12 Steps Of Recovery | Step 2 – Power Greater Than Ourselves
“Came to believe that a Power Greater than Ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
In our last blog post, I talked about free will and how much our will-the choices we make and the actions we take-is largely determined by friends, family, and the surrounding community. My hope, from that blog, was to show that although we might feel powerful in our current state of affairs, the power to get there did not come from our will alone. Therefore, when thinking about the notion of “powerlessness” over drugs and alcohol we can better accept the fact that help is needed, as it is in all walks of life.
After accepting that we are powerless, that our will alone can no longer be the guiding light of our ship, the 12 Steps asks us to put our will at the mercy of a power greater than ourselves to restore us to sanity. To begin this discussion I share with you a quote from Alan Watts, “If you ask me to show you God, I will point to the sun, or a tree, or a worm. But if you say, “You mean that God is the sun, the tree, and all other things?” I shall have to say that you have missed the point entirely.”
Often times, when higher power discussions arise, many are quick to seek something empirical, something definite, especially today in our data driven society. However, Step 2 is more about the removal of self and its driving ego that has failed to uproot itself from the haze of intoxication, rather than the need to find an arcane higher power or something empirically justifiable. The removal of self simply means to become selfless. This act of becoming selfless allows someone or some other source of motivating power the capacity or ability to direct or influence our behavior over the course of present and future events.
“Motivated action is determined action,” explains Watts and, from this, we might conclude, if our motivations are driven by the need to be intoxicated, then, our actions will be determined by that motive. Only when the perverse preservation of our intoxicated state is washed clean from our motives can Step 2 begin to take place. When we put our will in the hands of another first, whoever the other being is, this gives us better direction than the previous selfishly motivated state due to those motives having alternative preferences to both drug and alcohol use.
Michael Cartwright, founder of American Addiction Centers, introduces a similar notion in his book, “Believable Hope.” He asks the reader to think about the phrases, “As you believe, it will be done… and …what your mind harbors, your body will seek to manifest.” The phrases present the same dichotomy introduced by Watts, what we believe can both lead us positively into the light or negatively into the dark. And that is where, for Cartwright, believable hope comes into play and for Watts, being present is most precious. Addictive behavior separates us from the present and suspends hope as an after thought.
The point is to seek and discover what it means for us to have, on an individual level, believable hope. The recovery process alongside the 12 Steps is meant to be a spiritual journey, a journey where the individual realizes that his or her addictive behavior makes it difficult to not only live in the present, but difficult to deal with any and all underlying trauma or other psychological diagnosis that may be at the root of our addictive behavior.
Step two is not applicable to addicts alone. No one is independent of this world and everyone could be more spiritually connected to it; we are all apart of a much larger system. Anyone standing outside the economic, social, and spiritual systems in place is immediately labeled problematic. Whether it is a person who robs a bank, creates a ponzi scheme, lies to their constituents, or those that cut the heads off of innocent people in the name of religion, we find their actions severed from the larger unified system seeking stability, love, and unity. The one thing all problematic instances have in common is, above all, self-motivated behavior.
There is not a single religion or belief system on this planet that encourages anyone to act from his or her own guiding light, even atheists act from reason, often times guided by others’ reasoning. The reason for this is the sincere belief that no one is perfect. This lack of perfection motivates, no matter how miniscule, wrongful or misguided action throughout our lifetimes. Given that it is in our nature to be imperfect, relying solely on our self is flawed from the onset.
You might, as an addict adhering to atheism, deny the presence of an almighty God, but that should not take away from the fact that you yourself are not God. Your addictive behavior is outside your control and for that reason, removing self and putting your spiritual journey into something greater than self like music, nature, the universe, or humanity is a good thing for you. Why? You are apart of a system, however you define it, and not independent from it. Through altruistic action we become closer to that system, seeing ourselves as part of something greater.
In sum, a spiritual journey and acceptance of a higher power is not something to be defined. For Christians the goal is not to define who Jesus is, but to walk with Jesus. For the Buddhist, the goal is to realize that the self is an illusion made up of thoughts, emotions, memories that have no center, no abiding core; relying on such a thing is an illusion. For the atheist, at the very least, the spiritual journey begins by turning elsewhere for help rather than inward. The goal for all three pursuits aligns with what the Big Book says, “we have ceased fighting anything or anyone.”
As Kevin Griffin, writer of “One Breath at a Time,” puts it, “It is more important that we cease the fight than it is that we adopt a particular idea of what a Higher Power is, because as long as we are fighting ourselves, with our Higher Power, and with the world, we can’t let the peace and joy of spiritual connection. Lastly, as Jack Kornfield says, “if we want to develop a spiritual journey, we need to “stop the war”-whatever war we are fighting.” Only then can we be restored to sanity.