Step 1) We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step 2) Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step 3) Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.“
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
When I took the first step with my sponsor I agreed that “I could not guarantee when I would stop drinking once I started” and “my life was a mess”. He said that I’d done a good 1st step.
Then he asked me if I believed God would fix the problem if I asked him to.
“OK, let’s back it up. Do you believe that *I* am an alcoholic, just like you are?“
“From what you’ve told me about your drinking, yes.“
“Do you believe that the problem has been removed in me?“
“So if the problem has been removed in me – and millions like me – do you believe it could be removed in you?“
“No. I believe God hates me. I don’t think this will work for me.”
We went our separate ways and a few days later he called me. He said he’d researched it, talked to his sponsor about it, prayed and meditated about it and he had an answer. We got together that evening.
“The Spiritual Principal behind the 2nd step is “Hope”. You wouldn’t be in A.A. – talking to me now – if you didn’t have any hope, and yet here you are. So we’re going to call the 2nd step done and move onto the 3rd step.”
“What do we have to do there?“
“Well, we’re gonna get down on our knees and ask God to remove that thing inside you that makes you have to drink every day of your life. But most of ‘ turn our will and our lives over to the care of God‘ is just agreeing to work steps 4 through 9 without telling me what the hell you believe and don’t believe. That’s what step 3 is about! Faith!“
So we went through the remaining steps, and you couldn’t have found a happier, more successful, more respected member of Alcoholics Anonymous for the next 3 or 4 years. But I never felt like I’d really worked step 2.
A few years later a guy in the program – at least he came to meetings every night at 5:45 – needed an assistant and gave me a job. He was a great guy, but made no secret of the fact that when he left the meeting he picked up a 12 pack of beer every night.
We’d worked together a couple of weeks – we were on our way from a job to a meeting – when he asked if I “really don’t drink at all“.
“No,” I told him, “I don’t.“
“Can I ask you a question? I need you to be as honest with me as you can.”
I assured him that if I could answer the question honestly I would.
“How in the fuck do you ‘not drink’ !?! How in the Hell do you do that? We’ve both got the same job. We’re out in the hot sun all day – sweatin’ our asses off – customers yell at us, sometimes things don’t go right… I HAVE to drink EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! … HOW IN THE FUCK DO YOU NOT DRINK!?!“
I didn’t have an answer for him. I didn’t know the words to explain it. I knew the exact feeling he was talking about – that feeling the I had to drink — I’d felt it most of my life but I didn’t know what to say.
If Andrew was in front me today, I would tell him: “I didn’t do it. God did.” I knew in that moment that I absolutely did not have the strength or willpower or guts to not drink for the last 5 years. God had done it for me. I didn’t believe that He would, but now that the desire – that I saw in my friend so strongly – was gone I knew it was not something that I could have beaten myself.
As it says in Bill’s Story: “There had been no more power in him than there was in me… and this was none at all“. In that moment I finally did the 2nd step. I came to believe that a Power greater than myself had restored me to sanity.
Sometimes you’ll hear someone in a meeting – or your sponsor – tell you that “the steps were written in an order, and you have to work them in that order“. I get it. I was a computer programmer for 25 years. It only makes sense. If I were on the committee designing the first 3 steps I would put them in the same order. The logical order is a) describe the problem b) determine a solution c) implement the solution. It only makes sense:
1.My life’s a mess.
2. I’ll bet God can fix this.
3. I think I’ll let Him.
But a screw up like me had to do:
1. My life’s a mess!
3. God help me!.
2. Holy crap, He did it!
Alcoholics Anonymous may be a program, but it’s not a computer program. And people aren’t machines. It’s OK to play it fast and loose. If your conception of God can be personal, maybe your Path can, too. When the Student is ready, not only will the Teacher appear, but maybe the Path will as well.
So if your God – who created the heavens and the earth – cannot figure out more then one way to keep a poor dumb sonofabitch like me sober you may want to upgrade your Higher Power, because my Big Book tells me: “We found that God does not make too hard terms with those who seek Him.” He will meet you where you are.
And if you have a sponsor who tells you that you will get drunk if you do this and you won’t stay sober unless you do that, you may want an upgrade there too –find one with a little faith – because I’m here to tell you that you never have to drink again, no matter what.
One day there will come through our doors a man who simply cannot do business with God… today. I hope I’m here to give him this message of Hope, because if all he hears is rigid dogma – and all the rules he better not break – he may think we cannot help him. He may not stay. He may die.
If you meet him before I do, be sure to pass this message along: “If you begin walking, a path will appear for you. If that path becomes hard, you will be given the strength to walk it. Yours is the Road of Happy Destiny, and you will surely meet some of us there. May God bless you and keep you until then.”