Back to the Basics of Recovery – Step Two

By Wally P.

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

In the first article of this series, I presented some of the guidelines that AA sponsors used in the 1940’s to take newcomers through the Twelve Steps in a couple of hours. I listed the “Big Book” passages they employed to take the first step in the surrender process, which is to admit we have a problem. In this article, we will examine the second part of the surrender, which is to acknowledge there is a solution to our problem.

The Oxford Group, the organization from which A.A. evolved, used Four Spiritual Activities to take newcomers through the Steps. They were:

1. SURRENDER—A.A.’s First, Second and Third Steps.

2. SHARING—A.A.’s Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Steps.

3. AMENDS—A.A.’s Eighth and Ninth Steps.

4. GUIDANCE—A.A.’s Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Steps.

In subsequent articles, I will explain how the “Big Book” authors converted these four steps to six in 1937 and then to twelve in 1938.

In the early days, the sponsor took the newcomer through the Steps as quickly as possible in order to alleviate the pain and suffering of early sobriety, knowing that if he or she didn’t do so, the newcomer was at risk of relapse or worse. Once the newcomer had been through the work, the chances were very good he or she would continue the journey by sponsoring others through this simple and straightforward “program of action.”

The second step is all about power–who’s got the power. In the first step we admit that before we take the steps we are powerless. When under the influence, alcoholics and addicts erroneously believe they have the power. They believe the lie that they are bulletproof and invincible. This is the illusion many pursue “into the gates of insanity or death.”

In Step Two, we learn how and where to find the Power. The key “Big Book” passages for the second step are:

Lack of power is our problem: pg. 45: 1 (1-4), 2 (1-3)

Where do we find the Power? pg. 55: 2 (1-7), 3: (5-7)

What if the newcomer doesn’t believe in the Power? pg. 46: 1 (3-8)

In the first and second paragraphs on page 45, we look at the problem:

“Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power?

“Well, that’s exactly what this book is about. Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem.”

The “Big Book” authors make it clear that the Power is the solution to our difficulties. In other words, our sponsor, psychologist, attorney, counselor, or anyone else for that matter cannot solve our problem. All they can do is help guide us to the solution.

So, in order to recover, we have to find a “Power greater than ourselves.” But where are we going to find this Power? The authors answer this question in the second and third paragraphs on page 55:

“Actually we were fooling ourselves, for deep down in every man, woman, and child, is the fundamental idea of God. It may be obscured by calamity, by pomp, by worship of other things, but in some form or other it is there. For faith in a Power greater than ourselves, and miraculous demonstrations of that power in human lives, are facts as old as (mankind itself).

“ . . . We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that (this Power) may be found.”

If the newcomer doesn’t believe in the Power, ask him or her to take the Second Step based on a willingness to believe that you believe in the Power. Tell enough of your story to demonstrate to the newcomer that you do believe. Then take him or her to the first paragraph on page 46:

“. . . We found that as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, we commenced to get results, even though it was impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that Power . . .”

The second Step question is found on page 47, paragraph 2, lines 1-3. It reads:

“Do (you) now believe, or (are you) even willing to believe, that there is a Power greater than (yourself)?”

If you can answer in the affirmative to either the first or the second part of the question, you have taken Step Two. We are now ready to proceed to the Third Step.

About the Author

Wally P. is an archivist, historian and author who, for more than twenty-three years, has been studying the origins and growth of the Twelve-step movement. He is the caretaker for the personal archives of Dr. Bob and Anne Smith.

Wally conducts history presentations and recovery workshops, including “Back to the Basics of Recovery” in which he takes attendees through all Twelve Steps in four, one-hour sessions. More than 500,000 have taken the Steps using this powerful, time-tested, and highly successful “original” program of action.