One woman’s 12-step path of recovery from debt addiction. Step Eleven involves prayer and meditation on the Higher Power’s will for us and for the power to carry that out
We connect with whatever notion of God feels legit for us, we do it regularly, and we try to get wise guidance from trusted advisors before we make any big moves.
It should be abundantly clear that this program is not about creating a budget and ticking off creditors, one at a time, as you pay them off. I mean, it is, but it’s also so much more. By the time I got to this step, I had already gotten over my resistance to the idea of a Higher Power. I know there was a bigger something to rely on that was not my own cunning and intelligence.
But prayer and meditation? How did this work?
Well. I like to make things as difficult as possible for myself. So when I heard this step I was like, OK, cool, I will need to get up at dawn, make myself a cup of organic twig tea and do a dozen perfectly executed Sun Salutations, sink into the lotus pose on my Manduka yoga mat, meditate for an hour, and then go out into my day on a cloud of such serious serenity that nothing would tip me off course.
As for prayer. I had a very different scenario in mind. To do this step properly, I would need to, like Laura in the Little House on the Prairie books, wait for sundown, don a pristine white nightgown, hit the floor on my knees, hands clasped, eyes downward, a heart full of fiery abandon, and I would then pray until God revealed his will to me. This fantasy also involved a log cabin in the woods, a crackling fire, and a friendly neighbour with a knowledge of the healing properties of medicinal plants. (Note that the two fantasies involved mixing both New Age and Old Tyme pioneer Christian elements; no matter).
The point of these two rather vivid and crazed vignettes is that I loaded up this step with all kinds of impossible-to-meet standards and then, when I couldn’t meet them, was tempted to abandon the whole endeavour.
So, like everything about this program, I had to commit to doing it imperfectly.
I know so many people in program who work this step differently. Some meditate in the morning, others at night. I heard a guy once say he meditates for two hours every day. Another who does 15 minutes. I know another person who does three pages of free writing every morning and considers this his meditation. I know someone who sets aside a formal time to pray, another who says the serenity prayer throughout the day and considers this their prayer.
No matter how people do it, it strengthens your program and helps you not to act crazy about money. For me, prayer and meditation help me to not react impulsively when I’m stressed, bored, lonely, etc.
READ STEP 12: My urge to binge shop won’t go away
What I’m really walking about is being mindful. And connecting to something bigger than me.
Prayer and meditation are a form of mindfulness for me. And they work.
In a 2017 study published in the journal Psychiatry Research, anxious people who took a mindfulness course where they learned several different strategies reacted to stress better and had a lower hormonal and inflammatory response than people who didn’t practice mindfulness.
And prayer? I came across many studies that claimed that prayer helped people cope with negative life events, that it might play a role in helping recovering addicts from abusing drugs, and that it helps with self-control.
The other thing I noticed was that this prayer and meditation deal wasn’t always a solitary deal. Although the images I had were of me on my yoga mat or by the infinity pool or in the log cabin, I often found I was doing this step when I was on the phone or out for coffee.
I have a limited understanding. I only have one brain and it often comes up with ideas that are, shall we say, of limited helpfulness. For example, my response to many emotions, including boredom, anxiety, despair, excitement, joy, loneliness and depression, is to shop or plan to shop. When I talk to other people who have time in the program, or are good with money, they give me brilliant perspective and insight. “I don’t have any money saved but I am feeling sad so I should go to Cuba, right?”
“No. No. No,” some kind soul will say. “Go skating on the weekend and have some hot chocolate, don’t go to Cuba. Save your money, go to a meeting, pray and meditate, write about your feelings.”
I know, I know. It sounds so so simple. But for a debtor, it’s so hard to think outside of the quick fix. I feel the presence of my Higher Power when I am talking to others. That phone call was Step 11 working in my life.
What I learned:
- Prayer and meditation don’t have to be hokey, they don’t have to be attached to any religion, they don’t have to be done perfectly. I just had to be open to the possibility of being open, as an old timer once told me.
- They work. They calm you down, they let you press pause on the urgency of your emotions. They are effective tools.
- So many ways to learn about this. So many. Every major religion has traditions around prayer and meditation. Yoga classes often include mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness smartphone apps now abound (my favourite is Calm)
- One of my favourite prayers is “Help, help, help.” When a situation is just too much, I find that prayer is very effective.
Jane Dough is a pseudonym. The writer has decided to remain anonymous