Big Book Step 2
1 like Step 2
Step Two “Came  to  believe  that  a  Power  greater  than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” THE  moment  they  read  Step  Two,  most  A.A.  newcom- ers  are  confronted  with  a  dilemma,   sometimes  a  serious one. How often have we heard them cry out, “Look what you people have done to  us! You have convinced us that we are alcoholics and that our lives are unmanageable. Hav- ing reduced us to a state of absolute  helplessness, you now declare that none but a Higher Power can remove our ob- session. Some of us  won’t believe in God, others can’t, and still  others  who  do  believe  that  God  exists  have   no  faith whatever  He  will  perform  this  miracle.  Yes,  you’ve  got us  over  the  barrel,   all  right—but  where  do  we  go  from here?” Let’s look first at the case of  the one who says he won’t believe—the belligerent one. He is in a  state of mind which can be described only as savage. His whole philosophy of life, in which he so  gloried, is threatened. It’s bad enough, he thinks, to admit alcohol has him down for keeps. But  now,  still  smarting  from  that  admission,  he  is  faced  with something  really  impossible.   How  he  does  cherish  the thought that man, risen so majestically from a single cell in the  primordial ooze, is the spearhead of  evolution and therefore  the  only  god  that  his  universe   knows!  Must  he renounce all this to save himself? 26                                              S T E P   T W O At this juncture, his A.A. sponsor usually laughs. This, the  newcomer  thinks,  is  just  about   the  last  straw.  This  is the  beginning  of  the  end.  And  so  it  is:  the  beginning  of the  end of his old life, and the beginning of his emergence into a new one. His sponsor probably says,  “Take it easy. The hoop you have to jump through is a lot wider than you think. At least I’ve found  it so. So did a friend of mine who was a one-time vice-president of the American Atheist So- ciety,  but he got through with room to spare.” “Well,” says the newcomer, “I know you’re telling me the truth. It’s no doubt a fact that A.A. is  full of  people who once believed as I do. But just how, in these circumstances, does a fellow  ‘take it easy’? That’s what I want to know.” “That,” agrees the sponsor, “is a very good question in- deed. I think I can tell you exactly how  to relax. You won’t have to work at it very hard, either. Listen, if  you will, to these three  statements. First, Alcoholics Anonymous does not  demand  that  you  believe  anything.  All  of   its  Twelve Steps are but suggestions. Second, to get sober and to stay sober, you don’t have to  swallow all of Step Two right now. Looking back, I find that I took it piecemeal myself. Third, all  you really need is a truly open mind. Just resign from the debating society and quit bothering  yourself with such deep questions as whether it was the hen or the egg that came first. Again I  say, all you need is the open mind.” The  sponsor  continues,  “Take,  for  example,  my  own case.  I  had  a  scientific  schooling.   Naturally  I  respected, venerated, even worshiped science. As a matter of  fact, I still do—all  except the worship part. Time after time, my instructors held up to me the basic principle of  all  scien- S T E P   T W O                                                       27  tific progress: search and research, again and again, always with  the  open  mind.  When  I  first   looked  at  A.A.  my  re- action was just like yours. This A.A. business, I thought, is totally  unscientific. This I can’t swallow. I simply won’t consider such nonsense. “Then I woke up. I had to admit that A.A. showed re- sults, prodigious results. I saw that my  attitude regarding these had been anything but scientific. It wasn’t A.A. that had the closed mind,  it was me. The minute I stopped ar- guing, I could begin to see and feel. Right there, Step Two  gently and very gradually began to infiltrate my life. I can’t say upon what occasion or upon what  day I came to believe in  a  Power  greater  than  myself,  but  I  certainly  have  that belief   now. To acquire it, I had only to stop fighting and practice the rest of  A.A.’s program as  enthusiastically as I could. “This is only one man’s opinion based on his own experi- ence, of course. I must quickly assure you  that A.A.’s tread innumerable paths in their quest for faith. If you don’t care for  the  one  I’ve   suggested,  you’ll  be  sure  to  discover  one that suits if only you look and listen. Many a man  like you has begun to solve the problem by the method of substitu- tion. You can, if  you wish,  make A.A. itself  your ‘higher power.’ Here’s a very large group of people who have solved their  alcohol problem. In this respect they are certainly a power greater than you, who have not even  come close to a solution. Surely you can have faith in them. Even this mini- mum of faith will be  enough. You will find many members who have crossed the threshold just this way. All of  them will   tell  you  that,  once  across,  their  faith  broadened  and 28                                              S T E P   T W O deepened. Relieved of the alcohol obsession, their lives un- accountably transformed, they came to  believe in a Higher Power, and most of them began to talk of God.” Consider next the plight of  those who once had faith, but have lost it. There will be those who  have drifted into indifference, those filled with self-sufficiency who have cut themselves off,  those who have become prejudiced against religion, and those who are downright defiant because God  has failed to fulfill their demands. Can A.A. experience tell all these they may still find a faith  that works? Sometimes  A.A.  comes  harder  to  those  who  have  lost or rejected faith than to those who  never had any faith at all, for they think they have tried faith and found it want- ing.  They   have  tried  the  way  of  faith  and  the  way  of  no faith. Since both ways have proved bitterly  disappointing, they have concluded there is no place whatever for them to go. The roadblocks of  indifference, fancied self-sufficiency, prejudice, and defiance often prove more solid and formi-  dable for these people than any erected by the unconvinced agnostic or even the militant atheist.  Religion says the ex- istence of  God can be proved; the agnostic says it can’t be proved; and the  atheist claims proof of the nonexistence of God. Obviously, the dilemma of the wanderer from faith  is that of  profound confusion. He thinks himself  lost to the comfort of  any conviction at all.  He cannot attain in even a small degree the assurance of  the believer, the agnostic, or the  atheist. He is the bewildered one. Any  number  of  A.A.’s  can  say  to  the  drifter,  “Yes,  we were diverted from our childhood faith, too. The overcon- fidence of  youth was too much for us. Of   course, we were S T E P   T W O                                                       29  glad  that  good  home  and  religious  training  had  given  us certain values. We were still sure  that we ought to be fairly honest, tolerant, and just, that we ought to be ambitious and  hardworking. We became convinced that such simple rules of fair play and decency would be enough. “As material success founded upon no more than these ordinary attributes began to come to us, we  felt we were winning at the game of  life. This was exhilarating, and it made us happy. Why should  we be bothered with theologi- cal abstractions and religious duties, or with the state of our souls  here or hereafter? The here and now was good enough for us. The will to win would carry us through.  But then alcohol began to have its way with us. Finally, when all our score cards read ‘zero,’ and  we saw that one more strike would put us out of the game forever, we had to look for our lost  faith. It was in A.A. that we rediscovered it. And so can you.” Now we come to another kind of  problem: the intellec- tually self-sufficient man or woman. To  these, many A.A.’s can say, “Yes, we were like you—far too smart for our own good. We loved to have  people call us precocious. We used our education to blow ourselves up into prideful balloons,  though we were careful to hide this from others. Secretly, we  felt  we  could  float  above  the   rest  of  the  folks  on  our brainpower  alone.  Scientific  progress  told  us  there  was  nothing man couldn’t do. Knowledge was all-powerful. In- tellect could conquer nature. Since we  were brighter than most folks (so we thought), the spoils of  victory would be ours  for  the   thinking.  The  god  of  intellect  displaced  the God of  our fathers. But again John Barleycorn  had other 30                                              S T E P   T W O ideas.  We  who  had  won  so  handsomely  in  a  walk  turned into all-time losers. We saw that we  had to reconsider or die. We found many in A.A. who once thought as we did. They helped us to get  down to our right size. By their ex- ample they showed us that humility and intellect could be  compatible,  provided  we  placed  humility  first.  When  we began to do that, we received the  gift of faith, a faith which works. This faith is for you, too.” Another crowd of A.A.’s says: “We were plumb disgust- ed with religion and all its works. The  Bible, we said, was full of nonsense; we could cite it chapter and verse, and we couldn’t see the  Beatitudes for the ‘begats.’ In spots its mo- rality was impossibly good; in others it seemed  impossibly bad. But it was the morality of  the religionists themselves that  really  got  us   down.  We  gloated  over  the  hypocrisy, bigotry,  and  crushing  self-righteousness  that  clung   to  so many ‘believers’ even in their Sunday best. How we loved to shout the damaging fact that  millions of the ‘good men of  religion’ were still killing one another off  in the name of God.  This all meant, of course, that we had substituted negative for positive thinking. After we came to  A.A., we had  to  recognize  that  this  trait  had  been  an  ego-feeding proposition. In  belaboring the sins of  some religious peo- ple,  we  could  feel  superior  to  all  of  them.   Moreover,  we could  avoid  looking  at  some  of  our  own  shortcomings. Self-righteousness,  the   very  thing  that  we  had  contemp- tuously condemned in others, was our own besetting evil. This   phony  form  of  respectability  was  our  undoing,  so far as faith was concerned. But finally,  driven to A.A., we learned better. S T E P   T W O                                                       31  “As  psychiatrists  have  often  observed,  defiance  is  the outstanding characteristic of many an  alcoholic. So it’s not strange  that  lots  of  us  have  had  our  day  at  defying  God Himself.   Sometimes  it’s  because  God  has  not  delivered us the good things of  life which we specified,  as a greedy child makes an impossible list for Santa Claus. More of- ten, though, we had met up  with some major calamity, and to our way of  thinking lost out because God deserted us. The girl we  wanted to marry had other notions; we prayed God that she’d change her mind, but she didn’t. We  prayed for  healthy  children,  and  were  presented  with  sick  ones, or none at all. We prayed  for promotions at business, and none came. Loved ones, upon whom we heartily depended, were taken  from us by so-called acts of  God. Then we be- came drunkards, and asked God to stop that. But  nothing happened. This was the unkindest cut of  all. ‘Damn this faith business!’ we said. “When we encountered A.A., the fallacy of our defiance was revealed. At no time had we asked what God’s will was for us; instead we had been telling Him  what it ought to be. No man, we saw, could believe in God and defy Him, too. Belief meant reliance,  not defiance. In A.A. we saw the fruits of this belief: men and women spared from alcohol’s final   catastrophe.  We  saw  them  meet  and  transcend  their other pains and trials. We saw them calmly  accept impos- sible situations, seeking neither to run nor to recriminate. This was not only faith;  it was faith that worked under all conditions. We soon concluded that whatever price in hu- mility  we must pay, we would pay.” Now let’s take the guy full of  faith, but still reeking of 32                                              S T E P   T W O alcohol. He believes he is devout. His religious observance is  scrupulous.  He’s  sure  he  still   believes  in  God,  but  sus- pects that God doesn’t believe in him. He takes pledges and more   pledges.  Following  each,  he  not  only  drinks  again, but acts worse than the last time.  Valiantly he tries to fight alcohol, imploring God’s help, but the help doesn’t come. What, then,  can be the matter? To clergymen, doctors, friends, and families, the alcohol- ic who means well and tries hard is a  heartbreaking riddle. To most A.A.’s, he is not. There are too many of  us who have been just like  him, and have found the riddle’s answer. This answer has to do with the quality of faith rather  than its quantity. This has been our blind spot. We supposed we had humility when really we hadn’t.  We supposed we had been serious about religious practices when, upon honest appraisal, we found we  had been only superficial. Or, go- ing to the other extreme, we had wallowed in emotionalism and  had mistaken it for true religious feeling. In both cases, we had been asking something for  nothing. The fact was we really hadn’t cleaned house so that the grace of God could enter us and  expel the obsession. In no deep or meaningful sense had we ever taken stock of  ourselves, made  amends to those we had harmed, or freely given to any other hu- man  being  without  any  demand   for  reward.  We  had  not even  prayed  rightly.  We  had  always  said,  “Grant  me  my wishes”  instead  of  “Thy  will  be  done.” The  love  of  God and man we understood not at all. Therefore  we remained self-deceived, and so incapable of  receiving enough grace to restore us to sanity. Few indeed are the practicing alcoholics who have any S T E P   T W O                                                       33  idea  how  irrational  they  are,  or  seeing  their  irrationality, can bear to face it. Some will  be willing to term themselves “problem drinkers,” but cannot endure the suggestion that they are in  fact mentally ill. They are abetted in this blind- ness by a world which does not understand the  difference between sane drinking and alcoholism. “Sanity” is defined as “soundness of  mind.” Yet  no alcoholic, soberly analyz- ing his destructive behavior, whether the destruction fell on the  dining-room furniture or his own moral fiber, can claim “soundness of mind” for himself. 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.