“Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
That is Step 2 in any twelve-step program. It comes after the 1st step for codependents, which is, “We admitted we were powerless over others – that our lives had become unmanageable.”
The 2nd step is a tough one for many to get through, but one cannot move on to Step 3, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives, over to the care of God as we understood God,” without wrestling with step two.
Many of us who went through 12-step programs (mine was for codependency) have had some sort of religious upbringing, but when you are at the point that you admit you are “powerless over whatever addiction or behavior,” one has pretty much thrown out the idea that there is a higher power working in their life. For me, it was that real sense of abandonment I felt — one of my biggest fears — rejection and abandonment. I thought that God just didn’t love me anymore.
I was in a 12-step recovery meeting. They were telling me to work the steps. The secret was “working” the steps. What on earth did that mean?
My life was in shambles. What happened to get me where I was? In my deep feeling of abandonment and rejection, I divorced my husband of 10 years. I fell into a deep depression, and dug my way out. I had four little boys who were a handful and I felt I wasn’t keeping up with their needs very well. I had no one for a support system. I quit going to church because these little boys didn’t want to sit still during a service and I felt like everyone was looking at me — that divorced woman. My best friends from church disappeared. They were going through their own things. My family didn’t understand my decision and were not there in my loneliness and despair. I had no best friends.
I didn’t know how to date — never learned that before my first marriage! After my divorce, I attended a singles group, which were rare back in the day. There was no Match.com or any online dating sites or church support groups for divorced folks. At one of these singles group meeting, a guy came up to me and started chatting. He then asked if I had any children, and upon my answer of four little boys from ages 3 to 9, I saw this guy slowly back away, or maybe it was quickly bolt out of sight!
One day I met a man whom I shall call Pete (name changed to protect the innocent and the guilty). He asked the question about children, and upon receiving the answer, he sill seemed interested. He was divorced and had no children but said he wished he had. Bingo! A guy who likes the fact I had four kids. So, I started going out with him. I didn’t find his type and looks particularly attractive, but there was finally someone who liked me, loved me, lusted for me, whatever. It felt good at the moment.
I felt like there was no other single soul on this planet who gave me five minutes of their day. That is a bad place to be, because one becomes completely vulnerable and blind when they are in that spot.
Why doesn’t one follow their gut? When we are devastatingly lonely our inner voice can be screaming at us, but we silence it with our need to be loved and accepted — by anyone — doesn’t matter.
I now had someone to be with on my every other weekends without the kids. We went out to great dinners (hmm, who really paid the bill?), we explored the city, and he was a phenomenal cook — no man ever cooked for me before. This was feeling so good to the very lonely lady. So, here was this man who doesn’t even have a real job, who eventually loses his apartment — but who can tell a convincing story to this lonely lady that things are just about to turn around. In my lonely, fogged up head I thought, go ahead and move in for a short while, sleep on the couch, and when things get better you can move out.
When I met Pete, he was a recovered alcoholic. I very seldom drank and came from a family of non-drinkers. When he started drinking again I asked him about it, but he said it was no problem because he had it under control this time. Why should I not believe him? I didn’t know anyone who drank, and I didn’t have any friends to ask or friends to observe. Would it have mattered? The loneliness in me screamed out louder and drowned out the noise of any other dysfunction going on.
Now I had a drunk living at my house. Nice guy when he was sober, real ass when he was drunk. So what did I do? I married him! Yeah, he can’t continue living here — I needed to legitimize this. And he was working, kind of, and I’m not as lonely. The day before the wedding and the morning of the wedding day, my inner voice was SCREAMING! I silenced it — if I backed out, I would be admitting to my family I made a stupid decision (codependents think they cannot show they made a mistake–they have to be right in their head). I went through with this sham of a marriage. It was awful. I had a honeymoon where I was awake in the hotel room while he slept off the last night’s drunk. Finally, late in the afternoon we would go out and enjoy the sites of Memphis while the drunk started over again.
Drunk is one thing, abusive is another. It became verbal, and it became physical. We went to counseling, he dropped out, and I continued. My counselor asked me when I would kick this guy out and divorce him. I was afraid of what others would think—admitting I made a mistake was scarier than having this dysfunctional person in my and my children’s life. I wasn’t strong enough.
As I got stronger through counseling and the 12-step group, I realized the one place that is to be my place of safety is my home. I was the owner of this home, not Pete. Whenever I drove home from work, I always had a deep dread hanging over me. I knew it had to stop. One day I walked in the house and informed Pete that we no longer had a joint checking account, and he had 30 days to find someplace else to live. I was filing for divorce. I continued in my counseling and the 12-step group for codependency.
Now committed to attending this 12-step group, I was struggling with who this higher power was that I could turn to for recovery, to become a healthy productive human being, contributing something on this planet. As I attended these meetings, I observed the other people. I was amazed at how many people attend these meetings who really don’t want to recover. They were addicted to crisis, and they had one foot nailed to the floor. It is hard to walk forward with one foot nailed to the floor—one would only be able to walk in circles—getting nowhere! I noticed that those who stated their higher power was energy, or something as obscure, were really struggling with their recovery and/or desire to recover. Those who stated it was God (whatever that meant to them) seemed to be moving forward.
My birthday is at the end of the year. One of my sons asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I told him I wanted a One-Year Bible. He was a bit taken back by that since I had not darkened the door of a church in about ten years. I didn’t tell him why, but I did let him know I was serious. So, on my birthday, wrapped as a teenage boy would do, I received my requested gift. Since we celebrate birthdays together in my family I am sure my other boys were equally surprised. It didn’t matter. I knew that I needed to read this book. Did I believe that my higher power was this God from the “Holy Bible” that I was raised to believe, that I had worshipped for my first 32 years, that I taught my children about when they were little? If this God is not my higher power, I needed to know this so I could search out my new higher power and recover as quickly as possible. I had a life to live!
I diligently started reading on January 1. If I missed a day, I made myself read double the next day. I was determined to know if this was or was not my God by year end. I wasn’t studying the Bible this time, I was just reading it. Oh, my goodness! I struggled though some of the books. Some were real snooze-fests, and some were joyous, or full of intrigue, or even funny. But, by the end of the year I had read through the last chapter of Revelation.
There were certain observations that I made. This long, long document wasn’t about the rules and regulations that God put out there. This book was about the very nature of who God is. I realized that I am a screw-up, but so was everyone in the Bible, and so is everyone on this planet! This is a book about redemption.
My favorite person in the Bible is David – yeah, the old testament guy—the kid who killed a giant, the man who was hunted by the king, the man who became king and abused his power in so many ways and then ran away from God time and time again, and yet God said that David was a man after God’s own heart and that Jesus (my savior) would be born from the line of David. If one doesn’t understand God’s unconditional love and what redemption is after reading about David, I don’t know where else to get it.
It took another few years before I could walk into a church. I wanted to worship my God in a public setting with others who also believed, but fear and panic would grip me. I had been hurt by people in the church — felt rejected and abandoned by them. I knew I had to forgive them. They were (and are) as flawed as I am. We are in the same struggle. Sometimes I have moved in and out in my participation within the church, but I do not move in and out of my knowledge of God as my higher power who can do all things.
I am his special creation. I believe that my creativity in all that I do is because I am made in his image. He is the ultimate creator, but we all are creative in our jobs, with our families, artists, musicians, cooks etc. because we are in his image. That’s why I can be loving, compassionate and forgiving, because that is who my God is and I am created in that image.
He is also the redeemer. God’s unconditional love for me is overwhelming. I no longer regret the path my life took. It took this darkness for me to see the light. It took this darkness for me to understand that everyone has huge struggles. It took this darkness for me to love everyone, just as God has loved me. It doesn’t mean that I love all their actions — God does not love all our actions, but he love us deeply — so deeply, he would die for us. God didn’t abandon me back in those days, I just didn’t see his light any longer. But the light never went out—the spark was still there, and grew into a bright light of love and forgiveness (redemption).
Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado
David, A Man of Passion and Destiny by Charles Swindoll
Codependents’ Guide to the Twelve Steps by Melody Beattie