Pastor Pat Duffin,
High Prairie Christian Centre
In my previous article I discussed the difficulty coming to terms with the reality of addiction and surrendering to the truth, at least to the extent that a life-controlling and life-threatening problem exists.
Admitting that you are powerless to help yourself is a devastating and deeply humbling experience. As harsh as that truth is, and as hard as it is to admit, nothing can change for the better until the alcoholic/addict has hit that bottom and reached the end of ego and ‘self’.
The good news is, “You don’t have to take the garbage truck all the way to the dump before you get off!”
What I am about to say will potentially offend some addicts. One of the greatest gifts I received from A.A. was the concept of keeping an open mind so I could profit from what others share. I had to “lay aside prejudice, even against organized religion.” [BB, p. 49, 3rd Edition]
If what I share is not for you, at least put it in your pocket and keep it for a future day.
In the Second Step of Recovery, hope ignites a faint glimmer in the addicted heart. Whereas, in the First Step we concede we are powerless, defeated and hopeless. We begin to seek a new way that does not depend on our own strength or effort because that has repeatedly failed us.
First, we “come”. Gradually, a new consciousness dawns and we “come to”. Finally, we “come to a realization that a power greater than ourselves could and would restore us to sanity.” It is a process. [pages 60 & 569]
Uncertainly, and awkwardly, we begin to grope blindly toward something that offers us hope. For many the unfamiliar concept of a benevolent power existing outside and beyond ourselves is a big stretch. That this power might be able to restore us from the insanity into which we had descended seems alien and a ‘bridge too far’.
That this power could be a loving person who is not only able to restore us but would want to restore us takes a long time to accept. There are several incremental steps as we emerge out of unbelief and into the light of spiritual possibilities. For the rebellious addict, looking to God for help is anathema.
“I would rather die than believe in God, let alone beg for His help!”
OK. Have it your way. How’s has this self-directed life been working for you so far?
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, which pioneered the 12 Steps of Recovery, describes the root of our problem as selfishness and the alcoholic [addict] as “self-will run riot.” [page 62]
That’s a perfect description of the chaos we have brought into our own lives and the lives of those we love and who love us.
There isn’t anyone else who has the power to restore us to sanity. Yes, there are other programs than can help alcoholics or addicts get dry or straight. But there is a big difference between being dry and being sober, and there is a huge difference between being normal and being well.
“When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.” [page 64]
I have heard many an angry rebel say, “So far as I am concerned, that chair over there is my higher power.”
OK, if you say so. I sort of believe you. But that’s a mighty powerless position in which to place yourself.
Consider the logic. Somebody made that ‘thing’ you claim as your higher power – whatever that ‘thing’ is that you claim. That means the ‘thing’ is less than the one who created it. And you are going to claim that created ‘thing’ [e.g. programs, methods, theories] as the power that you will rely on for your sobriety and restoration? The power that resides in that chair will take you about as far as a gas-tank full of dirt.
But you don’t have to accept what I am saying. You are free to choose your own way if you want. I am simply offering you the benefit of my experience, strength and hope. I only claim what the original founders of AA claimed – a return to sanity with ever increasing sobriety, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness.
If that’s what you want and are “willing to go to any length to get it” [page 58] you, too, can have it.
“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.”
As a daily practitioner of the 12 Steps of Recovery for 41 wonderful years, I live the life, and I reap the rewards [page 83] and the steps offer to anyone who will give themselves to this simple program – which is a search for God’s presence in their life. [page 57]
Some try to wiggle out by using philosophy or psychology. These things have a place and can be helpful, even supportive. But those who want restoration, those who want healing, those who want to be completely whole are looking for a transforming ‘power’ – a power outside of and greater than ‘self’ and which lends us the strength we do not possess.
We have already tried taking the ‘wagon’, positive thinking, employing bootstrap self-help methods, and half-heartedly dabbling with the recovery program, but these “half measures availed us nothing.”
In Step 3 we come to the turning point. “We ask His protection and care with complete abandon.” [page 59]
If you are not yet ready, just keep coming. Keep listening. Keep learning. Keep an open mind. Become a true student of the 12 Steps. If you do, you will eventually get there.