When I was in rehab, sitting in the circle of folding chairs, they told us that we needed to find our personal spirituality in order to get sober. After 20 years of alcoholism and addiction I wanted that so badly. However, I was been an atheist born and bred for 37 years. As I worked my way through the rooms of AA, I was confronted again and again with the need for faith, especially Christianity, in order to achieve sobriety. The 12 steps of AA don’t even work without a higher power to work the miracle for you. However, even the desire to get sober couldn’t make me into a Christian, as I am so opposed to so many of their beliefs. I felt stuck in AA, as I couldn’t progress without the type of faith they wanted me to have. I found this discord and constant arguments with my sponsor to be counterproductive to the type of serenity I was seeking.
When they asked us in rehab that March of 2013 what our spirituality consisted of, I said that is was “Somewhere between yoga and fireflies.” I was getting very into yoga. I felt that the states of greater transcendence I reached while practicing to be closest to the spiritual as I, a die-hard atheist, could get. I felt that the grandeur of nature and expanse of the universe was a higher power, but I couldn’t get behind the idea that the universe would have anything to do with me or want to help me. I felt insignificant in the galaxy, a mote of dust, a sheep, as AA professed.
It wasn’t until my detox romance soured in January of 2014 that the spiritual epiphany came. Upon leaving my apartment for good, the handsome tattooed gangster accused me of being a witch, based on what was in my apartment. I thought about it long and hard, as I put things to rights after the unfortunate, alcoholic cohabitation. Perhaps I was a witch? I had been into tarot for many years, led seances, talked to my dead wife’s ghost, and I had a cat. I looked at my closet: witch-wear black. Suddenly, looking around my apartment, I realized that I had always been a witch, and somehow not noticed.
Excited, I felt I should learn about my calling. To Amazon I went and ordered some books, some recommended by my sister who was also a witch. I read them avidly. I learned that Wicca is the religion of the witches, a subset of neo-paganism arising in the UK in the 1930s. This was a real thing! And I was going to become a part of it. To Amazon again to order a cauldron, bell, various multicolored chime candles and altar cloth. I set about to practice in earnest.
Silver Ravenwolf’s Hedgewitch: Spells Crafts and Rituals for Natural Magic outlined a 14-week, 14-ritual initiation course which I worked my way through with all the discipline and resolve of my newly sober self. I came to realize that part of the way that spirituality kept you sober was that it kept you busy. Practicing witchcraft was something fun, daring and subversive to do at night, safely in the privacy of my apartment rather then going to nightclubs or bars and drinking.
I began to do candlelit dawn meditation rituals with affirmations, gratitude and invocations of the many pagan Gods that I had so enjoyed in Greek Mythology and lesser Bible stories. Wicca taught that all male and female Gods and Goddesses were different faces of the Horned God and Goddess. I would name them in pairs: Adonis, Aphrodite, Dionysus, Persephone, Mephistopheles, Salome, Jesus Christ, Mary Magdelene. A pantheist, I believe that all the Gods exist and it is a personal choice to worship those that appeal to you.
While I was warned by a friend and boyfriend that witchcraft was “playing with fire,” I never felt scared or apprehensive about doing spells. My spells began to work at an alarming rate, I achieved community reengagement, large sums of money, love, a MacBook Pro, remission of my mental illness, and a greater sense of peace and connectedness to the universe all from practicing witchcraft.
I feel as if my Schizoaffective Disorder gives me an edge in witchcraft because I already have a door open in my mind to the other world of psychosis. It was through medicated, controlled, focused psychosis that many of my spiritual experiences manifested themselves, tempered or controlled by my ritual intentions. My mental illness is actually an asset in witchcraft. because the fact that I don’t live in the real world and instead a world of fantasies and delusions helps me to believe that my spells will work, and in believing, make it so. It was by the transformative power of my newfound spirituality that I was able to find a way to make my mental illness work for me as psychic ability, as opposed to pathologizing “bad” symptoms to be eradicated and medicated out of existence. I began to embrace, welcome, and understand my psychosis as a blessed glimpse into the other world that I was happy to receive.
When my wife’s ghost came to me on the lonely Valentines Day of 2015 and talked with me for a while while I lay on my yoga mat and watched pastel psychedelic lights on the ceiling, I felt that I probably should take my schizophrenia medication, but also that my Schizoaffective was in some ways a gift that I could channel. It was a beautiful experience, hearing my wife’s voice again and feeling her presence.
In AA they taught me I was powerless before my addiction. In fact, powerless in general and needing direction from an authoritative male, which had always rankled me. Wicca told me I had magical powers, and as I began to believe in them and practice the rituals that I found in books, my life became a million times better. Most importantly, I was able to stay sober, finally, for a year and counting. It may have been an unconventional path, but spirituality as I found it immensely enriched my life, kept me sober, and allows me to put on a witch hat and do magic, and how fun is that?