July 14, 2014
Step Two: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
So, what is sanity?
And why does this step say that the Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity?
Does restoration imply that there was a time when we were sane?
Is it easier to define insanity than it is to recognize sanity?
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The truth seems to be that our dysfunctional, disabling patterns are so much a part of our daily lives that they feel normal to us, even when we are in deep pain.
That young children will choose to return to an abusive home and even cry for the abusive mommy and daddy is a fact that makes perfect sense because we all long for homeostasis.
We all like, prefer and seek out that state of being which is familiar to us, and for some of us, chaos is familiar.
For others, drunken stupors or highs are the norms. For workaholics, "home base" is working until you cannot go another step. Some people don't feel "right" until they are consumed with fear. Increasingly, rage, hate and anger are commonplace among persons, so common that those addicted to those feelings states aren't comfortable until they are whipped up into a state of anger.
I've seen a person "loose her mind" when she needs the approval of another person and cannot get it. I've even seen persons who are addicted to being abused, used, mistreated and shamed.
I have allowed other peoples' opinions, needs, preferences, behaviors and manipulations to take up too much space in my head, so that they are running my life.
I've seen people who don't feel OK if they aren't running on fumes. I've known people who get high on the adrenalin rush and almost can't work unless they are "flying high", pushing themselves harder and faster and longer than anyone else. I know those who cannot stand not to have a romantic partner (or three) in their lives, and the need is so controlling that anyone will do.
Addiction to any person or persons, activities, feeling states or substances creates insanity, and for those who have lived in those states long enough, sanity is threatening. Change itself often creates stress, but when you're sick and tired of being sick and tired of whatever is causing you pain, you'll do what it takes to restore your sanity.
"Sanity may look different for you than for me," a friend told me, and I had to agree. Perhaps, too, chaos that is intolerable for one is tolerable for another. Many of the words found in the Steps describe conditions that might be on a continuum, or at least they mean different things to different persons: unmanageable, powerless, coming to believe, Power greater than ourselves, and others.
In the terminology of Carl Jung, who helped Bill W. formulate these Twelve Steps of recovery, "being in a complex", a term Jung coined to indicate being taken over by some personality characteristics that have their origins in the past, generally around a trauma. Being in a complex is a kind of insanity.
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So it is that I've thought a lot about what sanity is, in the context of these Steps and related to what it means to recover from an addiction.
This isn't a textbook definition, and it isn't the definitive definition of sanity, but a reflection on what sanity may be, gleaned from my experience, study and on-going recovery from codependency.
It seems to me that sanity is the answer to the Serenity Prayer. Sanity is serenity, courage and wisdom, at work in everyday life.
Sanity is living from your own center, from the inside out, instead of being tossed about by whatever is going on in the outer world.
Sanity is peace, and it is living in the moment, fully present to what is. It is being here and it is being here now.
Sanity is being organized around activities, processes, people and things that create health and wholeness, and not controlled by those factors that disturb, disorient, destroy or keep us attached to our addiction.
Sanity isn't the absence of conflict, either inner or outer conflict, but it is choosing to be peaceful and serene in the midst of conflict.
Sanity is being able to make healthy choices instead of being in chains to old, unhealthy patterns and choices, victimized by my own inability to choose health over sickness.
Sanity is not passivity, and it certainly isn't denial. In fact, authentic recovery leads us to be actively involved in life, our own lives and in our relationships.
Sanity isn't about avoiding the truth; instead, it is radical honesty about what we are feeling, thinking, wanting and doing. That honesty may be spoken, or it may be acknowledged in the privacy of one's own inner thoughts, but self-honesty is a basic requirement of sanity.
Sanity is a state of being in which what you do matches what you say. It is a state of inner harmony and integrity, so that what you do in your daily life reflects what is true for you.
Sanity is knowing the True Self that is at your core, and living from that source.
Sanity is being who you are and not who someone else wants you to be. It is living authentically and in congruence with your natural temperament, gifts and values.
Sanity may or may not cause you to look like, act like, talk like and vote like your peers, but conforming and adapting to your peers isn't the point of a sane, sober and healthy life. In fact, sanity may cause you to make your own kind of music, live your own unique life and become who you were created to be in the beginning!
Sanity is much more than this --and I am pretty sure that in recovery we are truly restored to the way we were meant to live in the first place -- free from addictions, true to ourselves and who we are intended to be, expressing our gifts and talents that are written into our being and
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For years, a poster hung over my bathtub. It depicted a young woman, dancing on a beach either at sunrise or sunset, with the inscription, "He restores my soul," from Psalm 23.
Over the years, I pondered that poster and thought a lot about that particular Psalm, one of my favorites from childhood.
More recently, I learned that the word for religion comes from the word religare, which means "to tie back together."
It seems that all of us need those practices, routines or rituals that will restore our souls and reconnect us to ourselves and to our Higher Power.
I've written about those spiritual practices in my book Dance Lessons: Moving to the Beat of God's Heart. I wrote about them because I have learned that the regular and habitual practice of particular disciplines is as necessary to my life as breath is to my physical body.
--I must have the daily practice of Centering Prayer or some other form of meditation.
--I must have regular Sabbath rest, a degree of solitude and enough silence to hear the still, small whispers of God's grace.
--It is necessary for me to have physical exercise, regular sleep and enough of it, good nutrition and plenty of hydration to keep my body healthy.
--I need to feed my mind nourishing and challenging intellectual food, and I take seriously the spiritual practice of friendship.
--Gathering with my family of faith, living fully within that community in such a way that we give support, nurture, comfort and care to each other is vital to my spiritual well-being.
--I take seriously the spiritual practice of having fun, laughing deeply and often and, when it is time to mourn, weeping for that which I've lost. "Tears are the body's way of praying," my friend and teacher Keith Hosey told me, and I know he is right.
--In the last three years, walking the labyrinth has become a vital part of my life, my prayers and my efforts to live the Serenity Prayer.
You can't force a spiritual experience and you cannot manufacture sanity, serenity or peace, but with a consistent spiritual practice, you make yourself available for an encounter with God.
You cannot force recovery. It seems to take longer for some of us than others, and for all of us, recovery is likely a lifetime project.
What matters seems to be a long, slow obedience in the same direction, and a ton of patience and persistence.
What about you?
What does sanity look like for you?
How do you put yourself in a position to receive restoration of your soul?
How long has it been since you have simply sat in the silence, being fully present to your breath and to the sounds of silence?
What keeps you from doing that?
What helps you stay centered?
Who gives you support to live the benefits of the Serenity Prayer?
Grace to you--