Most newcomers to the program read the first step without too much apprehension, only to immediately close the book upon reading the second step. The concept of a “power greater than ourselves”, aka “higher power”, without question can be quick to cause uneasiness amongst the atheist and agnostic newcomers.
The divisiveness of this concept was not lost on the founders of AA, who chose to devote an entire chapter called “We Agnostics” to tackle this issue. The main point of this chapter is to highlight the fact that the fellowship promotes spirituality and not any sort of organized religion. Also, that this higher power is entirely of the newcomer’s sole understanding.
“Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
–Alcoholics Anonymous, page 59
We alcoholic/addicts are characteristically highly self-centered individuals. The notion of a power greater than us that could solve the countless problems our drinking/drugging has caused in our lives is thus, typically a hard sell to the newcomer. Two key observations are usually made to understand this notion. First, when we first enter recovery, it should be made abundantly clear to us that our very best thinking on how to solve our problems led us to rock bottom. Thus, the solution to our problems is most certainly not going to come from within!
Second, the newcomer should get inspiration from the members of the fellowship with significant sobriety times. These members, who are just like the newcomer, were able to recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind through the use of a power greater than them. Surely then, this concept could work for the newcomer as well.
It is very important to also realize that step two does not require the newcomer to decide on a higher power right off the rip. In fact, the step merely states, “came to believe” that a power greater than yourself exists. The concept of a higher power typically is fluid in early sobriety and continues to grow over the years.
For some newcomers, they may choose the God of their understanding or of the religion they were raised on. For the more scientifically inclined, their higher power may be the natural forces of the universe. For many of the atheist/agnostic variety, a higher power is often simply the rooms of the fellowship. Surely the sum of a room of alcoholics/addicts trying to help one another is a power greater than the individual people!
An appendix in the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous applies the Herbert Spencer quote the “principle which is a bar against all information… is contempt prior to investigation” to drive home the importance of open-mindedness to spirituality. While for countless many of us, the whole idea was at first extremely uncomfortable, in the long run, it would prove indispensable to our achievement of long-term sobriety. Before long-term sobriety could be achieved, however, it required open-mindedness to concepts that surely seemed to baffle us.
This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.