Posted by: Seth David | September 1, 2009

Step 2 – Overview

By the time we reach step 2 we are bound to be in one of two places. We’ve completed Step I so hopefully we recognize that our situation is a desperate one and hopefully this has brought about a certain degree of passion. We’ve found A strong desire to want to live and build a new life to replace the old one. We are still only at the beginning. We have a problem. We’ve been shown that our situation is hopeless and now we want a new life, but just how are we supposed to go about this? How are we supposed to drop everything we think we know about ourselves and our lives to make room for something we know nothing about and can’t really grasp just yet. My personal answer is just make a little room for now. You can always make more room later. Let go just enough to move on into the second step.

Some of us are going to resist this. We want to be smart about it – no one is going to trick me into joining some cult! I propose this question. Let’s say that AA was a cult (and I don’t believe it is). Let’s say that this, unlike all other cults I’ve ever heard of, offers a way of life that offers me the opportunity to build and develop relationships outside of that cult with my family, friends, and loved ones. Let’s say that this cult offers the promise of a new way of life and a freedom that is only limited by the blocks I place on myself. Doesn’t that sound like a cult everyone should join? In fact this is true because AA is NOT a cult. Cults cut you off from society and brainwash you into keeping yourself separated from it. AA teaches us how to re-join society with a new mind – a psychic change if you will. So let’s get back to step 2.

Am I belligerent and resistant to believe in a power greater than myself? We all have our beliefs and most of us without even realizing it believe in a power greater than ourselves already. George Lucas calls it The Force. Rhonda Byrne and many others call it The Universe. Some of us even dare to call if God! You can call it what you want, the trick here is to believe in something. Most of us come here believing in nothing- including ourselves, so why not make the first thing we do differently be about believing in “something”? We may be asking why we should believe and step two suggests that we look at the now proven experience of AA. At the beginning this was not possible, because AA was brand now. Nowadays we have countless stories accounting for and proving that AA has worked to change the lives of thousands of people for the better. Even chronic relapsers who still “keep coming back” report that their lives have gotten somewhat better. Of course they are missing out on the real miracle of AA, but they at least get a taste.

Then there are those of us, and maybe the belligerent ones come to this place where we are now excited to do this. We want this recovery thing and we want it all at once, but it seems like a tall order. Our sponsors tell us to take it easy and we ask “HOW?” The good news is we don’t have to do this all at once. We can do it in pieces. The only thing we need to do perfectly is not drink or use and everything else falls under the heading of “progress, not perfection.” Step 6 gets into this in a little more detail where it talks about how the only thing we get a perfect release from is alcoholism and then it poses the question about what do we do regarding all of our other problems and defects. More on that later.

The simple answer to step 2 and how to apply it is that I have to be willing to learn. We talk about scientific progress and step 2 gives us that in a great description of how to learn – search and research again and again, always with an open mind. In order to understand this we need to really know what it means to have an open mind. Again we have to take this in pieces. As long as I am willing to recognize that I need to learn then I am off to a good start. Then we look at the people who once had faith and then lost it, or they tried it and found that it didn’t work. To these people I would pose the question – what really didn’t work? Faith or the person claiming to have it? Is it AA or is it me that isn’t working? Some of us will resolve that just using common sense and going on the basic principles of treating others well and working hard will be enough. Steps 6 & 8 will show us why that doesn’t work when we get there – the issues with us are much deeper – we understood these things when we were getting loaded yet chose to ignore them. We don’t get to AA because we suddenly decide we want to treat ourselves and others well. We get here because we become desperate for a better way of life. Then in 30 days we forget how bad it was, find ourselves in step 2 with our short memories and think that all we have to do is “be good”. Again a good look at AA will show us that many people have enjoyed much better lives, but it took a little more work than just being good. If we can recall how desperate our situations were, and for some of us the unfortunate relapse has to happen at this stage to prove to us once more that we need help, we can then find that place where we are willing to search for faith. Forgetting what we thing worked or didn’t work in the past – we just start over and say I have to believe that something or someone out there can help me, because I’ve certainly proven that I can’t do this life thing on my own.

This is where step 2 addresses the type of people who may have difficulty recognizing that they have anything to learn – the intellectually self sufficient. The simple answer on this one for me was to remember where all of my knowledge and intelligence got me! I was so smart I once told someone that I could never get addicted to cocaine because I would be smart enough to know when to stop. In fact I went on to say that only a “loser” would get addicted to cocaine. Well by my own standards I became a loser. I’ve seen many people struggle with this one. Almost like they don’t want to be “tricked” into getting sober. So I like to look into the eyes of the intellectually self sufficient and ask them – “so you are a really smart guy/girl huh?” If the answer is yes and we are in the midst of a conversation about how they desperately need to get sober then the next question is easy – “How’s that working for you?”. We can even jump forward to step 3 for a second – p. 37 :

“But the moment our mental or emotional independence is in question, how differently we behave. How persistently we claim the right to decide all by ourselves just what we shall think and just how we shall act. Oh yes, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of every problem. We’ll listen politely to those who would advise us, but all the decisions are to be ours alone. Nobody is going to meddle with our personal independence in such matters. Besides, we think, there is no one we can surely trust. We are certain that our intelligence, backed by willpower, can rightly control our inner lives and guarantee us success in the world we live in. This brave philosophy, wherein each man plays God, sounds good in the speaking, but it still has to meet the acid test: how well does it actually work? One good look in the mirror ought to be answer enough for any alcoholic.”

Then there are those of us who have faith, but somehow it is not working. We believe in a power greater than any human power. We even believe that it is helping, yet we cannot stay sober. The 12 &12 describes this person as a “heartbreaking riddle”. The essential problem with these people as is described in the book is one of quality over quantity. Simply put (in my opinion) it has to come from the heart – I have to really believe – I can’t fake this one until I make this one – I really need to have gotten desperate in step I and I really need to need help in step 2.

The one thing all of the people / circumstances described in step 2 is not where we are coming from, but where we are going. We all need to become teachable and we all need to be willing to ask for help and then receive it when it comes. We talk about insanity. This is not the straight jacket variety we are referring to. Sanity is defined very specifically in Step 2 – “Soundness of mind”. When I have a sound mind (ironically almost) my mind is quiet. I am calm. So “insanity” is anything short of this:

“Yet no alcoholic, soberly analyzing his destructive behavior, whether the destruction fell on the dining-room furniture or his own moral fiber, can claim soundness of mind for himself”

  • Page 33 Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions

“Therefore, Step Two is the rallying point for all of us. Whether agnostic, atheist, or former believer, we can stand together on this Step. True humility and an open mind can lead us to faith, and every A.A, meeting is an assurance that God will restore us to sanity if we rightly relate ourselves to Him.”


  1. See the water.
    Be the water.

    Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.
    Lao Tzu

    Have a great week, Seth.

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