At a meeting recently a person was having a good laugh with some of his friends. He said, “I guess if I walked around with my hands tied behind my back I wouldn’t have to worry about taking a drink”. The same principle could be applied to members in NA and OA as well. If only we had control over our hands we wouldn’t have a problem with alcohol, drugs or food. And therein lies the crux of the problem. Many of us had spent years attempting to control the use of our drug of choice. We had evolved countless strategies to deal with our addictive tendencies. Some of them were actually quite ingenious. Ultimately though all of them failed. We believe the reason behind this is actually quite profound. In our estimation, the ability to become truly sober goes beyond our own personal efforts. It was only with the help of our Higher Power that our obsession to use was lifted. This was the essence of step 2 where we “came to belief that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”. This belief continues on a daily basis for our program of recovery. Without it, the only alternative would be to walk around with our hands tied behind our backs.
Personal Reflection: How do I apply Step 2 to my life?
People in the fellowship come in all religious and spiritual persuasions. There are many of us who identify with a particular religious group. Perhaps on the world stage there is conflict between different religions. In AA, NA and OA that is not the case. We couldn’t care less if you are Catholic, Jewish, Anglican or Sufi. What matters is that you have a desire to stop using your drug of choice. For those of us aligned to a particular theology, having a belief in a Higher Power is just an extension of our religious practice.
There are those in the program, who although not connected to a particular religion per se, are spiritual in nature. Their concept of G-d often does not fit into any particular religious ideology. They take comfort in having a G-d of their understanding in their lives. This freedom of choice allows them to have a connection to a power greater than themselves.
Even those who have no belief in G-d feel at home in the rooms. For them, it is often the power of fellowship which is considered a Higher Power.
The only person who will have difficulty with the program is the one who thinks they are G-d. Arrogance will feed many of our character defects and hold us back from true sobriety.
Personal Reflection: What is my relationship with my 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?
Our comfort level was sorely tested when we became members of AA, NA or OA. What particularly irked us was this G-d thing. The first step we could live with. We admitted our lives were unmanageable and we were powerless over our substance of choice. Then you hit us with step two and three which referenced a Higher Power and G-d. We found this G-d thing problematic because our experiences with this concept had not been positive. Some of us had been brought up with religious training that had been forced down our throats. While our friends were outside playing, we were stuck inside learning about some stuffy religious ideas. Then there were those of us who had been subjected to the idea that we were sinful and that G-d was a punishing and vengeful Deity. When we asked questions about why G-d allowed so much pain and suffering in the world we were at best met with silence or at worst punished for being so rebellious.
Over time we learned that our Higher Power could be anything we wanted. He could even be the power of the group. No one judged or criticized us regarding how we viewed G-d. When we started to call upon the G-d of our understanding, we began to draw comfort from that fact. Our relationship with a Higher Power helped contribute to our sobriety.
Personal Reflection: How does my relationship with a Higher Power contribute to my sobriety?
Many people in the program were extremely successful in their given careers. Among us you will find lawyers, doctors, CEO’s, architects and other professionals. We were highly regarded by our colleagues in our respective fields. A good part of our success was due to discipline and hard work. That was why it baffled us when it came to our drug of choice. How could we be so successful in our professional life; and yet when it came to a drug, alcohol or food we constantly relapsed. We had so much self directed will in one area of our life and yet in another we did not.
Many of us entered the program because of this very paradox. Early on we learned that our experience was actually quite average among addicts and alcoholics. When it came to our drug of choice, we needed to accept that willpower alone would not help us break our endless cycle of use and remorse. We accepted that we were indeed powerless over alcohol, drugs or food. We needed to turn to a “power greater than ourselves” for assistance. For some, that power was their home group or sponsor. For many, we had a true spiritual awakening and recognized the role of a Higher Power in removing our obsession to use.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to let go of my will in some area of my life?
Many of us had made a mess out of our lives. Problems with work, family, marriages and health. We honestly couldn’t understand why all of this had happened to us. Then we hit our first meeting. We were a bit taken aback by what we heard. In a nutshell, we heard that everything had happened to us because of us. While we were running the show, our lives resembled one long protracted traffic accident. Probably some old timer told us it was time for us to get out of the driver’s seat. In that moment we really didn’t get what he was talking about. Over time, his words began to percolate within us. On the most basic level, it meant that we needed to follow the directions of others who had come before us. These included people with time, our sponsor and some of the readings from the Big Book. Beyond that, we needed to create a connection between ourselves and a Higher Power. Twelve step program is rooted in that connection. We began to understand that our Higher Power could “do for us what we could not do for ourselves”. We just needed to get out of the way and believe we could let go.
Personal Reflection: Am I still trying to drive the bus?
Alcohol, drugs and food were like a light switch for us. As long as we stayed away from our drug of choice, we often appeared to be quite well adjusted to those around us. Once we took that first drink or drug, then all bets were off. That switch was turned on, and everything changed. Perhaps initially we became the life of the party or felt at ease in social situations. For many of us, that light switch also unleashed a lot of pent up feelings we had been carrying around. In particular, we tapped into a mother lode of anger and resentment. These were feelings that we had often carried for a long time without having addressed them.
Perhaps abstaining from our drug of choice removed the trigger for our anger. It didn’t take long however for us to discover that all of those feelings of anger and resentment were only just below the surface. Now almost any life situation could trigger us into some kind of emotional tirade. Left unaddressed, these feelings would eventually lead us to taking that first drink or drug. That’s why it was imperative for us to begin to address all of those feelings of rage and anger. We made it our business to tap into the fellowship for assistance. We also asked our Higher Power to remove our reactivity to the vicissitudes of life.
Personal Reflection: Is anger still my master?