I FOUND GOD THROUGH MY ATHEIST SPONSOR
BY: TAMI HARPER WINN
The trails made from the rain that trickled down the windows were just enough to center me. In a chair, side-by-side with strangers arranged in a circle around a very large table, I felt still just long enough to truly appreciate the moment I was in. I glance from the streaks on the windows to the streaks that have somehow leapt from the windows onto my sponsor’s cheeks. I am privy to a beautiful miracle occurring before me as I witness my sponsor sharing her eleventh sobriety birthday with her family, for the first time. Gratitude radiated from her enough to fill in any empty space in the room. I am but a spectator, but I am so much more. I am a recipient of her selflessness and belief in her program of recovery, which has helped in turn to carry me to this place in time and make it possible to share this monumental moment with her. I am the luckiest lady alive right now.
Just a little over seven years ago, that beautiful soul was coming up on her fourth year of sobriety. She seemed larger than life to me then. Today she still is, but she is also me today. At a coffee shop on the side of the road, she shared her story with me and her belief system. She made a point to tell me that she was in fact an atheist and did not believe in God. She asked me what my beliefs were and if I was ready to do whatever necessary to stay sober. I explained I was desperate and was willing to go to any lengths. I, in fact, had a very weak belief in God at that time and shared that with her. But what I didn’t tell her is that something propelled me to not question why our paths had crossed and ask her to sponsor me that day. I knew that day without any doubts, (although she shares now that she was completely beside herself trying to figure out how this would work for us), that she was exactly what I needed and I haven’t questioned it since the first day.
I still today do not know what her higher power is, and honestly it doesn’t really matter. I know whatever it is that she believes in is working perfectly for her in her life. I have since fine-tuned my higher power and he is ever growing with me. I believe in God and my sponsor is an atheist. We laugh when we tell others this. They respond with lost looks and very often times are left speechless. It makes us both smile catching them off guard. They could hardly know how lost she was navigating our relationship from time-to-time. I never knew that. To me, she was the epitome of confidence and perfect calmness in the middle of my storms. She never let on that she felt inadequate.
She was patient, kind, non-judgmental, compassionate, empathetic, trustworthy, passionate, calm, selfless, knowledgeable, open, brutally honest when needed, loving, tender, merciful, contemplative, and genuine. She is exactly what I envision my higher power to be like. She embodies all of the traits I believe my higher power has and what I need. No, my sponsor is not my higher power, but at certain low spots in my life, she acted as proxy for him (little did she know or would anyone ever be able to convince her of that). That’s my little “not-so-secret” now, secret. I like to believe that if my higher power needs to be with me he sends his angels to stand in for him. She has been just that angel many times.
I know she doesn’t like it that I refer to the secular parts of the world in relation to her. But, it is what has worked for me and I am her oldest sponsee in time and probably age, so she doesn’t buck against me when I say such things. She just humors me. I try to be respectful of her, as she does with me. I won’t force my belief on her, nor question hers. She gave that to me from day one.
I’m sure each of us has at one point or another questioned how we landed in each others lives or how it has managed to work so effectively for this long. Here is my belief. I know that when my sponsor met me she had some strong feelings and opinions in regards to a belief in God and the word God, and those who spoke of him or worshipped him. It was not her cup of tea. Looking back now, my higher power blinded me from seeing what I can see now when I look back.
In the beginning, I can steal feel her aversion to my Christian beliefs. I can still see how her body would almost constrict at the mere discussion at times. I know that she picked and chose her words with me but she made it look so natural, like it was never a struggle. I know now that is was at certain times.
What I have come to believe as we have grown up together in recovery, is that she was specifically placed in my path and I in hers for reasons we may never fully understand. The bigger picture has yet to be revealed. I know that I believe that she had as much to learn from me as I did her. I like to think I got to help her cultivate all of the qualities I find so endearing in her. I know that I would not be half the woman I am today without her.
I have shared with her on different occasions that our higher powers’ must have thought it would be funny to collide our worlds together. I envision them laughing it up as we try to jump through the hoops. I like to believe they knew better all along. I know that she would not agree with me, and I’m okay with that. She smiles a smile that I know all too well now when I say things like that. It is that smile that lets me know that I have grown on her and that my humor now entertains her instead of disturbs her. We have grown.
Today she is not just my sponsor. She is one of my mentors, someone I call friend, and soul sister that I needed on this journey. I look up to her and admire her with so much love that I can’t begin to express it in mere black and white.
This year I got to be the one that handed her the coin for her eleventh year. I have never had that honor. It has always been her passing on her coins to me. I whisper, “I love you” and “I’ll want that back some day.” She just holds onto me with one of her divine hugs that I’ve come to enjoy so much. I can’t begin to thank her enough for holding on to her beliefs and her truths. Her example has lit the way for so many women. I only aspire to be her like her one day. I know it will happen, because I now know anything is possible. I found God through my atheist sponsor.
~ Tami Harper Winn ~
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