Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
I cringed when I first read this step. In my mind, that capitalization of the word power clearly meant something. And that something was an interventionist God that was going to fix me. I was having none of it.
I’ve written extensively about my struggles with the God Talk in AA. It all comes down to a spiritual trauma inflicted upon me by a person in authority in the Roman Catholic Church. Quite simply God is a trigger for me. How could I possibly work through a step that triggers me?
Not very well is the answer. I spent months, wrestling with this step. I read countless books about alternate takes on the steps. I read about Buddhism and the steps. I read about secular versions of the steps. I read and talked and tried to reframe it in a way that would work for me. And I failed. Nothing satisfied my angst.
Then one day I was re-reading a journal entry that I wrote shortly before getting sober. If there ever been a moment of clarity captured in words in my life this was it.
September 21, 2015
Severna Park, MD / 65F, Cloudy
I cannot keep living like this. This is not living. This is a slow, painful suicide. What else can I call it, but that. Night after night of not quite enough booze to kill me has to be taking it’s toll.
I am terrified of the thought of AA. Terrified of not having a drink ever again. Terrified of the stigma that society puts on people like me. The ones who can’t drink within reason.
The first few gulps at the end of the day seem to put my world back on it’s axis. Level things out — but it almost always ends in guilt and shame. Deep senses of depression.
So, I have to make a choice. I have to stand like a warrior and fight against this foe who is trying to and eventually will kill me. It’s time to stop this madness.
It’s time for AA.
It literally jumped off the page at me. There was, in fact, a power greater than me that restored me to sanity. That power was my own mortality. I knew that if I were to continue drinking I was going to die a slow and painful death. I knew that I was not ready to die. I knew that I needed help and that I would find that help in AA. And that gave me hope.
Today I firmly believe that the power greater than ourselves referenced in step two need not be the same as the God of our understanding that makes its first appearance in step 3. The power greater than ourselves is what ever makes us seek help. It’s whatever gives us the hope that there is a way out of the mess we find ourselves in. For many people, that power is the God of their understanding, but it doesn’t have to be.
Step two is all about hope. Hope is so important in early recovery. Without the hope that things would get better, that I would get better, I could never have achieved a week, let alone a month, or even years of continuous sobriety.
Hope and Faith are sisters. My wife has told me that I have a strong faith. At first I thought she must be joking. How could an agnostic like me have a great deal of faith? But she pointed out that I always believe that things will get better, that things will work out, even in the most horrific and tragic of situations. I believe that because my life experience has shown me that it’s true. That’s resilience.
When I look back now, I can see that I’d already taken step 2 when I walked through the doors of AA. I just didn’t know it at the time. What I did know was that I had hope and even faith that things would get better. With time I came to understand that with support I would be able to stop drinking and live a rich and full life.