The power of prayer and meditation
The power of prayer and meditation in recovery is often extolled as essential in recovery circles, at least in those that embrace spirituality as the central theme toward healing. Prayer remains the predominant, spiritual power-tool of choice for those attempting to build a structure of spiritual recovery. It is a major proposal found in almost all religious denominations and there is certainly no shortage of prayer in the Twelve Step presentation, “Alcoholics Anonymous.”
Most people in recovery are familiar with some of the “Big Books’” prayers. In fact, I have all of the Twelve Step prayers together if you like and highly recommend them to every newcomer starting out.
Like many other recovered alcoholics and addicts in long-term recovery, I have several decades of experience to draw upon for information. In the over thirty years of living personal trials, including egregious errors as well as spectacular successes, I have discovered that nothing comes close to the life altering effects of conscious contact with God through practicing meditation. 
No human activity renders one more useful to God and to his fellow man than living awake, aware and God conscious. In this brief article I am going to attempt to convince you that this is true, then point you to a direct source. Hopefully that will also answer the question, “How.”
Obsession is a spiritual dysfunction
I work with a lot of alcoholics and addicts, not in clinical courses of treatment, of course, but from the spiritual angle. That is where the true source of the malady lies. Since the obsession, that causes addictions and alcoholism is found in spiritual dysfunction, it takes discovering the remedy for the ailing spirit to remove that heinous desire to drink or drug. In the course of that discovery we always get around to discussing conscious contact with God. How to get it. How to improve it and how the failure to make progress results in losing it.
How can you explain conscious contact with God?
They want to know what “conscious contact with God?” is. They want it explained to them. I mean, if I live a life that is continuously improving it, then surely I must be able to explain it, right? I can explain it about as well as I can explain what vanilla tastes like. That’s all anyone can do, and it just doesn’t quite do the experience justice. You have to sample it yourself to really know. What I can tell you, is where and how to find some. Then, once experienced, no explanations are necessary.
Consciousness of this order isn’t something to know. It is something to experience. Recovery is not a course of study that can be memorized like school lessons. It is a liberated way of living in the stream of experiences we call life.
Simple consciousness is nothing more than being aware of your thoughts. In each moment during the day that you are awake and aware, everything changes. Your present — your future. You are no longer making decisions but moving through each new moment effortlessly without deciding. There is no need to become involved in decision making because each new option before you becomes clear. It is a confident lifestyle. This simple consciousness, when combined with a yearning and willingness to contact God is something else altogether.
Connection guides our lives and our sobriety
The idea of establishing a deliberate connection with a Supreme Being for the purposes of receiving guidance and direction is a widely held spiritual goal, shared by many, including the co-authors of “Alcoholics Anonymous.” Once awakened and free of their deadly obsession, they propose three ideas designed to maintain that conscious state:
- Continue to enlarge the spiritual life,
- Improve conscious contact with God, and
- Grow along spiritual lines.
Not very concrete expressions are they? Rather ambiguous one might say. Enough so that students of spirituality have a very rough time trying to wrap their heads around it. Yet, the simple implication throughout the twelve-step method is clear: That an alcoholic can seek all the self-help, self-knowledge and human aid he can afford to access in the treatment of his condition – but unless he does all of these three critical things, his sobriety will not endure. He may relapse and perhaps die.
An ominous warning for sure and yet there is a powerfully positive side to this message. There is also the proposal of hope – that through these three ideas, relapse of an abstinent alcoholic or addict is virtually impossible. These are not merely interesting or optional concepts. In fact, they sound like something that the sufferer will need to do to survive his maladies.
Putting Step 11 into context
The good news here is that these ideas are not complicated at all and are interchangeable terms, amazingly simple to attain and can be wrapped up into one experience. Then understanding them at a deep level becomes automatic.
They each refer to a spiritual awakening event, an event that each 12-step practitioner is supposed to experience as he goes through the progression of activities designed to induce it. The Step 11 idea isn’t to seek conscious contact God, but to improve upon conscious contact with Him already established. The step assumes you already have it.
If all three mean the same thing, then for succinctness let’s pick one. Let’s pick the term actually used in Step Eleven, “Conscious Contact.” It’s the great catchall term and synonymous with “Spiritual Awakening. “ Being spiritually awake is conscious contact with God.
Until one is immersed into the Twelve Step spiritual way of life, it can be a surprise to learn that the goal of the steps is not to stop using and drinking. It is to have a spiritual awakening, establishing a conscious contact with God. Once that happens, the obsessive desire to drink or drug subsequently falls away. Then if the addict/alcoholic establishes a lifestyle that takes his initial awakening and improves upon it, bringing that state forward into each day, not only is there no chance of relapse, but his usefulness and personal attitude strengthens as time goes on.
Continue, improve, and grow
But what if the recovered alcoholic or addict doesn’t change much beyond that momentous event? It behooves the addict to remain awakened, if not for the sheer joy of living, then at least so the errors of his past do not re-emerge and wreak havoc on his life all over again. Once the initial spiritual awakening occurs, the trick becomes holding on to it by improving it.
Continue Improve and Grow—these are the active expressions for spiritual awakening – or simply put, “God consciousness.” This is not merely an activity of convenience – something to do once or twice a day or when the going gets tough. It is a psychic state of being carried all throughout the day, every day for the rest of our lives. Our human existence is dependent upon it. We cannot live well now or at all in the future without it.
Why emphasize meditation?
Why all this emphasis on meditation? When I write about “conscious contact with God,” I write about meditation because that is what I am all about. I am a one trick pony in this regard. When conscious contact with God is established, there is nothing else to worry about. Not any old conscious contact. There is conscious contact with self, with one’s own imagination and thoughts. I am not talking about that kind of consciousness. I am talking about conscious contact with the Supreme Being. That is the only kind that counts.
Conscious contact with God isn’t only for Twelve Steppers. Anyone needing to overcome any obsessive addiction, whether a substance or behavior, will find the solution to their problems the very moment they establish a God connection.
People have been seeking the path to discovering God long before the invention of the Twelve Steps. They have also been having spiritual awakenings—whether by divine vision, or even blinding bolts of lightning striking them in the head, does it really matter?
Although there are many practices called meditation, not all are the same. The meditation I use is a simple ancient practice of pulling back out of the stream of thought and becoming separated from thoughts so that consciousness can return from where thought has taken it. It is mindful but non-religious, non-contemplative and most importantly—it works. With nothing added and with nothing left out—too simple for many people, but when done correctly the results are drastic and life altering.
Liberation from the bondage of self
When we become conscious and freed from the sleeping state in which the world has driven us, where the force of resentment – hate, fear and frustration enters in to nourish and inflate an insatiable ego-self—we are instantly liberated from the bondage of self. Right then. Right there. No waiting. In that moment, our problems begin to drop away.
It is true that the elimination of drinking is “only a beginning.” Continuing to live in the God conscious, awakened state allows us to remain free from anger, gaining mastery over resentment.
In my case, I’ve been relieved from all my obsessions—not only the one which presents in an insane desire to drink but all obsessive behaviors, even those involving food, sex, drugs like nicotine and a host of others. Attention deficit disorder, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, obesity, smoking, drinking, major depression, anxiety and other dysfunctions are all gone. Peace of mind can be experienced
There is wonderful, personal peace of mind—with a security, stability and happiness that I share with my family. I wish there was a way to adequately convey the ease of living and joy that comes to me and my wife Nancy as we raise our physically, emotionally, mentally fit kids, but I cannot. Like vanilla, like God consciousness, like spiritual awakening—these must experienced for yourself.
Practicing conscious contact with God and improving it as we go along certainly does a good deal more than eliminating a booze problem. And practice means meditation. To leave it out of one’s daily life is to miss the very purpose of living.
About the author: Danny J. Schwarzhoff is a father, husband, author and prolific blogger. He likes steak, bananas, The New York Yankees, a perfect cup of black tea and just being Dad. A native of Queens, New York City, Danny currently lives on Cape Cod with his wife Nancy and their two teenage children. Email him at Pendum [at] dannyschwarzhoff [dot] net or just Google “recovered alcoholic” to find his other stuff.