So, by the time I reached my 30-day mark in sobriety from all mind- and mood-altering substances, I had stumbled my way relatively unscathed through the first step. I admitted to myself that I was powerless over alcohol and drugs and that my life had become unmanageable (the fact that I ended up living in a van during my active addiction made that one kind of hard to deny.) Next up was the second step: “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” The principle behind the second step is hope- that was something I had in very short supply. My experience of the second step was similar to my first step. I had to jump in without testing the waters, trusting that my sponsor was leading me on the right path.
The Principle Behind the Second Step
As discussed in the first post in this series, Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step fellowship use a series of steps (bonus points if you guessed that there are twelve of them) which are based on foundational principles. The principle guiding the first step is honesty, and the underlying principle of the second step is hope. If honesty was a foreign concept to me, hope was from outer space. In my early sobriety, the best thing I hoped for was that one day I might not need a needle or a bottle to function and that my family would answer my phone calls. I didn’t realize at the time that sobriety would give to me, among other things:
- The ability to go back to school and work towards a degree
- My dream job doing something I am passionate about
- The opportunity to have my own apartment and car
- A stable and healthy romantic relationship
- A wonderfully close relationship with my family
- The opportunity to travel the country
- Inner peace, serenity, and faith
- Boundless joy, and tools for coping with boundless pain
- A godson
- A pretty cute rescue cat
- The ability to chase my dreams with nothing holding me back
That’s a pretty stellar list, and it only gets better from here. But at the time that I was beginning to work the second step, I couldn’t even conceive of wanting these things, much less having them. Hope was not a part of my world, and I didn’t know how I was going to do a step that was based on the concept.
Came to Believe
The hardest part of the second step, for me, was the first part. Forget the hope- I didn’t think that part was going to be easy, but the idea of believing in a power greater than myself? Absolutely not. I was a militant atheist and completely unwilling to believe that any force in the world could be greater than me. The problem with that thinking is that if nothing on earth is greater than or more powerful than me, and I can’t solve my drinking and drug problem, doesn’t that leave me out of luck? As always, my sponsor was gentle and made me feel safe in expressing my reservations. I told her I could do the second step in the sense that I could admit I needed to be “restored to sanity” (detoxing in a psych ward will drive that point home), but I was having a lot of trouble with the hope part and even more so with believing in some force that could help me. She patiently explained that the definition of “hope” leaves a lot of wiggle room- all that hope means, she told me, is to desire something and believe that there is even the smallest possibility of it happening. I could concede that. My circle of sober supports and my sponsor had both been addicted, just as severely as I was, and their lives were better. I wasn’t so different from them that it wasn’t possible for me, too. But what my sponsor told me next helped me even more- she told me that I could simply believe that a twelve-step fellowship and the program could function as my Higher Power. Those two things certainly could help me to get and stay sober- I believed that- and because of that, they could do something I couldn’t. Voila! There was my Higher Power.
What Hope Can Do
Since completing the second step with my sponsor, my concept of a Higher Power has evolved and changed, as most things in my life have. But what the second step did for me was open my eyes to the idea that maybe I wasn’t totally in control, and that if I was willing to accept it, there were some tools I could use to make my life better. That’s all- not some scary concept of a deity or an afterlife, or the need to throw away my entire belief system and accept something I wasn’t sold on. The entire second step was my acceptance of the idea that there is something in the world more powerful than me that could relieve me of the insanity of drinking and drugging. It didn’t matter what it was. The fact that it was the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous worked just fine for me, and whenever I wanted to, I could tap into a different Higher Power. That was cause for hope, indeed. If you’re feeling hopeless and you know that your addiction problem is beyond your capability of solving, call Detoxes.net today at 800-232-0657. We’ve got plenty of hope for you to lean on.