“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

As soon as I read the second step on the wall during one of my first AA meetings, I shuttered. I recognized I had a problem that I could not solve. Yes, that’s why I was at the meeting in the first place. But the idea that I had to will myself into believing in a higher power was too much. I was terrified and so scared that AA wouldn’t work for me because at the time, I was an atheist. In reality, I privately struggled with the loneliness that atheism brought to my life while relying heavily on foxhole prayers during the darkest times in my addiction.

Now, there are many, many non-believers in recovery. I have many friends with double digit sobriety and they are committed atheists. I was sober for almost 2 years while claiming non-belief. However, the difference with my early sobriety is that for those 2 years I was unwilling to grow in my spiritual connection and practice. I believe I was just trying to take an easier, softer way. I didn’t want to have to rigorously practice prayer and meditation. It was too scary for me to open up spiritually. It took me a while to be able to pray in front of people, even at meetings. I grew up in a family where you argued about the existence of God but you didn’t seek to grow in understanding.

I also know many people who struggle with step two because they were raised with religion but it didn’t click with them, or they are still very religious but it doesn’t keep them sober. Luckily, the solution is the same for all of us. We only need to be willing to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. If a thorough step one has been done, we have come to know that our thinking and behavior is truly insane. Once we are fully and humbly in that place, we are usually at least willing to be open to the possibility of a change in belief and/or perception. For some, this starting point is the act of going to a 12 step meeting and being willing to listen to the experience and suggestions of the group. For others, it looks differently. For me, I decided that I would give up the need to be “right” and inquire more deeply as to why I cried out for god’s help in times of crisis. It started with a seedling of openmindedness and has now grown into a deep, unshakeable relationship with a higher power of my own understanding.

Don’t worry about what faith or belief you enter the rooms with. The 12 steps are compatible with all of them. As it says in the 12×12, “all you really need is a truly open mind.”