The power of the 12 steps is undeniable. In more than two decades of personal immersion as well as observing their transformative power in others, I realize that I have a love-hate relationship with the 12 Steps. Most of you probably know what I mean.
But now I know why I both love and hate the steps–because I am obsessed with control and I have a bad habit of impersonating God.
First of all, we had to quit playing God–Bill Wilson
The above statement, located in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, smacked me with deep understanding when I recently read Recovery–The Sacred Art, by Rami Shapiro. Nestled between the book’s introductory title and the first sentence of the introduction, is Bill Wilson’s quote, which I’ve heard thousands of times.
For some reason, Shapiro’s book snapped my head up from my long-time recovery doze. Many thanks to his publishing company for the invitation to read the book and offer a bit of commentary.
So back to the God-impersonation thing. Simply put, even attempting to play God is an illusion. Rabbi Shapiro explains that beneath the specific addiction that brings you and me to 12-step work, is “the addiction to the delusion and illusion of control.”
He also zooms right past the lightweight idea of letting go of control and screeches to a teeth-rattling halt in front of “the delusion of control must be involuntarily shattered rather than willfully relinquished.” (Italics are mine.)
Then this bombshell: “God has nothing to do with control. God, as I understand God, is reality itself, and reality cannot be controlled, for there is nothing outside reality to do the controlling.”
That’s it. I think I’ve been busted.
Step One: A deeper meaning of powerlessness
When you read Recovery–The Sacred Art, you’ll come away with an enriched appreciation for the sacred nature of the 12 steps. This book is no ethereal examination, nor is it a guidebook for “working” the steps.
Shapiro’s book is, however, a self-guided tour through each of the steps accompanied by suggested practices. Hint: Be ready for a bit of a twist on familiar language.
For example, Step One introduces the idea of being surrendered to God instead of surrendering to God. Shapiro explains that when we say we are powerless or that we surrender our particular addiction, we still maintain a degree of control. We’re making decisions about how and why and when we’ll surrender.
But–when life knocks the stuffing out of you and you’re crawling on your hands and knees, completely out of options, ideas or plea bargains, when you sense this time, you’re down for the count, then, and only then, does a power greater than you deliver you to a state of grace. You are surrendered to God.
Stripped bare, devoid of everything but your breath, control finally leaves you. You are powerless over life. You are free.
If you’ve succumbed to this kind of rock bottom, God (and all holy iterations) bless you. May you never forget the feeling of naked exposure.
But be very careful. We humans are so enamored with control that even the bliss of new life will probably not keep us from seeking control again.
That’s why Rami Shapiro’s book is so important. He gets it and he knows you and me. He knows we’re addicted to control.
It’s time to quit playing God.
Recovery–The Sacred Art is available through SkyLight Paths Publishing http://www.skylightpaths.com/page/product/978-1-59473-259-1
Photo courtesy of butkovicdub