Step Two

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

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions covers the following concepts:

  • Reduction to a state of absolute helplessness
  • The case of the atheist
  • The hoop you have to jump through is wider than you think
  • The Steps are only suggestions; AA does not demand belief
  • Step Two does not have to be done all at once
  • All that is needed is an open mind
  • There are many roads to faith
  • The case of the person who had faith but lost it
  • The case of the intellectual
  • Those who were disgusted with religion and hypocrisy
  • The case of the devout
  • Need for cleaning house, grace of God, and humility

Higher Power

If you have a traditional disease, like cancer, and you admit that you cannot recover from it by yourself, then you will try to find someone who has the knowledge and skills to give you the best chance for recovery. The doctor you see is in fact a power greater than yourself. You might also have some belief that ultimately, your life is in the care of an even greater Power.

Addiction is characterized by faulty judgment. The frustration that many professionals feel when dealing with addicts is that they seem to be doing so well and then they blow it. The addiction is not just about drinking drink number nine after you have had drink number eight. It is about buying a box of doughnuts to celebrate a fifty-pound weight loss, with the full intention of eating just one. Or stealing money to gamble after yours is gone. It is this powerlessness over the thinking process that is far more dangerous than whatever intoxication came from the nine drinks, or joints, or bets, or doughnuts.

Addicts who have a longstanding belief in a fairly traditional God often skip over Step Two, saying, “I already believe in God — that’s not a problem for me.” Those same people then try to work the Twelve-Step program as if God were not really involved at all. Dwell a moment on Step Two before you go on — it is critical.

The awareness of powerlessness and unmanageability from the First Step does not mean that God will give you the power to control your addiction. It means that until you surrender the “control” of your addiction to your Higher Power, you will continue to struggle with the substance or behavior, with control issues, and with the resultant confusion in your life. Step Two reinforces the idea that God can provide the guidance and strength where your own efforts have failed.

For Skeptics

Many addicts have had trouble believing in a Higher Power. Some have such a negative reaction to even the word God that they are turned off by anything that sounds remotely spiritual. They may have plenty of experience with religious hypocrisy, perhaps in their family of origin. Or they may once have had a firm belief, but rejected it after some loss or what they might see as God’s unwillingness to give them control over their addiction.

Whatever the reason for the disconnection, contact with some sort of guidance that seem to lack in the addiction is essential for success in any Twelve-Step program. It can be a personal God, a non-traditional concept of God, or even a totally secular spirituality, such as humanism or love or the strength of a recovering group. Some have such fear and resistance to belief in God that they will struggle for years or decades, until they finally figure out that using a Higher Power or guidance is not necessarily the God of their childhood, or of their bad experiences with evangelists.

Easing into It

Fortunately, you don’t need any belief in a deity to be successful in this program. In fact, the Steps are designed to allow you to gradually become more comfortable with the idea of some kind of guidance in your life, in spite of their unfortunate choice to capitalize Higher Power.

If even the term “Higher Power” turns you off, you might take a few minutes to read the module Program, which we have used in this guide to underscore the fact that secular spirituality works in addiction as well as an approach that involves some religious beliefs.

If you wish, you can start slowly, with the simple realization that there are some people in these meetings who seem to have found a way to escape from their addictions without the intense struggle that comes from trying to do it on their own. In its simplest terms, when you first ask, “How did you do it?” you are beginning to open the door to the possibility that there might be some Higher Power that can restore your sanity regarding your addiction. Sometimes that is just the power of a group of recovering people.

Later, you may (or may not) find that your ideas of God, or a Higher Power, may become more traditional, or at least more encompassing. Successful recovery is usually accompanied by a growing spiritual comfort, a quiet humility, and the ability to give and receive love.


Step Two, see also: Acceptance, Higher Power, Honesty, Humility, Love & caring, Magical thinking, Openmindedness, Power, Powerlessness, Prayer & meditation, Program, Sanity, Step One, Step Three, Step Eleven, Trust.

Updated 11 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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