The past 5 years has been a struggle with what is right for John or what is acceptable and right for others. Buddhism isn't very popular in the 'bible belt'. I've noticed that many people (even myself to some extent) have judged it okay to be Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, if you come from countries where those religions are predominant. But in the United States (in the West in general) Christianity is predominant, and it's easy to pass off those who stray from that path as just being rebels. So I've questioned myself quite a bit and have often tried to conform to the faith of my peers and my family. All that has done was open my mind up to the beauty of their faiths, but still left me feeling empty.
The only thing I know is that deep down I feel the Dhamma is the truth. I've made more changes in my heart and mind through Buddhism in 5 years than I have in 30 years of being exposed to Christian theology.
I'm so grateful for the this country where I can choose to believe in what I will to believe. It had taken all my life from bouncing around from many faiths to find the Dhamma which immediately made me go AH! Christianity or the 'god' concept never made me feel complete or whole. (And of course it was probally due to my lack of effort and my ingrained defiance against blind faith.)
I'm so grateful for the 12 step programs out there that told me to find a concept that rings true with me. If it wasn't for that I know I would have been dead years ago. When I came into the program in 1996 I was downright anti-religion. And it lasted for several years afterwards also. But inside I was searching for something to explain and change the way I felt about life in all its aspects. Although I've struggled with sobriety in the past, that concept of choosing my own higher power has kept me from giving up and getting my ass back into the rooms. I owe a lot to AA / NA in general for giving that gift to me.
My family is supportive as long as I'm happy and it changes me from the self-destructive son they had over the years. They've loved me all through that, but it's got to be a relief to have a son who's not in jail, not trying to kill himself, and not full of hate. Today I still struggle with what others may think about my convictions and spirituality, but I'm slowly coming out of that. As Buddhists we dedicate all positive things we do towards the benefit of all sentient beings, and that takes any insecurity out of what I'm doing in my life.