Steps 1, 2 & 3
Are you struggling with your first Step -- or maybe your 2nd or 3rd Steps? Are you struggling to figure out who or what God really is or if he exists at all? If there is a God -- do you think he abandoned you? You are not alone. These are not easy questions to deal with -- and many an addict who wants to and needs to work the steps -- can easily get hung up on the first three steps. Hang in there. Seek out those in your group or inner circle and get their advice or opinion on how they tackled the whole God thing.
My therapist used to tell me to spend all the time I needed on getting Steps 1-3 right -- as these are foundational steps. She said if I didn't get these three right -- that I shouldn't waste my time on the other 9.
My sponsor used to say the short hand version of the first three steps is 'lighten up!' If you don't believe in God or at best might be an agnostic -- lighten up! Trust that you might not have all the answers now. I would recommend Chapter 4 of the Big Book of Alcoholics's Anonymous 'We Agnostics" as a starting point. I am not here to convince you that there is God. I can only speak for myself and my experiences -- and hopefully from my experience, strength, and hope -- you may find something to 'cling to' in your journey to understanding a Power Greater than yourself.
The purpose of this page is to tell you about my experiences in how God found me and called me home. I've always had a good foundation and belief in God. But I had come to see God as vindicative and conditional; I had to abide by his rules if I were to receive his love and grace. I had long ago given up expecting God's love, forgiveness or grace -- sinful men were not entitled to these things don't you know? Through a lot of work with my sponsor, therapist and group buddies -- I've come to realize that my view of God had become distorted. This distortion began in my family of origin with my own father. My dad was distant, unemotional and uninvolved. He was a good provider, but he depended on my mother to provide the love and nurturing kids need.
In Richard Rohr's book, Soul Brothers, he made the statement that: "We clearly come to God not by doing it right but ironically by doing it wrong." Amen. God has used my own sinfulness, guilt, shame and despair as an invitation and a calling to come to know Him.
Father James Martin, in his book My Life with the Saints reminds us of the way God loves us:
"Everyone needs to be reminded of this: It is difficult to accept that God loves us as we are, with our limitations, as well as our tendencies to sin. Certainly God is constantly calling us to conversion, to turn from our sinful behavior. And certainly God asks us to cast off anything that keeps us from following him more closely. At the same time, God is always inviting us to follow him, with a full and forgiving knowledge of our human nature."
The hardest thing for me to process in Steps 1-3, was to get past this belief that God's love for me was CONDITIONAL. I now know that he loves me unconditionally - but it was my own non-acceptance of God's 'generous love' and my inability to accept any limitations in myself that kept me from an intimate relationship with God. Getting past my own 'unworthiness' was crucial in accepting God's love.
Thomas Merton speaks about being your 'true self' (see True and False Selves page). The road to holiness and to God in many ways is to be our true self -- which is exactly who we are before God. By being ourselves we are fulfilling what God wants in us.
Father Martin also talks about "an acceptance of suffering (not welcoming it, but accepting its reality) can open us up to experiencing God in a new way." Let's face it, being an addict is about living a life of suffering. My priest used to say that we all suffer equally, just in different ways. That helped me process and accept my suffering as my 'cross to bear'. By accepting our addiction's reality -- we open ourselves to God's grace -- which moves us out of self pity and into selflessness. And it is here in the service of others that the real recovery -- the real opportunity to live a recovered life lies.
I finally got to the point of understanding that God doesn't cause suffering. In fact when we suffer, God suffers with us. How could this be? He has the power to change everything! Yes, he does. But God didn't create an automaton and demand that we love him. He wants us to freely accept and love him as he does us. That's why he gave us the gift of free will. So it is then, that when we are most vulnerable and afraid that we find God is calling us to follow him with a 'full and forgiving knowledge of our human nature'. The story of the Prodigal Son provides a good example of how God loves his children - but gives them the free will to do as they choose -- and then to unconditionally love them, forgive them and invite them home when they make a mistake or fail.
All of this understanding produces humility-- and to me the antidote to addiction is humility. I know I'm powerless to change things. And in that powerlessness, I discover my reliance on God.
Steps 1-3 helped me too realize that my family of origin expected me to be perfect. That was the only way I was to receive attention and affirmation. This was the genesis of my whole notion of CONDITIONAL love. My father was a god to me. That transferred to the God of my understanding. I got confused and have had to unwind this whole belief system. Perfection remains a huge set up for me. I have to remember to strive to be 'garden variety' and to surrender my desire for perfection. To paraphrase Father Martin: A perfect man would never deny God or understand the need for forgiveness. A perfect man would never understand the need for reconciliation. A perfect man would never understood his real need for God.
God chooses us not because of our perfections, but because of our imperfections. My own limitations help me understand my need and reliance on God. "My own poverty of spirit led me to God." And now, it is my addiction -- my biggest limitation -- that is ultimately put to good use by God. This website -- esoberbuddy -- is borne of this limitation.
Good luck with Steps 1-3! God Bless -- esb
My picture of God ...