The Second Principle: Faith

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In Search of Faith

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Following the principle of acceptance, Step Two tells us we got to get a little faith. But faith in what? Faith that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Please note, however, that that power does not have to be God in the traditional religious sense if that is problematic for you. The doorway to recovery is wide and inclusive. That power could be, for example, your recovery group, the universe or universal law. Simply seeing the universe as a friendly power is a beginning. I am reminded of a quote by Albert Einstein:

1 think the most important question facing humanity is, Is the universe a friendly place?’ This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves.

For if we decide that the universe is an unfriendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and our natural resources to achieve safety and power by creating bigger walls to keep out the unfriendliness and bigger weapons to destroy all that which is unfriendly and I believe that we are getting to a place where technology is powerful enough that we may either completely isolate or destroy ourselves as well in this process.

If we decide that the universe is neither friendly nor unfriendly and that God is essentially ‘playing dice with the universe‘, then we are simply victims to the random toss of the dice and our lives have no real purpose or meaning.

But if we decide that the universe is a friendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and our natural resources to create tools and models for understanding that universe. Because power and safety will come through understanding its workings and its motives.

God does not play dice with the universe,

As Einstein points out, how we choose to see the universe can guide our very actions. Belief precedes action. We have free agency. We can choose whatever perspective we like. But how does that perspective shape how we act?

Faith, coming to believe, whatever you choose to call it, the Second Step doesn’t say we need a perfect knowledge, just a belief. In other words, we choose to have faith—not certainty–in an unseen Power greater than ourselves.

What an order for many of us. Jaded by many years of substance abuse, how is it that we can come to believe anything, let alone a belief in a Power greater than ourselves … a power that has not, in my personal experience, caused the Heavens to open, shrubbery to ignite, or words of wisdom to be etched in stone.

In some ways, the process of spiritual growth is not unlike the strategy the Allies used in World War II to liberate the islands of the South Pacific. First the Allies would “soften up” an island, weakening the resistance by shelling the enemy strongholds with bombs from offshore ships. Next, a small group of Marines would invade the island to establish a “beachhead”–a tiny fragment of the island that they could control. Once the beachhead was secured, they would begin the long process of liberating the rest of the island, one bit of territory at a time. Eventually, the entire island would be brought under control.

The journey of recovery works in a similar fashion. First we are “softened up” when we are bombarded with a barrage of problems we seemingly can’t handle. The moment that you get into acceptance about being powerless over your addiction and the unmanageability of life, accepting the First Step, a “beachhead” is established.

The battle is far from over however. Each of the Twelve Steps helps us recapture spiritual territory long lost to our addiction. Step Two, coming to believe in a Power great than ourselves, is a necessary act of faith that allows us to embark on the rest of the steps.

For me, just a little fleck of faith, wavering faith at that, was all that was needed. When I started this journey I had been bombarded by years of active addiction. In a fog when I got here I couldn’t tell you if I believed anything could help. After all, I had been in and out of meetings and recovery for fourteen years. Nothing had worked yet. I was hopeless.

But I was fortunate to have found a sponsor who had similarly struggled for years to get sober before he put it all together. His personal experience of breaking the cycle of relapse gave me a glimmer of hope–a necessary prerequisite of faith. To be sure, my thoughts and beliefs about a Higher Power were so convoluted by the time I got here I couldn’t tell you if my faith with in my sponsor, the Twelve Step program itself, or something more Divine. I just knew my sponsor had broken the cycle of relapse and promised that I could too if I would just work the steps.

That beginner’s faith, though often shaky, proved more than adequate. Often there were doubts, which I have written about, but I rose every day and recommitted myself to living sober. In spite of my doubts I decided to follow the guidance of my sponsor and give the Twelve Steps a fair chance. Deciding to see the Steps all the way through made all the difference. I remained sober. My faith in a Higher Power increased as I pushed past doubts and kept doing the deal. As Gary Parker once said: “If I have to choose between a faith that has stared doubt in the eye and made it blink, or a naive faith that has never known the firing line of doubt, I will choose the former every time.”

For the fourteen years were I tried to get sober and repeatedly failed I was more like the impala. The African impala can jump to a height of over 10 feet and cover a distance of greater than 30 feet. Yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a 3-foot wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall. Faith is the ability to trust what we cannot see, and with faith we are freed from the flimsy enclosures of life that only fear allows to entrap us.

I failed to work the steps for fourteen years because my logical mind couldn’t see what good they could do-I couldn’t see where I would land if I took a leap of faith. Blessed with the gift of desperation this last time, things were different. I didn’t have to work it all out in my mind before I started. I took one small step of faith into an uncertain future and I was blessed to scale the small wall of addiction I had so long built in to an insurmountable obstacle.

That is not to say all went smoothly. There were ups and downs, there were times when it seemed all my trudging was uphill. But faith kept me moving forward. Step forward in faith. Rest if you must, but don’t quit.


Excerpted from the forth coming book: Twelve Principles of Recovery. Follow for more details…

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