This is a piece I wrote about Step 2 for my old treatment center, Renascent. It came out today in their weekly e-newsletter.
Thanks for reading!
I lie in bed, staring at the imaginary blue worms on the walls and listening to what sounds like a ball game on a distant television. Three sleepless nights pass. The addicts beside me sleep endlessly. I am envious. On the fourth day I have, for me, what is a foreign feeling slide over me, an almost overwhelming sense that something is different. It’s not regret, nor remorse nor guilt. It’s defeat – utter and complete defeat. I close my eyes and pray.
It is in looking back now that I realize something about that stay in detox – that my best thinking, my absolute best intentions and my self-will had placed me in an abysmal state of body, mind and spirit. I was truly broken and battle-scarred. I could not do it anymore. But that important realization was offset with the dreaded thought, “How do I stop and stay stopped?”
For the first time in my life, I had no idea what to do. I didn’t have an answer. Which is strange, because until then, alcohol had done for me what I couldn’t do for myself. When I drank, I was Clint Eastwood, James Bond and Albert Einstein rolled up into one. I had the answers to questions no one was asking and I was King of the Hill. A sad, angry, lonely hill, but nonetheless it was my hill. But soon King Alcohol would dethrone me and leave me a servant to the Master. I drank when I didn’t want to drink. I drank when it rained. I drank when it was sunny. I drank because that is what Idid.
At Renascent, I was told that there was a common solution to the common problem I shared in, and that plugging into a Higher Power would alleviate me of the obsession to drink. But I couldn’t connect the dots between my out-of-control vodka-swilling career and this airy-fairy thing that would magically take me to a place where I didn’t have to drink.
To understand and concede to my innermost self that I was an alcoholic was one thing, but to trust in something else other than me? And that I was insane? That was something else. But it was clear that I needed something, anything that would stop the pain, the self-flagellation, the suicide-by-installment-plan that I had going in what was once my only solution. I needed a new solution.
Being willing to believe in a Higher Power, a power greater than me, was key to a new way of life. I didn’t even have to believe, just be willing to see that there was something outside of myself that I could tap into. And it didn’t have to be the G-O-D that I had preconceived notions about from Catholic school. I could even redefine those notions to what worked for me. That is what turned things around for me. For I could place the values of love, honesty, forgiveness, charity, and everything else that I wanted and needed and were in me but lost, into a Higher Power that I could rely on and plug into.
I realized that during all those years of clutching the bottle, I was asleep to a power that would fill the void in my soul. I was asleep to the one thing that would guide and direct me to a life beyond my imagination. Knowing this left an indelible mark on me, as firm and profound as the marks left by hospital bands or handcuffs. All I had to do was look inward and just know that I was more than my thoughts and my desires, more than my selfishness and worldly wants. There was something else.
But what was this thing about insanity? I wasn’t in a rubber room. I was an educated, well-travelled man! But looking back, my actions and thoughts were anything but sound or sane. Hiding booze, drinking and driving, hospital stays, getting arrested … these aren’t the hallmarks of a sane life. But no matter what, I would still pick up and think “this time it will be different.” That was the true insanity. I could not drink like a normal person. And that is what I had to understand to get this part of Step 2.
For me, Step 2 boils down to one word – hope. Coming from a hopeless state, hope was what I needed. Being willing to believe in a power greater than myself was the bridge between the problem and the solution for me. To come from a place where emptiness reigned to a place where a loving God would envelop me, would care for me, would guide and direct my thinking … I never thought it possible when I prayed that day in that detox bed, waiting for the madness and the blue worms to disappear.