Step One

Today I “read out my Step one”, to use 12 Steps parlance. It’s a big milestone for addicts.

In everyday language, that means I spent three hours at my sponsor’s house, reading out my answers to questions from Step one in a book called the NA Step Working Guide.

I like Russell Brand’s version of Step one – we admitted we’re a bit fucked and need some help. That certainly applies to me.

I’ve written my answers gradually over the last two months. There was a lot of procrastination and maybe a touch of fear. I’d been a bit worried I’d get into an intellectual debate with my sponsor, which was the last thing I wanted. I’m comfortable with my beliefs and don’t want someone to try to fill my head with dogma or unsolicited advice.

Thankfully that didn’t happen. We shared our own experiences and opinions very honestly. And today has actually been really enjoyable. I’m glad I did it. I get on well with my sponsor and I’m grateful to him for giving his time to help me so freely.

And so now it’s on to Step two…

But fortunately I think I’ve done most of the hard work for that already, especially around my personal concept of God / Higher Power.

Bring it on!

Self Will vs God’s Will

At my 12 Steps meeting last night, we each shared our thoughts about Step 3.

Step 3 of the 12 Steps states:

We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

It was really interesting to hear other people’s interpretations of what this step means.

For a lot of people, the use of the word “God” is problematic. I agree – for me it’s a significant intellectual hurdle.

As I progress on my 12 Steps journey, I’m constantly trying to walk a fine line of incorporating 12 Steps ideas into my set of beliefs, but without selling out or fooling myself into accepting ideas which, in my heart, I know I can’t accept.

Here are a couple of interpretations of Step 3 which I liked (I’m paraphrasing):

  1. It’s about learning to do the right thing, as opposed to indulging our impulses.
  2. It’s about learning to think of others, being self-less, rather than always thinking about ourselves and our own interests.

Both of those interpretations remind me of Dr. Jordan Peterson’s Rule 7:

Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)

In other words, do the right thing, rather than merely what’s fun, easy, interesting, or in your own self-interest.

That reminds me, I wrote a post about “doing the right thing” a few weeks ago.

12 Steps Without God

In previous blog posts, I’ve explored different ideas about what God might be (according to my own personal understanding).

Most recently I settled on a definition of God that’s something like this:

“God is something like the combination of 2 things:
1) The divine spark which resides in each of us – our potential for greatness;
2) The power of the community of people at 12 Steps meetings.

Bollinger, R. (2019)

… Buuuuut… I have to admit, in the last week I’ve really been losing faith.

I’m now finding it hard to believe in any kind of God at all, even one as loosely and generously defined as above.

It’s not God that got me where I am today, it’s me.

Does that make me arrogant? Does that make me full of self-will? These questions genuinely trouble me.

Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t think I’ve got everything figured out. Not by a long shot. Every single day I learn something new in my 12 Steps journey.

I’m trying hard to always be open-minded and humble. I want to always be ready to admit I may have been wrong about something. I want to learn from everyone I talk to.

But that doesn’t mean I have to believe in any form of God, does it? He just seems superfluous.

I believe in me… my ability to learn and change and grow.

I really hope that doesn’t make me arrogant. Personally, I find it empowering.

It reminds me that I’m not a useless, broken, unworthy soul. It reminds me that I am capable of greatness… if I put in the hard work.

“Dead in a Ditch”

At the start of September, Boris Johnson said he’d “rather be dead in a ditch” than agree to a Brexit extension. Which he’s now done.

Yet mysteriously, the last time I checked, he was very much alive.

Any remaining trust or goodwill the public or fellow MPs had towards Johnson has surely evaporated. He is the epitome of sickness at the heart of a corrupt and failing system.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post saying that I quite liked Boris, despite his disregard for the truth. I no longer feel that way. We cannot trust anything he says. He’s a pathological liar who has shown himself unable to stick to his word or uphold basic principles of decency.

It would not surprise me if some nutcase decides to take the law into their own hands and attempts to make Boris’ “dead in a ditch” a reality. Obviously I hope that does not happen, but with the current political climate on both sides of the atlantic, that kind of thing wouldn’t surprise me.

Not only that, but I believe Boris has needlessly put other MPs’ safety at risk with his reckless use of inflammatory language.

I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt before. That was mistake. There was already ample evidence this man is a pathological liar who cannot be trusted. He has no principles. He has no honour. He doesn’t deserve to hold any position of public office. He ought to do the decent thing and resign, but of course he won’t.

Events on both side of the atlantic appear to be reaching boiling point, heading towards some kind of messy, explosive, ugly climax.

Whilst experiencing drug-induced psychosis in August, I felt the two dates of 9th Nov 2019 and 29th Nov 2019 were significant. I felt something very bad was going to happen, possibly a terrorist attack, but also that I might play some role in reducing the severity of the impact.

What will transpire on those dates? Who knows.

Hopefully, absolutely nothing bad will happen.

Perhaps something bad will happen but it will be entirely limited to my own subjective experience, my own inner psychological world. I’d be content with that – I certainly don’t wish for any harm to come to anyone else.

The most likely option is that absolutely nothing of any significance will happen on either date. I was psychotic, after all. And, to the best of our knowledge, no-one can predict the future.

When you experience psychosis, it’s common for everyday experiences to appear to hold unusual significance. Perhaps it’s just the brain’s innate pattern-matching ability going into overdrive and drawing impossible conclusions.

No matter what happens on the 9th and 29th November, I’m now thoroughly fed up with Brexit and with politics in general. The entire system is corrupt. I don’t have faith that it can be reformed from within. My gut feeling is that the entire thing needs tearing down and rebuilding from first principles… ideals like Truth, Courage and Love need to be at the centre of public life, baked into the foundation of our political system.

Will it happen? I doubt it. The most likely scenario is that mankind is going to utterly destroy itself and the planet, probably before 2100 AD. As Stephen Hawking suggested, the human race is too stupid and too ignorant. And we’re doing nothing of significance to tackle either of those problems. Really, it’s a wonder we haven’t wiped ourselves out already.

Have a happy Monday night, won’t you. Close the curtains, shut out the dystopian world outside, turn up some loud music, and attempt to numb your senses to the senselessness unfolding in the world around us.

Good night 🙂

What Does “Repent From Your Sins” Actually Mean?

I’ve recently started looking for ways in which I can find deeper truths about the nature of reality using all three of the following: religion, spirituality and science. As part of this quest, I’m looking for commonalities between them.

I’ve encountered the phrase, “repent from your sins” a few times in the last few days and it’s prompted me to wonder…

What’s a more scientific way to say “repent from your sins”?

Well, let’s get a little blurry here…

Sins implies morality – good vs evil. Often sins in religion equate to a specific physical act, such as cheating on your partner.

But what if we consider sins to be synonymous with the slightly wider concept of “mistakes”?

So… “repent from your sins”, if rendered in more scientific language, might mean something like, “admit to your mistakes.”

So, this includes many types of intellectual/thinking errors (e.g. making erroneous assumptions), as well as physical acts.

The phrase “admit your mistakes” feels far more modern and secular than anything sin-related. We can all (hopefully) see the wisdom in admitting to our mistakes.

In a similar way to the above, I have a hunch that many lessons of religion might actually be quite pragmatic and sensible, if only we can interpret them the right way.

That opens up the question of how you know you’re choosing the correct interpretation. My only answer to that might be something like, “Whichever one feels most meaningful and useful to you personally.”

There’s one big thing which gets in the way of admitting our mistakes though… our ego. It takes real self-knowledge and courage to be able to put your hand up and say, “I was wrong, I’m sorry.”

But people are scared of appearing weak or incompetent in front of each other, so their ego attempts to cover up their (perceived) inadequacies.

Do you know anyone who seems to be trying just a little bit too hard to appear like a “good/nice” person? Chances are, they are a little insecure (like most of us), so they attempt to project a stronger image of themselves to others so they can feel protected and safe.

But here’s the thing… admitting your mistakes, being vulnerable, allowing the world to see you as you really are (warts’n’all)… that is not weakness, it is Courage! Dr Brene Brown taught me this via her two excellent TED Talks.

So… do you know anyone who seems to find it hard to ever admit their mistakes or offer an apology? Do they seem like they are convinced they are always right? Do they lack humility?

Often these people may actually (incorrectly) believe themselves to be humble, even if their behaviour proves otherwise. In other words, no-one likes to believe they’re arrogant or closed-minded!

Part of the 12 Step process for addicts is to get into the habit of noticing and correcting your mistakes ASAP. You must admit when you’re wrong and make amends quickly.

Doing so keeps you closer to the Truth, and it keeps you humble.

Let’s shrink that over-protective ego, you don’t need it! Don’t get prideful and arrogant! No matter how clever you are or how often you’re right, you must always be ready to admit the possibility that you might be wrong. Doing so is the true essence of science.

The above is all just my intuition mixed with some (hopefully sound) reasoning.

But am I stretching out the concept of sin too far? Am I fudging the meaning too much in my quest to unify science and religion?

I’d love to hear what you think – please help me be humble.