Step Two

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


Here's my first step two story.

After I'd been going to OA for about three months, and had been abstinent about six months, I began to notice that they read these steps before the meetings. I could certainly hear the first one, but it took me a couple of months to begin to understand how I was actually insane when I was using, and that only a power greater than me could lead me out of it. In the AA 12x12, they talk about three basic types of spiritual experience and outlook prior to coming into a 12 step program; those who won't believe in a higher power, those who can't and those who do, but "...have no faith whatever that He will perform this miracle...." I was somewhere in the middle of being unable to believe in a Higher Power and believing in one, but not able to believe it was remotely interested in me. I had no solid spiritual foundation growing up. My parents had both rejected their childhood religions, and were always running to hear the latest guru or buying the latest self-help book. They had enormous holes in their souls that they were constantly attempting to fill w/ everything but god. From them, I learned that some people can't believe in a power greater than themselves. I did always have a basic belief that there was a higher power, I didn't know exactly what it was, but I knew I could feel it in my life sometimes. A beautiful sunset that really touched me when I was six years old; a perfect spiderweb in a broken window; the intense quiet in the woods at night near my house; A night sky filled w/ a zillion stars. All these things made me aware that there definitely was a power greater than myself, and I knew that I was somehow part of it, but I didn't know that I could tap into that power, and even have a relationship w/it.

When I came into OA years later, I was confronted by this step, and really didn't know what to make of it. But I read this in the Big Book and it helped me relax about the whole thing;

"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." (p. 47)

The first time I ever in my life asked god to help me was very shortly after I came to OA. I was in a lot of pain, physically emotionally and spiritually. One night, I was in the bathtub, crying as usual, and I just said out loud "please take this pain, god" I immediately relaxed and I stopped crying and was somehow able to turn my attention to something else. I knew then that I had a higher power. It wasn't a burning bush or a blinding white light, it was a much more mundane an experience than that. But I understood that having a relationship w/ god was really up to me, and how willing I was to let go of my fear and pain, and let HP handle it. It was a choice that I made. I "came to believe in a power greater than myself." Much later, I got a sponsor (and I love her)! who described this very phenomenon to me in an essay by Emmett Fox called the Golden Key. If anyone is interested in reading it, email me privately, and I'll send it to you.

All I had for quite a long time was a willingness to believe. It took me years to develop spiritually to the point where I felt I really had a relationship w/ god. For a long time I had to "act as if," as we call it when we don't really *quite believe wholeheartedly that god or the program will solve our problem w/ food, but are advised that we should "fake it til you make it." And so somehow, over time and w/ experience, it just sort of happened for me.

I never had too much trouble understanding the second part of the second step "...and would restore us to sanity," but I know quite a few people who have had a hard time with this part. There was never any doubt in my mind that the way I was living pre-recovery was totally insane. One of my favorite definitions of insanity in the program is expecting different results from the same old actions. For all my teens and early '20s I thought that if I could just get my act together and get the right diet I would be able to lose weight forever and finally be perfect. But each new diet was crazier than the last, and even if I lost some weight, there would be no doubt that I'd gain it all back w/ interest. This kept on happening for years, but I still believed that somehow I would magically become different if I just got the right diet. That is a very immature, and even dangerous attitude. And it is definitely crazy.

The AA 12X12 has this to say about this kind of insanity (again, I've changed alcohol and alcoholic to food and COE);

"To clergymen, doctors, friends, and families, the COE who means well and tries hard is a heartbreaking riddle. To most OAs he is not. There are too many of us who have been just like him, and have found the riddle's answer. This answer has to do w/ the quality of faith rather than its quantity. This has been our blind spot. We supposed we had humility when we really hadn't. We supposed we had been serious about religious practices when, upon honest appraisal, we found we had been only superficial. Or, going to the other extreme, we had wallowed in emotionalism and had mistaken it for true religious feeling. In both cases, we had been asking something for nothing. That fact was we really hadn't cleaned house that the grace of God could enter us and expel the obsession. In no deep or meaningful sense had we ever taken stock of ourselves, made amends to those we had harmed, or freely given to any other human being w/o demand for reward. We had not even prayed rightly. We had always said "Grant me my wishes" instead of "Thy will be done." The love of God and man we understood not at all. Therefore we remained self-deceived, and so incapable of receiving enough grace to restore us to sanity." (p. 32)

In the course of working these steps, we will be "cleaning house." Looking at the parts we play in our own problems, finding out who we owe amends to and why, and trying to learn how to live according to god's plan for us. If at the moment you don't believe there is a higher power for you, I urge you to just pretend that there is; to act as if. I know it may sound highly implausible, but if you are willing to entertain the idea that a higher power is available for you to tap into, miracles really will happen.


Sometimes I have sponsees who have a hard time envisioning a Higher Power to whom they can relate. I often ask them to do a short writing exercise, and maybe it would be helpful to some of you on the loop. If you really don't know what your HP is, try to write a want ad for exactly what you want, and hire that HP on the spot. Share your ad w/ us and/or your sponsor.

If you've had a very specific step two experience, even a very ordinary one l ike mine, share it with us.

Have you had to "act as if," in your recovery? What was your experience? If you're new, does this idea make sense to you, or sound hokey or weird, or something else?

Does the notion of being insane around food resonate with you? Can you see how you might be insane in other areas of your life as well, b/c of the disease of COE? Why or why not?

thanks for letting me share

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