A Study of Step 2

The 12 steps of AA and Al-Anon

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Many whose lives are impacted by the family disease of alcoholism find hope again once they place their faith in a power greater than themselves. This is Step 2 of the 12 Steps:

Step 2

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Many members of Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon Family Groups come into the program with a strong faith in God, and with the encouragement of other members of the fellowship soon learn to apply that faith to the situations in their lives created by alcoholism.

With the wisdom provided by the program, the friendship, and support of other members, the healing process begins with the help of a loving God, as they understand him.

Agnostics and Atheists and Step 2

Others who are introduced to the 12-step programs are agnostics or atheists, who reject the concept of a deity. Many are turned off by even the mention of the word "God" and some bristle at even hints of anything spiritual. But, "Alcoholics Anonymous," in the chapter entitled We Agnostics, stresses the importance of laying aside prejudice to give the program a chance.

The 12-step programs are spiritual, not religious. There is no mention of religious beliefs, doctrine, or dogma in the meetings or in the approved literature. Members are not required to accept someone else's concept of God, only to trust that there is a power "greater than themselves" however they wish to describe it or understand it.

It seems to be a spiritual truth, that before a higher power can begin to operate, one must first believe that it can. You have to believe it, to receive it. Millions of program members through the years, who finally "came to believe" have found themselves amazed to find that power at work in their lives in seemingly miraculous ways.

The Faithful and Step 2

For those who are strong in their religious faith, Step 2 can also present a challenge. If you have a conviction as to the nature of God, it can be disconcerting to hear "higher power" being used rather than "God." You may have difficulty in accepting the nature of that higher power for other members of the group. Hearing that it's okay to use a doorknob for a higher power if that's how you understand it, can be hard to accept. You may even find it offensive.

However, to give a 12-step program a chance, you need to restrain that reaction and not let it block using the 12-step process. Religious prejudice can get in the way.

Experiences of Step 2

Members of various 12-step groups have shared their experience, strength, and hope on each of the steps. Here are some of their stories.

  • Carol tells of how she was raised in a family who was active in their church. When she attempted sobriety, she returned to her church. "Slowly, I found that the God in my religion has a special face he shows only to drunks. And I found Him in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. He is there, waiting for us to ask for his help. Faith is the foundation of my AA life."
  • Sox was prompted to attend a meeting by reading the "This is AA" pamphlet. "I called one of the major clubs in my area and went to a meeting that night. But it was obvious to me that I had turned to God first, and then took Step 1. I knew that my life was insane and I knew there was a power greater than myself, but until that moment, I had always resented God for butting in where He wasn't wanted. Now I wanted Him, and sure enough, He led me to where I needed to be."
  • Buddy, an Al-Anon member, says, "At my first meeting, after reading some of the literature, I made the comment that I had a problem with the 'higher power' references. After that meeting, a long-time member came up to me and said. 'I'm not saying to forget your religious beliefs, but just put them on hold for a while and give Al-Anon a chance.' There was great wisdom what she told me. And if she had not taken the time to tell me that, I probably would have never come back and it would have been me who missed out on so much that God had in store for me. All the wisdom, help, friendship, encouragement, and spiritual growth that I have found in Al-Anon, I would have missed because of my own religious prejudices. So, my suggestion to newcomers is the same that I received: put your religious beliefs, or unbelief on hold and give the whole program a chance. Because Al-Anon is not a religious program, but a spiritual one."
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2 Sources
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  1. Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous: Chapter 4 - We Agnostics - (pp. 44-57).

  2. American Addiction Centers. Alcoholics Anonymous Step 2: Find a Power Greater Than Yourself. Updated November 14, 2019.