A Brief Outline Of The 12 Steps — Step Two

This is the third in a series of posts, in which we hope to inform our readers about some of the details surrounding the programs that we recommend. There are a variety of other programs, but because we and most other facilities shape our treatment plans around the 12 Step fellowships, those are the ones on which we will concentrate.  Today, we're considering Step Two of the 12-step programs.

Step Two reads “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.” The principle behind the second step is Hope — the driving force behind early sobriety.

The second step was an early stumbling block in my recovery. I had no difficulty with the “restore us to sanity” part. What I remembered of the insane ways I tried to live my life when I was using had already taken care of that. If I wasn't insane, why did I regularly drink until I was comatose? Why did I use drugs? Why did I allow my moral standards to slip? Why did I run roughshod through the lives of others, leaving carnage behind? Why did a guy with my brains and education do all that stuff? A sane person doesn't reach a point where he needs to be sitting in a room with a bunch of ex-drunks and -druggies, drinking bad coffee, smoking too many cigarettes, and worrying if he can stay sober and get his life straightened out. Did sane behavior get me there? Puh-leeze!

However, I was unwilling to admit that there was a power greater than myself.  When I was in treatment I told my therapist that he said, “OK. I want you to grab that chair over there (a lightweight folding chair) and carry it with you everywhere you go for the rest of the day.”

I lasted for about two hours, then went back to Ron and said, “OK. This thing’s driving me nuts. What’s your point?” He pointed out two things. The first was that I was powerless over the chair. It was clumsy to carry around, hard to get through doors, and a general pain in the butt no matter what I did, until I put it down. (A little first step lesson, there.) Then he made the real point: that I had done as he asked without question, proving that I was quite willing to perceive someone else as more powerful than myself, and to take suggestions.

Ron was a wise man, as well as a wise guy. In the simplest way possible, he made step two a walk in the park for me — without a chair. He made me understand that simply acknowledging that I couldn’t achieve what I needed to do alone, was accepting that I needed help from a higher power, and that my higher power could be the people who had already succeeded in doing what I needed to do.

So recovering people became my higher power. I kicked and yelled and left fingernail marks, but I let them show me how to stay sober. I believed that I couldn’t do it by myself, and that they could help me. I wanted what they had, and I was willing to go to the necessary lengths to get it. And it worked.

Accepting help, and the hope that comes with it, are pretty hard to avoid if we want to recover. If we are comfortable praying to a Higher Power, that’s fine, but the willingness to accept the folks who went before us as His or Her tools is still necessary. By the same token, lack of faith in God is no excuse (or, more accurately, an excuse is all it is). A higher power can be whatever we are willing to accept, as long as we admit that our best efforts got us to where we are, and that we have already proven that we can’t go it alone.

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