Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Pagan Alcoholic: Sharing Experience, Strength and Hope

I’m thinking of listing this blog on Witchvox, and some other places. See, this was never really intended to be self-therapy only. I really had this hope that maybe out there were some other people, some pagans and some drunks maybe, who would gain something from my experience, strength and hope. That sounds egotistical, but really I am not expecting anything to come back to let me know if this has happened.

Being a pagan in Alcoholics Anonymous has been somewhat tough at times. Down here in Texas it is fairly common to hear about Jesus, the “other big book” and church during meetings. Most times I don’t have a problem with it. When others speak of these things they are talking about them in the context of their own personal recovery experiences and I think that is appropriate.

When I share about being Pagan, about seeing God as female, about magick, about my experiences of the Divine I can sense the cold reception I get in most AA meetings I attend. I don’t share about this stuff often; most times it would be inappropriate. There are rare occasions where my specific faith bears a mention because it relates to the topic. Then I do share about my spiritual path and then I feel the disapproval.

It is important to note that not everyone has a negative reaction. Some are positive, some are curious.

When I am asked to lead the “Our Father” at the end of meetings, I do not get cute and try to do “Our Mother” or anything like that. I do not like the tradition of saying the Our Father at the end of meetings. I don’t think it is worth fighting over though. If I lead the prayer, I do what I feel is most in line with the traditions and principles of AA and don’t seek conflict or controversy. I lead with “Our Father, who art . . .” It is not about me. It is about the newcomer staying sober and my theological dispute probably will not contribute to the newcomer staying sober. There is a time and a place to dispute the “Our Father” but the end of a meeting isn’t it.

I think that if I am having a tough time with this, then surely, somewhere out there is another Pagan who is struggling with this. Or maybe not even a Pagan, maybe they are Hindu and have difficulty with the subliminal Christian orientation in AA. Whatever. If my experiences help, good.

Resources for Sober Pagans on the web are few and far between. Most of the ones I found were old and inactive, dead links, abandoned Yahoo groups. I think there is a place for some kind of commentary or discussion about being Pagan and an alcoholic or an addict.

I actually feel pretty deeply that these problems are not necessarily uncommon in the Pagan community. I have no statistics to back this up. This is simply my impression. Looking at my coven of six (seven really but not officially) I see one alcoholic, two being treated for depression, four potential Al-Anons and three incest survivors. We got issues, baby.

Paganism/Wicca are valid spiritual paths and vital growing faiths. They are also fringe religions, barely a step above cults in the eyes of mainstream society. Simply being a part of these faiths puts you out of the norm. It is possible to suffer for practicing these faiths, you can lose your job and face harassment. People who are attracted to Paganism and Wicca do not tend to be middle of the road folks.

Many of us who practice these faiths, we are damaged people. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, we have been hurt. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I have met a single Pagan who does not have some major issue in their life. Not a one other than the kids. Alcoholism, abuse, addiction, incest, rape, depression, schizophrenia, chronic physical disability, you name it.

This is not to say we are lesser people. In fact, often the simple act of surviving long enough to have gotten to where we are today makes us extraordinarily strong people. We are survivors. In a world that teaches us that perfection is a desirable goal, we are wonderfully imperfect. Living in a culture where weakness is despised, many of us have turned our weakness into a strength. In this case, as in many others, the values of our society are skewed.

All of this is beside the point.

Anyway, the point of all this is, I am hoping that my experience will be of use to someone.