Step 2- The Spirituality Step

By Ken Wells - 07/07/2021


Series Two: Blog Forty-Three

Step 2, in a 12-step recovery program is a very difficult step.  When you are ready to face Step 1 in your addiction recovery program, there is enough carnage all around you that admitting to powerlessness and unmanageability becomes a no-brainer.  Making the decision to turn your life over to the care of God as you understand in Step 3 is possible if you can figure out “the God of your understanding” in Step 2.

Coming to believe that a power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity has proven problematic for many addicts in recovery. Embracing the concept of God is difficult for those who do not believe in a personal God.  Many prefer not to use the term “God”.  The reference to God is presented as a concrete term to mean anything you want it to mean. What if you just don’t want to use the word at all and you find it offensive?  Some prefer the concept of a life force of energy with an unknown beginning source. Others think of energy that connects to all things in the world as an important resource. The list of alternatives to “God” go on and on.

Religious people have their own struggle. For example, think of spirituality as a metaphor, like the mortar that holds the rocks together in a fireplace. When faced with a crisis, ask yourself what or who do you depend upon to get through the chaos.   A Christian might say “I depend upon Jesus Christ, the son of God, to get me through tumultuous times.”

In truth, many Christians and others depend upon their capacity to work hard, their money reserves, their place of privilege, or their influential and powerful position to bail them out when they face times of bedlam and pandemonium.  Sometimes a Christian will dress up their dependence upon their capacity to work hard, money reserves, privilege or influential power with words that sound like they are depending on Jesus. The problem is one of congruence. Incongruently, one can say one thing and in actuality do another.

Spirituality is full of paradox. It engages counterintuitive experiences in life such as, that in order to win you must lose. We so much want to win in our life experiences. Addicts do everything they can to keep from being less. More of everything is better–more adrenaline, more numbing with drug of choice, more rush.  Yet, unless an addict loses and hits bottom he/she will never win serenity and freedom from the bondage of addiction.  To be in control, you must let go. To know God is to humbly embrace what you do not know. These are life experiences in recovery that suggest a free fall. Like the guy in the Grand Canyon who falls off a cliff and clings to a lone branch protruding from the canyon walls,  begging for God to help him avoid plunging into the abyss.  He hears what he thinks is the voice of God who whispers, “let go”. He replies, “is there anyone else up there?” It seems so preposterous to free fall.  Yet, spirituality is about letting go in order to be in control. Admitting what you do not know is a beginning of discovering what is. Both the religious and non-religious struggle to embrace this reality.

Step 2 states that; “we came to believe.”  Often, addicts get stuck with these words. The word “believe” is an Anglo-Saxon word that means to live in accordance with.  Addicts often get stuck in their head. It’s one thing to cognitively and verbally declare a Higher Power and another to live in accordance with this declaration in the way you live, make decisions, and treat yourself and others.  Step 2 suggests that we use the word “believe” as an index to determine whether or not we embrace a Higher Power to return us to sanity.  Insanity is about knowing the destructive consequences that will happen from acting out but seeking the payoff anyway, even if it might cost you your life or a relationship you don’t want to live without. Even if your head tell you there is a Higher Power, the fear of losing control tells us to not let go to a Higher Power.  So, at different levels of living you don’t. You might surrender to a Higher Power to stop using your primary drug of choice. However, you still hang on to control in other areas of decision-making in your life.  Radically living in accordance with depending upon a Higher Power to restore sanity at every level of life is too much for most. This is what makes it really difficult to do Step 2. In truth, it becomes a lifelong process.

You have learned your basic concepts about depending upon a Higher Power from your primary caregivers during early childhood.  Your flawed thinking about a Higher Power is reinforced through trauma repetition experienced during the formative years experienced early in life. When caregivers let you down, you learn to stop trusting and go inward to depend upon yourself. It was good that you did. Perhaps you would not have survived had you not. However, what works as a child doesn’t necessarily work as an adult. Depending upon your best thinking that saved you as a child, actually betrays you as an adult. Your best thinking around your drug of choice has gotten you where you are, stuck and left without hope.  Many addicts recreate the flawed thoughts learned from childhood into behaviors that sabotage and undermine sanity. Trauma repetition dominates their reality.

The concept of paradox in spirituality is best understood through metaphor. Imagine that spirituality is most discoverable in weakness or in the painful experiences of your addictive behavior. It is found in the flaw or the very experience that you would most like to avoid. Then ask yourself the question: which part of my addictive behavior is most difficult to embrace?  It could be the terror and hatred of childhood abuse. It might be embracing the reality of egregious selfish behavior in addiction act out that has scarred and marred the people you love the most.

The deepest way that Higher Power can restore sanity is by stalking or facing the painful shame that dominates addict behavior.  When an addict does this, he/she will experience the power of sanity that comes through confronting shameful flawed thoughts and dismantling the sabotage that comes through the repetition of past trauma fueled by those mistaken beliefs.  It hinges on “coming to believe” — living in accordance with depending upon a Higher Power to restore sanity.

Step 2, is a life-long process. The possible end is being able to better engage the constant free fall that change brings to us all.


  1. What area of your life do you struggle most with believing your Higher Power can restore you to sanity?
  2. What is the most painful part of your addiction behavior to talk about?  Share this part with a recovery friend. Reflect on how this connection with another deepens your spirituality and restores sanity.
  3. Søren Kierkegaard once wrote “life is meant to be lived forward but can only be understood backwards”.  Upon reflection, what has practicing Step 2 taught you about spirituality?

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