Step Two: Excerpt from The Little Red Book


Step Two: Came to believe that a Power Greater than Ourselves could restore us to sanity. Step Two deals with mental illness. For, “However intelligent we may have been in other respects, wherever alcohol has been involved, we have been strangely insane. It’s strong language, but isn’t it true?” No alcoholic acts sanely while drinking. Chronic poisoning from alcohol results in compulsive drinking and insane behavior. Will power is not a factor in recovery until the compulsion has been removed. Since reservations defeat any honest at tempt to stop drinking, we find it necessary to recognize our mental instability. Dodging the truth only results in distorted thinking and opposition to help from a Power greater than Ourselves. Those of us who have had an honest desire to recover from the mental sickness that alcoholism has imposed upon us have successfully used this Power. Our sick personalities find a sure source of power and healing in God, as we understand Him. God renews our minds and straightens our thinking. Step Two opens a vista of new hope, when based on willingness and faith. What we call this Power is a matter of choice. Call It what we will. Naming It is unimportant. The important thing is that we believe in It; that we use It to restore us to mental health and fitness. Faith in a Higher Power is a basic law of recovery. It is always evident in the lives of successful members. What they have done, we can do. By practicing the Twelve Steps we gain a conscious contact with a Power greater than Ourselves sufficient to live sanely in contented sobriety.

Mental handicaps stand between us and recovery. Our lack of self-criticism defeats an honest evaluation of our alcoholism. Usage of the word sanity offends our false pride. We admit our illness but rebel against questions of mental soundness. This partial acceptance is a hazard to our sobriety. We benefit most from accepting Step Two with no reservations. The beginner, you will avoid confusion in the interpretation of this Step if he approach it with a sincere desire for the accepted A. A. meaning. Remind yourself that you are making the A.A. recovery program your way of life because it is essential to your recovery from alcoholism. On it depends the well-being of your mind and body, your happiness, and the security of your home – your very life. It might very well be suicide to disagree with any part of it, so resolve to be open-minded and accept the Twelve Steps in their entirety.

” The truth of the matter is that most of our members have only acted on the level of insanity during periods of intoxication. This is common practice for all drinkers who get “tight,” but to the alcoholic who shortens the intervals between periods of intoxication and finally merges them into one long “drunk,” it becomes a serious matter. Insane behavior because of an evening’s drinking is generally excused, but when carried on for weeks and months that lengthen into years, it becomes a fixed-habit pattern that is sponsored by the brain.

We cannot overlook the harmful effect of the prolonged use of alcohol on the brain or that it does produce an unhealthy mental condition which results in complacent disregard of sane thought or normal behavior. The alcoholic cannot control his impulses; he lacks mental coordination. Continued use of alcohol damages the brain and in some cases brings insanity. Signs of such injury seem to exist in all alcoholics in proportion to their physical resistance to alcohol poisoning and to the length of time involved in abnormal drinking. The alcoholic who wishes to cling to the illusion that he exercises sanity in his drinking is invited to prove his case against the accepted definition of insanity. A simple definition of insanity is a disorder of behavior that occurs when the body impulses no longer find in the brain a coordinating center for the conditioning center for the conditioning of behavior. When this condition arises, man’s behavior is unpredictable and he becomes legally insane. The conduct of the uncontrolled drinker who has become alcoholic is likewise unpredictable. His friends and relatives take on long faces as alcoholism perverts the power of reason, dulls talent, and limits his instinct of self-preservation, making him irresponsible and a menace to society. How is the alcoholic to account for that insane impulse that prompts him to reach for the first drink that starts him off on another “binge”? Is it a sane act? Is he obsessed? Is it the result of an urge which is sponsored by irrational thinking? Does it involve thinking? Does sanity in an alcoholic imply his power to accept or reject that first drink? We think it does as we do not believe he can help himself. We believe and know from experience that a Power Greater than Himself can remove this obsession, straighten out his thinking, and restore him to sane thought and behavior. Those who disapprove of the use of the word sanity in Step Two are usually alcoholics who have been fortunate enough to escape the more serious aspects of alcoholism. They reason they were perfectly normal between drinking bouts. The alcoholic who did himself no serious damage during his drinking careers should find solace in that fact. He should take a broad view of the insanity of alcoholism, however, as most of us were surely deranged over varying periods of time. We must also remember that in the progressive development of alcoholism the power of reasoning is slowly deteriorated. This encourages deception as to our real mental health and fitness; it breeds a superior feeling of false security.

Evidence to support this fact is found in the following danger symptoms commonly seen in alcoholics: 1.Taking that first drink with the idea that “this time I’ll control it.” 2.The continued use of alcohol and reliance upon it for physical and mental power to meet our daily responsibilities. 3.The necessity of the drink “the morning after.” 4.Our inability to be self-critical of the sanity of our behavior over prolonged years of drinking – our refusal to consider the harm we have done to ourselves and others. 5.The faith we placed in childish excuses for our drinking and the stupid alibis we thought we were getting away with. 6.The reckless abandon we displayed in drunken driving the argument that we drive better drunk than sober, and our resentment toward those who differed from this opinion. 7.The critical physical condition we reach and the continued suffering we endure from uncontrolled drinking. 8.The financial risks taken – the shame, sorrow, and often poverty that we inflict upon our families. 9.The asinine resentments that clogged our minds. Our loss of responsibility. Getting ourselves drunk to spite or injure others. The erroneous assumption that we can “take it or leave it alone.” Our unnecessary squandering of money. 10.Black outs. 11.Contemplated or attempted suicide. These are a few symptoms, common to alcoholics, indicating mental illness. They justify our deduction that alcohol, in large or small doses, has become a poison that induces unpredictable behavior and limits mental coordination. There is no point in deceiving ourselves regarding the fate of the alcoholic, the uncontrolled drinker, if he continues to use alcohol. He has just two escapes from drinking: one is insanity; the other is alcoholic death. The purpose of the A.A. program as a “Way of Life” is to avoid both by arresting the illness, alcoholism. As alcoholics we cannot undo our past behavior; we can, however, use the knowledge of our escape from insanity and alcoholic death as an incentive to contact God for help in keeping us from future drinking. It is now our privilege to draw on the help of a Power Greater than Ourselves to arrest our alcoholism. The alcoholic record of our past life is not the basis that our future will be judged. We have a new page before us; we are invited to “write our own ticket.” Sobriety, sanity, security, and peace of mind are within our reach. The future, with the A.A. program as our “Way of Life”, will bring us sane, useful, happy lives. We have learned our lesson: alcohol is poison that brings mental illness and insane behavior. Surely, with this knowledge, we can never lay claim to sanity if we again take that first drink.   Mental Drunkenness In spite of all knowledge some of us willfully continue in self-centeredness. We ignore our mental illness. Alcoholic thinking displaces humility, and we return to physical drunkenness through lack of spiritual growth and understanding. Checking the reasons for our failure, we discover that over a period of time we have built up resentment, selfpity, and physical or mental exhaustion and that our faith in a Power Greater than Ourselves was inadequate. We should never forget that our physical drunks are always preceded by mental binges that end in spiritual blackouts. They leave us blind and helpless, insulating us from the “Power” upon which our sanity and sobriety depend. We can detect them if we will observe the danger signals so apparent during the buildup of the mental binge. SUMMARIZATION: Mental illness is understandable when we first concede our physical illness. Sick bodies do not house healthy minds. As alcoholics, we cannot think or act sanely drinking or sobering up. Our wills work subject to alcoholic poisoning. Remove the poisoning and free will is restored. It is not dependable, however, so we turn it over to God for help. These are the basic recovery fundamentals of Step Two. SYMPTOMS OF MENTAL ILLNESS: Continued drinking. Black outs. Mental drunkenness. Avoiding self-criticism. Emotional instability. Stinking thinking. Deep resentments. Fits of anger. Planned or attempted suicide.

Delusions. TREATMENT: Honest evaluation of our sick personalities and of the inadequacy of the human will to remedy them. Conscious need for treatment. Willingness to recover from our illness. Belief that A Power Greater than Ourselves can restore us to sane thought and behavior. Dependence upon a Higher Power for recovery from our mental illness. RECOVERY: We attain spiritual strength, understanding, humility, emotional stability, peace of mind, and contented sobriety.


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