Coming to Believe: Step 2 of AA
Step 2 AA and coming to believe is the first spiritual Step in the 12-Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Although no real action is required when working on the Second Step, it does require a fair amount of self-reflection in regard to what a person believes when it comes to a Higher Power working in their lives.
Often times, a person will simply look at all the miracles that have taken place in their lives such as surviving overdoses, car crashes, or bar fights, in order to find evidence that a Power greater than themselves has been at work in their lives. If this higher power has brought the person this far, then there should be no problem with coming to believe the Higher Power could restore sanity for the person.
Overcoming Reluctance in the Second Step
I was a bit reluctant at first when it came to Step 2 of AA, because I had had negative experiences with religion at an early age. Without going into detail, the experiences had left me feeling as though atheism was my only viable option because I had no faith. As my addiction and alcoholism continued to beat me down, the further into the abyss I fell, the more I warmed up to the idea that a Power greater than myself did exist.
By the end of my drinking and using career, I came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. My thought process was that I didn’t survive all the trials and tribulation of active addiction alone. I felt as though I was protected. There were copious examples of times in which I should have been dead or incarcerated, and yet through blessings I received from my Higher Power, I managed to escape unscathed.
Coming to believe came easy for me because of my experiences. If you are anything like me, an alcoholic or an addict, I suggest you use your experiences as motivation to find a Higher Power working in your life.
What is Step 2 AA?
The AA Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous answers ‘What is Step 2 AA’ fairly explicitly. According to the AA website, Step 2 of the AA program reads, “Came to believe a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. The forefathers of the AA program specifically worded the Step in such a way that even the most resistant to religion would be able to find a road to recovery.
Many newcomers to the program substitute God for a Higher Power of their understanding such as the universe, nature, or even the group of alcoholics in AA who have solved their drinking problem. The most important aspect is the willingness to follow the Steps to the best of your abilities, and trust that the Steps work. Trust in the fact that many atheists and agnostics have trudged the road before you, and have been able to maintain a life of sobriety.
The willingness to believe that something greater than you can fix your drink problem is the answer to questions about the Second Step of the Twelve Steps. Utilizing the desperation from being dragged through the mud from alcoholism, find the willingness needed to remain open-minded, and bring on that spiritual awakening that will allow you to live a life free of alcohol. A life you deserve to have.
What is the Purpose of the 2nd Step?
Coming to believe in a Power greater than yourself, and realizing that you’re not alone, is the answer to concerns regarding the purpose of the 2nd Step. Warming up to the idea that letting a Power greater than yourself take the proverbial driver’s seat is an important part of working the 12 Steps. After all, Alcoholics Anonymous is a spiritual program, so improving one’s spiritual life is a huge part of recovering from alcoholism according to AA.
Keeping an open mind is another answer to the question ‘What is the purpose of Step 2?’ Being able to keep an open mind is one of the most important spiritual principles of the Twelve Steps. Before a person begins to take a moral inventory, it is helpful to understand that although he or she is powerless and their life is unmanageable, they have a Higher Power to rely on to restore them to sanity.
Working Step 2 AA and coming to believe in a Higher Power, I began to open my mind and became willing to do whatever it took to recover from my alcoholism and addiction. I disregarded the negative experiences I had as a young person in the church and gave spirituality another wholehearted shot. I am extremely grateful for my gift of desperation which was brought on by being beaten down by my alcoholism. This desperation gave me every motivation needed to open my mind and my heart to the possibility that a Higher Power could restore me to sanity.
How Can I Complete Step 2?
There are many ways in which a person can complete Step 2 AA and start coming to believe. In my experience within the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, I have seen different sponsors give different directions to their sponsees to complete Step 2. Often times, these directions will include asking the recovering alcoholic to begin to conceptualize their interpretation of a Higher Power.
For me, however, I found that trying to put my Higher Power into some sort of box was counter-productive to my recovery. My original conception of a Higher Power involved something as abstract as the feeling one feels when out in nature. I’m glad that my sponsor didn’t direct me towards a more limiting view towards what a Higher Power could be.
As my time in the program passed and I grew spiritually, I was able to define better what my Higher Power was. When asked for my opinion on how I can, or anyone else for that matter, complete Step 2, I usually point to the fact that the Step is worded in a way that anything can be used as a Higher Power.
In my humble opinion, an atheist must only use the group of recovered alcoholics as their Higher Power to complete Step 2 AA and consider themselves as having ‘come to believe.’ As long as one believes there is hope that they can recover, and they keep an open mind about where that help may come from, they absolutely can recover.
Tips for Working the Second Step of AA
My experience in not only the rooms of AA, but in the few treatment centers that I attended when originally trying to get sober, has left me with many tips for working the second Step of AA.
There are two main tips outlined by my sponsor (and his sponsor as well) and they are “keep an open mind” and “maintain humility.” Keeping an open mind is probably one of the best tips for working the second Step of AA. It cannot be reiterated enough that your Higher Power does not have to be God. The writers of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous used the term God out of convenience more than anything else.
Desperation is an immensely powerful driving factor when it comes to finding a God of your understanding. I have even seen a few staunch atheists begin to believe in a Higher Power and become incredibly spiritual. The answer to the problem of drink is a spiritual solution, and with all the proof that this program works, it is usually only a matter of time before a person opens their mind and becomes willing to believe that a Power greater than themselves can restore them to sanity.
What are the Myths and Fears Surrounding Step 2?
On the top of the list of myths and fears surrounding Step 2, is that one needs to find religion, or even God, to be able to complete Step 2. As I discussed prior, God is used as a sort of place marker within the book and the Steps. All one needs to find is any Power greater than themselves. This Higher Power can evolve as a person evolves through working the Steps.
Many people find acronyms of the word God to be extremely helpful. Acronyms including “good orderly direction” or “group of drunks” can make the word God easier to digest for people who lean towards atheism or agnosticism.
Another big part of working the Steps is understanding that they are merely suggestions meant to bring about a psychic change through some sort of spiritual awakening. The myths and fears surrounding Step 2, and all Steps really, is that they must be worked perfectly or else the person is going to relapse.
This cannot be further from the truth. The must only be done honestly, with open-mindedness, and willingness to be as thorough as possible. With these three principles in mind always, the Stepwork process becomes an easier template for recovery.
What Does a Higher Power in AA Mean?
In AA, a Higher Power is simply any conception of a force that can be relied upon for guidance. What a Higher Power in AA means is anything that is greater than the alcoholic that can be interacted with through prayer and meditation.
According to a study outlined on the National Library of Medicine’s website, “While the “Higher Power” concept could encompass any entity that engenders a spiritual tone (e.g., “life force”), often it is a loving God or other supernatural-type. The Higher Power purportedly operates as a daily presence in the recovering person’s life, and the recovering addict tries to communicate with the Higher Power through prayer and meditation.
The same study also goes into detail about how reliance on a Higher Power can benefit a person from a scientific point of view. It says, “Prayer, meditation, early romantic love, and drug abuse may have in common activation of mesolimbic dopaminergic pathways of the brain and the generation of intense emotional states.
Whether the benefits are spiritual in nature or come from something as science-based as dopamine being released because of this reliance on a Higher Power, the benefits have been overwhelming in my life and in my recovery. So, what does a Higher Power in AA mean to me? Well, it means a loving, caring Power that is ever constant in my life. One that I can rely on when things get tough, and thank when blessings come my way. One thing I know for sure is that the more I trust in this Power, the better my life has become.
What is Sanity in Step Work?
In clarifying the verbiage of Step 2, we arrive at the end of the Step which refers to returning the alcoholic to sanity. The question ‘what is sanity in Step work’ is one of the most contested parts of the 12 Steps as a whole.
The word insanity is used in the 12 Steps not in its clinical definition, but in its more popular informal definition. In reference to the mindset of an alcoholic rationalizing drinking any way he can, Page 37 in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous tells us in regards to the definition of insanity, “Whatever the precise definition of the word may be, we call this plain insanity. How can such a lack of proportion, of the ability to think straight, be called anything else?
This quote from the book gives us a clear definition of insanity, the way the writers of the Steps wanted us to interpret insanity.
The essence of Step 2 AA is in coming to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. This means that we will be relieved from our irrational craving and other ways we rationalize our seemingly insane behavior. Once we know what sanity is in Step work, it becomes clear what we are going to receive from our working of the Steps.
Step 2 of AA: The Hope Step
After completing Step One, many find themselves in a conundrum because they have just admitted defeat to alcohol. Admitting powerlessness and the fact that they cannot manage their own lives, the only reasonable thing to do is to move on to Step 2 of AA: a movement from despair into hope.
This Step provides reassurance to the recovering alcoholic. It explains that if they continue working the Steps and find a Higher Power with whom they can rely on, they can begin to find the needed reinforcement to overcome alcoholism through this Higher Power. They will also be restored to sanity and be able to manage their lives again, but only with the help of their personal concept of a Higher Power.
When I learned that I did not have to do this thing alone, and began trusting in my original Higher Power, the amount of hope I had for my sober future increased tremendously. It was quite a surreal feeling once I started feeling a Power greater than myself and begin to start working in my life.
Meditation and Prayer: Communing with Your Higher Power
Prayer and meditation were two things that I had pushed aside in my earlier years due to the bad experiences I had with religion as a boy. However, once I began to do these things more spiritually, and less dogmatically, I felt the results quickly and successfully.
I felt myself changing as a person, becoming more empathetic, patient, loving, and compassionate. My cravings for drink and drugs subsided drastically, and the hope I was promised in Step Two; of coming to believe, became an overwhelming factor in my day-to-day life.
I am eternally grateful for the gift of desperation that pushed me to revisit spirituality, disregarding the negativity I had felt towards anything religious or spiritual in the past. Once I began feeling that almost tangible spirit, that immense Power within my body, mind, and spirit, I worked the Steps with fervor and tenacity, and never looked back.
Common Questions Around the Second Step
Some of the common questions around the Second Step include, ‘How does one follow Step 2’, ‘What does a Higher Power mean to you’, and ‘What is the purpose of Step 2?’
There are also some other common questions around the Second Step that are to be asked and answered when actually working it. These questions are designed to allow for a deeper understanding of Step Two. Some of these include, ‘Do you struggle to believe in a Higher Power’, ‘What evidence do you have that a Higher Power is operating in your life’, and ‘How can you let go of all fear and trust in a Higher Power’s will for you?’
Most of these common questions around Step 2 are personal questions that have answers that will vary from person to person. The goal is always to provide insight into one’s recovery and life. This is so the person can continue with the Steps and have the necessary spiritual awakening in order to relieve them from the alcoholic predicament.
Whether the person seeking recovery answers these questions alone or with the guidance of a sponsor, the goal is always to gain knowledge. All the insight, whether spiritual or intellectual in nature, provides the backdrop for a fulfilled life in recovery.
Why Join the AA and Recovery Community?
Among the many reasons why join the AA and recovery community, the main few that stick out are a sense of belonging, having a group with whom you can be completely honest, and having people to hold us accountable. The recovery community, specifically those found in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, is one of the most welcoming and selfless communities that exist today.
It is extremely rare to see people doing things without money as motivation. The absence of any real financial motivation clears the way for authentic altruism.
As for myself, I believe finding a suitable men’s meeting was one of the most beneficial decisions I made in my entire recovery. I began to grow extremely close to this group of men who shared my goal of staying sober and improving my life in any way I could.
The weekly meetings became an event I looked forward to more than anything else in my life. I could be my authentic self, and air out any grievances I had in my life without any fear of being judged.
Another huge benefit of joining the AA and recovery community is that I could get feedback from a group of men, a bunch of whom had been in my position exactly. The invaluable lessons learned from attending my meetings led me down a path that allowed me to live my best life.
There is no doubt, in my mind at least, that my Higher Power worked through these men to provide all the motivation to stay sober and live a life fully in recovery.
Can I Start Working the Steps in Rehab?
Many people get a head start in their recoveries by working the Steps in rehab. There is no reason why a person can’t work the Steps while still in treatment, and I have seen many do just that. If their sponsors can meet with them, and a person is in the position to do whatever the sponsor asks, there isn’t any reason a person cannot get up as far as Step 9 while still in treatment, especially in a long term program.
It isn’t until Step 9 that a person is required to start making amends to those they have harmed, that they need to have the freedom to meet up with said people. Steps One, Two, Three, and Four can be done with some simple guidance from a sponsor, and it isn’t until Step 5 that they must go over their Fourth Step with their sponsor, which may require a meeting in person that the rehab may not allow.
I worked on Step One through Four in treatment. It was a perfect setting for me to do so, as I had ample free time to do the required writing, journaling, and self-reflection. I came out of treatment excited to do the 5th Step and have carried that momentum through the rest of the Steps as well.
Long Term Recovery Is Possible, With Help
Every possible example of someone working the 12 Steps and continuing to apply those principles in all their affairs paints a picture of success. I do not know anyone, not one person, who has failed after completely giving themselves to the program and continuing to work the program in their lives. Long-term recovery is possible, with help. Help from other recovering addicts and alcoholics, help from a sponsor, and most importantly, help from a Higher Power.
Step 2 in AA and coming to believe, is a major turning point for anyone recovering from an addiction to alcohol. Finding the power to overcome alcoholism, through the borrowed strength of a Higher Power, makes the process far less lonely.
I can only speak from experience when I say that the changes I have felt after finding my Higher Power have been life-altering, to say the least. I possess an ease and comfort I could have never gained from alcohol or drugs.
I plead with anyone suffering from alcoholism or addiction to give the Steps an honest shot. Find a sponsor, and go to treatment if need be. But most importantly don’t give up hope. Recovery is possible for anyone, no matter how far down the pit of addiction they have fallen. All it takes is a bit of willingness, open-mindedness, and honesty. Three easy principles that for me, brought on a life better than anything I could have imagined.
Author Bio for Garrett A: I grew up in beautiful southern California and I find my spirituality in nature and love the outdoors. I also enjoy surfing and snowboarding. My recovery is extremely important to me, and I cherish every day I get to spend on this earth sober.