Step 2: Came to believe
Power Greater than ourselves
could restore us to sanity.
How I took Step 2 of
AA's 12 Steps in Alcoholics Anonymous
When I first came to A.A., I didn't believe that I was an alcoholic... but I could agree that I was slightly nuts. As a matter of fact, when I showed up at the San Fernando Valley Central Office of A.A., on the morning of December 28th, 1985, I was of the opinion that I had gone insane.... and I was hoping that I could find someone at A.A. to pronounce me insane and to validate my belief that I did not have a drinking problem.
Let's face it. If I had a drinking problem, I might have to learn to control my drinking... and I had already tried controlling my drinking and it didn't work. I couldn't control my drinking. I had come to realize that my drinking was killing me, but not drinking was just as lethal. At least while I was drinking I was moderately sane... and when I was sober..... I was totally nuts. I needed alcohol to live... but drinking alcohol was killing me. Sounded like insanity to me!
But, naturally I could not be an alcoholic, because I thought that you had to be living on skid row drinking out of a paper bag, stuffed into the pocket of one of the seven layers of dirty stinky overcoats. And, that sure didn't describe me.
When I showed up at A.A., I wasn't looking to get sober..... Who in their right mind would want to be sober?
I was hoping that A.A. would know where I could find a rubber room to be locked up in because I had gone crazy. I had been in a rubber room before... you can usually find one in the drunk tank at a city jail. The room has rubber on the walls, rubber on the cell door, a big hole in the floor to puke or pee in, and they take all your clothes, hose you down for a shower, and slide food under the door when it's time to eat. I didn't want to go to jail, because I felt like my luck was running out... and I'd probably be locked in a cell without the rubber... and I'd end up banging my head against the steel bars and then I'd have a massive headache in addition to being insane!!!
So, you could actually say that "I came to A.A. looking to get pronounced insane." Yet, when I saw the words "restored to sanity" in Step 2, I balked at it because I couldn't accept the fact of me being insane!!!! My sponsor would have said something like "Sounds like alcoholic thinking to me."
Then, I looked over to Step 3 and saw the word "God". And, I realized that I must be in the wrong place.... because I had already tried "God" and that just wasn't going to work for me. As a matter of fact, I already had an agreement with the God of my understanding... that we were angry at each other... and I wouldn't even use the word God, unless I was using it as part of a cuss word!!! If I was going to have to swallow this "God idea" I'd just rather die drunk and insane.
I hated the Serenity Prayer years before coming to A.A. I thought "what kind of low-life weak-kneed puke would ever have to accept something they could not change?" As far as my thinking was concerned, I was all-powerful and had tremendous self-will, self-knowledge, self-control, self-discipline, self-awareness, and self-reliance. I was not just an average everyday "real man" I was a very special, and unique self-made real man." Yes, I was a "little nuts" and "couldn't control my drinking" but I was still all of the above!!! I didn't need a God, a Higher Power, and I wasn't about to "come to believe in" anything other than me!!!
I had even met some friends in A.A., who told me that they were alcoholic and that they didn't need God... they just needed to go to A.A. meetings and not take the first drink and they wouldn't get drunk. So, why couldn't I just do as they did?
I later learned the hard way, that perhaps I was an alcoholic of a different type and what was working for them didn't work for me. In my first 5 1/2 months in A.A. I went to 3 and 4 meetings a day...... and got drunk less than 24 hours after my last meeting.
When I was able to finally crawl back into the doors of A.A., I did want to be sober. But, I couldn't get sober. I would leave my house sober... head to an A.A. meeting with the intention of being sober for the rest of my life, and I'd get drunk on the way to the meeting, and sit drunk in the meeting!!! Finally, after going to so many meetings drunk... and listening to them say "Just keep coming back..." I stopped coming back. What was the use?
When I did finally get a second chance at sobriety on November 14th, 1986, I became willing to do what recovering alcoholics in A.A. really do... and that was to be "willing to go to any lengths to stay sober" even if it meant taking the 12 Steps, calling my sponsor, going to meetings, and yes, even to swallow the God-stuff. That was easier said that done.
When I met with my sponsor and told him what had really happened to me, he said "Dallas, I have some bad news for you." He said "In all my years in A.A., I've never seen an alcoholic of your type recover." I said "never?" And, he said "never". He said the only way I could ever have a hope of recovering was that if I found a God of my own understanding, and had some sort of spiritual experience that would relieve me of my alcoholism.
He pointed out that in Chapter 3, More about alcoholism, that it says "we alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking."
That means... sober... I do not have the necessary power to stay away from next drink. That's what it means to me to be an alcoholic. That means, I'm screwed. I am doomed... to drink again and die an alcoholic death. That's the First Step. I'm powerless over alcohol, and no matter how well I try to manage my life, I'm screwed.
My only hope was that I could find a way to change my mind about the God stuff.
My sponsor said "Do you believe that I have a God of my understanding?" I said "Yeah, I think you probably have one." He said "Do you believe that I am sober?" And, I said, "Yes. I believe you are sober." Then, he said, "If I'm an alcoholic, then how am I staying sober?" I said.... "Geez, I don't know. How are you staying sober?" (I guess you can tell by my brilliant intelligence, that in some areas I'm obviously a slow learner!).
So he tried again. "Dallas, do you believe in any kind of Higher Power?" I said, "I'm not sure." He said "would you be willing to believe in a Higher Power?" I said that "I'm not sure if I can." He said "How do you think all the alcoholics in A.A. are staying sober?" And, I said "They have a God, they have a Higher Power." And, then he said "Well can you go to A.A. meetings and believe that the alcoholics there have a Higher Power that is keeping them sober?" And, I said "Yeah. I can do that." He said, "Then I want you to go to meetings and be around A.A.'s who have a Higher Power. Hang out with them. And, start praying to whatever Higher Power that you think is around there that you can come to believe in it." I said "Okay. I can do that."
I'm not totally sure when it happened. But over time, I was able to discover many powers that were greater than me. Here's an example. Try to jump up in the air and just stay there. Try it more than once. If you are able to succeed my hat is off to you. You are a power greater than the power of gravity. I'm not.
If you do not believe that electricity is a power greater than you... try putting a light bulb in your hand and make it light up by using your own energy. There is no power in the light bulb.
Have you heard of "magnetic fields?" Ever used a compass? A compass has no power in itself. Yet, the needle will always point to true north. That's because of the magnetic field of the earth. Try to get the needle to point south... on it's own. It can't do it. The magnetic field of the earth is a power greater than the compass. And, if you know how to read a compass... the compass is a power greater than you... even though it has no power of it's own. It can get you "unlost" if you are lost... if you know how to use it.
Plant a seed in good soil and water it and give it sunlight. The seed will grow into a plant of its type. That's because the seed is using several powers greater than the seed... and it grows. Try holding the seed in your bare hand and see if it grows. If it doesn't grow... that means there are powers greater than you.
You say "Yes. But those are all the results of a scientific application of applied principles." And, I say "Yes, the application of applied principles are also a power greater than me." There may be no power in the principles... but if you apply them, (that's application), something happens as a result of your actions.
The 12 Steps are "Spiritual Principles." There is no power in the principles. We do not have to believe that they will work for us. But, we must take the actions to take the 12 Steps to find out if they will work for us. Some will not even try it. They will say "There is no intelligent reason why the 12 Steps will work." That's mind verses spirit. The mind says "it won't work." So, we have to take actions that we don't believe in.
And, when you take the actions... that you didn't believe in, and when you apply them.... something happens as a result of your actions. And, what happens, is explained to us in the Appendix II, Spiritual Experience, in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. They produce a psychic change. They produce the personality change that is necessary to recover from alcoholism.
"Came to believe" does not necessarily mean "now I believe". "Came to believe" is a process.
In my early beginning I used it as "Came to A.A. meetings to believe that other alcoholics were staying sober." And, I was hoping that if I did what they did, I might recover also.
What is "sanity?" Sanity means "sound thinking." Admitting that I was alcoholic was probably the first sound thinking that I was able to achieve. Coming to believe that on my own... with my alcoholism... I was screwed, was also sound thinking.
As I took the 12 Steps, and kept coming back to A.A., my life began to change. My thoughts began to change. I was then able to see the truth about my condition of "powerless" and to see the truth about the "insanity of the first drink." Something was happening to me that I had previously been unable to make happen to me. I was staying sober... and I was discovering that I was able to be happy with my sobriety.
Remembering that "I am powerless" and remembering what the solution is, the 12 Steps, is why I keep going to A.A. meetings. "On my own, I'll come up with a different solution...." and that is very dangerous for an alcoholic of my type. That is sound thinking. And, sound thinking... is sanity.
What was your experience with Step 2?
-- Dallas B.
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