In the Big Book:
OA 12 & 12 Step 2
- Chapter 1, Bill’s Story. Pages1 through 16
- The rest of Chapter 3: Pages 35 through 43
- Chapter 4: We Agnostics
- Appendix II
- Chapter 5: How it Works: Pages 58 through the first full paragraph on page 60
AA 12 & 12 Step 2
About the Step
BB. 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?
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.
If you have a firm belief in a power greater than yourself who you are willing to listen too, and heed (even obey), even if you don’t know how to relate it to this program, then you probably can just skip to “some closing thoughts” at the bottom of all this :). The steps will tell you how to relate the program to your power- don’t worry about that yet. But if you have any misgivings about this step, perhaps you can connect to something in my reflections on this step -- between the lines.
Bill Wilson (Bill W) , the main author of the BB, was a man in despair, as are we in the throes of our disease. We know how much we want to beat the compulsive eating that dominates our thinking and our behaviour (our minds and our bodies). We’ve tried a zillion different solutions, and none have worked. We’re lost and that’s our desperation.
Bill tells us, in his story (Chapter 1 of the BB) that he was visited by his friend Ebby, who we now consider to be the first sponsor. Ebby was a drinking buddy of Bill’s and a newly converted member of the Oxford Group, a worldwide Christian based group that ultimately, heavily, influenced the steps. Ebby told Bill that he had religion (BB p. 9) and that working the steps of that religion had made him sober. But, in the beginning of his story, even Bill W. didn’t have religion; he was an agnostic (BB page 10). As your sponsor will do for you, Ebby suggested that Bill choose his own conception of God. (BB, p. 12). This is where we get the notion of the higher power of our own understanding.
For many of us, it is unfortunate that the language of addiction literature (any of the organizations that use the BB as its source document) uses the words of religion. The literature dresses itself up in words like belief and god-consciousness. It capitalizes Power and God. So it sounds like this step is about religion, but it is not. It sounds like we must have a personal relationship with a god, but we do not. That language makes agnostics and atheists cringe, but it need not. This program does not ask for a specific belief of any of us. It asks us to develop a transcendent spirituality -- something that we believe is greater than we are, and if we use it, it will change our reaction to the circumstances of our lives. In that change we will stop using food to make us feel better. That power surely can be religion or god or a belief in a deity, but it doesn’t have to be.
My reading of the history of the BB shows a ‘great compromise.’ The authors knew that many people would be lost to their addictions if the Book -- the precise directions for recovery -- insisted that we all find their Christian God ideal, and even though that was the believe of these good men, they loved us enough to have us find our own conception of a higher power. It might be a Christian God, as theirs was. It might be a different deity. It might be also be love (BB, p. 54). It might be the idea of altruism (BB p.xxvi) or any other sort of ideal that inspires us. It can be the belief that there is a great reality deep down within us (BB. p. 55) or a better part of ourselves (BB, p. 568), that if we pay attention to it, will be our power. In the beginning it can be our (this) fellowship, and it is the steps of this program. And as we work the steps, we do find our own power.
Some of us may find Chapter 4, To the Agnostic, helpful. Even if you don’t find a power there, you will understand some of the roots of our program.
This is from Appendix II of the BB, page 568:
He [the addict] finally realizes he has undergone a profound alteration in our reaction to life; that such a change could hardly have been brought about by ourselves alone. What often takes place in a few months could hardly be accomplished by years of self-discipline. With few exceptions our members find that they have tapped an unsuspected inner resource which they presently identify with their own conception of a Power greater than themselves. Most of us think this awareness of a Power greater than ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience. Our more religious members call it “God-consciousness.” Most emphatically we wish to say that any alcoholic capable of honestly facing his problems in the light of our experience can recover, provided he does not close his mind to all spiritual principles. He can only be defeated by an attitude of intolerance or belligerent denial. We find that no one need have difficulty with the spirituality of the program. Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery. But these are indispensable.”
Step Two only asks us for this last bit -- willingness, honesty and open mindedness. For me, It is the conscious practice of these things in my everyday life that powers me through the steps. In Bill W.’s own words (AA 12&12, p 26): The hoop you have to jump through is a lot wider than you think. To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all men.
What I got from this step.
Hope! And Willingness. For me it was a willingness to give up my prejudices about religion that came from my own roots (that took some uncomfortable honesty with myself!). I relentlessly practiced open mindedness, if nor no other reason that I stubbornly refused to be one of those folks who could be defeated by an attitude of intolerance or belligerent denial!. I started by being willing, without question, to do what my sponsor told me to do. If I questioned something, I was willing to be open minded.
My experience is that willingness begets willingness. As I became willing to learn, experience, open my mind, etc., my ability to do that expanded. It is a growth that happens over time. I came back over time are read and reread, and meditated and meditated, and become more willing. I find I cannot really describe how my mind opened to ideas of spirituality that I had rejected before because I lived entirely in my brain, but it did. I have become increasingly aware of some power working in my life. It doesn’t matter that I can’’t define it; it IS there. It happened for me as I trusted the process and let go of intolerance and belligerent denial.
Some closing thoughts
Remember this from the introduction -- if we follow a few simple directions, we’ll find recovery .
We find the Steps listed on page 59. It is these steps that tell us HOW a power greater than ourselves will let us find recovery as we work with the power of Step 2. I came into program without a single clue about how to get where I wanted to go, and despite my own best efforts, couldn’t get to AT ALL!.. With Step 2, I found amazing hope -- I can’t do it, but some bigger badder power can, and this book has the directions. That's cool. I CAN do what I am told and I CAN follow directions. That is a giant leap of hope.
These steps are bookended by two really important disclaimers. On BB p 59, I am told that my willingness -- my belief in the power of a power greater than myself --must be all in --
Half measures avail us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.
(I like the analogy I’ve heard about a vending machine: A drink from the vending machine near my office costs $1.50. If I put $1.49 in that machine, I get nothing. Its all or nothing!)
On page 60, right after the Steps:
Most of us exclaimed. “What an order! I can’t go through with it.” Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The points is that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.
I was a perfectionist, for sure. Probably still am in some (many) areas of my life. Many of us are. As we become willing to grow, to trust the process of the steps, learning that we cannot control the timeline of our recovery, we see so much progress. (And I really wish I had a nickle for every text I got from my sponsor that reminded me of “progress, not perfection”.)
We are told that will happen -- BB, p. 46
We found that as soon as we lay aside prejudice and expressed 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…
We get hope (the opposite of our despair!) and a revolutionary way of thinking (BB., p 50), and it is this that will sweep away prejudice, enables you to think honestly, encourages you to search diligently within yourself.
Work the Step
Please reflect on these ideas from the Big Book:
Most emphatically we wish to say that any alcoholic capable of honestly facing his problems in the light of our experience can recover, provided he does not close his mind to all spiritual principles. He can only be defeated by an attitude of intolerance or belligerent denial. What are your attitudes of intolerance or belligerent denial. I think we all have them.
Half measures avail us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon. What do you think about half measures and complete abandon?
Are you willing to grow along spiritual lines? If you have had an experience of ‘growing along spiritual lines’ , will you share what that was like for you?
If you have, how did you connect with a power greater than yourself?
Have you commenced to see results (of any kind)?
Be sure to share this with your sponsor.
The Twelve Steps