This step, I believe, causes more internal pushback than any of the other eleven. Step Two reads, “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.” I believe there are basically three types of people who walk into any twelve step meeting when it comes to “God.”
The first group are those who profess to have a relationship with an organized religion, but because of their addiction have lost their way. They are under the assumption that the seven steps that pertain to Higher Power for them will be a piece of cake, kind of like faxing it in. Their knowledge of their religion, including scripture, leads them to believe that this is a given. More often they are wrong.
The second group are people who have never had any affiliation with an organized religion and innately bristle at the mere mention of God or a Higher Power. They are the kind of folks who, when someone sneezes, will say “Bless you” but never “God Bless you.” Oftentimes their resistance to anything that remotely touches the ‘God” subject is enough to make them not even walk in the door, no less stay. As I often say, “I have never met anyone too stupid to get recovery, but I have met people too smart!” For recovery to work, this type of addict will have to be able to set aside his doubting Thomas at least for a while. Suspending judgment is difficult for “normies”; for addicts it’s almost impossible.
The third group is made up of folks who had connection to a traditional religion in their background, mainly their childhoods, who have left it far behind them, vowing to never even re-examine their own relationship with a higher power. Many of these people remember “God” and religion being shoved down their throats as kids, and that god was wrapped around hell, fire and damnation. Their generic feeling is thanks, but no thanks, been there and done that! They have to see that religion and spirituality have nothing to do with each other. This is a spiritual program, not a religious one. Again, willingness is the key.
In chapter four of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book [We Agnostics] page 44, Bill Wilson, who was himself a type 3, goes to great lengths to show how doing the God piece doesn’t have to be a non-starter. He writes “If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered a long time ago.” On page 39 he states that “the alcoholic will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge.” So if knowledge and a new moral code will not work, what will? He goes on to say that the lack of basic power was the addict’s real dilemma, which would demand that the addict in order to stay sober would have to find help outside of himself. He called this force a “Higher Power” greater than yourself.
We never recover at the speed of light, we only recover at the speed of pain. Having said that, the destructive nature of addiction often will cause enough pain to let the doubter become open minded on spiritual matters. In this regard addiction is a great persuader. All 12 step programs are spiritually based, not religion based. The 12 step tent is big enough for the agnostic as well as for the true believer. All are welcomed.
Looking at the step the word “restore” jumps out at me. In order to restore a ‘57 Chevy one has to have it in the first place. Back in the thirties when it was written, many of those alcoholics did have a place and time to go back to in their memory where and when they were sane. For today’s addicts that’s not always the case. Most can’t remember a sane decade, year or even a month. For many there are no “good old days.” Truth be told is that Step 2 deals with mental illness, because whenever addiction is present there is mental illness. Chronic addictive behavior always results in compulsive and insane behavior. Help is needed, self-will won’t work. At first the help is meetings, community and sponsor. Eventually help has to go beyond people. People have a life, move, die, relapse and work. Prayer and meditation can be a constant companion.
Treatment has to be an honest evaluation of our own personalities and the reality of the inadequacy of a human remedy for them. We need to have enough willingness for treatment and finally enough openness to even consider seeking help from a higher power. In the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, in the back of the book is an additional piece titled “Spiritual Experience.” In its conclusion there is a quote from Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher [1820-1903], which reads: “there is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance- that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
Don’t let the “GOD” piece disqualify you from a new life. As I always say, don’t leave before the miracle and you are the miracle. Call me, let’s talk about it.