“ I wish to declare the riddle of God to thee. It is most important that this be done. Listen closely and understand.
The riddle of God is this.“God is what ye believe IT is. No man is wrong about the existence of God, and yet no man is right about his knowledge of God. There is no mystery in God except that IT is what soul believes that IT is. So the riddle is that: but all men will quarrel and argue about the greatness of God and their own knowledge of Him.
“Yet every man is right in his knowledge of God. But does this mean that the drunkard is as right as the great minister who preaches from the pulpit? Yea, I say that he, the drunkard, is as much upon the path as the preacher is in his pulpit. Ah, but this is justified in thy thinking. Each in his own place according to his understanding, Ah, but there is the answer.” If the drunkard seeks God through his bottle, and it seems irreverent to speak of both in the same breath, then let it be. But I mean to tell ye that the seeking of happiness, be it on a material plane or spiritual plane is the seeking of God. The ideal of the drunkard is to become drunk and unconscious so he can forget all and dwell within himself in a state of happiness. The God-seeker wishes to become unconscious in a state of inner silence to forget all and dwell in a state of happiness within. What is the difference? ” None I tell ye, for the drunkard may be closer to God than the God-seeker who with all his intensity for the SUGMAD ( GOD/ABSOLUTE BEINGNESS/INFINITE BEING) may drive it away. On the other hand, the drunkard will in his drunkenness forget himself, his selfishness, and false self, and it being this way, may have God’s mercy granted him and lo, enlightenment comes. ” Only two things pervade upon the seeker or the drunkard. Both must be interested in what they seek, be it God or selfish interest. Both must have concentrated upon what they are seeking, and in finding it must believe in it. ” The only difference is usually of character and ideals. but who knows what thy fellowmen has in his heart unless his tongue or deeds reveal such? And such is the riddle of God. God will come to anyone who needs Him, regardless of what their state of character or ideals may be. ” This is the riddle of God.” The riddle of God is this.“God is what ye believe IT is.”
I believed many things on my Journey to find this book….Stranger by the River. I believed that the war would never end. I believed the violence and fear of my childhood would never end. I believed that God would never love me because I was a drunk.
My first “god” was my Mother.
I feared her and wanted always and in all ways to please her. I could not. I did not. Not when I attended the faith of my grand parents. Not when I attended the faith of my father. Not even when Mother “got saved” and became a preacher herself. And certainly not when I rebelled and became a catholic so that I could be a nun and finally be a lady….(dress like one, act like one…and no one could ever touch me in “that way” again).
My second “god” was hard apple cider at the age of three.
I was drinking in the pantry with my brothers and their friends on a hot Saturday afternoon in the humid Ontario Canada weather. When I drank that hard cider, I felt that all the yelling and beatings and violence did not exist. I was in my own happy place. I thought about butterflies cause it felt like some of them that lived in my stomach were escaping out my nose. I could feel their joy. The more I drank the happier the butterflies were. They were free. In thinking about them being free….I wanted more. More hard apple cider. More happy place. I never did find it. That first afternoon in the pantry….I tried to re-live it with so many more substances and I never ever did.
My third “god” was power.
If hard apple cider would make me safe in my happy place….what would beer do? What would hard liquor do? What was the power in “more and more”? I had to find out. If I got drunk enough would the pain go away. Did substances have the power to make the pain stop? I could make enough money so that I could buy all the drugs and alcohol in the world and then I would have the power. How I made that kind of money only fed more and more into the addiction of more and more. I never did get to the power. I had the money, the clothes, the attention but nothing could stop the pain. And I became addicted to the pain.
My fourth “god’ was the judge.
He was going to tell me where I was going and for how long.
It was then I could stop running.
I could then get clean from “the life”. I do not think up until that time I had ever come out of the fog. I was always acting. Obeying my Mother. Following the desires of my mistress ~substance abuse. Converting to Catholicism to finally, hopefully, have a Mother who loved me. I acted like the best nun in the world because I so wanted to be loved. The Mother who loved me was not Sister Grace who demanded obedience….nor was there safety in the convent for me to not ever be touched “that” way. I was to take my final vows. The Church was sick at the time. I was putting all my faith in another sick Mother. I told the monsieur no. He told me I would have to get drunk to leave the convent. He would not be disgraced and he would not be disobeyed. No problem I was a drunk and I could be free from the Church…but I never did get free from the substances until the judge.
My fifth god was my desire to stay clean. I got sober in prison. I learned about a different way of being and I could actually think. I remembered and was filled with guilt and shame. In prison I learned about recovery through 12 step programs. I could not believe there were words such as chastity. People actually lived that way without having to (pardon the pun) get into the “habit”. I did not have to act anymore. I could be me. But who was that?
Joseph Campbell said ‘”follow your bliss.” What was bliss other than from the bottle? Now I did not have my bottle….who and what was I.
What would be my god now. What would I be if I were not a drunk?
But I mean to tell ye that the seeking of happiness, be it on a material plane or spiritual plane is the seeking of God. The ideal of the drunkard is to become drunk and unconscious so he can forget all and dwell within himself in a state of happiness. The God-seeker wishes to become unconscious in a state of inner silence to forget all and dwell in a state of happiness within. What is the difference?
The seeking of happiness (through the bottle) had been my life until the age of 33. Thirty years on the bottle and its friends. I had no social skills. I could work. I had incredible jobs as a high-functioning drunk and a former nun. I always got hired. I was always in control and always drunk..
Through the twelve steps of recovery I learned about a happiness without substances. I learned about words like clean, sober, celibate, modest, quiet and a whole new world of things.
There was this Higher Power thing. Not a god who would hate me for being a drunk. Just some loving energy that had replaced the booze and drugs. I liked that.
Through recovery I found a world of discovery. I had always loved books. I would learn. I would read. I would write. I would discover who I am. I did my time. I paid my debt to society and now I could find more books.
One book that changed my way of thinking was Paul Twitchell’s Stranger by the River. My favorite chapter…the Riddle of God.
And now I am living the rest of the story.
Mary Helen Ferris blogs at Great Poetry and is a friend of mine on Facebook, Google +, Pinterest, Twitter and Empire Avenue. She describes herself as “I am a hermit who likes people. A world traveler who travels the keyboard. A writer who listens.”