Step Two

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


[Note: Thereís a great book called "Came to Believe" published by Alcoholics Anonymous. Itís a collection of stories of recovered/recovering alcoholicsí working Step 2. I highly recommend it.]

What a loaded statement! Letís unpackage this thing.

1. Came to believe ...

Step 2 is a process. Youíre going to hear a lot about "process" in the next 11 weeks. Recovery is a process. Life is a process. Take recovery and life easy ≠ wear them both like loose garments. Donít stress about recovery; let it happen while you do the work. In other words, do the work and let the results take care of themselves. But do the work!! God may move mountains, but sometimes you gotta bring the shovel.

(Thereís another cute story, but that will have to wait until Step 3. We call this a tease .)

The Big Book (aka "Alcoholics Anonymous") talks about different kinds of "spiritual awakenings," defined as those moments when we become consciously aware that there is a Power greater than ourselves (a) in the universe and (b) working in our lives. Some of us have the tumble-out-bed-fall-on-your-knees-flash-of-lightening moments. Some of us have slower-seem-to-take-forever-am-I-ever-going-to-get-this experiences. Most of us have a mixture of the two. My coming to believe took time. I had a lot of issues to deal with, childhood and childlike images to overcome, prejudices to wipe clean.

I think I also had a lot of intellect to get over ≠ you know, sometimes you really can be too smart (this is not meant to be conceited, just honest. My dad who was an optometrist used to dispense contact lenses, and he used to say that he always knew the difference really book-smart patients and the street-smart patients because the book-smart people took forever to get used to putting pieces of hard, uncomfortable plastic in their eyes, and the street-smart people said what the heck and just popped them in). Every so often, while I struggled with the idea of believing, Iíd complain to my sponsor: when am I going to get this? I mean, Iím smart: Iím a professional, I have a masterís degree, I was graduated summa cum laude from college; why is this so damn hard? And sheíd just chuckle and remind me that itís a process and that I would get it when I got it, and Iíd growl at her (I really was a pain in the neck J).

Back to coming to believe.

Once you come to believe, you donít need to do the process anymore; youíll just believe. Periodically you might need to take a new look at the process, because every so often doubt may creep in, but thatís ok. We donít ever graduate from OA or from the Steps ≠ thereís no "Pomp and Circumstance" at the end, just serenity, freedom from food obsession and food compulsion and no more food fights (metaphysically, at least ≠ if you want to do a John Belushi in "Animal House," go for it).

2. that a Power greater than ourselves ...

Also known as PGTO or Higher Power.

You had to be kidding. There was no power greater than I. I was master of the universe, I could make people do exactly what I wanted them to do, I could change the weather simply by worrying, I could eat 400 calories a day and be proud of it (well, at least I could before I stopped and started bingeing Ďround the clock), I could change situations to my liking and choosing. I knew that if I did things for people, theyíd do things for me. I knew that if I worried about something enough, I could change the future.


I only thought I could. The only universe that I was master of was the one in my head (and even that was doubtful). I believed that the world revolved around me. I just KNEW that people hated me, said nasty things about me, and talked about me behind my back. People did things to get at me, things happened because of something I did or said (or didnít).

Eventually I gave up. I saw the mess these beliefs had made of my life. All my worrying hadnít made a lick of difference, and certainly I couldnít control my own eating. My life was a disaster, and I couldnít control my mental bingeing or my emotions. I finally saw that there had to be a better way. I had to let go of my notion that I was the center of the universe, and I had to accept that maybe I wasnít the be-all and end-all and that maybe I wasnít the subject of peoplesí discussions. This was pretty humbling stuff.

I had a hard time defining my Higher Power. The first time I tried to conceive what this Power might be like, I kept coming back to my mother (z"l). If my Higher Power was going to be like my mother or any other person in my life, then I had to stop right there and give the whole thing up. Fortunately, my sponsor gave me an assignment: write a want-ad for Higher Power. List the requirements for the job and go for it. She told me to let go of anything that I thought I had learned in my childhood religious education (I would eventually wind up dealing with my religion in later steps) and just dream. This was cool, and ≠ surprise ≠ my Higher Power was not my mother J.

3. could restore us to sanity.

By the definition I heard in OA, I knew I was insane. Insanity had been defined as "doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results," and this described me to a "T." I was forever proverbially throwing quarters into the empty soda machine and forever going to the empty well for sustenance.

But beyond this, there was no other way to describe the mental state of someone who ate frozen food, food off the sidewalk or out of the garbage pail, rotted food, food off other peoplesí plates. Sane people didnít starve themselves or gorge themselves with food until they were going to vomit ≠ and then go back for more. Sane people didnít experiment with laxatives in an attempt to lose weight. Sane people didnít punch themselves in the stomach because they despised themselves. Sane people didnít think that food was the entrťe (so to speak) into society ≠ that eating would make them popular. I did all these things ≠ and more; I could not claim "sanity" for my state of mind and being.

Well, if *I* couldnít stop myself from doing these things (and I couldnít ≠ I had certainly proved that over and over), and if other OAís had done these things and had said that *they* couldnít control themselves but they werenít doing or thinking them anymore, then they must have had some kind of power working in their lives that gave *them* power. OAís talked about how they felt sane for the first time ≠ with food, with life, with relationships.

I wanted that, too.

[Interesting thing here: "restore" me to sanity means that at some point in my life, I was sane and normal when it came to food, life and relationships. Iím sure I was ≠ I mean, it says so ≠ but I donít remember a time when I wasnít worrying about something, when I wasnít terrified of feeling like a failure, when I wasnít depending on ≠ and being betrayed ≠ by some person or another, when I actually ate because I was physically hungry and stopped when I was satisfied. Ah, well.]

If you still think that youíre the center of the universe, I hate to tell you that youíre not, and this is a good thing.

And so ...

What I really like about Step 2 is that it doesnít say "restore *me* to sanity;" it says *us.* That means that Iím not the only flake in the universe, that there are other people whose emotions led them around by the nose, who believed they were the worldís victims. I could let go of my belief that I was "terminally unique," and join the rest of the human race.

Step 2 was the starting point of letting go of fear ≠ I wasnít (didnít have to be) in charge because there was something out there that was more powerful. Like I said, Step 2 is a process, and the process never ends. Periodically I start believing that *Iím* really powerful, and I find myself going back to all those pre-Step 2 beliefs. Thatís when someone like my sponsor will gently remind me, "um, whereís Higher Power in all this?" and I get to look at Step 2 again.

Thereís something in the Big Book that talks about how all the stories in the Big Book describe how these recovered and recovering alcoholics came to believe in a Power greater than themselves. Physical recovery begins when I put the food down ≠ spiritual and mental/emotional recovery begin when I take Step 2.


1. Do you presently have any powers greater than yourself (i.e., family, friends, acquaintances, substances, money, etc.) in your life? Are they working on your behalf?

2. If you had to advertise for a Higher Power, what would the ad look like? In other words, write a "want-ad" for a Power greater than yourself.

3. What does your insanity look like?

4. If you were restored to sanity, what would you feel like, what would you think, how would you behave?

5. Are you the center of the universe? Do you really want that job?

6. How can you stop worrying about recovery and wear recovery and the steps "like a loose garment?" What does that mean to you?

7. Recovery is a process. What does that mean to you?

8. If youíve worked Step 2 before and have come to believe in a Power greater than yourself, please describe what it was like for you. If you havenít worked Step 2 and are still in the process, please tell us your hopes for what comes after you work this step.

9. If youíve worked Step 2 already and have periodically had to relook at Step 2, please tell us what that was like.

10. Are you ready to come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity?

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