Working Step 2 of AA
The 2nd step of Alcoholics Anonymous states that we “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” This is an important step in our recovery that helps us to build a foundation of humility, understanding, and willingness. The AA Step 2 is often one that is glossed over quickly, but can provide great insight if we really work it deeply.
My Experience with Step Two
Personally, I worked step two of AA while at the rehab I went to. The treatment center was based on twelve-step programs, so we were encouraged to begin our stepwork with a sponsor. I’m incredibly grateful I was encouraged to investigate the steps at this time, as the support and safety of the treatment facility offered a great environment for self-reflection and investigation.
I didn’t have a strong religious belief when I got sober (more on this later) and the idea of believing in something greater than myself was quite uncomfortable. However, my sponsor worked closely with me to help me investigate what I could believe in in order to recover. As with many others, the first thing I really believed in was the community in Alcoholics Anonymous and the program. I believed it could help me.
As I’ve grown over the past decade, I’ve found that my perception of this important step has changed. Today, I believe that it is not super important WHAT the power is, but that we actually believe in it. The power could be any number of things, from a god or deity to a principle or institution. The point is, the believing in our potential to recover with the help of powers greater than ourselves can help give us hope, open-mindedness, and humility.
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions talk about the second step in many places, including the appendix in the back on Spiritual Experience. Here are some of our personal favorite quotes related to the second step:
You can, if you wish, make A.A. itself your ‘higher power.’
-12 & 12, page 27
In our personal stories you will find a wide variation in the way each teller approaches and conceives of the Power which is greater than himself.
-Alcoholics Anonymous, page 50
It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Power greater than myself.
-Alcoholics Anonymous, page 12
The main thing is that he be willing to believe in a Power greater than himself and that he live by spiritual principles.
-Alcoholics Anonymous, page 93
Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery.
-Alcoholics Anonymous, page 568
First, Alcoholics Anonymous does not demand that you believe anything.
-12 & 12, page 26
AA Step 2 Principles
The principle behind the second step of Alcoholics Anonymous is hope. In the first step of the program, we admit that there is a problem and we cannot fix it ourselves. The 2nd step of AA offers a change in tone, one toward hope and moving forward. It is dependent upon our understanding of the first step, and encourages us to find hope for recovery.
Regardless of your spiritual or religious beliefs, this step does offer some hope toward a brighter future. We may not believe all at once, but we do slowly come to believe. This doesn’t mean we are full of hope all at once. Rather, we learn to practice open-mindedness and entertain the idea that there is hope for us.
Potential Issues with the AA Step 2
Personally, I had a pretty hard time with this step at first. I consider myself an atheist, and the whole idea of believing in something greater than myself went against my core beliefs. However, I’ve found that as we move through early recovery, willingness can be extremely helpful.
Regardless of your beliefs surrounding higher powers, you can find something to believe in. For me, it was the group in general. Today, I use mindfulness, compassion, and community as the power toward which I turn for solace and recovery. The key here is to find something that works for you, not to just believe because you’re told to!