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Are You There, God? It’s Me, Bill.

Meditation and prayer are a challenge for my ADHD brain.

My wife came back from a weekend trip to Arizona with loads of goodies for the kids – t-shirts, cacti seeds, and lollipops with dead scorpions embedded in them – cool stuff. She got me a gift too, which is an answer to prayer in and of itself for a guy whose alcoholic bottom almost drove her away.

It was not the manliest looking gift. It was a small box with tiny, pink fabric flowers on top. Inside was a votive candle holder with a Bible verse etched into the side. It was perfect.

Her gift showed that she knows a couple of important things about what is challenging me lately. The first is that for my recovery from addiction, I need to make an effort to connect with my Higher Power. The second is that prayer and meditation are really difficult for me.

When I try to sit quietly and pray, my ADHD brain starts to wander. Instead of calming myself and connecting with my Higher Power, I wind up writing blog posts in my head, imagining winning arguments and witty comebacks I wished I would have made earlier in the day, plotting the next five years of my life or nursing hurt feelings and resentment over slights real or imagined.

I’m sure the quiet posture of prayer is a challenge for most people, but in coming to terms with my ADHD, I realized a source of that struggle. It is not willful rebellion or apathy. It’s just focus. And, in coming to terms with my addiction, I know that a spiritual connection is crucial.

The twelve steps are a spiritual program. The spiritual aspect is a hurdle for some. I didn’t think it would be for me, at least not intellectually. I know there’s a God — and I’m not it. The connection was the problem.

So, what I’ve been trying is a makeshift form of contemplative prayer. I pick a word or short phrase, for example, from the edge of my new candle holder, “love always hopes” to use as the basis for meditation. I use that phrase to bring myself back when my mind starts to wander. I also light a candle – hence the thoughtfulness of the gift – to mark my time and keep me from getting distracted.

It’s been helpful so far though I’m still new at developing this habit. I am grateful to my wife for the gift. It was small, unexpected and reminded me that I’m known and loved which is, in my experience, often the way an answered prayer should work.