Perspective: The Three Phases of Step Two

by Ed H.

We came to A.A. and started to go to meetings. Then we came to believe that only a Power Greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

The second step builds on the first step. We are asked to go beyond admitting our personal powerlessness, to accept that there are powerful spiritual resource that can help us change our lives. All that is necessary for us is to recognize and accept them and somehow to connect with them. Step one get us to acknowledge that we are not in control, that individual power is limited. Step two suggests that we can use these spiritual resources that are beyond our own ordinary personal power to evoke the necessary psychic change.

Many of us cannot differentiate between spirituality and religion. These words are often used interchangeably and we must recognize that they shouldn’t be, because they have very different meanings. Religion is spiritual but it is only one source of spiritual power. There are many, many others. The word spirit is from a Latin word that means breath, life, vigour. Something is called spiritual when it represents life or when it enhances life.

Spirituality comes from whatever gives us hope, strength or peace and enhances our humanity. The Higher Power of the original 12-step program is a spiritual idea. The Higher Power can be a god or another kind of symbol. It is most likely goodness, love, a friend, or just an idea. It can also be our own intellectual curiosity. It can even be the 12-step program itself or the fellowship contained therein.

My own will only got me deeper and deeper into my disease and even when I tried to quit alcohol for good, my willpower convinced me that I was overreacting and that I could and should be able to drink in moderation. Time and time again I convinced myself that I didn’t have a problem with alcohol, because I could not imagine living my life without it. Alcohol had become the solution to everything. The more I drank, the less power I had to control my drinking or to quit on my own; I had to have help.

Surrender is the name of the game: complete surrender to the fact that I could not drink alcohol anymore. Desperation drove me to the doors of A.A. and surrender has kept me here. I am not in control, He is. I came to believe in a power greater than myself. God (as I understand him) gives me the peace and tranquility I need as long as I allow Him. I ask daily for His help to be the person that He wants me to be, and I thank Him daily for the opportunities He has given me. Only when I get complacent and take my will back and try to exert my self-centredness do things start to go awry. I hope to recognize these occasions and get back to basics before I pull the whole thing down on top of me.

Step one requires that we surrender to the powerlessness we have over alcohol, without reservation. We cannot hold on to any idea that tells us that we will one day be able to drink with impunity. We have proved to ourselves that it is just not possible. Step two requires that we surrender again, this time to the fact that we can not do it on our own will, therefore we need to find the power that we lack through a Higher Power. We must seek the psychic change or spiritual experience that has to come to us through spiritual principles.

Did I really believe that He was going to restore me to sanity? I believe it was gradual in my case. I saw others getting well; it was only my pride and the fact that I wanted to be in control that held me back. I finally had to let go. Because I did, I really believe is why I am sober today, I am convinced.

About the Authors

Renascent Alumni
Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email