Step Two: the first days of A.A.
In the early days of Alcoholics Anonymous, before the fellowship even had a name, Dr. Bob and the first few members of A.A. had a common practice. They would take new prospects upstairs in his Akron, Ohio home, and there they were required to hit their knees and surrender to God.
This wasn’t a voluntary practice: to be considered for help, Dr. Bob basically demanded that the new prospects admit their alcohol problem to God, turn their life over to him for help, and even admit their wrong-doings. Essentially, shaky alcoholics did step one, step two, and step three all under the guidance of Dr. Bob right from the start.
This practice changed in time as A.A. was refined. Yet, the roots of steps one through three evolved from it.
In Step Two, it is very important to trust a higher power of our own understanding.
For anyone to stay sober at all, it requires an admission of being powerless over alcohol and accepting that one’s life has become unmanageable. This is the first step. Now, if someone has an unmanageable life, and they cannot control their drinking, they cannot take one drink in safety without setting off a physical craving for alcohol. Therefore, it becomes so much more important to trust in a higher power. This becomes the very next, logical step: if they don’t have control, something or someone else must.
Many newly sober people have so much difficulty with step two. The concept is very simple. They cannot drink, and it falls upon them to trust other people and trust a higher power to help. Some of their difficulty may be due to the fact that they don’t want to be classified as “insane.” They don’t want to recognize they have a mental problem (alcoholism) that they cannot control. In a way, it is almost like admitting a weakness. No one really wants to do that.
When viewed objectively, though, and when the light of reason can finally enter an alcoholic’s mind, it is not hard to see that they acted insane while they were drinking. Their behaviors were irrational, and so were their thoughts.
Step Two: recognizing insane behavior
Once sober, the mind of the alcoholic may still be so damaged that they are still somewhat insane. The damage caused by alcohol abuse doesn’t heal overnight. This is where Step Two becomes very important. It gives you permission to be a bit messed up. You can accept that yes, you were insane in respect to drinking, and that a higher power of their choosing can take away the insanity of alcohol.
So, once you recognize the need for the help of this higher power in your life, it then falls upon you to trust the higher power. Even after years of sobriety, this is a problematic difficulty. The issue is this: we live in the here and now. We don’t see the future, and we often look at the past with regret. It becomes very easy, in this busy life that is filled with problems (relationships, financial burdens, family, etc), to forget that we don’t have to do everything ourselves.
By the same token, it is easy to put your higher power, or God, on the back burner. This allows us to think that we have “done it all ourselves.” We have used our skills, abilities, hard-work, and education to achieve everything on our own. It is easy to take credit for our accomplishments because we can see and feel them. It is much harder to say “God helped me do this.”
We don’t see a higher power’s hand at work. We only see the results of the work.
Many people even like to take credit for their sobriety. “I got sober,” they will say. In truth, if they admitted they were powerless over alcohol, all they really did was say “yes” instead of “no.” They finally accepted the help that was put in their lives. Through willingness, the suffering alcoholic finally is doing something about their problem.
The willingness to accept help, and finally recognize they have a problem with alcohol, may be the biggest gift that a higher power can give any alcoholic who’s on the verge of drinking themselves to death.