2nd Step in 12 Step Programs and What ‘a Power Greater than Ourselves’ Means

The Big Book of AA and the other 12-step programs, describe step two as the process by which we “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

In the first step, we admit we are utterly powerless over our addiction. We saw that the life we had led thus far had led us to misery and desperation. Our attempts to solve this on our own had led us nowhere. It was time to pursue a new path.

The two first steps are about humility. We accept that we need help in our lives generally and in overcoming addiction specifically.

The successful completion of this step can have a dramatic effect on our lives from here on out. From a life where we believed in nothing but ourselves, we will embark on one where we believe in something higher. From a life of chaos, we will emerge with a plan and a reason to live and stay sober.

We had made an explicit admission of defeat in the previous step. Thankfully, the second is about the restoration of hope. Despite our inability to control our own life, our life is controllable. This is a constructive surrender rather than a destructive one. It is time to place control in the hands of a Great Power.

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What is a Higher Power?

In order to restore the order and sanity we need in our lives, we identify a spiritual force which can help guide us on a better path. This part is very daunting for many members who do not identify with organized religion or a conventional belief in God. They may feel that they are being forced into adopting beliefs they do not identify with in the least.

Don’t let any preconceived notions about religion or God stop you from asking questions about your spiritual belief system. Perhaps some people are utter nihilists and believe that nothing is more important than their narrow little lives. But you are not like that. You believe something is bigger and more important than yourself.

The key to working this step and promoting your recovery is to keep an open mind. Go with your truth. Thank about what matters to you. What you need more of in your life.

Most people associate a Higher Powe with a conventional monotheistic God. However, it is important to note that the founders of AA referred to a belief in “God as we understood Him.” This must be a force for good that we are fully comfortable with. After all, being forced into a belief system which we are uncomfortable with will not bolster our recovery. Quite the opposite. So whatever higher power you surrender to, should be one you are comfortable with and in whose judgement and wisdom you trust. The important part is we believe this Power has a plan to make our lives better and healthier.

Therefore, many members choose to hand over control to a Higher Power associated with the religions and denominations in which they grew up. Judaism, Islam and Christianity all have well developed concepts of God, and many members look to them.  

Some Eastern religions have developed very different view of spirituality and an increasing number of people in the United States now practice pagan beliefs of various kinds. Concepts such as Nirvana or various elements of nature can play the role of Higher Power. Any of these can easily be accommodated within your 12-step program.

Atheists and agnostics find this process to be a bit more challenging. They may look to spiritual Higher Powers such as Mother Earth, the universe, nature, or energy. Some look at the recovery group as their Higher Power. This is where the phrase Group of Drunks (GOD) came from.

If you have trouble with the idea of a Higher Power, think of its this way: what is it that makes you want to stop destroying your life through addiction? What is it that makes your life worth living? That is your Higher Power. The humility that accompanies the 2nd step will also help us reach out to our sponsor and group for help and eventually will allow us to build healthy relationships with the important people in our lives.

Once you have selected the Higher Power you believe in and are willing to surrender your life to their care, your next task is to build a string healthy relationship with that Higher Power, so that you may understand and fulfill their plan for you. Don’t worry what anyone else thinks of your beliefs. All that matters is that they work for you and keep you on a better and healthier path. More about “Higher Power”.

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