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Every first Monday of the month, I will post my strengths, hopes, and experiences on one of the 12 steps of Narcotics Anonymous. What follows is a narrative of my journey toward healing. I don’t know if this will work for another, but if you were to ask me, this is how I recovered my life. My story is quite extreme and you might find it hard to identify with some of its elements. All I ask is that you try to identify with and not compare my story. Listen to the message and not the mess.
I believe all people can benefit from a rigorous application of the 12 steps and I offer this in the spirit of hope.
“We came to believe that a power higher than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
The first time I read this step, I walked away from narcotics anonymous. My understanding of the core principle of this step, faith, caused me to filter this step through my bias. I am not a religious person, nor do I believe in a God-in-the-sky dogma. And I continued reading down the steps, I kept seeing the “God” word and Higher Power and I decided then that this was some bullshit. As a result, I went through the five worst years of my life. The second issue I had with this step was the implication that I was insane – restore us to sanity. When I came back to NA, I did so with a more open mind.
My sponsor at the time asked me just to keep an open mind and to make this a personal search. The beauty of Narcotics Anonymous is that the fellowship doesn’t demand you do anything. There are no “thou shalts,” no “shoulds.” As part of taking this step, my sponsor suggested I take a close reading and learn the terms. One of the first things I liked about the step the second time around was how it starts, “I came… ” and then, “came to… ,” then, “came to believe… ”In a very real way I was finally coming to my senses.
Faith was a hard score to settle, but there are enough agnostics and even atheists who are recovering addicts because the Twelve Steps allow for that kind of spiritual democracy. There are many different meanings of faith. At one extreme, there is the blind faith some Christians refer to when speaking of faith, but that’s just one way of looking at faith. There are degrees of faith. In fact, we all have daily moments of faith and belief. We have faith, for example, that when we turn on the spigot, water will flow. We have faith that our car will start, or that a toaster will work. We also have many beliefs. We believe, for example, that we have a personality. Actually, many of us believe we are our personality, but there’s no brain center that organizes personality. Your personality is a set of beliefs and quirks that you constructed in order to operate in the everyday world.
Shit, some of believe that if we shove money inside of hole in the wall a bag of dope will materialize! LOL! I’m not kidding. Back in the day, the way you copped drugs was that you’d stick your hand with your money in a hole and a hand with bag would come out. I had complete faith in that transaction! LOL!
Early on, faith for me had to mean a temporary suspension of disbelief. What that means is that I made an agreement with myself to keep an open mind. Sometimes faith can mean trust. I came to believe that the principles of Narcotics Anonymous would restore me to sanity. And believe me, by the second time around, I knew I was insane. I have been studying human behavior for over a decade now, and the best definition of insanity I have come across is doing the same actions and expecting different results.
Even an infant knows better not to stick his hand in the socket after the first go round. But yet we as adults oftentimes commit the same behaviors – especially in the area of relationships – and expect different results.
Sometimes faith can mean trust in a teaching, or self-confidence. Yesterday, the Giants had faith in their ability as a team to overcome everybody’s expectations. In that same way, I came to believe that the fellowship and principles of narcotics anonymous could restore me to sanity. Why? Because people all around me were taking back their lives. People were helping heal themselves and one another. I had been to NA Meetings where a particular individual cried because she couldn’t pay her rent, then see her cry once again several months later because she was able to pay her rent.
So, in the beginning, my Higher Power was the group – that what I couldn’t do alone we could do together. Eventually, my spirituality would evolve and I would come to embrace Buddhism as my path. the historical Buddha didn’t make any claims to divinity and his last words, as he lay dying (of all things, food poisoning), were, “… be a lamp unto yourself.” and what that means is that path must be walked. That no sayings, scriptures, or instructions will save you. That ultimately, you must walk the path.
And that’s what the second step helped me begin – walk the walk, trusting in my experience that I could be restored to sanity by a power greater than myself.