I found joy in sobriety. And better than joy, I no longer obsess over drinking and using. Please keep me informed with what’s new with you Anon. Connect, follow me on twitter or something. I don’t want this to be the last conversation we have.

      • Anonymous, don’t give up. Keep coming back. Mark I can’t tell you how happy I am that someone like you (YOU actually) are out here to minister to the anonymous souls as no one else can, except someone who has been there in those shoes before. Bless your heart….both you and your anonymous friend.

      • Ginger Groundhog
        11 months ago

        Hi Mark, how cowardly of me to post anonymously when I did this. I remember being 1 drunk and 2 angry that everyone, not just you, made this sobriety lark look easy and wonderful and….. not something I was able to grab onto. I am trying not to feel too ashamed about writing a somewhat attacking comment on your lovely blog and I wanted to come back here to reread how angry and sad I was that I just couldn’t get it together. I most certainly felt I owed you an apology for my misdirected anger. I knew I was in the ‘last days’ and that my options were getting more and more narrow but I was railing against the facts and lashing out, well at you. I think I was angry that those times I went to AA I felt worse when I left and that oh God is this all I have to look forward to.
        Thank you so much for your lovely kind comments and understanding, I think that your kindness made my shame even worse as you were so humble in your answer thus proving that sober was better. I am sorry if my words hit you in any way shape or form in a bad way, obviously now I can see I was in pain and reached out by lashing out but no one deserves to have someone be mean to them.
        I only have 36 days today but I am working things out for the second time, 5 months was my previous stretch.
        Once again sincere thank you for trying to reach out to stroke the dog that bit you.
        Ginger

        • Hi Ginger!

          Those comments you left (as anonnymous) were the most important comments anyone ever made on the site. I truly mean that. I’m not out here trying to appeal to people with sober time who already know what I tell them. I want to help people who are struggling, who don’t see a way out. You are so brave for coming back to this thread and writing what you did. Wow! I can’t believe it. I want to share a story with you.

          When I was in my ‘last days’ I was psychotic. I stole drugs from my drug-dealer. I cut off all communicaion with family and friends. I knew it was my ‘last days’ too. And I didn’t give a shit if those last days were the last days of my life. I didn’t know sobriety and recovery were waiting for me. Just sitting there. How could I? I thought death was watiing for me!

          My first month sober I was a complete asshole to everyone trying to help me. I didn’t think my problem was alcohol. I couldn’t deny that cocaine was a problem, but alcohol and weed, how possibly could that be a problem? They were the only solutions I ever knew. When people tried to help me, I let them have it (this was in rehab). I told them to fuck off. I told them ‘how would you know?’ I was angry and lashed out verbally at people to cover up how badly–how desperately I needed their help.

          Ginger, 36 days! Congratulations. I have to add here that what changed things for me was getting a sponsor and working the steps. That’s when it became not so much about not drinking, but more about living life sober and happy.

          I really appreciate you coming back to comment and say what you did. I was not offended because I KNOW! I GET IT! That’s what I love about connecting with alcoholics. We ALL get it! We’re here for you. Always.

  • What a beautiful and inspiring story, Mark. Perfect timing, as well. I grew up in an ultra religious home and resume going to church in my mid-20’s after abandoning a relationship with God in my late teens. I rebelled because my mother was mentally ill and I simply couldn’t take the way I had grown up anymore.

    I’ve recently noticed that my alcohol-craving self began especially when I got away from having a good relationship with God…when I pushed him away. It’s time to renew my spirit!

    • Greetings Beth and thanks for visiting! They are called spirits for a reason. I’ve blogged this but I found the same TRUE relief in admitting I’m alcoholic that I found in a FALSE relief drinking and drugging. I believe liquor simulates that spiritual sensation we as addicts so desperately crave. Great conversation to get going. I will look forward to your next post!

  • Pat O'Riley
    1 year ago

    Great read Mark. Can relate to some of the story. Thanks for your work and time that you put into the website. Look forward to the next one.

    • Thank you much Pat! It is a labor of love. Kudos to my family who kept persisting I get my writing out there. I’m honored to have you reading it. -Mark

  • Brittany
    1 year ago

    This was so good! I can relate on so many levels. When I was younger my idea of who God was or what faith represented in a person was really just basic naivety or an inherent and flawed character; a weakness of their will as human people.
    Hello ego…it was so much of my problem and I called it intellectualism. Just my thoughts.

    Anyway, *brilliant post.
    Thanks for sharing!!

    • Intellectualism! Yes. I thought those people were weak. How untrue. People of faith or the strongest! I really feel our present culture is totally backwards. We don’t see the strength in faith, we definitely don’t see the strength in Humility. That stuff is shucked and people put on airs of confidence and strength–paradoxically–THEY are the weak ones. Brittany, you rule. So glad to see your name in the comment section.

  • Nice. 🙂 I like that “try on a new pair of shoes”. They do usually take some getting used to, don’t they?
    I hope it’s not the last you hear from Anonymous, too. Your advice was spot on, imho. I was told to keep looking until I found one I liked, or that spoke to me, I guess. If I’d encountered a bunch of miserable folks…why would anyone want that?! I can have familiar misery, doing it the way I’m used to! They need to read their books: “we are not a glum lot.”

    • They definitely do Abbie. I’m still not sure I found the right size-haha. Good advice for our anonymous friend.

  • “The force behind the cosmos and distant galaxies, behind this expanding universe and our ever-expanding globalized species, cares for YOU—wants to help YOU” I needed this right now, thanks Mark

    • Ritchie. I’m glad, man. It’s not a place I’m in often (that wild appreciation and awe place) but just because I’m not there doesn’t make it any less true. It’s how it is, in reality. I just have a knack for forgetting it. Have a great weekend!

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