Everyone has at least a tiny shred of hope when they first get sober. They might be downright miserable–even suicidal in some cases–but they must have at least a tiny bit of hope left in them. When I first got clean and sober, I didn’t really think I had any hope left in me. But looking back, I surely must have. I stuck around to give the whole sobriety thing one more try, even though I was miserable. What made me stick it out was that I accepted how miserable I was when drinking–this state of decision is known as the gift of desperation.
The Gift of Desperation
Sitting in a detox unit without bolting out the door, running to the ATM, and buying a fifth of liquor is an exercise in accepting the first step into your life. Actually, that’s just what the results of the first step looked like for me….on the inside, I had already done the mental stuff necessary to keep me there. That mental stuff was surrendering. I was beat down and sick of trying to keep myself drunk enough to be content. I was so horribly tired with life in general. So this surrender that occurred inside of my was not something that I could have figured out, or initiated on my own, or even decided it was something I wanted to do. It just happened. I was finally beat up enough, and that put me in a state of surrender. I didn’t choose to surrender. I had simply drank my way into it. And so I accepted that first step into my life. My defeat as an alcoholic was total and complete. I was truly whipped. So I stayed in treatment and I started taking suggestions and I did what they told me to do. This involved going into long term treatment, and it was there that I started wrestling with the second step proposition.
The Second Step Proposition
The second step in Alcoholics Anonymous is specifically about coming to believe that a higher power can restore us to sanity. The remaining steps hinge on this decision, and the decision is actually this: am I going to accept a higher power as a solution to my alcohol or drug problem? That is the essence of the second step. The proposition, as outlined in the big book of AA, basically says that we come to a point where we must decide about God: “either he is everything or he is nothing.” What we are really facing is the idea that a spiritual entity can solve our drinking problem.
Undoubtedly, this turns some people away, because they do not see how a spiritual solution can be used to solve what they view as being a physical problem of addiction. For me, I had to get honest with myself and look at what was going on inside. I wasn’t just addicted to chemicals….I was emotionally and spiritually sick inside.
I went through a period of soul searching when I was about six months sober. Looking back, I can see that I was really wrestling with the second step proposition, although at the time I did not know this. I was really trying to think my way through recovery. I wanted to make recovery work for me through logic. It doesn’t work that way.
Moving Towards the Solution: Willingness
At some point in my early recovery, I finally took the suggestion to move past the second step proposition and start acting as if. This was an exercise in willingness. I had come to realize that if this program was going to work for me, I was going to have to do the footwork. Therefore, I had to open myself up to the possibility that a higher power could help me. The transformation that came from this small bit of willingness has made me into a completely different person: I have recovered from that hopeless state of mind and body. The gift of desperation allowed me to experience this spiritual transformation. Desperation gave me hope. That hope was eventually converted to a working faith that keeps me sober today. My hope became faith through willingness.
I had to allow myself to have hope.
I had to force myself to become willing.
Both of those were decisions that were under my direct control. The desperation was a gift from God. My faith is much the same. But hope and willingness were actions that I had to initiate.
Are you choosing hope and willingness today?