In 2003, after 3 years of sobriety, I discovered that I had a serious case of cancer. It wasn’t until 2005 that I was cancer free. Along the way, I had multiple surgeries, various Chemotherapy sessions and a treatment which resulted in me contracting a form of tuberculosis.
Although I remained sober over that time I was seething with resentment towards God. Every day while I was sick I repeatedly heard a voice shouting in my head saying things like, “How could you do this to me? After all the work I’ve done to become sober this is my reward? I’ve worked for over 30 years and as I approach retirement I won’t even be able to enjoy it! You’re supposed to take care of me and my family, not take my life away.”
Although I had healed by 2005, a year later I was still walking around with those resentments toward God. In the spring of 2006 my wife told me about a shaman from South America who healed people from both physical illness and emotional trauma. She didn’t even charge people money and just asked for a voluntary donation.
I knew that my resentments were destroying my serenity so my wife and I decided to visit this healer. When I met the shaman she asked how could she help me? I told her that I needed help in forgiving God for what he had done to me.
She looked at me and said, “I see that you are a religious man. Do you believe in God?” I replied yes. She then asked, “Do you believe that everything that happens in the universe comes from God?” I once again replied yes.
She then said to me, “My friend you are asking for the wrong thing. You said you wanted me to help you to forgive God for what he had done to you. You need to ask God to forgive you for not having faith and trust in Him.”
When she said those words I felt like an electric current had passed through my body. I realized that I had been walking around for years totally off point. I had turned my lack of faith in a Higher Power into a resentment of major proportions. That moment with the shaman was the beginning of my truly understanding the third step which says, “made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”
Personal Reflection: Have I truly surrendered my life and will to a Higher Power?
It is impossible to walk away from years of using without having impacted many people and institutions. A good part of the work of program is to be honest about our past actions and their impact on others. Much of what we’ve done can’t be undone. What we can do is to make amends to people where appropriate. Admitting to others how our behavior negatively impacted them and taking responsibility for it is a big part of recovery. Part of this process includes financial restitution where necessary. These actions in their own way can help clear away much of the wreckage of the past. Having the humility and honesty to own up to our past actions help us greatly grow in the program.
We can also apply these principles on a daily basis when our behavior is not in alignment with the program. This means taking responsibility, admitting we were wrong and making amends. This too will help us evolve in our path of sobriety.
What we shouldn’t do is attempt to clear away the wreckage of the future. We operate along the principle of one day at a time. If we are obsessing about the future, and ruminating on different scenarios, we are definitely not living in the moment. Our Higher Power will take care of the future. We just need to take the correct actions today
Personal Reflection: What wreckage am I focusing on?
Almost all who came into the program found step one to be quite doable. In step one we simply admitted that our lives had become unmanageable and we were powerless. Given the way our life was going at that time, it wasn’t much of a stretch to accept this step. For many of us, we found step two to be a greater hurdle. How could we believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. What proof did we have that G-d existed anyway. We had never seen or spoken to a Higher Power. Even more to the point, on many occasions we had promised G-d that we would stop using if he got us out of a jam. Either he wasn’t listening or didn’t exist because we took our lumps along the way. And how about the fact that bad things happened to good people. Where was G-d when that happened?
As we gained sobriety, we began to understand that faith was not something which was proof based. Furthermore, there really was no explanation as to why certain things happened in the world. As we accepted our powerlessness our trust in a power greater than ourselves slowly evolved. Trust did not require proof, just an open mind.
Personal Reflection: How deep is my trust in a Higher Power?
At countless meetings people talk about the miracle of their sobriety. Many of them were under the influence of substances for years and sometimes decades. Almost all of them had repeatedly made attempts to put down their drug of choice. Usually these attempts had ended in relapse. Yet today there are millions of people in AA, NA and OA who are clean and sober. Many of these people will attest to the fact that they no longer have a desire, to drink, use or binge. How we account for this lifting of their obsession to use? If you query them, most will attribute this fact to their Higher Power. They will restate that often quoted phrase, “G-d is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves”. At their core, all 12 step programs rely on a deep connection to a Higher Power. We each have our own concept of that Higher Power. We believe a Higher Power is fundamental to recovery; even if it is the power of the group.
This level of belief helps us on a daily basis to cope with the challenges of life. If a Higher Power has helped us reach this far, we have confidence that He will have our backs regardless of what the future may hold.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to call upon my Higher Power today?
We are the first to acknowledge that AA, NA and OA are spiritual programs. The second of the twelve steps states, “we came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”. Many of us can attest to this first hand. We had tried on our own to stop using our drug of choice. It was only when we called upon a Higher Power for aid that our obsession to use was lifted. It really was a miraculous moment. Years had been spent on a hamster wheel of use, abstinence, relapse and regret. Now, suddenly we had been able to step off the wheel.
Before we got too excited however, an old timer probably set us straight. Yes, we needed to have faith in a Higher Power. Yes, our obsession to use had been lifted. With all that we were informed that the work of the program had just begin. On a daily basis we needed to take certain actions to maintain our sobriety. The more diligent we were about these actions, the stronger our recovery would be. It was not only about putting down the drink or drug. Action also included the building of emotional sobriety. This was done thru meetings, sponsorship, prayer, meditation and all of the other tools of the program. We had faith that when we did the work G-d would take care of the rest.
Personal Reflection: What actions helped keep me sober today?
People in the program are like anyone else. We too on a daily basis must face life’s problems. Once we have established our goals; we also expend great effort to achieve them. This is usually the point where we part company with those who are not in the program. As long as we’ve done our part to our best effort; we let go of expectations.
At its core, twelve step program is spiritual in nature. We place our trust in our Higher Power to determine the results. In the past we spent a lot of time worrying and fearful about the outcome of our efforts. By doing so we burnt up a lot of emotional energy. Today, we are able to experience serenity. Since we know that our Higher Power is in charge, much of our fear has been lifted. The more we accept that G-d is running the show, the less concern we have for the ultimate outcome of events. Since we have put in effort and right work, we are confident in the outcome, no matter what it might be. The only time we end emotionally stressed is when we forget who is truly in charge.
Personal Reflection: Have I remembered to turn it over today?
During our drinking or using career, we experienced many disappointments and failures. We invariably railed against the people or organizations who had “caused” our problems. It was always because of someone or something else. During that time period, we did not have the capacity to accept any type of personal responsibility. We were the victims of all the perpetrators in the world. If we had only gotten a break we thought, we would have soared forward.
In sobriety we started to learn about personal responsibility. We began to move away from that victim mentality. In reviewing our past we acknowledged that many of our failures were of our own cause. We were also able to admit our role in failures that occurred in sobriety as well. Then we began to encounter an interesting phenomenon. We seemed to do everything right, and still didn’t get the job, the raise, the date or the loan. We racked our brains and couldn’t figure out what we had done wrong. With time we came to understood that we had done nothing wrong. It was just another life lesson of emotional sobriety. We could do everything right,and still not achieve what we wanted. The universe was just choosing not to satisfy our want in that moment; but was meeting the need of someone else. We were able to let go of our attachment because we knew that our Higher Power would provide for us in the future.
Personal Reflection: Am I still attempting to open the wrong doors?