As promised, here’s the second installment (the first can be found here) of my proposed series, “The 12 Steps For Everyone” series. This year, I’ve committed to doing step work with a new sponsor. It’s an ongoing process...
* * *
-=[ Hope ]=-
We came to believe that a power higher than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
-- Step Two
As anyone who’s acquainted with my writing knows, I am an addict in recovery. I’ve been clean, one day at a time (sometimes one breath at a time LOL), for almost 20 years. Herein you will find my strengths, hopes, and experiences on one of the 12 steps of Narcotics Anonymous. What follows is a narrative of my journey toward wholeness. I don’t know if this will work for you, but if you were to ask me, this is how I recovered my life. My story is extreme and you might find it hard to identify with some of its elements. All I ask is that you try to identify with and not compare my story. Listen to the message and not the mess.
I believe all people can benefit from a rigorous application of the 12 steps.
So we take a thorough First Step and what happens? We’re stuck in a bad place! I mean, c’mon now, coming to the full and painful realization that my way of doing things was fundamentally fucked up isn’t a nice space. Furthermore, my bottom had me staring at the very real possibility of a long prison sentence.
Talk about despair.
The first time I read this step, I literally walked away from Narcotics Anonymous. My understanding at that time of the core principle of this step, faith, caused me to filter this step through a bias. I am not a religious person, nor do I believe in a paternal God-in-the-sky dogma. And as I continued reading down the steps, I kept seeing the “God” word and Higher Power and I decided then that it was bullshit. Consequently, I went through the five worst years of my life. The second issue I had with this step was the implication that I was insane – restore us to sanity. When I came back to NA, I did so with a more open mind.
My sponsor at the time suggested that I simply commit to keeping an open mind and to make this process a personal search. The beauty of Narcotics Anonymous is that the fellowship doesn’t demand you do anything. There are no “thou shalts,” no “shoulds.” As part of taking this step, my sponsor suggested I take a close reading and learn the terms. One of the first things I liked about the step the second time around was how it starts, “came… ” and then, “came to… ,” then, “came to believe… ” In a very real way I was finally coming to my senses -- awakening. The opposite of despair is hope and hope is what the Second Step offered me.
Faith was a hard score to settle, but there are enough agnostics and even atheists who are recovering addicts because the Twelve Steps allow for a kind of spiritual democracy. You do not have to do anything, or join any religion. You do not even have to apply the steps. They are suggestions and since whenever I followed my own suggestions, I usually arrived at a destination that brought tremendous suffering, I figured it was time for me to listen to some alternative suggestions.
There are many different meanings of faith. At one extreme, there is the more common understanding of faith as blind faith, but that’s just one way of looking at faith. There are degrees of faith. In fact, we all have daily moments of faith and belief. We have faith, for example, that when we turn on the spigot, water will flow. We have faith that our car will start, or that a toaster will work. We also have many beliefs. We believe, for example, that we have a personality. Actually, many of us believe we are our personality, but there’s no brain center that organizes personality. Your personality is a set of beliefs and quirks that you constructed in order to operate in the everyday world. Scientists have faith in reason and logic to solve problems.
Shit, some of us believe that if we shove money inside of hole in the wall, a bag of dope will materialize. LOL! I’m not kidding. Back in the day, the way you copped drugs was that you’d stick your hand with your money in a hole and a hand with bag would come out. I had complete faith in that transaction! LOL
Early on, faith for me had to mean a temporary suspension of disbelief. What that means is that I made an agreement with myself to keep an open mind. Sometimes faith can mean trust. I came to believe that the spiritual principles of hope, freedom and willingness would restore me to sanity. And believe me, by the second time around, I knew I was insane. I have been studying human behavior for over a decade now, and the best definition of insanity I have come across is doing the same actions and expecting different results.
Even an infant knows better not to stick his hand in the socket after the first go-round. But yet we as adults oftentimes commit the same behaviors -- especially in the area of relationships -- expecting different results.
Sometimes faith can mean trust in a teaching, or self-confidence. As a Buddhist, my Higher Power is the Dharma (The Law), a clearly defined set of ethical and cognitive principles. In sports, a group can develop faith in their ability as a team to overcome everybody’s expectations. In that same way, I came to believe that the fellowship and principles of Narcotics Anonymous could restore me to sanity. Why? Because people all around me were taking back their lives. People were helping heal themselves and one another. I have been to NA meetings where a particular individual cried because she couldn’t pay her rent, then see her cry once again several months later because she was able to pay her rent.
Initially, my Higher Power was the group -- that what I couldn’t do alone we could do together. Eventually, my spirituality would evolve and I would come to embrace Buddhism as my path. The historical Buddha didn’t make any claims to divinity and his last words, as he lay dying (of all things, food poisoning) were, “… be a lamp unto yourself.” What that means to me is that ultimately, you must walk your path. It means that sayings, scriptures, or instructions alone will not save you. Ultimately, if you want to awaken, to come to your full realization as a human being, you must walk your path -- whatever that path entails.
And that’s what the second step helped me begin. It helped begin to walk the walk, trusting in my experience that I could be restored to sanity by a power greater than myself.