“We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”Alcoholic’s Anonymous, 12 Steps
Recovery is messy. No quick fix changes the past. Stopping addictive behaviors creates unbearable anxiety. How can I live without my addiction? Facing life on life’s terms? Forget out about it! Angst about how to live free from the bondage of addiction is at the center of early to middle recovery. Addiction severs our relationship with reality. Addiction is dissociation in the purest form.
The steps are not an intellectual exercise. They require a level of deep introspection. A willingness to change old patterns, learn new adaptive tools, and build a new lifestyle is the core of twelve step programs. The steps are dialectically complex and simple. It has been my experience that human beings, including myself, complicate how to live out the steps in daily life.
In our overview of step one we explored how honesty is the firm bedrock of long-term recovery. Step one awakens the recovering person’s mind. 12-steppers around the world acknowledge that honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness (H.O.W) are the core of 12-step principles, steps, and traditions. Without admitting the problem, no real solution can manifest. The awareness a problem existing can often be overwhelming. Conceding powerlessness and unmanageability means facing the painful trail of our addictions. The program reminds us to stay connected for the solution.
One often hears at meetings “It’s a WE program not a ME program.” What that means is fellowship and the people we met in the program help us to sustain recovery. Isolations feeds addiction. I can’t do this alone. I need others who live in the spiritual solution to keep me grounded to recovery. United in the fellowship of 12-step programs we can live one day at a time a lifestyle that centers on recovery.
Recovery from addiction is not a hopeless or helpless affair. I believe AA Founder’s Dr. Bob and Bill W. had an intuitive sense that optimism and faith were integral parts of the spiritual solution. In today’s post we explore Step 2. The recovery seeker taps into hopefulness that something external to the self can restore them to sanity. The principle of behind this step is hope.
Established medical and psychological research have shown addiction is not rational. Addiction overrides the neocortex (executive functioning). Addiction shuts down the stop and go mechanisms which regulate healthy growth and development. Once the addiction takes over there no longer exists an aversion to risk. Risk equals reward. The lengths people have gone to sustain their addictions defy logic. Stealing, lying, compulsive repetition of harmful/destructive behaviors despite consequences, cheating, dissociating, compartmentalizing is some of by-products addiction creates to avoid the pain, consequences, sensations, and emotions arising from wounds of acting out and using.
The concept of a higher power (HP) is fraught with spiritual wounds and baggage. Perhaps you came from a rigid spiritual or religious home rooted in a strict dualistic good and evil worldview. Or maybe a community to which you belonged failed you in some way. Maybe you were told that the bad or traumatic events occurring in your life were the result of moving away from a deity or spiritual community. Whatever the case may be Step 2 invites you to consider alternative options. This step is not prescriptive. Recovery seekers are encouraged to explore the multiplicity of religious/spiritual expressions within the fellowship. Atheists, agnostics, and theists all recover.
For some an AA, NA, or SAA group may serve as your HP. Others call their HP God/Allah/Jesus/Dharma/Flying Spaghetti Monster. Consider the miracle of other recovering people who share their experience, strength, and hope that others might also solve common problems.
In early recovery the concept of a higher power was often met with anger.
I grew up in a religious home. Roman Catholic to be precise. We attended mass on Sundays. I went to Catechism classes. I considered a vocation to religious life. None of these things stopped my addictions. I felt the shortcomings of my familial faith at an early age. Despite this I pressed on in search that something could relieve my obsession and compulsion. I craved for something that could shatter the shackles of my addictions. In college I pursued religious studies. I left the religion of birth to pursue other spiritual communities. I pursued the Baha’i faith. Buddhism. Hinduism, Pastafarianism. Nothing seemed to satiate my hunger. I felt this void that acting out and drinking could not replace.
When I first became sober, I did not want to face the concept of a higher power. Spiritual trauma impacted my recovery. Thus, I had to unpack spiritual baggage. I explored the misgivings I had around faith and spirituality. Themes around unfairness, evil, shame, unworthiness, and unlovability emerged. The 12-step meetings I attended helped me to reorganize and shift my thinking around these themes. I would also add trauma work in combination with 12-step work helped me to grow into a deeper faith of my understanding. Step 2 invites us to explore the shortcomings of our beliefs. We are called to find a faith that works. In my search for a faith and a higher power of my understanding I had to embrace humility.
For the first time I did not have to have all the answers. What a relief!!!!!!! All I had to do was have a beginner’s mind. A simple Buddhist mindfulness practice helped me rebuild my faith life. A mind that listened, with curiosity, to others who shared how the program helped them to regain faith in a HP, the world, and themselves. I took suggestions from people in the program who had worked the program and had the peace, serenity, and blissful expressions that I long craved.
What I noticed was a shift from insanity to sanity. The more I related to the Fellowship and a HP of my understanding I began to heal. I no longer craved or acted out. As Fr. Martin eloquently pointed out in his Step 2 Chalk Talk the recovery mind, comes to “with the willingness to accept what it hears. It becomes conscious of the fact that some rules that they are laying down work.”
Step work in combination with proper therapy helps transform the person to have a defense against the first use, acting out, or engagement with addictive behaviors. Insanity does not go away because of recovery. Using the available tools and suggestions at my disposal keeps me grounded in sanity. Willfulness and ego could keep me stuck in old patterns. Therefore, recovery is a choice every day.
In waking up tell yourself “Just for today I won’t use/act out/relapse”. Do the next right thing. Call a sponsor. Attend therapy. Practice what works and leave the rest. The suggestions of what works are endless. Open your heart, mind, and spirit to what recovery has to offer.
You will be amazed before you are halfway through.