Thursday, April 3, 2014


Step Two

We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Tradition teaches us that the working of Step Two involves three vital activities.

We Came

In order to have the hope of sanity, we actually have to start showing up in our lives.  Step One helps us to do that by starting the long process of reconnecting us to who we really are and who we've really been - to reality.  Grief (which is the inevitable byproduct of step one) helps us to do that by connecting our emotions to our bodies, our experiences, our thoughts, and our lives.  But Step Two challenges us to feel all our feelings, to live in our skin instead of whatever world we've made up in our own heads for whatever reason (whether that be out of fear, delusions of control, the drive for gratification, pride, escapism, etc.).

Step Two challenges us to bring whatever is going on with us to our relationships, to speak our truth into the world and allow ourselves to be seen, to be known, and then to receive the truth from others.  This process is fleshed out in Steps 4 - 10.  To do that, however, we have to get in touch with whatever is going on with us, and we have to be willing to see it and speak it for what it is - no hedging, no hiding, no generalizations or vague references, no covering up or softening the edges.  We need to give up our attempts to control what other people think of us and actually let them know us, accept us, reject us, love us, or leave us, as they see fit.  That is scary, but that is the path to sanity.

Ironically, we cannot accomplish even the simple task of 'showing up' on our own.  We actually need help, love, and support just to know ourselves, let alone to offer ourselves in this vulnerable way.  That is one of the reasons that the steps begin with the word "we."  We cannot do it alone.  We cannot recover alone.  We cannot serve God or establish God's kingdom alone.  We cannot know the truth alone.  We cannot be sane alone.

That is why, for most people, Step Two actually means showing up at a meeting, a support or small group, a counseling session, or church, in order to show up in their lives.  Most of us need to start there in order to face what comes next:

We Came To

That's right: Step Two means we actually have to "sober up."  This means taking our lives, our histories, our behaviors, our relationships, our patterns, and our futures seriously.  But it also means that we actually stop using our "drug of choice."

For some of us, our drug of choice is minimizing, pleasing, joking, or other forms of hiding, so "showing up" is the task of sobering up.  For others of us, however, we are also using something on top of our hiding.  In fact, often it is the fear and hiding that drove us to addict in the first place.  We may be using fantasy, media, video games, alcohol, food, over-the-counter or illicit drugs, sex, intellectualization, perfectionism ... well, here, let me just give you the list of 18 Addictive Agents as they appear in Serenity, A Twelve Step Companion, by Fowler & Hemfelt (1990):

1. Alcohol or drugs
2. Work, achievement, and success
3. Money addictions, such as overspending, gambling, hoarding
4. Control addictions, especially if they surface in personal, sexual, family, and business relationships
5. Food addictions
6. Sexual addictions
7. Approval dependency (the need to please people)
8. Rescuing patterns toward other people
9. Dependency on toxic relationships (relationships that are damaging and hurtful)
10. Physical illness (hypochondria)
11. Exercise and physical conditioning
12. Cosmetics, clothes, cosmetic surgery, trying to look good on the outside
13. Academic pursuits and excessive intellectualizing
14. Religiosity or religious legalism (preoccupation with the form and the rules and regulations of religion rather than benefiting from the real spiritual message)
15. General perfectionism
16. Cleaning and avoiding contamination and other obsessive-compulsive symptoms
17. Organizing, structuring (the need always to have everything in its place)
18. Materialism
Sobering up may seem darned near impossible at this point, and truthfully, this is where many of us derail on our 12 Step (and our Christian) journey.  But if you don't stop using, your brain cannot clear enough for you to "show up" in your life!  Further, if you are not actually engaged in the struggle of being sober then you are more likely to slip back into denial and right out of recovery - because you will think that "you can handle it," that you don't really need help, that this isn't really a problem, etc.  When you sober up and it hurts, well, that is when the recovery principles (and Christianity) actually start working for you.  

They give you a new way of being, a new way of coping that connects you to yourself, to God, to others, and to reality.  

This will suck for a while because you are not used to it.  For you, normal has actually been "high," disconnected, isolated, and/or numb/checked out, and you will desperately want to return to "normal."  However, as you live sober, you are creating a new normal, one that does not produce insanity in your life.  Trust the process.

This part of Step Two will probably be the hardest for sex addicts - but it is for them the most crucial.  The hope for a sexual addict begins when he or she discovers that sex is not actually a basic need. You will survive without it.  It may be uncomfortable, scary, and stressful at first, but your body was never designed to run on sex, but on intimacy and non-sexual affection.

We Came to Believe

This brings us back to where we left off in my own sharing about Step Two - and the wrestling we each must do with this need for a higher power and for hope.

This is where the story of Christ meets our story - and either it is meaningful to us in our personal lives, or Lent - well, Christianity! - is a waste of time, and the Gospel is no good news at all.  For me, I chose to hope, and in hoping I have begun to share both in Christ's death and in his resurrection!

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