Recovery - Step Two

Dear Dr. Dawn,
I am one month into my commitment to not use drugs. I feel like I've been hanging on for 28 of the 30 days...only the first two days were tolerable; the rest have sucked! I read your article where Vicki wrote about Step One and I think I've got that. I know I am powerless over my addiction; and talk about unmanageable...boy, my life is a f---in' mess! I'd thought about stopping the drugs, and tried to stop for years. I could always stop; I just couldn't stop starting up again. Now, thanks to other addicts who aren't using - those in the support meetings I go to - I have stayed clean for a month! This is a first for me, after years of knowing I needed to stop. Now I am having trouble with Step Two. I just don't believe anything out there can help me. I feel like I have to do it myself, but I don't know how much longer I can hang on. Help!
John E.

Dear John,

Congrats on 30 days! Step Two, "We Came to Believe that a Power Greater Than Ourselves Could Restore Us to Sanity," is a tough one. Let's divide it into three parts: "We Came to Believe." This implies we don't start out believing...we come to it through a process, hanging out with and listening to others who have been there, reading the recovery literature, staying clean and going to meetings where other addicts who are in recovery share their experience. Don't forget the "We" in there...use your new acquaintances. Look for how you are like them, not how you are different. If they can do it, you can do it!

The second part of this step says "a Power Greater Than Ourselves." If you don't have a Higher Power somewhere in the recesses of your being, start looking for one. Again, talk to others who have been there; others who are finding something that works in their lives to give them hope. "God" is a difficult word for some people, so use Higher Power or whatever you are willing to acknowledge exists outside of yourself. Keep an open mind.

The last part of this step says, "Could Restore Us to Sanity." Any question about the craziness of a life controlled by drugs? It sounds like insanity to "try to stop and not be able to stop starting," like you said.

So, keep doing what you are doing. Stay away from your using/drinking buddies and hang with your new friends who aren't using. Talk with other guys in recovery and ask one of them who has already worked the steps to be your sponsor...to help you, one on one, with the steps.

Here's the deal with the "Power Greater than Ourselves." You gotta' get one. Addicts cannot do this recovery thing alone; other people will work for a while to help you stay clean, but eventually there will come a time when you are not able to use them...you have to get a God. For that matter, addicts cannot do this life thing alone...not for long and stay clean and happy. Addicts think they can "do it myself." If they could, they would just either control or stop using drugs with no problem. Addicts are different from casual druggies who get high occasionally, or social drinkers, those who's drinking and using does not interfere with their lives. Addicts need specific solutions if they want recovery.

Back to the "G" word...if you don't believe there is anything out there, talk to other addicts in the meetings. Read as much recovery literature as you can get your hands on, and pretend, just for now, that there is a God. If you have a negative concept of God, maybe one from a childhood of a punishing or judgmental God, or one who doesn't like you so won't bother to listen to you or help you, or if you have a concept of a God who is like Santa Claus, or one you can bargain with, FIRE HIM! Work on a concept of a God with whom you can have a relationship. Assign qualities that work for you...maybe there really is a loving, caring Higher Power...why not just see if that works to keep you clean for now. You can always go back to "doing it yourself" if it does not work. Fake it until you make it in terms of believing in Him, Her, or It. Use a relationship with a Power greater than yourself to stay clean; pray, meditate, say Hare Krishnas, or whatever works to keep you clean for now. This concept will evolve if you let it.

One of the things we learn going through life is that we do not have to reinvent the wheel. There is always someone else who has been there; if we can lose our arrogance and let others share their experience, we can save ourselves a lot of trouble...in this case, a lot of relapses.

Good Luck, John. Write again and let me know how it's going. Stay clean...happiness will follow!

DocDawn

Dr. Dawn Obrecht is the only MD addiction medicine specialist on the western slope of Colorado. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and her office is in Steamboat Springs. or info@docdawn.com

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