What is Step 2?

June 14, 2021

In the Big Book Step 2 states that, “We came to be aware that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” There is essentially one chapter that is completed dedicated to this step, and that is “We Agnostics” (BB pgs 44-57). 

In this chapter, the problem of the alcoholic and addict is outlined as a lack of power, as seen on page 45; “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?”. It goes on to say that this is exactly what the book is about. The writers of this book go to great lengths to acknowledge the difficulties that people experience when the topic of God is brought into discussion. Many people come in with preconceived ideas of what a higher power is or isn’t, and most people come in either believing God isn’t real or at the very least that God doesn’t care about them. 

The Big Book does a wonderful job of recognizing this fact and providing it’s readers with a solution to this issue, as outlined here: “We know how he feels. We have shared his honest doubt and prejudice.  Some of us have been violently anti-religious. To others, the word “God’’ brought up a particular idea of Him with which someone had tried to impress them during childhood. Perhaps we rejected this particular conception because it seemed inadequate.  With that rejection we imagined we had abandoned the God idea entirely.  We were bothered with the thought that faith and dependence upon a Power beyond ourselves was somewhat weak, even cowardly.  We looked upon this world of warring individuals, warring theological systems, and inexplicable calamity, with deep skepticism.  We looked askance at many individuals who claimed to be godly. How could a Supreme Being have anything to do with it all?  And who could comprehend a Supreme Being anyhow?  Yet, in other moments, we found ourselves thinking, when enchanted by a starlit night, “Who, then, made all this?’’  There was a feeling of awe and wonder, but it was fleeting and soon lost.” (BB pg. 45-46). 

The truth and beauty of step 2 in the in the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous is that it never asks us to believe in any one specific thing. Instead, it only asks us to believe, or at least become willing to believe, in something bigger than ourselves.

How do you work Step 2?

Working step 2 can seem like a daunting and confusing task for those that have never had a relationship with a higher power before. That being said, the only thing truly required to work the 2nd step is open-mindedness. 

The Big Book describes step 2 clearly on page 47, “When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God.  This applies, too, to other spiritual expressions which you find in this book. Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you.  At the start, this was all we needed to commence spiritual growth, to affect our first conscious relation with God as we understood Him. Afterward, we found ourselves accepting many things which then seemed entirely out of reach. That was growth, but if we wished to grow, we had to begin somewhere. So, we used our own conception, however limited it was. We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. “Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?’’ As soon as a man can say that he does believe, or is willing to believe, we emphatically assure him that he is on his way.  It has been repeatedly proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone a wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built.” 

So given this reading, it is clear that the basis of step 2 is less about becoming a religious fanatic and more about growing in understanding of the fact that we are not the chief power in the universe, and then building a belief about something bigger than ourselves.

Reading Materials for Step 2

Big Book, We Agnostics (Pgs 44-57)

Twelve and Twelve, Step 2 (Pgs 25-33)