I recently decided to work the twelve steps again. I hadn’t been feeling any urges to drink - thankfully, I haven’t in a while - but curtailing an urge isn’t the only thing that the twelve steps are good for. I find that the steps almost always have something to teach me when it comes to people, places, and things. And although I work these steps to some extent whenever I take a sponsee through them, it has been over three years since I worked them myself. There’s a special kind of learning that happens when our own fate is on the line.
Three years ago around this time, I was working Step 2: “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” The way I’ve been taught, working Step 2 involves creating what is called a “Care of God” list. The underlying question is this: “In what ways have you been cared for by a power greater than you?” The idea is that it’s much easier to believe in a power for which there is already evidence in our daily lives.
Unfortunately, my very first “Care of God” list was destroyed in a fire, which is to say I accidentally permanently deleted the document. Luckily, however, I have a sponsor who remembers my first list fairly well. So when, this past Sunday, I shared my most recent Care of God list, she was able to point out the jarring differences between the lists I made three-months versus three-years sober.
At three months sober, I was thankful that I had never been pulled over for drunk driving. I was thankful that I had never been assaulted or contracted a disease while drunk. I always made it home. I still had my job and a place to live (even though I didn’t like either all that much). My life was still largely together despite the fact that I had assembled all the ingredients for screwing it up.
There’s certainly something to be said for all that. Three years later, however, God’s care is evident in more than just the bullets I’ve dodged, the outcomes I’ve avoided. Three years later, I have healthy, warm, and empathetic friendships with other women. I have closer relationships with both of my parents. My job is an excellent fit for me; it allows me to work independently, provides camaraderie and mentorship, and I almost never bring work home with me. Three years later, I am impressed not only by what I’ve avoided, but by the gifts I've received, including the courage to embrace those gifts. Three years later, I have the gift of action.
A few days ago, I was lucky enough to get coffee with someone who knows much more about the Enneagram than I do. In talking with her, I was reminded about my worst tendencies as a four. I was reminded that when fours are unhealthy, they become inactive, avoidant, escapist. They wallow, and they drive away relationships. That’s me at my worst.
God is evident in my life whenever I work against these natural tendencies, whenever I do something different. I have found people, despite feeling never understood. I have found an excellent job, despite feeling nothing is quite right. I have found some semblance of contentment, despite the fact that I am fundamentally a dreamer, always a little (read: a lot) dissatisfied. For the first time in my life, I like my apartment enough to renew the lease for a second year. If you want proof of the existence of God, look no further than that.
Something tells me that the lease thing won’t satisfy the skeptics. But something tells me it doesn’t need to. Fundamental to Step 2 is the idea that I need not understand my own God - let alone anyone else's - in order to work the second step. There's a familiar saying in recovery that more-or-less anyone can get behind, with the rare but reliable exception of those with narcissistic personality disorder: All you really need to know about God is that you're not him.