Eating Disorder Recovery and the 12 Steps: Step Two, Came to Believe a Power Greater Than Ourselves Could Restore Us to Sanity

No one likes to admit they’ve gone insane. No one likes to admit their life has completely derailed and there seems to be no way to get the train back on the tracks. But if a food addict or eating disorder sufferer has been able to take Step One and admit powerlessness over their disease, then it’s not too far a leap to admit that he or she has reached a level of insanity.

Before the addict can proceed to the clause about a Power Greater Than Ourselves, the admission of powerlessness and insanity must be well internalized. It is nearly impossible to seek or receive help-supernatural or otherwise-if you do not believe you need it.

Not sure you’re insane? Review your behavior of the last week, month, or year. What competes for the bulk of your thought time? Is it the shape and size of your body? How much you weigh? How many calories you have consumed or burned? Where your next binge is going to come from? Whether you want to admit it or not, these thoughts, behaviors, and priorities are not normal. This mini inventory is not meant to cause shame or further self-loathing, only to show that there is a life of freedom from food that you too can have if you are willing to be honest.

But, you may think, you have tried so many times and there has only been failure. You can’t imagine that this program would be any different from your earlier attempts. And yet, it is. Because now, instead of trying to devise the perfect plan to make yourself sane or thin or normal, you’ll be looking outside of yourself.

Perhaps you are already a believer and you have a relationship with God. Yet it feels as if God has not helped you in the past. How is this time going to be different? The difference is that you are admitting fully and honestly-perhaps for the first time-that this thing is taking you down. You are no longer afraid to admit that you don’t have the answers and that you’re going to seek the direction of the One who does.

You don’t need to yet understand how it is that God is going to help you. You don’t have to understand how you are going to approach Him or what this new relationship is going to look like. These concerns are not part of Step Two. All that is required at this moment is that you would believe that when it comes to food you are insane and that God can restore you to sanity. It is a simple affirmation, but this willingness opens the door for your recovery journey to begin.

Others will protest this step because they claim they do not believe in God. Typically this is more a matter of the heart than the intellect-God has disappointed us and we are angry. We have prayed for help and our requests have fallen upon deaf ears. Years of not understanding who God is and what a relationship with Him ought to look like leads many to profess that there is no God at all. If you don’t believe in God and can’t take Step Two is there any hope for your recovery?

There is. Many addicts will experiment with a provisional Power Greater Than Themselves or, Higher Power. Think about it: on your own you can do very little, but perhaps you are already seeing that in the presence of your Twelve Step group there is a real power and synergy. Could this not be a power that is clearly greater than you? While many addicts and eating disorder sufferers will come to have a robust relationship with God as they develop in recovery, many benefit from initially placing their trust and confidence in the group. Don’t be afraid to try this.

And the reality is that even though you are trying to believe that a power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity, you may not truly be able to trust this fact 100% of the time. That’s okay. Belief is a learned practice-like a spiritual muscle. We must keep exercising and flexing the muscle to make it strong and keep it toned. This process will continue the rest of your life. But for today, your faith need not be any bigger than a mustard seed. If you can say, as honestly as you can, that you believe a power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity, then you have taken Step Two.

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