Society sees the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as the Bible for anyone looking to recover from an addiction. The program has an estimated success rate of between 8% and 12% according to addiction specialists, and AA has approximately 2 million members worldwide. Nonetheless, regardless of your thoughts on the program there are valuable lessons we can learn from their text. Above all, each step offers a different gift to an addict. In this series we take a subjective look explaining the benefit each step brings. Step one available here.
The Gift of Hope
Step Two of Alcoholics Anonymous reads, “We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”. This insanity comes from perceived self-inflicted shame. It affects our ability to think and behave normal or rationally. In other words, addiction is insanity. First it’s mental shame, which turns to an unnatural dependency on external stimuli. This creates the mental lupe of insanity. The wording of this step puts the emphasis not on where this power comes from, but what this power can do for us.
What this Teaches
Hope is the feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. There is no greater feeling of hopelessness than a junky in active addiction. If you’re at the point where 12 Step can benefit you, you’ve assuredly done some shameful things. Without hope we have no reason to stop an addiction. The absence of hope creates a paradox where nothing in life feels worth living. The substance makes you feel like crap, however you don’t feel normal without taking the substance.
A more scientific definition of hope is available at Positivepsychology.org. The article cites Snyder, Irving & Anderson: “a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful (a) agency (goal-directed energy) and (b) pathways (planning to meet goals)”. Breaking the toxic cycle of thinking addiction brings, the lesson in Step Two, provides just that; a feeling of success. The reason lethargy is so common for people coming out of addiction is the absence of hope. We dwell on the sins of the past and nothing seems enjoyable. The belief that a higher power can restore sanity provides hope.
What makes the belief in a Higher Powers ability to restore sanity a lesson in hope is that it offers an alternative to our present norm. Hope gives you a reason to wake up in the morning and provides the ability to believe that tomorrow will be better than today.
Why This is Important
Prolonged addiction can take everything from a person. Therefore it’s both easy and common to focus on all that we’ve lost. This is the enemy of hope. With that being said, I’m not a big fan of the term “higher power” because of the religious connotation that comes along with it. This isn’t to say I’m not religious, I am, or that being spiritual isn’t a benefit in recovery, it is, but rather that spirituality isn’t what’s needed in this step. Furthermore, the perceived religious undertones makes the program unappealing to non believers. What is important is finding something that is bigger or greater than oneself.
I learned what it meant to have hope through creating the OD Movement, this site and this project. It forced me to look beyond myself and to focus on more than just today. Committing myself to the benefit of others is what restored my sanity and OD was the vehicle through which that commitment was made.
Step Three Coming Soon