Step 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
I need to break this short cultic phrase into four parts to properly analyze it. Let’s go in order. “Came to believe”- this is a matter of belief, of faith. It’s not a statement of fact. It’s not an action like getting a therapist or finding a new hobby that doesn’t include alcohol.
” that a Power greater than ourselves” – Bill W. and his early converts came to believe in Frank Buchman’s Nazi-praising cult religion, not a vague Power. While experiencing delirium tremors, having intense hallucinations thanks to hourly belladonna doses, and after three or four days of constant recruitment from Oxford Group members, Bill W.had a vision of the Biblical God.
Alcoholics and people with drinking problems belong to all sorts of faiths, including ones that ban drinking. Faith in a higher power has never been shown to prevent or cure alcoholism. If Alcoholics Anonymous was not a religion, we could expect far fewer mentions of God or Higher Power, but religion is exactly what Bill was selling. He is quoted saying “The only cure for dipsomania [alcoholism] is religiomania.”
In modern twelve steps groups oldtimers will claim that your higher power can be anything – a doorknob, ” good orderly direction”, or of course the “group of drunks” itself. Let me stress that point, because it’s kind of a big deal: Alcoholics Anonymous says it can be your god, in church basements all across the country. AA is good at concealing their heresy from the Christians giving them free or reduced rent on meeting spaces.
“could” – not will, not shall, not must. Could. A Higher Power could fix your unmanageable life which you are powerless over. Gotta keep the existential anxiety going. Nothing really makes you want someone else to have all the answers quite like believing your future is at stake, and you can’t do anything to effect the outcome.
“restore us to sanity.” Bill loved calling other alcoholics insane and “wet brained”. This is another example of projection. Between his third and fourth stays at the Towns Hospital for alcohol detox and ludicrous quantities of hallucinogenic drugs, Bill W.’s physician Dr. Silkworth had informed his wife Bill was likely to get a form of encephaly commonly known as “wet brain “.
Beyond his desire to portray all alcoholics as him – a process known in cult studies as ” cloning”- Bill is invoking an Oxford Group term. Oxford Group founder Frank Buchman called anyone not in his cult insane, and claimed only a “God-controlled life” as his follower could “restore them to sanity”. Of course, Frank was in charge on interpreting God. Bill kept all of that theology, but made himself leader rather than Frank.