A 12-step program is a set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery from addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral problems. I will share my experiences with each step as a resource for newcomers to the program. It is HIGHLY ADVISABLE that you work through the steps with a sponsor! Step 2 reads:
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
When I went into meetings for the first time, I was terrified. Anxiety levels were very high and my ignorance of my 12 step group challenged my ego. There was an awful lot of talk about God. I had questions and concerns about almost everything. Yet people kept telling me that this thing (12 step principles) works and that you can’t question results. It has been humbling and scary, but a mostly positive experience.
When it comes to spirituality, most people believe in God, and some even believe in a Heaven somewhere. Many believe in a sense of cosmic justice. Others think that through prayer, you can speak with the Creator of the Universe, and that this might change the outcomes of worldly affairs. My idea of spirituality has always been more of a mystical quest. Belief in a personal God and an afterlife is not for me. Yet somehow I think there is something that I am connected to that is larger than being human.
But that’s just me. I am only one of Earth’s creatures. My 12 step group encourages you to discover a higher power and allow it to guide you. Your idea of a higher power will not be the same as anyone else. This talk of God and a higher power should not scare you or prevent you from trying the Steps. Some speak of God at meetings and others will actually refer to their ‘higher power’. Everybody is different. Many of us have no idea what our higher power is. It almost doesn’t matter WHAT it is. What matters is that you acknowledge that there is a higher power. Don’t let the higher power concept keep you from trying the 12 steps!
If you are struggling with the concept of a higher power, there is an exercise that might help. Grab a piece of paper and create a simple table with two columns. In one column, the heading will be “What the HP is (or includes)” and the other heading will be “What the HP is not (or excludes)”. This is my table:
Higher Power Exercise:
What the higher power is
What the higher power is not
I have jokingly referring to my HP as the “Blob”. It conveys the idea that my HP is an amalgamation of “all that stuff” that is more powerful than me. This includes the Tao, the Higher Self, A.A. itself, the collective power of sobriety, the collective power of life, Nature, the Universe, the laws of physics and Nature. It is a way of saying that I don’t take a name seriously. My guideline for all things in recovery is Rule 62, “Don’t take yourself too damn seriously”. In meetings, I might say “my Higher Power” but when I try to pray, I sometimes replace “God” with “Blob”.
Hopefully if you are working Step 2, you are willing to believe there is a power greater than yourself. If not, it is actually not required in order to continue the steps! If you are struggling with this step, I would suggest that you simply try to have an open mind and just accept that there “might be” a higher power. For many people, the 12 steps have been successful despite an initial reluctance. Various 12 step meetings have been thriving for roughly 80 years and this is a testament to its success as a course of action. It’s a lot to ask, but perhaps a little bit of faith is needed.
Belief is only part of the equation here. We have to accept the insanity of our addiction and the reality that we alone cannot restore our own sanity.
Restoring my own sanity has been about finding refuge. It is about freedom from the power that alcohol has over me. We are capable of going to great lengths (death, institutions, etc.) to continue drinking despite the misery, dysfunction, and pain that it brings us. They say that it’s like sticking your hand over a hot flame over and over again. You know it will hurt but you keep doing it anyway. This is insanity. As addicts, we keep allowing ourselves to suffer. So how can we find refuge?
Alcoholism is a disease that can rarely be treated by willpower alone. The rare, strong individual can find reprieve on their own. For some, simply finding fellowship of like-minded people can bring some relief. In my 12 step group, we are taught that no human power can restore our sanity. My understanding of human power is simply the power of any one human. I have come to believe that I cannot restore my own sanity by myself, or by any one person’s help.
My belief is that a Power, an energy, and a Force runs through all things. It is a glue or a fabric that holds everything together. Since this Power is inherently deeply involved in all things, it is possible that this Power is in control. It controls the environment we live in. Perhaps your idea of a higher power is simply G.O.D, or “Group of Drunks”, or collective sobriety. This collective higher power could be seen as superhuman (no human power) strength. Regardless of what your higher power might be, you must now be willing to allow the possibility that your sanity can be restored. You are asked to accept that your higher power (as only you understand it) is the only that thing that can help restore your sanity.
The bottom line for me is that if we alcoholics try to run the show ourselves, we fail. In other words, we alcoholics do not succeed by playing God and trying to control everything. It is necessary to entertain the possibility that there is more at play here than the illusory world that we create. For me, the Blob “is what it is” and cannot be controlled by any one of us, or any clan or group. If you resist the Way of the world, then you can expect consequences.
My belief is that in order to find sanity, it is necessary to recognize that this Power exists and runs the show behind the scenes. It is possible that by recognition of a higher Power, the self-centered alcoholic can reduce his or her sense of self importance and ultimately surrender the reins. You can find sanity by accepting that the world doesn’t revolve around you anymore.