May 14

Finding The God Of Your Understanding

It is entirely possible for people to enter recovery without specific beliefs or any beliefs whatsoever regarding a Higher Power. All that is required is the willingness to believe in something.  In the beginning just knowing and believing that the program works is enough.

“Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” ~ Step Two

Twelve Step programs are not religious but they are spiritual. Step Two asks us to open our minds and hearts to the idea of “a power greater than ourselves” and for some this presents a challenge.  Many of us didn’t show up knowing exactly what we believe in and some of us didn’t believe in anything at all.  When it comes to the subject of a Higher Power people can start to shut down. Even for those who were raised with religious or spiritual beliefs of some kind it can be difficult to know if the God of our childhood is something we can put our trust in now.  Fortunately it isn’t necessary to have it all figured out.  When we say that we “came to believe” that’s exactly what we mean.  Through working the Second Step we begin to explore how we feel about spirituality at this point in our lives.  We are encouraged by the stories of those who’ve gone before us and allow our concept of a Higher Power to evolve as we move through the Steps.

In the AA Big Book the chapter called “We Agnostics” begins with a review of Step One and asks us to consider the possibility that if we admit that our lives have indeed become unmanageable we may be suffering from a condition which requires some sort of spiritual experience and awareness for full recovery to occur.  For some this might seem impossible but page 44 reminds us that, “Something like half of us thought we were atheists or agnostics. Our experience shows that you need not be disconcerted.”  Not only is some kind of spiritual experience possible, it is guaranteed as we open our awareness and continue through the Steps.

Many of us have tried before to manage our condition with alcohol, drugs, food, sleep and other self-numbing behaviors. We have tried to control situations and/or people, even tried to control ourselves without real success. There is a saying that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.”  This is not a matter of noble perseverance, if what we’re doing isn’t working, if it’s no longer healthy it’s time to try something different. The Big Book Text continues further down the page to say, “We could wish to be philosophically comforted, in fact, we could wish these things with all our might, but the needed power wasn’t there. Our human resources, as marshaled (or directed) by the will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly.”

So now we are asked to develop our own concept of a Higher Power, a God of our own understanding.  ”Much to our relief, we discovered we did not need to consider another’s conception of God. Our own conception, however inadequate, was sufficient to make the approach and to effect a contact with Him. As soon as we admitted the possible existence of a Creative Intelligence, a Spirit of the Universe underlying the totality of things, we began to be possessed of a new sense of power and direction, provided we took other simple steps. We found that God does not make too hard terms with those who seek Him. To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all…”

It isn’t necessary to define God; in fact it may be impossible. As you work the Second Step see if you can stop trying to figure God out and instead just try to feel your Higher Power with your heart.  The big question is what are you willing to believe?

Working Step Two:

  • Write freely about the 2nd Step. What does it mean to you?  Don’t edit or over-analyze. Just write.
  • Why do you think this Step says “restored to sanity?”  In what ways would you like to be restored to sanity?  What would sanity look like in the areas of your life that are unmanageable?
  • Write the words Higher Power.  What comes up in your mind?
  • Have you allowed anyone or anything to be a Higher Power in your life?  Have you tried to be that power for yourself or for someone else?
  •  Is the idea of God difficult for you to accept?  If so, why?  Is there a concept of a Power greater than yourself that does make sense to you?  Think about Nature, the Universe, Your Highest Self, Wisdom, Love, etc.
  • Write about any experiences with religion or spirituality in your childhood and in your family of origin.  How do feel about that now?  Could you keep what was good and let the rest go?  What do you believe now?
  • Look at not just what you say you believe but what you think is really true about God.  Ask yourself, “What do I believe is true about a Higher Power?”  Write your thoughts.
  • What are some attributes of a Higher Power that you would like to believe in?  List some traits, pick and choose from the beliefs of others if you need to but make a list and allow your own idea to grow.
  • Ask yourself, “Do I now believe, or am I even WILLING to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?”



Water is everywhere and in all living things – we cannot be separated from water. No water, no life. Period.  Water comes in many forms – liquid, vapor, ice, snow, fog, rain, hail. But no matter the form, it’s still water.

Human beings give this stuff many names in many languages, in all its forms. It’s crazy to argue over what its true name is. Call it what you will, there is no difference to the water. It is what it is.

Human beings drink water from many containers – cups, glasses, jugs, skins, their own hands, whatever. To argue about which container is proper for the water is crazy. The container doesn’t change the water.

Some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it iced, some fizzy, some with stuff mixed in with it – like alcohol, coffee, whatever. No matter. It does not change the nature of the water.

Never mind the name or the cup or the mix. These are not important. What we have in common is thirst. Thirst for the water of Life!

As it is with water, so it is with God. 

~  Robert Fulghum


As you consider the Second Step this week think about the Second Promise.  Allow yourself the freedom to accept the gifts of recovery including the relief that comes from knowing that there is a Power greater than you are that can remove your regrets and restore your life.  If you’d like to read more on the 12 Steps go to the right sidebar and click on the category “The Steps” for previous posts.

“We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”  ~ Promise Two


Recommended Reading:

The AA Big Book and Guide for Working the Twelve Steps are recommended reading for anyone in recovery of any kind, not only because they were the first but also for their inspirational and direct content.  Two great resources for those working the Steps for codependency are also included here. More books on 12 Step Work from other fellowships and programs can be found in the “Steps” drop down list under “Programs and Literature.”


Featured image for this page taken from Hazelden 12 Step Pamphlet Collection – The Complete 12 Step Collection used by patients in recovery centers throughout the nation, these easy-to-read editions are a sure way to gain a basic, and yet thorough, understanding of the significance of each Step.  Pamphlets are available individually or in a money-saving full collection.

Recommended Links:

The questions above are fairly generalized in order to apply to a variety of conditions.  The basics are the same but if you are working the Steps specifically for drug/alcohol abuse or codependency the following links may help you to explore further. There are many other formats and workbooks available through a simple web search.

12 Step Worksheets

CoDA 12 Step Worksheets

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