Step two in twelve step programs calls participants to believe in a higher power capable of returning us to sanity. Step three goes hand in glove by calling for folks to turn their lives and will over to the care of that higher power—God as they know God. Every one of the twelve steps plays a critical role in the process of recovery. Yet these two steps spark the most controversy.
Those that are either agnostic or have a faith system outside of God kick back against these steps. The founders of the 12 steps and AA understood that many will object to the truth that God is the higher power for various reasons. That’s why they did not use God as the name for the higher power here. Yet they personally claimed Christianity and God as that higher power for themselves, convinced that most others would too as God revealed God’s self to them through the process.
Some Christians gather at the opposite pole. They reject twelve step programming because it does not immediately define the higher power as the orthodox Christian would. I find the polarity of either extreme useless. The twelve steps are a proven process to those seeking healing from many of life’s major challenges—particularly for the addict. Calling a car a boat anchor will not stop the car from carrying you to your destination unless you refuse to start the engine and drive the course.
By definition, anyone who finds themselves addicted to a chemical substance—booze, street drugs, and prescription drugs–has had their brain chemistry changed by that substance to set up an illness that they cannot overcome by sheer will. Step two simply acknowledges the reality that we are powerless to change ourselves in such circumstance and need look outside ourselves to change. Hear a thousand recovered addicts testify and that reality will be acknowledged in 999 of those testimonies. That’s the reality of the process. Though some may get to recovery without naming or acknowledging the process, that doesn’t mean the process did not happen.
For those of us who have chosen to be Christ followers, we are in fact convinced that “power of change” delivered by that “higher power” flowed from God. Yet most of us don’t get too hung up on whether the changed person recognizes or acknowledges God. We know that many times God will use the reality of the change as God’s pathway to offer personal relationship. So, from my perspective of praying that all be free from the hell of addiction, addicts can call their higher power the AA group or a door knob if that’s what they need to do to move towards recovery. God has the capability of offering a corrected perspective at some later point and each has their right to free will to react to God as they choose.