Only 2 Alternatives (Part 1)

Only 2 Alternatives (Part 1)

If you are as seriously alcoholic as we were, we believe there is no middle-of-the-road solution. We were in a position where life was becoming impossible, and if we had passed into the region from which there is no return through human aid, we had but two alternatives: One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 25)

Once a person accepts that he or she is actually an alcoholic or an addict, the next question is obvious…  WHAT NOW?  Well, in reality, knowing you have a problem that you cannot seem to solve is only Step 1.  That means that the answer to what is next is to do whatever Step 2 is.

Look at the first 3 Steps as outlined in the Alcoholics Anonymous book:

Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.   (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 59)

Step 2 is a polite way of stating the fact we started with from page 25:  “

…we had but two alternatives: One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 25)

The key is that the statement we started with from page 25 must be looked at first:  “If you are as seriously alcoholic as we were.”  So if you are as far along in your addiction to be one of the people who feel that

  1. Life is becoming impossible
  2. You have passed into the region from which there is no return through normal human aid

You may require more than what people who have not gotten this bad need to overcome your addiction.  A person this advanced in addiction or alcoholism has only two choices according to this passage.

  1. Keep getting more and more miserable on the road to a slow miserable death or
  2. Accept something called “spiritual help”

If you are a person in need of recovery and you do not know if you are “that bad” then you are still at Step 1.  That is why Step 1 has the wording it does.  Think about the idea of being “powerless” and admitting that your life is “unmanageable” when compared to the wording used on page 25 and you see that there is far more to Step 1 than just realizing you have a problem.

Either you life is becoming impossible and you cannot find your way back through human aid or this is not true.  That is Step 1.

A person who is deeply resistant to “spiritual help” or to talk of God is a person who is not finished with Step 1.  This is not necessarily the end of the world (that person may just need more Step 1 work), but there is no reason for that person to be trying to work other steps.

If the authors felt that the only solution is something called “spiritual help” then everything they put together is “spiritual help.”  A person who will not accept or even discuss such things does not want what the authors of the Twelve Steps felt was the only way out.

With that mindset, working steps is taking actions you don’t believe in or want and expecting the good results to come from something else completely. 

The sentence sounds complicated and ridiculous because it is.  The results you are looking for are supposed to come from the “spiritual help.”  The whole program is supposed to be “spiritual help.”  “Spiritual Help” is described as the only way out for people who are this advanced in alcoholism or addiction.

Either “spiritual help” is the only hope or it is not.  If it is the only in fact the only hope, then you  either are that advanced in your addiction or alcoholism or you are not.  If you are, your only choice is if I want to be more and more miserable or accept “spiritual help?”

If you have accepted that you are that desperate, but are having some challenges with the ideas we are talking about, consider this:

There is a solution. Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the process requires for its successful consummation. But we saw that it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it. When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 25)

It is the only option and the longer you resist, the longer you are resisting even starting your journey towards freedom.  If you cannot turn the corner and still find yourself completely uncomfortable with this topic, YOU ARE STILL ON STEP ONE.  It is okay to realize this if you plan to work through it.  If you just want to avoid the topic and move on to other steps, you are simply running on a treadmill like a hamster in a cage running in place.  You are doing stuff and getting no place.

If you are one of those people, you should probably spend some time reading all of the previous posts on this blog and reading the Alcoholics Anonymous book (where all things 12 Step found their start) before reading part 2 of this post.  Part 2 will only disturb you more by belaboring the point more and by taking a far more detailed look at the facts behind Steps 2 and 3.

Clear Cut Directions – Steps 1, 2, and 3

clear-cut directions are given showing how we recovered. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 29)

All things 12 step and The Alcoholics Anonymous book (the original source for all things 12 Step) are supposed to be clear cut directions, but why such detail?  What
are they getting at.  Lets look at the importance of these clear cut instructions looking at Steps 1 through 3.  Let’s start at step 1:

I saw that will power and self-knowledge would not help in those strange mental blank spots. I had never been able to understand people who said that a problem had them hopelessly defeated. I knew then. It was a crushing blow. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 42)

There was a post I did previously about hitting bottom and Step 1.  This is a part of
the reality of that idea that makes recovery work.  I repeatedly go back to this concept as many of the struggles a person has in recovery can be traced back to a failure to properly work Step 1.

A person who reaches a step and uses an idea like, “Why do we have to do this, This isn’t gonna help” to keep himself or herself from doing that step properly (or from doing it at all) has not fully grasped that reality.  Asking or having the question is not the problem (I think questioning is good and good sponsors should have or at least know where to get the answers), not recognizing how desperate the situation is so you feel that it is safe to cut corners is where it becomes a breakdown in Step 1.

We were in a position where life was becoming impossible, and if we had passed into the region from which there is no return through human aid, we had but two alternatives: One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 25)

The next reality is that there is one possibility for escape, but it is one that some struggle with.  The point is bigger than that however.  The point is the first the previous recognition that I am trapped in a hopeless and helpless place.  The second point to get is that I there are large numbers of people that were in the same holes and helpless position who were helped through “spiritual help.”  If there is no hope whatsoever and suddenly someone shows me something that not only is the only hope, but has worked for others in a similar position, how desperately should I go after it?

We, in our turn, sought the same escape with all the desperation of drowning men. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 28)

How about, the same desperation that a drowning man would have?  That sounds like real desperation, doesn’t it?   That feeling a drowning person gets the moment he or she realizes that “I am not getting any air and I am going to die quickly if I don’t.”

That is a major point here, but there is more.  Notice the words: “the same scape”.   Whatever those that originally did this went through to get recovery you should be desperately seeking to do the same thing.  Not just the parts you are comfortable
with, or just how you feel like doing those things:  “the same escape”.

If discussing spirituality is a problem, then the problem is not that you struggle with the idea; it is only a problem if you do not desperately seek to figure out how to get over it to get the “same escape”.

To one who feels he is an atheist or agnostic such an experience seems impossible, but to continue as he is means disaster, especially if he is an alcoholic of the hopeless variety. To be doomed to an alcoholic death or to live on a spiritual basis are not always easy alternatives to face.

But it isn’t so difficult. About half our original fellowship were of exactly that type. At first some of us tried to avoid the issue, hoping against hope we were not true alcoholics. But after a while we had to face the fact that we must find a spiritual basis of life – or else. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 44)

This is where a person transitions from Step 1 to Step 2 then to Step 3.  Some can go faster than others but a person should not (and really cannot) go to a later step until having fully completed all of the preceding steps properly.  Not if that person is looking to get “the same escape”

That means a person not thoroughly convinced of his or her powerlessness in Step 1 will not be ready to look at Step 2 “with all of the desperation of drowning men.”  A person who does not fully understand that learning to “live on a spiritual basis” is his or her only hope cannot see the need to nor have a desire to turn his or
her will and life over to God.

This moves us into a conversation about Step 2 which is tied to Steps 1 and 3.  These are the 3 questions:

  1. Do you know that your situation is so desperate that you have no choice than to do whatever these people did to get recovery (especially those things which you find uncomfortable)?
  2. Do you realize that a major part of their idea of recovery was willing to “find a spiritual basis of life – or else” and are you willing to desperately pursue “a spiritual basis of life”?
  3. As part of pursuing “a spiritual basis of life”  are you willing to turn your will and life over to God (even if you do not know that much about Him)?

The Alcoholics Anonymous book puts these questions this way:

Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:

(a)   That we were alcoholic and could not manage our
own lives.

(b)  That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.

(c)   That God could and would if He were sought.

Being convinced, we were at Step Three… (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 60)

These are the keys to moving on to Step 3 and you must be convinced.  Originally there was a sentence right before the words “Being convinced” in the original manuscript that were removed for their bluntness, but they do convey the concept I have been describing well.   The original passage looked like this in the manuscript:

Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after, have been designed to sell you three pertinent ideas:

(a)   That you are alcoholic and cannot manage your own life.

(b)  That probably no human power can relieve your alcoholism.

(c)   That God can and will.

If you are not convinced on these vital issues, you ought to re-read the book to this point or else throw it away!

If you are convinced, you are now at step three… (Alcoholics Anonymous Original Manuscript)

If you are not convinced, YOU CANNOT GO ON, STOP AND GO BACK!  SO the real question is can you answer yes to all three propositions or not (no matter what addiction you are trying to get over).  Again I will put the question in clear words:

  1. Do you know that your situation is so desperate that you have no choice than to do whatever these people did to get recovery (especially those things which you find uncomfortable)?
  2. Do you realize that a major part of their idea of recovery was willing to “find a spiritual basis of life – or else” and are you willing to desperately pursue “a spiritual basis of life”?
  3. As part of pursuing “a spiritual basis of life”  are you willing to turn your will and life over to God (even if you do not know that much about Him)?

Those are the clear cut instructions and if a person cuts a corner on or skips any of the Steps the rest will not have the proper results.