I’ve known people who have mocked me for my religious practice. Some have been coworkers. Some have even been friends.
What they don’t understand is that if it weren’t for God, I’d be still stuck in the hell that is addiction. My religious practice helps me to remember that, to give thanks for that, and to keep connected with God to keep the healing happening. Recovery isn’t a one-time thing, but a daily (sometimes hourly) struggle. You have to keep doing what you did to get sober, or you will quickly regress. If you aren’t going forward, you’re going to go backwards. There is no staying still in sobriety.
I have a tattoo of Raphael the archangel on my calf as a testimony to how God has helped me. When people ask about it, I tell them how Raphael’s name means “God has healed” and I tell them about what I’ve been through, and how God has pulled me out of it. They don’t get it – they say that I did the work. I tell them that it is God who gave me the strength to make it happen.
Part of my religious practice is to say blessings. There are hundreds of things to give thanks over according to Jewish practice. Food is just one category. There are blessings to be said upon seeing a rainbow, for hearing thunder, and even for buying new clothes. There is a blessing for almost any kind of human experience you can think of. Some rabbis state that you should say 100 blessings a day, and while that may seem excessive, just being on the lookout for that many things to give thanks about is the best game of hide-and-seek you will ever play.
When I say a blessing,
I’m not blessing the food
(or the event).
I’m reminding myself
that I am blessed
to have the food
(or experience the event).
I’m reminding myself
of the One
who made it possible.
It is modern to talk about mindfulness. Most people who practice mindfulness run as far away from religious practice as possible. However, I say that you can’t beat saying 100 blessings a day for a mindfulness practice. Looking for things to be grateful about and to give thanks over to the One that gave these gifts to you helps keep depression at bay.
I leave you with a traditional Chassidic Jewish saying – “When a man suffers he ought not to say, ‘That’s bad!’ Nothing that God imposes on man is bad. But it is all right to say ‘That’s bitter!’ For among medicines there are some made with bitter herbs.” Attitude makes the difference between an ordeal and an adventure. It is your choice. And my choice is to have a religious practice to keep me on the right path.