Step 2 in Catholic Recovery

We come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.

 

For many of us in our early recovery, especially those of our fellowship who didn’t believe in God, the Second Step at first seemed difficult, but we soon came to realize that God was absolutely essential for continuing recovery.  For those of us who did believe, we felt as though God had perhaps abandoned us. We also couldn’t accept that we were truly insane. Merriam-Webster defines insanity as “such unsoundness of mind or lack of understanding as prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship.” [1] According to this definition, we realized that we were truly insane. Not only were we unable to enter into a relationship with the rest of humanity, but we were also unable to participate in a loving relationship with God. As we continued to recover from our addiction, we soon began to understand that as children of the Creator, our rejection of Him was an insane action. Only God could restore us to sanity. Our very lives depended on seeking a relationship with this Higher Power.

As we continued to attend Twelve Step meetings and listened, we began to notice that those who were not only in recovery, but had a sense of joy and freedom in their lives, had something we didn’t have – they had faith in a Power greater than themselves who had delivered them from the bondage of addiction. We soon had to face the unsettling truth that in order to remain free from the prison of addiction we needed to believe in a Higher Power. “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32). This realization of how a belief in Higher Power works in the lives of others is actually the beginnings of faith. We became aware that this Power was not a “light bulb” or a “door knob,” but that this something was God who was greater than ourselves and capable of restoring us to sanity.  

Seeking my God in visible and corporeal things, I did not find him. Seeking his substance in myself, as if he were something like me, I also did not find him. I am aware that my God is something above my soul, and therefore, so that I might touch him, “I thought on these things and poured out my soul above myself” (Ps 41:5). [2]

 

It became quite clear that this power did not come from ourselves or from things. Searching for God cannot be truncated into creating our own god, although we needed to develop a personal relationship with Him. To try to find God through the lenses broken by our addiction, we couldn’t discover Him; but opening our hearts and lives to God through the experiences of others allows us to see Him clearly. As St. Paul wrote, “…for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). Our relationship with God is dynamic and developing – we begin to see ourselves as God sees us, and in the process, we begin to see how God is. And therefore, coming to ourselves as God knows us, we must look upon everything He made and find it to be good. God doesn’t create garbage. “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him. God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good” (Gn 1:27, 31). In working the transformative principles of the Second Step, we become like the blind man who was healed by Christ: “One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see” (Jn 9:25). Christ opens our eyes to see ourselves as a reflection of God’s healing and creative genius.


It also became clear that it was difficult to develop a relation to God in isolation without other people. Our sense of community began to deepen as we heard the Holy Spirit working through other addicts as they shared their experience of a relationship with God. Some of us may even have used the Twelve Step community itself as a Power greater than ourselves in the beginning of our recovery. As we continued to listen to how the obsession of addiction was lifted, we began to want to establish a deeper relationship with God. “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean” (Mt 8:2). Some even began to talk of a peace and serenity that they had never experienced before, but fear kept many of us from witnessing the depth and beauty of the struggle towards a loving God. “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” [3]

        
Our weakness had become our greatest strength. “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me” ( 2 Cor 12:9). We also came to believe that we were worth the effort through this difficult and painful process. We finally had to admit that self-knowledge wasn’t sufficient and that we needed something else altogether. Thus, we began to practice humility and develop an open-mindedness and willingness that was required to practice some basic spiritual principles. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). We listened to suggestions and began to pray so that the grace of God could enter our lives and begin to work through us. All we had to do was ask. “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Lk 11:9). St. Teresa of Avila writes about the beginnings of prayer and how God is already at work in her spiritual autobiography: 

The beginner must look upon himself as making a garden in which the Lord is to take his delight, but in a soil unfruitful and abounding in weeds.  His Majesty roots up the weeds and plants good seed.  Let us then take for granted that this is already done when the soul is determined to give itself to prayer and has actually begun the practice of it. [4]

 

We began to recognize that the process of recovery was a gift given to us through the grace of God. It was in admitting our powerlessness and becoming willing to seek out a Power greater than ourselves that we realize that God was always there. St. Augustine describes the relief from addiction and the recognition of this gift as a result of God’s grace in his Confessions:

When we pray you grant us many things; whatever good we had before we prayed was ours because we received it from you; and even the grace to recognize this afterward is received from you as a gift.  I have never been a drunkard myself, but I have known drunkards turned sober by you.  It is your doing, then, that those who have never been drunkards are not so, and your doing again that those who have been should not be permanently addicted, and finally your doing that both sorts know whose work this is.  [5]

 

In the unbinding silence, we continue to discover and grow with God. As with the prophet Elijah, God often reveals His presence through a seemingly imperceptible “tiny whispering sound” (1 Kgs 19:12). All we had to do is listen. It is through our surrender and listening for God that we are able to seek God’s will for us. Through vigilance and perseverance in seeking through prayer, our understanding and relationship with God deepens. We are now ready to turn our will and lives over to God in Step Three.  

A clean heart create for me, God;
     renew in me a steadfast spirit.
Do not drive me from your presence,
     nor take from me your holy spirit.
Restore my joy in your salvation;
     sustain in me a willing spirit
(Ps 51:12-14).

 

[1]  Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/insanity (accessed on March 4, 2016).

[2] St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermon on Psalm 41.

[3]   St. Augustine, The Confessions.
 

[4] Teresa of Avila, “On the Four Stages of Prayer,” in The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism, translated and with an introduction by Bernard McGinn (New York: Modern Library, 2006), 112.

[5] St. Augustine, The Confessions, translated and with an introduction by Maria Boulding and John E. Rotelle (Hyde Park, New York: New City Press, 1997), 206-207.

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