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 Audio Version 

My copy of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions is marked in several places in the chapter concerning Step Two. Now, after three years of wonderful sobriety, I can look back and see why. For this was the Step that helped me to start to understand the AA programme. It was also the Step about which I was most worried – needlessly, as it turned out.

After 30 years of alcoholic drinking, I knew that this was my last chance at sobriety. My health was nearly ruined and I was about to lose everything. In sheer desperation I phoned the AA helpline. Later at meetings I was told that I needed to believe in a Power greater than myself. God or a Higher Power was often mentioned in the rooms. But I was, at best, an agnostic, and quite often a militant atheist. So how could I make such a spiritual U-turn? And if I could not believe in an all-powerful deity – what then?

By the time I started to read through Step Two I was already worried and confused. My view was too clouded by thoughts about free-will, guilt and punishment. I figured that even if there was a God He was probably out to punish me for my past behaviour. I could not see the spiritual wood for the religious trees.

I was also one of those people mentioned in Step Two who ‘were plumb disgusted with religion and all its works.’ One example, when I was growing up, was the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland. I could not see how the hatred between Catholics and Protestants had anything to do with a God of love. I later got a great deal of smug satisfaction by pointing this out to the religiously-minded.

But when I originally read Step Two, part of it stated that ‘All you really need is a truly open mind. Just resign from the debating society and quit bothering yourself with such deep questions….’ So that was exactly what I did. I also read the following sentence; ‘Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.’ At first my local AA group became that Power. I could see and talk to people who were indeed walking miracles. People with 10, 20, or even 30 years or more of happy sobriety under their belts.

I am also lucky enough to have an amazing sponsor who guided me through Step Two. In time I came to believe that a Higher Power does indeed work through people in recovery, to help the still suffering alcoholic.

Looking back, I can scarcely believe just how insane my behaviour actually was. But at the time I referred to myself as a ‘heavy drinker’. After all, I was holding down a responsible job. I also owned my own flat and had money in the bank. So how could I be an insane alcoholic? But I learnt the hard way that I was. The last few years before I phoned AA were a blur of hospitals, police cells, psychiatric units, and two suicide attempts. Not exactly the behaviour of someone of sound mind!

In my Twelve by Twelve I have underlined the following sentence: ‘Some will be willing to term themselves “problem drinkers” but cannot endure the suggestion that they are in fact mentally ill.’ As I already suffered from bouts of depression, I knew a little about mental illness. Looking at it that way then I was somebody who was very ill. But I wanted to be cured – to be made whole again. I knew I could not do this alone, so with the help of my patient sponsor I made my way through Step Two. I felt a great sense of relief when I had done so, because then I could continue with the rest of our amazing programme.

One of the small joys of my sobriety is in watching the sparrows on my bird feeder. At first they were very nervous of it and perched on a nearby fence. With heads cocked, they listened and watched – alert to potential danger. Then they finally decided it was safe and flew down for some much needed food. It reminded me of my own leap of faith into the care of a loving God – for which I am truly grateful.