“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
In my experience, step two is often a sticking point for people. This step asks participants to acknowledge and accept a higher power and to recognize that only this higher power can and will remove the individual’s compulsions related to substance use or problem behaviors. The purpose of this step is to build upon step one in realizing the individual’s powerlessness while also generating a spiritual and hopeful mindset. In other words, accepting that the individual cannot overcome their addiction alone and, in doing so, developing trust, a sense of support, and hopefulness through this belief.
Now, why is it that I say step two often presents a sticking point for people? Much of that has to do with the term “higher power.” Many hear about the importance of a belief in a higher power and immediately assume that that means the individual must believe in God. Although many twelve-steppers do believe in God as their higher power, the assumption that a higher power and God are synonymous is inaccurate. In fact, there is no requirement that an individual must believe in God or subscribe to any specific religious beliefs to participate in twelve-step programming. Instead, the term higher power is intended to be rather broad such that the individual may connect with a higher power that they find to be personally meaningful.
Since an individual’s higher power must have personal significance, it may differ from others in the program. However, the important part is not so much what the higher power is, as it is the humility, belief, and openness that comes from the recognition of a higher power. If the individual does not come into the program with a well-defined personal higher power, then this step invites the individual to reflect on how they define their own higher power.
Below, you will find examples of several different types of higher powers that have been useful to various individuals in recovery:
- God or other religious figure: If an individual enters the program with a preexisting belief in God or other religious figure, this belief can be a useful foundation in recovery.
- Nature: The natural world around us can serve as a higher power. We can see, feel, smell, taste, and touch nature’s force. It is always available to us.
- Science: Some may rely on the scientific and neurochemical underpinnings of addiction to make sense their personal journey of addiction and recovery.
- Morality and Values: Consider what living a meaningful, fulfilling, and moral life means to you. It may mean providing for your family or service to the community, among others. Personal morals and values can be powerful guides in recovery.
- Twelve-step programs: That’s right, a higher power can also be the twelve-step program itself. Hearing stories of recovery and surrounding yourself with people and programs that support your recovery can instill a sense of support and hopefulness.
While my hope is that the list above may be useful in helping you identify your own higher power, it is by no means exhaustive. I would encourage you to engage in self-reflection and discussions with others to better understand what higher power means to you.
By Jonathan Fricke, MA