Step Two

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves
could restore us to sanity.

Having written a little about how zany we were with food, and how its impact extended well beyond the damage done to our bodies, we find ourselves at Step Two.

To say that this aspect of our 12-step recovery is critical is kind of like saying it’s a good idea to consider going to the doctor when you’re having a heart attack. No matter what you believe about the effectiveness of modern medicine, when you’re gasping for air, you’d have to be pretty messed up not to take a chance. (Not that a lot of us haven’t rejected help while the damage from our disease progressed)

There were a few important hurdles that I had to overcome before I was able to make good use of this step.

First and foremost was how, I, a cynical agnostic, was going to re-orient myself so that I could “come to believe” in this Higher Power.

I had a very hard time believing in much of anything other than self-sufficiency, even with my terrible track record of taking care of myself. My misplaced confidence in my intellect, my “street smarts”, and my standard method of bombarding life with barrages of self-will… that was my way, for better or worse (mostly worse)?

I didn’t have much of a problem believing in things like ESP, paranormal stuff or karma.         The idea of an amorphous intelligence kind of appealed to me, if for no other reason than to explain weird happenings, coincidences, inexplicable positive outcomes to close encounters with danger and the like. I just didn’t believe that a personal relationship with an all-powerful being made a lot of sense. It all just seemed too farfetched. If G-d was so great, why would He want to hang out with me? If He created me, why was I such a mess?

I had to admit, when I came to meetings, I felt better. That was my first power greater than me…the inspirational collective desire to get well. People radiated clarity and they shared so easily & honestly about their intimate battle against the disease.

Later, the “good-orderly-direction (G.O.D.)” that the program encouraged also showed me that there were certain methods that worked, if I was just able to get the heck out of the way and let them happen. I started to believe in the power of “doing the drill”.

But until I honestly came to believe in something that I couldn’t see…and tried to imagine that somehow, despite my apparent agnosticism, I could have a personal relationship with a G-d of my understanding…one that wanted good things for me, and loved me (that was a big one – feeling worthy of love), I pretty much had to do a lot of “acting as if”. It’s as if I was allowing myself to be taken care of, but not giving credit where the real credit was due.

Like most of us, I had intimacy and relationship issues, so truly “believing in” a G-d required me to get over being so angry with Him that He had made me so emotionally and spiritually broken. He forced me to suffer inside of my own skin while I did a slow burn, thinking everyone else was having such a good time. Was I now supposed to grovel before Him? The chip on my shoulder was my biggest obstacle of all. I couldn’t very well keep blaming him if I had to go to Him for help. It turned out that lots of people felt that way.

It was suggested that I look at other positive relationships, and try to use them as a model for what I wanted my G-d to be like to me. (1) A loving parent (2) A stern teacher that wanted me to achieve my potential (3) A trustworthy friend, willing to stay with me when I was frightened, upset or angry (4) A confidante (5) A good listener (6) Someone who truly saw the good in me, even when I have a hard time seeing it myself.        Each one of these attributes was part of what I thought I had lacked in my life…things that had turned me cynical and jaded.

I’ll always remember hearing someone say that they needed to believe that G-d loved them the way that they loved their cat…completely unconditionally (even when the cat was coughing up a hairball on their toothbrush).

Others asked me to look at what I expected from G-d, and then ask myself how much time I had invested in telling him about me, and me getting to know Him. After all, what sort of relationship flourishes when you don’t value it enough to put the time in?

I began talking to G-d. I’d be driving in my car, stuck in traffic, realize I was losing it, and just look up and sheepishly ask G-d to give me the ability to cool out. I started small, and worked my way up to tougher situations, where my tendencies to become impatient and exercise my critical eye conspired to get me in trouble. At that point, I began to see how often my typical reactive behavior was costing me in terms of lost serenity. I started to say the Serenity Prayer like a mantra. I practiced trying to be sane, and started looking at it as a team sport – me and my Higher Power.

When I started believing in G-d, I found that he believed in me….he just wanted me to make the effort. To this day, when I am suffering under the weight of some problem, as soon as I realize that maybe this is a test and not a punishment, G-d allows me to see my circumstances in a new light…or looking back, the ability to see a silver lining where all I had seen was black.

Some of the areas where I needed to be restored to sanity

1) Seeing the difference between being satisfied with (just) enough food and demanding gratification and excess pleasure from food (In reality, an act of violence on myself)
2) That life was not a place where punishment was being meted out because I was “bad”
3) Admitting my flaws didn’t mean I was weak and worthy only of being ostracized.
4) That knee-jerk, fear-based reactions were never going to be an answer to my problems
5) That there was good in even the worst circumstances (that suffering brought insight)
6) That sitting still long enough to get a sense of what was actually going on inside of me – inaction, was also a viable option, and a better choice than reacting impulsively.
7) That God could be trusted to do for me what I could not do for myself.

I want to put in a plug for the tools as being a perfect vehicle for building trust.

1) Having a sponsor and beginning to make use of that relationship by opening up.
2) Coming to meetings and seeing how I wasn’t alone and that many of the people around me turned out to be very much like me (I thought I was uniquely screwed up)
3) The principle of anonymity was a source of protection, kindness and respect.
4) And of course, my food plan…which helped me become honest, motivated to become a better person every day…and being accountable for sticking with it and being honest in that area, which very quickly became a source of personal integrity.

In order to get maximum value from the tools, I had to become humble and willing to extend myself because I couldn’t do this process on my own. I needed people.

For those of you old enough to remember the movie “Karate Kid”, Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel-san about “wax on – wax-off” and “paint the fence” –non-violent exercises that built in muscle memory so that he could protect himself automatically when the pressure was on, so he wouldn’t lose his cool.. That was my typical reaction, right before a shifted into “survival mode”.

In the end, the tools helped me create a network of support – checks & balances that I could grow to count on (have faith in) without having even to be conscious of them.

This, in the end, is what my relationship with God does – He sends me help.
Turns out, He had always sent me help – I had been blind to it much of the time.

I heard a great quote recently. “God doesn’t ask more from me than is possible, but he doesn’t settle for anything less.”

Learning to prefer sanity meant working hard to identify insane behavior in myself.
A lot of that is developing new habits, and letting go of the need to be in control.
That, to me, is the essence of Step Two.

Assignment: Read Step Two in the OA 12+12, and reread the Big Book 23-29 & 43-57

Do some writing about how you approached your relationship with our Higher Power

Has God been an essential partner in a relationship designed to make you whole, or has your HP been a negative voice that has judged you mercilessly your whole life?

Here are some questions for you to ponder about Step Two:

  • Do I have issues with the “Higher Power concept? What are they?
  • Do I truly believe that my Higher Power can help me get and stay abstinent?
  • List some things that I have faith in already (the sun will come up, the light goes on when I flick the switch, the laws of physics, or nature).
  • Do my fears of intimacy or success undermine my belief in an HP?

What do you expect from G-d… and what are you prepared to do for Him if He delivers?

  • If you ran a classified ad for the G-d of your understanding, what qualifications would you want/expect your Higher Power to have?
  • Reviewing your list, does it read more like a child’s Xmas list (“God, take away my fat” or “please give me the perfect mate”), or does it involve doing footwork so that your Higher Power can enable you to see things differently?
  • If the perfect candidate answered your HP ad and was ready to take the job, what would you be willing to do to hold up your end of the relationship?

As you all know, I believe very strongly in working the tools every day.

For the rest of this step study, on a weekly basis, I want anyone who posts to fess up and answer this multiple choice question.

  1. I have made an effort to work the tools this week, but I could do much better.
  2. I’m working the tools each day. It’s a regular part of my program and my abstinence,
  3. I really have difficulty finding time to work the tools, but I’m cleanly abstinent.
  4. I really have difficulty finding time to work the tools and I cannot stay/get abstinent

Neil R.

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