“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Now this is a new challenge!
A “power greater than ourselves” hmmmmmm.
Traditionally of course this refers to God, and indeed the AA “Big Book’ published in 1939 has a significant emphasis on spirituality which at the time, meant belief in God. Over the years the book has been ‘updated’ and the twelve steps, the readings and traditions now refer to ‘God as we understand him’ or just “your / a higher power”
I have heard several times that all of the words of the 12 steps are very specifically chosen, and the second step doesn’t say “We came to believe in a power ….” it says “We came to believe that a power ” and the writings and reflections I have perused in the last week have suggested that this wording is important because it shifts the emphasis from what that Power is, to what that power might be able to do for us…
It seems that the key lesson /point that this step is making is that we can’t recover alone and that we need some kind of help, The principles that are the foundation of this step are open mindedness, humility, trust, and a willingness to have faith. Reading around this step suggests that it doesn’t matter if we don’t know HOW this ‘power’ can help us, just that we believe it is possible.
I wrote This in June 2016 when I had been sober just over 100 days; and when I read it back I marvel at how naive I was, and how wobbly … I was vaguely aware that I wasn’t ready to do the ‘steps’ (although I phrased it as ‘I don’t want to’) If I’m honest today, I would rather it wasn’t necessary, but the difference is now I recognise that it IS necessary (for me) if I want a sustained and sincere recovery
I have read some inventories/ questionnaires pertaining to step two; about coming to a place of belief; the definition of “a power greater than ourselves”; current experiences of God; questions about insanity; what a “restoration to sanity” might look like and examining our own as well as general spiritual principles. Some of those questions that I found most illuminating, are reproduced below
- What does “we came to believe” mean to you?
This is quite hard. Basically I would LOVE to have a true faith because I can see the comfort this can bring to people who have it. Comfort and peace. Not always, but a basic belief that God (and I’m going with God because whilst I respect other peoples different religious beliefs and indeed other peoples ‘higher power, for me, it makes sense to call that God) works for good, to redeem suffering and that ‘it will be ok’. I don’t have that, and I wish I did. I also find theology intellectually interesting, and truly spiritual people profoundly impressive. Not the tub thumping evangelical zealots, but the calm, loving, accepting, non judgemental people who radiate inner peace.
- Do you have a problem accepting that there is a power/powers greater than yourself?
Simply put, No. I cannot believe that we are ‘just’ cells and biochemical reactions and that we do not have a soul. That this soul is much more than the scientifically rational. In fact its harder for me to believe this is NOT the case than that it is. I have seen many people die, and I have seen, with my own eyes the alteration in the body at the moment of death. As though the soul leaves at that moment, is released from the mortal body, and goes ? Somewhere … So if we have souls, there is something other than science involved …
- What evidence have you experienced that a “higher power” is working in your life?
There is lots of evidence. Actually LOTS of evidence. Once you accept that Fate is in-fact “the will of God” . From small things, to the big things that include my miraculous and unlikely acceptance to medical school.
- Do you have any fears about coming to believe in something greater than yourself?
- I have a very deep fear that I won’t be able to do it ‘properly’, that I will always have a shaky faith because of my logical rational, scientific brain. The leap into ‘believing’ seems like a giant step into the unknown … and a leap away from the control I have tried to exercise over my life and it’s progress.
- Did you make insane decisions as a result of your addictions?
Yes. Lots of them. The very definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and being surprised when I got the same outcome …
- What changes in your thinking and behaviour are necessary for your restoration to sanity?
I don’t know right now and this is a really really scary one for me, because clearly just not drinking, whilst an essential start, isn’t enough. There is a whole heap of stuff in here which is fundamentally related to the self critical and harshly self judgemental way in which I have critiqued myself all my adult life. I’m working through this with Angela, and I can feel the progress.. but it’s painfully, frustratingly slow. I used to think I would get “better” and then consider what changes I might make in my life – I’m becoming afraid that I might have to make changes in order to live a fulfilled, contented and happy life. But this would mean taking a huge risk, and challenging some of my deepest, most profound insecurities. It would mean giving up some of the drivers that have shaped my whole life ..basically, as I alluded to in my last post it would mean creating Time for myself …. which would mean changing / reducing my hours at work.
- What fears do you have that are getting in the way of your trust /faith
One big issue is the “Why does God allow all the suffering in the world” conundrum. I struggle with this one, as to many people of all faiths. In the process of my reading around this (google really is amazing) I came across this text, and then an explaination for it which I paraphrase here.
“And we know that all things work together for good for them that love God” Romans 8.
The explanation I read about this text went along the lines that if you allow for the translation from Arameic, the phrase could be read as “all things intermingle for good” and that from this we can take that God does not will suffering, but instead the suffering of humanity whilst individually tragic, is part of a greater plan that we mortals cannot perceive or understand, but through faith can believe that God has control, or a ‘master plan’ for the world, that we cannot hope to know but which can can make personal suffering bearable.
I found this both feasible and comforting.
The other irrational fear I have goes like this. I have always sort of believed that God does not send suffering that a person cannot cope with. And I know I could not cope, as I am, with the death of one of my children. I could not. Deep inside I’m afraid that if I had faith, God might think I could cope, and visit such suffering upon me. This is totally irrational and contradictory on so many levels … I don’t need to deconstruct it; but it’s there. And it’s a barrier.
- What do you need to do to help let go of the fears?
I don’t know. But building on the concept of neuroplasticity, and my accepted belief that repeated actions become habits and that from habits come new neural pathways I have committed to trying to pray every day and attending Church once a week when I can. Quietly. No big song and dance, no declarations of faith or expectation of spiritual awakenings, no discussions or high drama confessions. Just deliberately cultivating and nurturing my nascent spirituality in a way that seems manageable.
- What results have you personally seen from demonstrating open mindedness in your own AA journey?
Just GOINGtoAA was a huge step in open mindedness for me, as those who have followed this blog for a while will recollect my deep aversion to doing so. And the decision has been rewarded a thousand fold with the friendship and support I have received. Attending AA gave me the courage to be open with old friends as well as new, and my life has been immeasurably enriched by the connections I have made through attending meetings, working with my sponsor and reflecting on my experiences.
It seems important to remember that step two, like all of them, is a process, not an event, and that perhaps for now, at this stage, all I need to achieve is the belief that a) there is a higher power / God and b) I was behaving in an insane way as a result of all my addictions and c) it is possible not to behave in an insane way.