I am a divorcée who found the love of God through the eyes and soul of a gay man. The love of God has no need for religious exclusions. I was sick, broken, powerless, hopeless, and helpless. I didn't love myself and, because of my distorted ego, didn't even know it. I always believed in God, but I was convinced that God didn't believe in me because of all my failures and mistakes. When you feel this lost, life becomes very dark, and it is impossible to see any way out. I remained focused on what a disaster I had made out of my life and couldn't see past my horrible circumstances. Focusing on my failures kept me stuck and fueled my feelings of being worthless and unlovable.

Learning that God loved me despite all of my bad decisions gave me hope, and the power of hope saved my life. Knowing that God loves me, flaws and all, gave me a sense of self-worth. Reclaiming my self-worth, self-respect, integrity, and dignity has been the greatest, most loving gift. People need to learn how much God loves them before they can be willing to better their lives and attitudes. They become willing to give up the wrong things, such as alcohol, drugs, cutting, anger, resentments, gambling, codependency, food, or sex addiction. I know for a fact that any of these self-destructing, self-defeating behaviors can be positively treated with the love of God. I have lived this amazing grace firsthand.

Religion with exclusions and judgment had turned me off to God. I view religion as very divisive, though we are all one. I erroneously associated God with judgment and punishment, which added insult to injury for a screw-up like me. I give the church a lot of credit. It does show love, but love does not need the church. God loves you, is available to you, and wants to help you right now. All you need to do is believe. Belief is the only metric that really matters. I believe the love of God can change, heal, and renew anyone's mind, body, and spirit. I'm real sure because it happened to me.

I was born and raised in the private school world of Lake Forest, Illinois. My father was a full member of the Chicago Board of Trade. We resided a ninety-two-hundred-square foot lakefront estate. I was very popular and was accustomed to external praise and external validation. My internal life was remarkably dormant. I graduated from Boston University on the dean's list.

My horrific self-abuse cycle started in my early twenties with bulimia and ended as an acute alcoholic penniless in Gary, Indiana in my late thirties. When it comes to alcoholism, I am the real deal. I was stuck, sick, helpless, and hopeless. I was broken and bankrupt, physically, mentally, and spiritually spent. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. This still isn't enough. I had to be sufficiently sick and tired of being sick and tired to be willing to do something about it.

The gift of desperation brought me into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and they were talking about God. I even saw God on the walls and found it disconcerting. Like many people, I believe that God brought me to AA and AA brought me to God. If you find the word God off putting you can choose another term. A lot of people feel more comfortable using the term Higher Power (HP). Other common alternatives include Love, The Universe, My Creator...I once saw a man on television refer to HP as My Beloved and I thought that was just so beautiful. I personally don't believe what we call God matters. I do believe it is imperative to find a power greater than ourselves to have internal power and authentic self-worth.

Think of the love of God has being an open invitation to love and healing. Just close your eyes and communicate. Think of the power of HP like a light switch. I can tell you that when I turn on the light switch something happens. Even better, I can walk over and show you by turning the light switch on and show you the light. The rubber meets the road when you elect to go turn the switch on all by yourself and see the power for yourself. This is how the magic happens. I can give you countless examples of how HP has healed me and countless others, but belief solidifies with personal experience. This inner journey needs to be traveled alone in order to appreciate the wisdom and strength within. This higher power relationship is the very first step to finding your spiritual self.

My relationship with my higher power dictates my life. This relationship is my spiritual foundation and without it would be like trying to build a house in sand. Prioritize your relationship with HP and miraculously watch all of your other relationships improve drastically, especially the one with yourself. Please allow HP to love you until you can learn to love yourself. HP deeply cares what is on your heart and wants to heal your pain. You have not, because you ask not. Your strength lies in your intimacy with HP.

If you are struggling with the God concept, you can borrow my God (Good Orderly Direction). He already loves you and wants to help you. He wants you to seek him; all you have to do is ask. He is big enough to wrap his arms around all of you. He is available to anyone from anywhere, regardless of what you have done in your past. He wants to heal your life and take away your pain. He will do things for you that you can't do by yourself. This is a promise. The love of God is an access point to positive love and energy - unlike the enemy or negativity that will just show up in your life, without even having the courtesy to knock.

I now know that the cause of my misery was lack of love. I lacked love from God because I shut him out. I lacked love and acceptance for self, others, and circumstances. No matter how much grace God offers, if you don't believe, you will never have it. Once I tapped into the love of HP, my healing journey began. Acceptance coupled with spiritual growth is the answer to all my problems. It's not always easy, but it is really simple; and like anything else, it becomes easier with practice, practice, practice. I have been granted the gift of a new state of consciousness and being. This gift is available to anyone who wants it and I feel compelled to spread this message. The main problem is letting our emotions get in the way and run the show, which is not wise. I let mine drive for years, and they drove me off the road. We must be determined not to stay angry at people or situations. If somebody unjustly wronged you, don't get mad-get better. Otherwise, it's like holding on to a hot potato and allowing it to keep burning your hands. Don't let anyone or anything take up too much space in your head rent-free. As humans, we experience so much negativity that we let way too much of that in, and it's horrible. Yes, utterly horrible things happen to good people every day, and there are some terrible people out there indeed! We just don't need to focus on the negativity. We create our own reality; so naturally what we focus on magnifies in our lives.

Meditation is another life-changing tool that the AA fellowship introduced me to. Some of the benefits of meditation are as follows: it helps you to manage stress, connect to your purpose, lower your blood pressure, attain laser focus, heighten intuition, improve memory, increase your immunity, decrease inflammation, boost your happiness, expand your awareness, decrease anxiety and depression, and cultivate compassion. Need I say more? My favorite benefit is that it enables you to become fully present, free from the pain of the past and the uncertainty of the future. If the word "meditation" turns you off, you can still practice quiet time with deep breathing. This stillness will still serve you. You can also practice mindfulness, a form of meditation that can be done anywhere. Life itself becomes the meditation practice. Mindfulness equals awareness. It is a gift to be truly present. This is the direct opposite of taking your life for granted. When you take the time to be still, it positively affects all areas of your life, including the people around you.

Happiness is an inside job. Stop wasting time and money looking for happiness externally; it's not there. If you want physical health, go to the gym. If you want mental health go within. The silence manifests intuition and guidance. I looked for peace of mind in thousands of empty bottles, to no avail. Peace is already within us, and practicing stillness or meditation is the best way to access it. Meditation has helped me intuitively handle situations that used to baffle me. It has given me a moral compass, a "God guide," if you will. It makes me want to be a good person and always try to do the next right thing. I don't worry like I used to. Worrying is also a form of meditation-a very negative one.

We can all start over. It is possible for every one of us to live a life of higher purpose. It all starts with self-love, but most of us are unaware that we don't love ourselves. How could we possibly conceptualize that we lack self-love when we are so selfish and so self-obsessed that that we mistake it for love? With all of our selfies and self seeking ways, how could we not have self-love? What a glaring disconnection of epidemic proportions.

Sometimes we have to fall down to reprioritize what's important. Looking back at the pain, I see pivotal moments in my development. My faith was strengthened in the moments of uncertainty. When I felt uncertain, I learned to go to HP, and he gave me strength and wisdom. Complete and utter failure started my movement into something greater. Pain is a horrible part of the human experience and no one is immune. Pain led me from selfishness to compassion. It pains me to see the way people hurt themselves and one another. It is my theory that we first have to commit to self-love and self-care. Once we learn how to treat ourselves with respect and dignity, we can make the shift into treating one another better.

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