Spiritual Awakenings and Insights Into my Recovery From Alcoholism


It appears that many stories about recovery from alcoholism have some form of spiritual awakening or insight embedded in them. I’d like to tell you my story.

Even though spirituality played an ever-increasingly deep and constructive role in my life for 40 years, it did not lead to me dismissing alcohol from my existence with finality. It did, without any doubt, help me to persevere and maintain the faith that I would eventually be the conqueror of the long-lasting ravaging scourge of alcoholism.

The 12-Steps Don’t Need to Be About the AA

Early on, I was made aware of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and I have the utmost respect for the undoubtedly massive role it plays in saving many thousands of otherwise death-destined lives – who knows just how many? However, I was never a staunch and regular attendee of AA meetings.

I rebelled against saying, “My name is Rex and I am an alcoholic.” I also felt there was seldom enough emphasis on, and credit given to, the many positive aspects of the members’ lives. As an ultra-positive and optimistic person, this is not surprising. I was also hearing the same grim stories from the same people repeated meeting after meeting.

I never engaged in the 12-Step program or selected a sponsor. Coffee gatherings after meetings put me off even more as they were largely diatribes about alcohol and its destructive effects on the lives of those present. This was entirely off-putting for me. I just wanted to get away from that negatively focused mindset and/or energy, and seek out more positively-inclined people. It can fairly be said I never gave the AA a chance to play a meaningful role in my life.

I am going to repeat the last sentence: “It can fairly be said I never gave the AA a chance to play a meaningful role in my life.”

In those days, I basically equated the AA with the 12-Steps. Very recently, I was re-reading various mystic/religious/spiritual books, and I happened to pick up a book, which was a discussion on the 12-Steps between two ‘religious’ adepts. Even though I had read it before, I wonder just how much I had really concentrated on the content. This time around, the essence of the 12-Steps resonated, shone through, and made so much more sense to me.

Even as a program for general self-development, it rang out as astonishingly and clearly to be true, as well as potentially extremely beneficial. Looking back, I wonder what difference it would have made in my life if I could have been mentored through this program without attending AA meetings. This is an interesting but nevertheless, worthless thought as we can only learn from the past and apply it to our life going forward.

I believed that my spiritual endeavours, together with applying the six other steps of the SANE MAP (discussed in depth elsewhere) would assist me with my recovery from alcoholism and enable me to successfully defeat the demon drink. Believing too that I was not actually on my own, but did have a Higher Power of some nature within me. However, until a much later stage, I don’t think I had, by any means, let go of my ego-self as the supreme master in this life and death struggle. “I can do it,” I consistently reaffirmed to myself, and others who were trying to help me win the battle with the affliction. I wonder how many times I uttered that comment? How long it takes some of us to learn some lessons.

Is Love the Answer to The Recovery From Alcoholism?

About 12 years ago, already in my late fifties, I fell deeply in love for the first time. It was a short yet intensely beautiful time for me. The lady in question hardly drank, and I didn’t need to: my life was full and I felt fulfilled without needing a drink. The relationship was supremely gratifying. We had been together for only about six months when I lied to her. I regret it now, but at the time, it didn’t feel like a lie, it felt inconsequential. However, she terminated our relationship immediately. Just like that! I was beyond devastated.

Very soon after this heart-rending breakup, I was tearfully hiking in the mountains alone, a very subtle yet definite prodding of my being stated emphatically, wordlessly, that love was an answer to the question my addiction raised: “why this self-induced suffering?” Not this human love, as deep as I had experienced it, but what I called at the time mystic love. In the past, the romantic breakup would have been the most perfect trigger possible for an angry and heartbroken return to the bottle, with who knows what outcome. But this time, there was no feeling whatsoever of heading off in that morbid direction.

Image of glorious sunset from a cliff. Read about Rex Hillier's spiritual awakening and recovery from alcoholism.

I believe it was some deep spiritual shift that had unexpectedly taken place; no part of my will power was involved. It happened to me, it wasn’t caused by me. And so, a mystic love quest was set in motion and continues to this time. My spiritual awakening if you like. Gently subtle, yet all-powerful in its healing consequences.

Does it Have to Always be ‘God, Alcohol and I’?

Not long after this peacefulness-inducing spiritual intervention, I was again enjoying a solitary hike in the mountains, and considering my lifelong struggle to recover from alcoholism. I reflected that there had always only been the option of embracing ‘God, alcohol, and I’ as being indivisible. Up until then, this had not been a successful combination, as is clearly verified by my life story. Since I had never considered leaving alcohol out of the equation, I thought about the second possible option: ‘alcohol and I’. This was also impossible as I had a firm belief in some Creative Power that I called God.

That day on the mountain, a softly whispered spiritual nudging suggested a third option: ‘God and I’. And this same spiritual intervention allowed me to gently lay aside alcohol for good. There were no harsh recriminations or angry and resentful regrets. It was more like a simple conversation with alcohol along the lines of: “thank you for your input in my life, what it has provided and brought about, but now it’s time for you to retire.” And so, ‘mystic love and God, and I only, bonded, in harmonious oneness of advancing life. A heartfelt sensation of being at great peace, which was ongoing.

How We Identify Ourselves Can Limit or Expand Us

I mentioned earlier that I was not at all in favour of saying that “I am an alcoholic.” This relates to my personal take on identity. I believe we can limit – or, much preferred, expand – our comprehension, acknowledgment, and understanding of ourselves as human beings by how we identify ourselves. The problem is when we use descriptive words that describe only a past or historical ‘us’, or just an aspect of ourselves. This gives just a part-description of ourselves, and with time we tend to identify ourselves almost entirely by that limiting description. Also, I have always believed ‘what we focus on expands’, and so the more often we repeat that identity-description, either inwardly to ourselves or outwardly to others, the more it becomes embodied within us, and the more we become it.

Alternatively, the ‘identity-expanding’ approach brings about a constantly vitalising and energising sense and feeling of living a life that really matters, both inwardly and outwardly. This approach allows us to embrace a wholesome as well as humble increase in our self-esteem and confidence, which is potentially beneficial for many others as we are more likely to have a positive impact on our global community.