Came to believe…

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Step Two of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

As I go through the steps again with my sponsor, I am currently working on step two.  This step asks us to consider two things:  1) trusting that there is something bigger and stronger out there than we are, and 2) that greater thing is able to do what we couldn’t – restore us to sanity.

I think that in reworking this step, I have really been able to see how far I have come.  When I first heard step two, my focus wasn’t on either of the points I listed above; it was on the fact that accepting this step meant that I was admitting that I was, in fact, insane.  Believe me, there was a time during my active drinking, when I preferred friends and family just think I was crazy as opposed to thinking that I was an alcoholic.  That explains why my first “stay” at any kind of treatment facility was at a psychiatric hospital.  It was easier to let everyone believe that I was having some sort of breakdown, than admit I was throwing back bottles and bottles of wine and vodka.  It was easier with the doctors too, as I didn’t tell them the truth about my drinking either.  Somehow, at the time, it seemed like insanity was the lesser of the two evils.

By the time I got to rehab, less than a month later, and had to consider step two, I really didn’t want to be considered crazy anymore.  I wanted, with everything in me, to get well.  I wanted to be sober and sane.  I knew that I was powerless over alcohol and that my life was unmanageable.  But now, the program was telling me that I was crazy and that I had to trust something greater than myself if I wanted that to change.  That was a really hard concept for me to swallow.  First of all, I wasn’t in the state of mind to be able to trust anyone. My family was bailing on me during my time of need (not that they were always there anyway, but if there was ever a time that I needed them, it was then); my boyfriend had dumped me while I was in the psych hospital; my friends weren’t really friends, they were either people I drank with or people who I never let see the real me.  I felt like I had no one, and they were telling me that I had to trust something, or someone, that I couldn’t even see.  Fat chance of that happening!  Or so I thought.

My first step two, although it was kind of a half-assed attempt at believing put me on the right path.  I knew, without a doubt, that I couldn’t get sober on my own.  If I had been able to do that, I would have stopped drinking a long time before ending up in treatment.  And I knew that people just like me had been able to get and stay sober; almost all of the employees at my rehab were in recovery themselves.  So what was the difference between them and me?  They had a Higher Power, and I was trying to do it all by myself.

What I found, when I was willing to walk the right path, was that heading in the right direction can lead to real faith.  I know that I didn’t “come to believe” all at once.  It was gradual and slow.  It took time.  I think my first real inclinations toward faith came when I thought about all of the past chaos and wreckage in my life.  Somehow, I had made it through all of that, no thanks to me.  Why, when I done all of the dangerous, self-harming things I had, was I even still alive?  How had I survived?  Clearly, it wasn’t my doing.  There had to be something out there that was doing it for me.

Over time, working the rest of the steps, listening to other alcoholics, and confronting my past and putting it to rest, I realized that I had “come to believe.”  I did have a Higher Power:  God, and He was taking care of me and giving me grace even when I didn’t want to see it.  The grace I had been given was evidence to me that God was working in my life, and all I had to do was trust in that.

So, this time as I worked my second step, I found it much different.  I no longer focus on the insanity part of the step.  As it says in the 12 and 12:

“Sanity is defined as “soundness of mind.” Yet no alcoholic, soberly analyzing his destructive behavior, whether the destruction fell on the dining-room furniture or his own moral fiber, can claim “soundness of mind” for himself.”

I did not have soundness of mind when I was actively drinking.  In sobriety, I think I do.  Well, most of the time anyway.

I also have faith this time around.  I know that it is God that deserves the glory for my 16+ months of sobriety.  I’ve done some hard, really hard, work, but without Him, I wouldn’t be where I am.  So as I take step two now, I am confident in saying that I have come to believe in a power greater than myself, and He has restored me to sanity.

 

 

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Keeping the Faith

Faith

Today’s AA meeting was much better than the one last week.  I wrote about the drama last week when an old-timer told a newcomer to shut the fuck up during his emotional share.  (Update:  I haven’t seen that newcomer all week.  I hope that only means that he has chosen to go to different meetings after what happened, and not the alternative.)   Thank God there was no drama today.  It was an enlightening meeting with a lot of insightful shares and it was filled with hope.  The topic was faith.  The person that brought up the topic (the same old-timer that was so rude last week!) expressed that, as the Bible says in Matthew 13:31, all we need to change for the better, to live a life filled with joy, to stay sober, to have a relationship with God, is faith as small as a mustard seed.  That resonated with me because when it came to both my faith in God and the gospel, and my faith in AA, that’s all I had.

My faith in God came first.  I grew up in a family that didn’t go to church, didn’t talk about God or the Bible, and didn’t behave in a Christian way.  Yet, if you had asked any of them if they were Christians, they would have enthusiastically said yes.  But, whenever I questioned them about faith in God, no one could explain it to me in a way that I understood or believed.  A typical response was “it’s just something you have.”  I didn’t get it, so at an early age, I declared myself agnostic.  I couldn’t see God, couldn’t touch God, couldn’t feel His presence, so how could I have faith in Him?  I didn’t even know if He was real.  I saw though, in people outside of my family, that the ones that had faith had something I wanted.  They had a serenity and peace about them.  They were able to face things that seemed impossible to me, and make it to the other side of trials and tribulations.  I always knew that I was missing out on something big, I just couldn’t figure out how to get it.

I think that is one of the reasons that I became an alcoholic (of course that is a long list!).  I was missing something that the human soul needs.  And I drank to try to fill it up.  When I finally made it to rehab, I ended up at a Christian treatment center in Phoenix because they accepted my insurance.  That was really my only reason for choosing that facility, other than the fact that they returned my desperate call first.  When I got there, I chose the traditional track (Big Book studies, meditation and lots of lectures and 12-step meetings), as opposed to the Christian track (devotionals, Bible studies, the same lectures and 12-step meetings).   That only lasted about a week, because I started to pay attention to the staff working with all of us addicts:  the therapists, the behavioral health techs, the nurses, even the doctors.  I learned that all but one of them were in recovery themselves.  I struck up conversations with them and I learned that spirituality and faith in a Higher Power were helping them stay sober.  Amazing.  I went to Bible study and morning devotional the second week.  When I listened to the believers share, what I heard was what I had been missing.  They spoke of their horrible experiences and of how God brought them through them.  They spoke of knowing that they were powerless and that they had to rely on God to save them.  They threw up their hands and turned their will over to God.  They relinquished control.  And, here’s the kicker, they believed without proof that God would take care of them.  That was faith!  That was what I had been looking for my whole life!  The people at rehab, a bunch of addicts and alcoholics, finally showed me what faith was.  I was overjoyed.

Having faith in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous took a while longer.  I loved AA almost from the beginning, and again, I found people who had what I wanted – sobriety.  I wanted to be able to live without getting loaded, and these people were doing it.  But, when it came to really believing that the program could work for me, I wavered.  It all sounds good on paper, but how could one alcoholic helping another really work?  How could these AA members that had lost their families, their homes, their freedom, their jobs, really be happy, joyous, and free?  I was probably a year into the program before I really started to have faith that it works.  I started to see that the promises that the old timers talked about and that we read at the end of every meeting, really could (and would) come true.  I saw it in their lives and it gave me hope – and faith – that it would happen in mine.  And you know what?  It is happening in mine.  I have made it nearly nine months free from alcohol, I have not had an inclination to drink, and I have had many times when I have been happy, joyous and free.  These things don’t happen all the time, but they happen often enough for me and for others that I see in the program, that I am able to have faith that it works.  And I’m gonna keep the faith!