“We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” This is step three of Narcotics Anonymous, adapted, with permission, from Alcoholics Anonymous.
There are approximately 125 twelve-step groups in this country, most of them world-wide, all adapted from A.A., the original and “gold standard.” Hmmm, maybe twelve-step groups work. In reviewing Recovery, Step Two we learn that for recovery to be successful and ongoing, we need a Higher Power. Addicts who find themselves in trouble, the drugs not working any more, their lives not working so well, have gotten there by trying to do life “on my own.”
How’s that working for you? That living life on self-will without a spiritual pathway of any kind? Like a two-year old, “I can do it myself” is the refrain we hear, until the addict hits bottom, is beaten into a state of reasonableness and looks at where “doing it himself” has gotten him. Two-year olds grow up, most accepting help somewhere along the line, from parents, teachers, coaches, and friends. Addicts too, need to accept help to grow up and grow into recovery.
So, after reviewing step two, we remember that we have come to believe a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. For us to continue in recovery, we get to nurture our relationship with that power and actually turn our will and our lives over to It, Her, or Him. For those with healthy or even reasonable religious backgrounds, it might be possible to build on something from your past. For those who have been sexually abused by clergy, not likely. Deal with your past “God concept” and either discard it and start over or feed, water and grow the seed you do have. The Judeo-Christian God concept is more prevalent in the Western hemisphere, but Eastern Religions have a presence, too. Find something that will work for you. Some people have great success using the “force of the Universe,” “collective good,” or “positive energy”. The point is that there is a Higher Power and it is not you. You are simply not the center of the Universe. One crucial point for anyone attempting recovery…not for the faint-hearted…is open-mindedness (see Open Minded), about God and almost everything else. If you remain clean and sober and open-minded, your ideas about many things will change. You will hear things you have never heard and find that you may decide to change your mind about a variety of things. Your self-concept, other-concept, and God-concept will change; guaranteed.
Recovery programs are not in the business of pushing religion. They are, however, in the business of showing addicts, alcoholics, and anyone using the program to heal and grow, that we need a God…not that God exists, but that we need Him, whoever or whatever He is. Get this: God, not religion. It has been said that there is nothing wrong with Christianity, it’s Christians that are the problem. Don’t write or call me about all the things wrong with religion; I am not talking religion, and 12-step programs are not “religious”. Reread the phrase after God…it says, as we understood Him, not as the Sunday School teacher understood Him, or your parents crammed Him down your throat, or the preacher used to threaten you.
Step Three is the foundation for recovery, the step we build on. There are nine more steps in twelve-step programs, the next six requiring lots of specific work and while giving us freedom in the end, they bring up enormous pain during the “working” of them. To find ongoing freedom from all mind-altering drugs, to not relapse while cleaning up our past and to have a life we deem worth living, we find we have to live differently than we have so far. We find we have to turn our lives over to someone or something that can do a better job than we have done. We have to develop a relationship with something that can run our lives better than we can. We are not off of the hook; we still have to do the best we can, do what we think we are supposed to do, but the results are no longer up to us. God is in charge of the results department.
Talk to people in whom you see something you want, peace, joy, acceptance, whatever. Talk to others with ongoing recovery and happiness. Don’t expect everyone with a relationship with God to be perfect, kind, serene all the time. We are dealing with human beings here, imperfect specimens at best. But, if your life is not working too well, whether you are an addict needing recovery or not, try God. You have nothing to lose and can change your mind at any time. Be honest and fair with yourself and give it a really good try, talking to those who do have God. Put time, energy, and commitment into establishing a relationship with God for a while, maybe for three or four months before rejecting the whole idea. Look for evidence: nature, “coincidences”, cool people in your life, the fact that you are still alive after trying to kill yourself with your risky behavior and near-death overdoses. Maybe someone is watching over you and wants you alive for a reason. This is a great time of year to find God.