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Alcoholism and the Second Step in Alanon - Believe in a Greater Power

Updated on February 12, 2019
Deborah-Diane profile image

Deborah has several alcoholic relatives. She became active in Al-Anon, for families of alcoholics, over 37 years ago, often helping others.

We are Surrounded by Powers Greater Than Ourselves


Finding a Power Greater than Ourselves

When new members to Alanon read the 12 Steps of the Al-anon program, sometimes they begin to feel uncomfortable when they start seeing what appears to be religious references.

The Second Step says: "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."

The first thought that may creep up into your mind is: What in the world am I committing to? I know that I was nervous when I first joined Al-Anon. I wasn't sure it would help me, and I wasn't sure about the religious angle.

What does it mean to have a Power Greater than Ourselves? This expression has been purposely left open to a very broad range of interpretations. No matter what spiritual beliefs you hold, you can still participate in Al-anon. You may be a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, a Hindu or a Buddhist. You may follow Wicca or the religious beliefs of Native Americans. In fact, you can even be an atheist. You only need to believe that there are forces at work in the Universe that are greater than you are. Some people even interpret this as any force that is not us!

The purpose of this step is to reinforce the idea that you are not always in control of everything that is going on in your own life, and you certainly are not in control of the lives of the people around you, even if you think you should be. You need to leave others to the care and control of a Higher Power, however you interpret the meaning of that phrase. This step makes it much easier to focus on our own lives and being the best people we can be ... and leave others to find their own paths.

Some people in Al-anon and Alcoholics Anonymous will refer to other people who seem to be on the wrong track and say, "Joe has his own Higher Power, and it's not me." What they are saying is that we are each on our own journey.

Read More About Alanon's 12 Steps

Al-Anons Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions
Al-Anons Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions
Al-Anon is a 12 step program, based on the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Nearly every Alanon member I know has a copy of this book, including me. An important part of the steps is accepting that there are powers at work in your life that are more powerful than you are. Many people refer to that power as a "Higher Power." Other people simply say, "God." However you describe your higher power, it can ease your mind to realize that you are not in control of others ... a higher power is.

Being Restored to Sanity

Another aspect of the Second Step that upsets some people is that idea that we need to be restored to sanity. After all, we reason, haven’t we been the only sane person in this alcoholic relationship? Think back on your recent behavior, however. Have you been trying to control the uncontrollable? Have you argued, cried, accused, nagged and complained during your conversations with the alcoholic?

When you give it some thought, you will realize that it is actually insane to even try to reason with someone who is under the spell of alcohol. Whether they are drunk or sober and waiting for their next opportunity to drink, nothing you say or do seems to have an effect on them. You might as well be arguing with a door! When you think about it that way, it really is insane, isn’t it?

Sometimes we hear it said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Haven't we all done that?

Once you explore the meaning of the Second Step, you will feel more comfortable with the idea that you can come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. After all, it’s going to take a very powerful force to straighten this craziness out, isn’t it? Once you accept that truth, you are doing all that is being asked of you in the Second Step of Alanon.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Deborah-Diane


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