Step Two: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
I remember telling my sponsor early on that the first few steps in my 12-step program didn’t pose much of a challenge to me because I already believe in a “Higher Power.” I didn’t think that the spiritual aspect of the Twelve Steps was going to be much of a leap for me. I had the “God stuff” down. Famous last words, right?
I have been a Christian for 13 years—a Catholic for four—and yes, I still had to “do Step Two.”
I did not understand that I am a compulsive overeater until I went to my first overeaters anonymous (OA) meeting. I heard at that first meeting the stories of so many who went to food in all the same ways that I did. For a compulsive overeater, food controls everything, especially my mood. I can’t be in a good mood until I am fed what I want!
I heard someone in OA once say that his meal-times could be summed up in three words: speed, volume, and desperation. That was me. I did not enjoy eating; it was not a sacred experience to me at all—there was no slowing down to enjoy a communal meal with family and friends. Rather, I was a slave to it. It was a pill to temporarily cure my bad mood and “stuff the feelings down” (something I would learn more about in later steps).
Step Two as a Breath of Hope
If Step One is the “bottom” and the beginning of some spiritual poverty that rises from our understanding of our own powerlessness, then Step Two is the hope that comes in the next breath. Step Two is like a gateway to that hope and it is the reason that all the rest of the steps work: because God is in every moment, in every minor detail. Learning to live in this God-consciousness—the very truth that God cares about every little aspect of our lives, including what we eat for lunch—was the essential step I had to take toward freedom.
In OA we talk a lot about “sane eating” rather than “dieting.” This way of talking about food is a riff off of Step Two. God can restore me to sanity and that means that food addiction (or drugs, pornography, or whatever it is that ills my soul) can be cured by bringing God into the deepest trenches of my problem. Before I have a meal or as I pack my lunch, I can ask God to help me pick good foods to eat, to help me not eat too much, and to help me eat sanely. Those are real prayers of faith, and He answers them. I can trust God to do that.
Throwing All Our Cares on God
Step Two also betrays an inherent confidence in God that can only come about when we have settled Step One. St. Faustina wrote, “A humble soul does not trust itself, but places all its confidence in God.” Step One is the humiliation and the admission of my own powerlessness. Step Two is activating that confidence in God’s power to restore and heal me.
The farther away from Step Two that I am the more I sense the enduring power of its premise. I used to turn my nose up at people who claimed to pray for God to find them a parking spot at the grocery store. I know better now. A Catholic walks intimately with Jesus and invites him into every detail of life. That doesn’t mean we will get the parking spot every time, but relying on God for every need and care is biblical: “Cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). It is a natural way to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).
This article first appeared July 2019 at Catholic in Recovery.