Step two: Came to believe that a power greater than us could restore us to sanity.
When I started writing about Step Two, I noticed I included a lot of how I interpret this step in my piece about Step One. Damnit. Did I get it wrong? I don’t think so. I think the the first three steps are very connected, woven throughout each tool of the program. So there will be some overlap. And if I haven’t mentioned it before, I’ll say it now: This is my interpretation of the steps. I take readings from approved and non-approved Al-Anon literature, as well as my own personal experience, to make my own sense of the steps. Take what serves you and leave the rest.
“The second step is about possibility, about hope … A little willingness can go a long way toward making hope and faith an ongoing part of our lives.” // Courage to Change p. 156
Came to believe…
When I was younger, I’d have a recurring vision of myself as an adult. I would see myself slowly closing the door of a child’s room as I peeked inside. I was a mother. And now I cannot help but see that vision as I close the door of my child’s room, peeking inside as I do. I saw it exactly as it came to be.
I was raised to believe there is a God. I went to church, I learned how to recite prayers, I learned stories about Jesus. But none of it meant anything to me. I never felt any of it connected to me. I didn’t see how I fit in, how any kind of God could find me relevant enough to pay attention to. I never rejected the idea of a higher power. I just didn’t feel it. So I lived my life without faith, separate from the world around me. I didn’t think I needed it until I realized how alone I felt in the chaos of M’s active addiction.
M showed me a note I wrote to him three years ago while he was in rehab. I wrote about all the things I still saw in our future – playing board games with our little one, waking up together, falling in love again – despite all the unknowns. And it happened. I saw it all. Even in the depths of the terrifying unknown, I still held onto hope for a better life to come. “Your faith made all the difference,” he said. Believe it, and it will be.
To believe is to let go of the idea that we are separate from the world around us. To accept that we don’t know everything and we can’t fix everything. To believe is to have hope in something greater. To not know what comes next, and to know that everything will be okay, anyway. But it doesn’t just happen. It takes action, practice, willingness. We don’t just believe out of nowhere. We “came to.” We have to get ourselves there, first.
Let go. Open.
“The journey of enlightenment is a journey of the mind from a focus on the body to a focus on spirit, from a limited sense of self to an unlimited sense of self, from a sense of separateness to a sense of unity with all things, from blame to blessing, and from fear to love.” // Marianne Williamson, A Year of Miracles
“Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us… We seem to have forgotten that even when we’re utterly alone, we’re connected to one another by something greater than group membership, politics and ideology — we’re connected by love and the human spirit. No matter how separated we are by what we think and believe, we are part of the same spiritual story.” // Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness
…. that a power greater than ourselves….
I always liked the idea that everything is made out of the same stuff – energy. And when we die, our energy moves out of our bodies and back into the world, perhaps in another form of living thing. When I started to open up to spirituality, I realized that my idea is a commonly held belief. I would read books that explained the loving energy of the world, how we are all connected, and I’d nod in agreement – as if I already knew it, as if all this knowledge was already within me, and the writer was just awakening it. Slowly, a sense of belonging began to emerge. I wasn’t alone in my thoughts.
My Higher Power is the energy of the universe, what I believe to be love. I feel closer to that energy whenever I look at the sky. It’s so big. It’s always there. And beyond – stars and planets and solar systems and galaxies and comets and black holes and the unknown. It took 4.5 billion years for Earth to form. There are patterns and cycles everywhere. There is a process and rhythm to this universe that is so much older and bigger than any human. Our time here as humans is miniscule. But instead of this making me feel unimportant, I actually feel incredibly amazed that I am a part of something so much larger than myself. The energy that makes the stars is the same energy inside of me. We’re all connected. And there’s a bigger process happening that I cannot control. I see the beauty in this world, in small everyday moments, and I trust the universe knows what it’s doing.
“We rush through our days in such stress and intensity, as if we were here to stay and the serious project of the world depended on us. We worry and grow anxious; we magnify trivia until they become important enough to control our lives. Yet all the time, we have forgotten that we are but temporary sojourners on the surface of a strange planet spinning slowly in the infinite night of the cosmos.” // John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong
“There has been no burst of light, no burning bush – just a gradual clearing of fog … eventually I came to believe that I wasn’t alone in the universe. There was and is a Force, a drive, an energy that can give me the means to make my life joyous and productive.” // Courage to Change p. 307
… could restore us to sanity.
“This is driving me insane.” I’ve thought these exact words as I search frantically for answers, wondering if he’s lying to me, if he’s using again. I keep thinking that knowing if he’s using or not will give me some control over the situation, like I’ll be able to get him to stop, or I’ll know what to do next. So with any trigger or suspicion, I go into questioning mode. I start looking closely at certain behaviors. I start worrying more about what I’ll do if I find something. I grasp for “truth” wherever I can find it. In the meantime, he’s clean. And instead of enjoying my time with him, I’m preparing myself for the worst.
The word “sanity” comes from the Latin word sanitas, or health. The word has evolved over time so that today, we equate it with mental health. To be insane is to be crazy. To live in some kind of delusional world.
In Buddhism, the Second Characteristic of Existence is Impermanence – the idea that nothing is permanent, nothing lasts, nothing is forever.
“This insight shows us quite clearly that there’s nothing to hold on to, because, quite simply, nothing is standing still.” // Kevin Griffin, One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the 12 Steps
And yet. I’d keep trying to hold on to these visions of what I thought my life and my loved ones were supposed to look like, and to a truth that fit into my own narrative. This grasp is my attempt at control. And it’s insanity. Life happens the way it happens. It flows with a force that I can’t explain, but that I’ve just come to believe. So I practice, over and over, in letting go.
Sanity is staying grounded in the present moment and being okay with not knowing the outcome. It’s taking time to breathe and read and say the Serenity Prayer instead of getting stuck in negative thinking. It’s focusing on progress, being grateful for what I have right now, finding peace and joy in the chaos of the everyday. Sanity is when I find out he slips and I am still able to feel calm, peace, joy. What once felt like my entire world crashing down, I now see exactly as it is – a slip. He, we, are capable of getting back up. Sanity is the ability to find peace and joy in any situation.
Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. I think at the very core of step two is simply the belief that we are not alone. We are not separate. We belong here, in this moment, exactly as it is.