Behind The Steps: What The Second Step Is All About

Without a doubt, twelve-step-based programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (NA) and Narcotics Anonymous have helped millions of people beat addiction and find recovery. While these step-based programs provide a guide for recovery from addiction, the spiritual tone and language of the twelve steps can turn people away from these self-help groups. Along with the spiritually-based tone, the concept of powerlessness over one’s addiction can also be a sticking point for those new to recovery. These themes are clearly on display in the second step, which states the following:

“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to Sanity”

The second step introduces the concept of a higher power which will help the struggling addict find their way to sobriety. Many that are new in recovery may feel a “higher power” is connected to God or religion in general and they may feel that AA, NA, or other similar twelve-step-based groups are forcing religious beliefs into recovery. Because of those thoughts, many will turn away from the support and guidance that twelve-step groups can provide those who are seeking sobriety. It is important to look beyond the language and look at what the steps truly mean and how they can be applied to recovery.


While the First Step outlines the desperation the addict may feel in experiencing addiction, the second step offers the addict hope that the addict can recover. The way to recovery is to look to a power greater than ourselves to restore us physically, mentally, and spiritually. The second step provides the spiritual foundation for twelve-step groups and as can provide the biggest obstacle for those seeking recovery. It is important to understand, however, the historical context in which the twelve steps were created.

When Alcoholics Anonymous was created in the mid-1930s, addiction was viewed as a moral and spiritual failing. In this context, the only way an addict can find recovery was through total surrender to God. Over the past several decades there have been significant changes in the way addiction is viewed and treated worldwide. Despite these advances, the language and philosophy of twelve-step groups have largely remained unchanged. In order to truly make the steps work, one needs to look beyond the language of the steps and discover what the steps mean to them on a personal level.


Addiction is not only chronic and progressive disease. It is also a self-centered disease in which the addict views themselves as the center of the universe. The addict does not see the damage addiction does to themselves or their loved ones until it is too late. The second step states that the addict needs to look outside themselves to seek recovery since they are not capable to help themselves. For some, the “Higher Power” can definitely be God or through spiritual practice, but for others, this power can be other people or things. For example, the higher power can be a sponsor, a counselor, a member of a twelve-step group or even nature.

What is most important about the second step is that the addict realizes they are not the universe but a tiny part of the universe. In order for the addict to start on the path to recovery, he or she must realize to look outside of themselves and look at other points of view, especially when it comes to addiction. If the addict can truly understand the impact of their addiction in relation to others, they realize they need support and encouragement from others to find serenity and recovery.

If you are interested in being a part of a 12-step program that puts your recovery first, you can call the Palm Beach Institute at (855) 617-1839 or contact us online to speak with one of our addiction specialists and for a free consultation and assessment.

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