Step Two says, "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." Which has two direct implications: (1) we're crazy, and (2) there was a time in our past when we weren't.
I know about craziness. I saw it on a regular basis growing up, and mostly attributed it to my father, who used to drink a fifth of Scotch a day. His liver, obviously, was prodigious. (In later years he tried switching to wine and would typically drink one and a half gallons a day.) Family life -- my "familiar" life -- was crazy.
Every child thinks his family is normal (until he finds out it's not). And as John Bradshaw notes, the alcoholic "star" of a family affects the attitudes and even world views of the others in it. Everyone tries to compensate, in one way or another, to try to allow the family to survive.
My particular form of craziness manifested itself in several ways, the most obvious of which were as a superachiever and as a peacemaker. The superachiever part had its upside, especially during my school years, and landed me a very prestigious job. And the peacemaker side had its benefits, too: as I've previously mentioned, many people even thought I was a priest. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me.
These traits also had their downsides. The superachiever part of me couldn't tolerate anything that I perceived as a flaw, in particular anything that would make people fail to respect me. Thus, I was closeted as a gay man for years. The peacemaker couldn't tolerate conflict, and so I would avoid it at all costs in my personal relations. People would do things that I would feel angry about, but I would never say how I felt because that would upset them. Instead, I stuffed my anger. Or they would do things that frightened me, and rather than confront them, I would avoid them.
Eventually, of course, all these feelings would surface, and then those around me would be bewildered. Whatever happened to our "nice" friend? What set him off? Is he nuts?
He was. My efforts to manipulate situations so that I could find peace of mind are described (no surprise) in the book Alcoholics Anonymous:
The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives are good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits.
I still try to play the Little Director on occasion, but when I do, I usually recognize (often after being reminded by friends) that I am doing it. And then I can step back and let people live their own lives, while focusing on mine.
What usually happens? The show doesn't come off very well. He begins to think life doesn't treat him right. He decides to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame. He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is his basic trouble? Is he not really a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well? Is it not evident to all the rest of the players that these are the things he wants? And do not his actions make each of them wish to retaliate, snatching all they can get out of the show? Is he not, even in his best moments, a producer of confusion rather than harmony?
That works a lot better for me. I can stop stepping on people's toes (or, alternatively, constantly looking out for toes I might be stepping on) and instead take purposeful steps. The unhealthy people in my life, disturbed by this new behavior, have largely drifted away. Other people and things I have had to say goodbye to, in order to make room for what might come along next. And while I might miss them for a time, I am invariably surprised at what eventually arrives, courtesy of God, the Universe, karma -- whatever you might call it.
And so I keep coming back to my fellows in recovery, the people who are all here because we're not all there. I am being restored to sanity. This has allowed me to pursue my creative side, including my writing (and thanks for reading, by the way) and my musical. I leave in a few hours for New York City to continue along that path.
The other day, I suggested to a friend who was struggling that he write a Gratitude List. I've found it's a lot healthier to focus on the good things we have than on what we lack. Here's a start on mine right now:
Being cared for
Having the necessities (food, clothing, shelter)
What are you grateful for in your life?