Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Step 2, Exercise 3: Willingness

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to a normal way of thinking and living.

Step 2, Exercise 3: Willingness

Step Two asks us to open our minds to the possibility that there is a Power greater than ourselves. YOU create YOUR OWN concept of a Higher Power. There can be many sources and inspirations for it: religious upbringing, family tradition, life experiences, group membership, reading, training, travel. Ultimately, it is a personal, spiritual choice -- one of YOUR OWN understanding at this time. Keep in mind that, as the fog from gambling clears and you let go of your need to control people, places and things, that understanding may change, grow or deepen. At this point, we need only become willing to make it part of our recovery process.

Is your mind open to the possibility of a Power greater than yourself/ If not, what things are keeping your mind closed? Pride? Ego? Self-centeredness? Stubbornness? Fear? Would you be willing to set them aside, just for today?

This was the part of recovery and The Steps that I genuinely struggled with for a long time and it has only been recently that I have started to figure out what exactly my own concept of my Higher Power is. Before I used my kids and that was fine, it worked for me at the time because although I struggled with the idea of all this spirituality stuff, the literature said to have a Higher Power so I picked one but I can’t honestly say I bought into the idea completely and I want to touch on why I think that was. Firstly, here are the definitions of religion, spiritual and spirit from Merriam-Webster:

Religion - the service and worship of God or the supernatural/commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance.

Spiritual - of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit.

Spirit - an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms.

I really struggled to differentiate between religion and spiritual and no matter how many times I read about it, looked at definitions or listened to people tell me that it’s not the same, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when I heard the word God or someone talking about their Higher Power from a religious point of view. I would zone out when someone spoke about their Higher Power and how it had helped them in a situation and think to myself, “what a load of bollocks.” I had to ask myself why I thought like this.

Firstly, I was born in Northern Ireland and although I wasn’t alive for the worst of The Troubles and I was too young to really remember or be aware of the final few years of them (the Good Friday Agreement was in 1998 when I was 11), I have lived in the aftermath of this sectarian conflict. Religion has been and continues to be a divisive part of Northern Ireland and growing up in this environment removed any possible religious interests or beliefs I had. It’s not like I didn’t have any involvement in religion growing up as I was a member of the Boys Brigade until I was a teenager but the religion side of things just were not for me and the older I got the less interested I got. 

So that’s part of the reason why I’m not interested in religion but why did I have such an aversion considering spirituality and seeing the difference between the two? That more came down to me and, as listed above in the question, the various character defects I have. Quite honestly, I thought it was for people who just needed something to believe in because they couldn’t go through recovery on their own. My ego was telling me I didn’t need to rely on that stuff.

There was a stubbornness about it all as well because at the end of the day, I was doing quite well. I hadn’t gambled in over a year, I was working through The Steps and I was generally in a good place. Looking back to Spring/Summer of 2020 I can now see that I wasn’t in that good a place, at least spiritually I wasn’t and that was me getting closer to the edge of a slippery slope but I was too stubborn to admit it. When I left my original group, cut ties with my ex sponsor, I’ll be honest, I started questioning the whole G.A. thing and if it really worked. I had a small group of people who I stayed close to and we sort of drifted along together trying to find our people. Without this group I would have struggled and I am forever grateful to the role they have played and continue to play in my life, especially Danielle, who has been a mainstay in my recovery for the past 12 months and has become one of my best friends.

I never actually found my people, my people found me via Twitter when Jake, who is now a close friend, DM’d me out of the blue, and asked me to come to a Georgia G.A. meeting on Zoom. So I went along to see what it was like and I knew from my first meeting that this was for me, this was where I belonged but I still had this fear inside. 

That fear probably stemmed from what happened with my old group, a fear of growing close to a new group for it all to disappear again. A fear of becoming vulnerable and relying on other people when I need them instead of just myself. The more I went to these meetings the more I was getting out of them and the more connections I was making. I met Mick who, even though he is English, has also become one of my closest friends and he introduced me to his Sheffield Zoom meetings. There are others who have become big parts of my life and our connections are growing each day. They help me more than they know from a wise word, opening up or just having a laugh and making me smile, they make a difference to me.

By listening to other people and their dealings with a Higher Power in these new meetings, especially Georgia, and from creating more connections with people I started to grow again. I started to really look deep inside again and I wanted to begin working The Steps for a second time. My faith in the programme was not just becoming restored, it was becoming something more to me.

Have you ever seen a “Greater Power” at work in the lives of others? Have you ever experienced such a Power at work in your own life?

The more I have paid attention in meetings, listened, been aware and kept an open mind, the more I have seen a “ Greater Power” at work in the lives of others. From people completely turning their lives around to those who relapse and come back to the rooms before destroying themselves. I’ve seen people who seemingly surrender overnight and explain the experience as something bigger than themselves. Stories of people who almost relapse and stop, even though 9 times out of 10 they would have made the bet in the past. People on the brink of suicide who had a distracting phone call or a thought that made them change their mind. It’s all there. The proof, so to speak.

The old me would have called these coincidences and questioned anyone believing that a “Greater Power” actually exists. I would have rolled my eyes and called bullshit. If I’m being totally honest, there’s still a part of me that thinks this way and I’m working on that. It all comes back to the foundation of my recovery, HOW. Being honest with myself and recognising that even if I say I am being open minded, I am not. My mind has been closed to this part of The Steps since Day One. An open mind is a must for this and being able to just consider, for a moment, that these are not just random occurrences but the work of something bigger. Then, I need the willingness to question my own beliefs and attitudes towards this. The willingness to look at my own experiences and see there is something bigger than me. 

I have experienced such a Power but it has only been recently that I have been able to not just admit that to myself but to accept it. There are people who come into my life at what feels like the right moment and bring something that I have been missing or searching for. I have people who come into my life and test my character defects (sometimes very well I might add) which then makes me look at various parts of myself. A share that hits me at just the right moment. A topic I needed to hear or talk about. The opportunity to be there for somebody and to help. The power to say no when I want to say yes and the power to say yes when I want to say no. All of these things, and that was not an exhaustive list, are the work of a Power Greater than myself.

These things on their own happen all of the time. I come across new people weekly, good people and dickheads. Shares happen every meeting. Lots of them. Most meetings I attend have a topic and I usually say “great topic”, so it must be great. Somebody always needs help. I can say yes or no whenever I want. 

The difference is that when a Power Greater than myself is at work it opens my mind to these things happening. It makes me aware. I become more aware when I work my program. Things hit me now that didn’t a few months ago. I can see someone struggle in subtle ways when I couldn’t before. I know when I should say yes or no. When someone comes into my life it’s because I have paid attention and connected. All of this stuff is happening on a spiritual level and it’s something that I couldn’t see before. In fact, it’s something I didn’t want to see before. 

Everything is a random event or a random moment, but yet, at the same time, when I become willing to believe in a Power Greater than myself which then opens my mind, I can be honest with myself and see that they are all connected. 

Take 'em away, take 'em away, Lord

Take away these chains from me

My heart is broken 'cause my spirit's not free

Lord take away these chains from me

Old Crow Medicine Show - Take ‘Em Away

Three things that you believe in and trust today.

Gamblers Anonymous/The Steps - Will expand on this in the next question.

Those closest to me - I think deep down somewhere I always knew that those closest to me wanted what is best for me but until I came into recovery I never fully allowed myself to believe that or trust in it. That was the addiction talking. My inner addict. 

Also, those closest to me doesn’t just mean my family but my friends and whereas before I let some of my friends drift away due to gambling I now feel like I have got some of them back and added an amazing group of people I have met in recovery who I consider true friends, some of whom I’ve never met in real life and may never meet in real life, others, I may end up going to Whitby with, who knows.

The point is I now have faith in others.

Myself - Now I know the whole point of Step 2 is about finding a Power greater than myself and not relying on me all the time but the fact is that I am still the person who has to put the work into my recovery and I now believe and trust in myself to try and do the next right thing. I won’t always get it right, but I have faith that I’m trying to get it right. That faith comes from a Power greater than myself.

Belief + Trust = Faith. Does writing about what you believe in and trust give you a sense that there is or could be a force at work in your life beyond your own will? Are you willing to welcome this safe, loving and supportive presence into your recovery?

Absolutely but it took me a while to get there. My higher power or “Greater Power” is G.O.D which stands for Group Of Degenerates which is basically my way of saying Gamblers Anonymous as a whole. I have no doubt some people won’t like being called degenerates but the other option was dicks and I took the more polite route. It helps me when I read the word God in the literature or hear someone share about their God. I had to make myself comfortable with it to be able to become willing. I thought I was willing when I went through The Steps the first time around but I was really just lying to myself. I was picking and choosing which parts of the programme I thought suited me best.

This programme has started connecting all the dots for me and it has given me the ability to open my mind up to things I didn’t know were possible. I enjoy human connection now, I used to do my best to avoid it. I want to help others and don’t feel the need to be rewarded or praised for doing so. I care about other people instead of just giving a shit about myself. I even stopped hating Tom Brady and that took some doing. 

There is a feeling that I get, deep inside of me, and it’s a feeling that there is something bigger than me flowing through me. That even sounds too much for me but it is what it is. I have faith that I no longer need to try and do shit on my own or without support. I know now that people have my back. I literally have a set of instructions in The Steps that has shown me how to stop gambling and not only get my life back on track, but how to improve my life beyond what was possible on my own. Yes, I have shit moments, everybody does but as long as I remain aware that there is something bigger than me out there, my G.O.D, then I can get through those shit moments. 

Spiritual - of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit.

Spirit - an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms.

Now when I read those definitions I begin to understand what being spiritual means to me. Gamblers Anonymous has provided me with vital principles that have given me life. When I work the programme, when I try to live the programme, that is spiritual. All of my dealings within G.A. are spiritual.

I was blind, now I can see

You made a believer out of me

I was blind, now I can see

You made a believer out of me

I'm movin' on up now

Getting out of the darkness

My light shines on

Primal Scream - Movin’ on Up


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