As we discussed here the past few months (please read the 2012 articles prior to this one if you can, if not no worries), 12 step recovery based treatment programs are, according to research, the most successful type of treatment programs. We broke this down a bit, so now we will begin to explore treatment’s unique relationship with each of the 12 steps. The 2nd step in a 12 step program is the first direct connection to a higher power or a God as you understand him, her, or it. For many people, this represents their first real obstacle towards achieving sobriety. For many (not all) people entering recovery, the thought of God or a higher power of any kind is absolutely terrifying and something many people don’t believe they can do. The reason for this is simple. When you live a life of using and problem drinking, you take on many of the principles (or lack thereof more like) associated with that lifestyle. Stealing, lying, manipulating, selfish behavior, rage, etc. Not exactly a list of someone who is living a “God-centered” life. So even if you had a strong spiritual background growing up, you tend to turn away from that way of living when using or drinking takes over your life. The drink or drug in a very real way becomes your new higher power.
The last line above may be a bit cryptic, but in reality, it is very important. A higher power is loosely defined as something that can do something for us that we cannot do for ourselves. Drugs and alcohol absolutely meet that definition, just not in a positive way. This plays into the equation because an addict or alcoholic who is totally resistant to the concept of a higher power can begin to understand that they have had a higher power all along. They just need to learn or as the step implies, come to believe that a power greater than they can be used in a positive and loving way. Treatment really helps this process by showing a new person in recovery scores of others who are living proof that recovery works. This is the best example of a higher power that any new person in recovery can hope to see. The coming to believe part of the step lets people off the hook by allowing for a process. It does not happen overnight and can take some time, but via sponsorship, step groups, and counseling, a person can come to believe in a power greater than themselves and allow that power to change the way they are living their life. The second part of the second step (ah yes, as with many of the 12 steps, it is a several part process) deals with that higher power (of your understanding) restoring you to sanity.
As you can imagine, this can create all sorts of discord amongst people trying to digest it for the first time. As to appeal to everyone’s sensitivity, we will define insanity with Einstein’s definition, which many people now believe to be the actual definition of insanity. Einstein is the guy who famously first stated that insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results”. If you had to pick one line that sums up the life of an addict, I think that one would do just fine. Addicts are known for doing just what the line implies. What the second step lets us know is that if we are willing to believe and do the work that we learn in treatment, that we can be restored to sanity. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, then sanity would be doing new things and getting different results which is exactly what someone in recovery needs. The other key piece is basically most religions and spiritual groups believe that God or a higher power speaks through people. Treatment allows a hurting addict or alcoholic to connect with people they can relate to who is doing well and therefore can help them connect with that higher power.
See you next month!