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2 Steps Forward: Examining AA’s 2nd Step of Recovery

It’s February, the 2nd month of the year, and a good time to take a look at the 2nd step in AA’s 12 Steps of Addiction Recovery.

“Came to believe that a power greater than our self could restore us to sanity.”

There’s a lot to unpack in AA’s 2nd step, so let’s get started.

First of all, while it could be said AA’s 1st step is to admit defeat, surrender, and powerlessness over drugs and alcohol, AA’s 2nd step is about finding hope that power can be regained, but not without the help of outside forces. You can’t do it alone.

When considering AA’s 2nd step, it’s important to notice the word “came.” Meaning this step, like all of the steps, is a process, and like all processes, there will be successes and failures. Some take to this 2nd step quickly, while for others it takes time.

Let’s now take a look at what, for many people, is a particularly tricky part of the 2nd step. Especially for those raised outside faith: a power greater than our self.

That sure sounds like God, doesn’t it? And if this works within your belief structure, then let it mean God.

But if you were raised outside of religion, how can the concept of a power greater than yourself be approached? The fact of the matter is, powers greater than ourselves exist everywhere: life, death, and love are just a few examples.

Regardless of how you interpret the idea of a power greater than yourself, the obsessive-compulsive tendencies that drive us to abuse drugs and alcohol are themselves a form of power than we’ve lost control over.

What’s true, however, about any power “greater than our self” is that it is a person, force, or thing, that exists outside of our own mind and body, outside of our own personal set of experiences.

For some, simply attending an AA meeting, and the act of recognizing other addicts as individuals with rich and unique inner lives, is in and of itself a definition of power greater than themselves.

This brings us to what is for many people the thorniest part of AA’s 2nd step: a power greater than our self can restore us to “sanity.” I’m not insane, you might be telling yourself.

But in the context of AA’s 2nd step, “sanity,” or lack thereof, can mean the impulses, mis-directions, faulty justifications, and misleading motivations that drive us to the self-destructive behaviors of an addict.

Therefore, the opposite of these behaviors, would be a form of sanity.

Let’s now put it all together. Could AA’s 2nd step be rephrased in such a way that helps it make sense in your own personal belief system? Let’s try.

“Came to believe that a power greater than our self could restore us to sanity,” could instead be stated as “your behavior as an addict is evidence of a mind unable to help itself, therefore powers outside of the self must be utilized to overcome these behaviors.”

Maybe this rephrasing helps you with AA’s 2nd step, or maybe you’re able to bend it to fit your personal spiritual worldview, or perhaps it makes sense to you, as is.

But it is important to accept AA’s 2nd step, in your own time and in your own way, and there’s no reason to feel guilty if it takes you longer than others to metabolize what this step means within your own spiritual rulebook.

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