The second step of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step program is
Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
For many, this is less simple than it sounds and there may be issues that need to be resolved before they can fully commit to this step. This post looks at a worksheet that can assist with this resolution
The problem is well described in the book 12 and 12
The moment they read Step Two, most A.A. newcomers are confronted with a dilemma, sometimes a serious one. How often have we heard them cry out, “Look what you people have done to us! You have convinced us that we are alcoholics and that our lives are unmanageable. Having reduced us to a state of absolute helplessness, you now declare that none but a Higher Power can remove our obsession. Some of us won’t believe in God, others can’t, and still others who do believe that God exists have no faith whatever He will perform this miracle. Yes, you’ve got us over the barrel, all right—but where do we go from here?” (p. 25)
The Big Book answers in the chapter, We Agnostics
But it isn’t so difficult. About half our original fellowship were of exactly that type. At first some of us tried to avoid the issue, hoping against hope we were not true alcoholics. But after a while we had to face the fact that we must find a spiritual basis of life–or else. Perhaps it is going to be that way with you. But cheer up, something like half of us thought we were atheists or agnostics. Our experience shows that you need not be disconcerted.
A series of reflections in the form of a worksheet can lead us to a spiritual awakening. Step worksheets are a common focus tool. Here it allows A.A. members to see the focus of step 2.
This workbook asks 8 questions that need to be considered. These are:
Do you believe God exists? What reasons do you have your answer?
The first part of this is simple. Yes, no, don’t know/uncertain. These are the only answers that are possible. The second part is far deeper. To answer that our families have always had a religious belief to me is a cop-out. It’s a bit like saying I believe that chess is a game because I have read about it. That is simply a fact. Playing chess is what makes that knowledge transcend knowing and becoming aware.
What is your perception of God? If you do not believe in God, simply say how you perceive God would be if he/she/it were real.
What is your concept of God? Many of us have book knowledge of God and have no personal experience of a Higher Power. Conscious contact has been absent and our passion for God is exceeded by the average person’s love of polynomial equations.
This is not a time for rote, book answers, but an examination with an open mind of what we think God is like. Frankly, it may not be pretty. We have an idea of a higher power and what we are supposed to think. Perhaps you share Roger Waters vision of God when he sang
What God wants God gets God help us all
God wants peace
God wants war
God wants famine
God wants chain stores
What God wants God gets
Or perhaps your vision is a Psalm 23 God:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
Remember this is not about being theologically correct, it is about being honest. In fact, that is an interesting first question – Does your perception of a higher power require that you are completely honest even regarding God?
If you have a perception of God, but cannot believe in that perception, why is this?
The most devastating indictments of images of God, that I have ever come across was a rejection of the image of God the Father. The image of paternal care was torn apart by the writer who had been the victim of sexual abuse by her father.
I can bury this post in lengthy ontological discussions on the possibility of the existence of a Greater Power. But I think that would be counter-productive. The question here really is if you have a perception, why can you not accept that image. The last paragraph gives an example of a tragic reason for not accepting an image of a deity.
If you believe in God, how do you feel about that God? Angry, bitter, neutral, hopeful.
This is sometimes difficult to answer honestly without feeling you will be struck down by lightning. I believe in a greater power and My feelings differ daily. I am mortified that a supreme being can sit by and watch the world suffer as it does. We are supposedly made in God’s image. If we are it says very little good about God’s nature in practical terms.
But wait – is God a mindless drone? That is part of the image we are made in. We too are not mindless robots. What sets up apart from God is our inability to always make the best choice, particularly once we have become slaves to the disease of addiction.
Define how you see sanity
This is crucial to defining our future. As we move through the steps of A.A. we will examine our defects of character, take a fearless moral inventory of the exact nature of our wrongs, and make a list of all persons we had harmed. Sanity for me can be defined as freedom from addictive behaviors.
If I give you $5 for a burger, I relinquish control over that money. You could save it, buy an ice cream or give It away. For me, sanity means making the right choice and knowing what the important things are.
It means I need to embrace humility, deal with my alcohol problem, and tackle life on practical terms. If I can achieve all this I have achieved sanity.
When was the last time you were in control of yourself? How does that feel?
In the first step, we admitted we were powerless over our alcohol use disorder. As our drinking worsened our control diminished. We came to care more for the bottle than for ourselves or others. Think back in as much detail as you can to what it was like to live a life not dedicated to the next drink.
Is this a place you want to return to? Granted it was probably not perfect but if that is the case then do you want a better version of your life before drink took first place?
What would it mean to you to be restored to sanity?
Wow. This is a huge question. It defines how we envisage our future. It defines the better life that we will strive for. It lays the foundation for how we will experience our future. Does being restored to sanity mean that you will continue living like a whipped dog or does it mean victory and entrance into the recovery process?
You came to alcoholics anonymous for exactly this – to be restored to sanity. What do you want out of it?
Why is it necessary to rely on this Higher Power to be restored to sanity?
For me, the honest answer was that it was my last resort. I had tried by myself and failed. The only answer I had left was a Greater Power. This is why I said earlier I wasn’t going to go into a deep discussion about the reality of God.
Hebrews 11:1 says
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
At the end of the day if I rely overly much on my intellect the odds are I will stay drunk. My brains didn’t help me stay sober. I tucked them away every time I kidded myself that I was only going to have one drink, already knowing it was going to be an all-night drinking session.
Like the centurion, I had to suspend my unbelief and rely on that hope called faith. It’s worked for 22 years.
We have dealt with working through the second step and seen that the purpose is to kickstart our spiritual experience. It enables a deeper look into the experience life has given us of spiritual principles and been a personal inventory of faith. It now becomes necessary at this point in our own journey to ask can we believe in God or do we resort to the acronym Good Orderly Direction.
But to know the God or Goddess or the alternative that we are asking to assist us in that third step prayer and the vision of the future we are praying for. We cannot ask for the care of God if we have no idea of the God we are asking to care for us. Recovery should depend on more than just a crapshoot.
Note: Except where specified all quotes are from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous