Prayer and Relapse

I’m part of a community that works with men who are addicted to substances.  When I first started working with them I learned a valuable lesson, relapse is part of recovery.  Not everyone who relapses is lost, in fact successful people who recover from addiction all have stories of relapse.

So I kinda relapsed.

There was a time when I was a believer where I found it more and more difficult to pray (for reasons that are now totally obvious).  In this time of desperation I discovered the Catholic discipline of the Daily Breviary and prayer books.  Using the prayers of the ancient church to speak for me when I had run out of words.  I really enjoyed it, and I thought it neat to integrate the Psalms into my prayers, to actually pray scripture that was written for prayer.  Spiritually speaking this kept me afloat for several years after the boat had already been listing hard.  These books are still in my office and I still think of them fondly.  More fondly than the Bible.

Monday I broke it out and used it.  Yep I prayed Evening Prayer.  Then I went home and laid in bed.  Starring up at the ceiling I asked if God was there.  If He was listening to me.  If he could help me.  And I began to “pour my heart out” in prayer.  And do you know what happened next?

Nothing.

I don’t know what I was expecting.  I don’t think I was expecting anything, but I was certainly hoping someone would answer.  I’m sure there are times when someone who is divorced wants to share a moment with their ex, maybe to relive old times, maybe to reconnect at least as a friend.

I prayed and I wanted to connect.

It’s too bad there was no one there to connect to.

I went to sleep disappointed in God. I woke up the next morning disappointed in myself.  I very often still slip into the denial and bargaining stages of grief.  I still have a desire to know a god and for there to be a god who knows me.  I still desire grace and forgiveness in a spiritual sense.  I want something that doesn’t exist.  I want something that I can’t have.

I knew this was going to happen, Mark told me last month that even he still finds himself trying to pray.

I just got to shake this off and move forward.

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17 thoughts on “Prayer and Relapse

  1. I think that the desire to pray is really just the desire to be heard, to be able to speak everything that’s on your mind. Some people find solace in writing in journals (or blogs) while others just talk to people. Know this much John. You have a community of nonbelievers who will readily listen and answer you back. Feel free to come to us for support.

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  2. There’s nothing wrong with checking the line to see if there’s anything on the other end. Just a normal part of diagnostics. In IT, we call it a ping. You send a ping signal and see if you get a response, or if the packet times out.

    Just as with any test based on objective reasoning and observation, the only valid tests are ones with repeatable results. So go ahead and retest all you want, and don’t feel bad for yourself for doing so. Heck, if you can’t think of what to say, just pray one word, “Ping”, and see if there’s a response. Just don’t be surprised if the attempt times out.

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  3. I think for years I would attempt random prayer out of habit. It felt no different than when I used to pray after a few days of forgetting. Sometimes it felt like a superstitious ritual I was still holding on to. I prayed a lot when I was pregnant with my daughter and thought something was wrong. That was the last time it felt like anything real. I made a small effort toward prayer when I first knew she wasn’t like other kids, too- but by then I felt nothing. It felt silly. It has been several years now and I doubt I will pray again. But it took a long time to let go of prayer completely, even years after I was sure god wasn’t listening. Strange.

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  4. I had to stop praying when I was a kid. I felt really phony. Later in life I found prayer again but by myself and to me it’s really good when you’re literally lost or in trouble or looking for work or to the future. Like a evolved tool we have built in to be thoughtful and respectful about life. I don’t think it’s so we can ask for favours from God? You sound like a troll or sorry just stupid.

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  5. Prayer was the last thing to go for me. It was part of my every day/night practice. Pray without ceasing. I did my best practice of prayer while throwing clothes in the dryer, pacing the floor during one our children’s tantrums, lowering my worn and wasted body into the tub when getting home from the hospital, sitting by a memorial garden I made, out for a walk, entering the church, at the bedside of the dying, brushing my teeth, driving in our vehicle, standing in a bookstore, on my knees, holding babies . . . you get the point. As much a part of me as breathing. That wiring in the brain doesn’t leave at the snap of your fingers. It’s a practice, a habit, well worn and cultivated.

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  6. I formerly trolled, I mean prayed all day long. Mostly asking for God to help others. I’d start every day with about 45 minutes of silent praying and ‘swimming through the scriptures’—or something like that. After about 8 months of no praying I was getting close to a mental breakdown. I went ahead and had one, and thats when I prayed, and begged for relief. You know what? I found it. I was totally relieved.

    I of course knew that there was no one listening. But I realized that what happened was it was the first time in 8 months I had sat softly and just mentally focused on the imoportant things in life—trying to eliminate the ‘ego’ that is me.

    I’ve been meditating for 40 to 60 mins per day ever since. No more mental breakdowns!

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  7. I’m new to your blog and have a question- I am treading the line of benign an atheist. I don’t think I believe in God. That said, a piece of me might still pray or find comfort in religion, so I keep coming back to ‘well if I do these things, then maybe I do believe- at least believe enough that I cannot consider myself an atheist’. How did you land at finding yourself an atheist but still resorting to prayer?

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    • I don’t really pray as a regular practice. Prayer in this case was a sort of a relapse into belief, or at least a longing to want to believe. I’m an atheist because I don’t see evidence of God existence or intervention, but I prayed because I wanted to be wrong. Does that make sense?

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  8. First time reader here; I came from reading your post at Ex-Communications. I’m a longtime atheist/humanist, and I still want to be able to pray sometimes, even though I know I’m talking to the wall.

    My dad died in 2006; we were extremely close, as he was both a good parent and a good friend to the adult me. So now I periodically talk to him instead, especially about subjects he would have been interested in. No, I don’t believe in life after death. My dad exists in living people’s memories, period. I still chat him up. At least, I can hear his voice in my mind, and think about how he would have approached the subject.

    God never talked to me, so I don’t know what his voice sounds like in my mind. Not that I didn’t ask him to — I was your classic Good Catholic Kid growing up. Plus, according to the bible, he’s not a very nice person. I don’t think we’d get along.

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  9. I don’t know whether this will be reassuring or concerning, but I think a lot of people need to speak their thoughts, their worries, and their hopes. Some of us need to speak them aloud. Personally, I talk to myself constantly throughout the day.I don’t think it’s that different than what most people do when they pray.

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