One of the biggest struggles with an addiction is the tendency to "fall back" into drinking or drug use after a period of being clean. What the founders of AA discovered was that willpower was not enough to keep a true alcoholic from drinking. Eventually something would happen that would trigger another binge, often an even worse one that ever before.
Hence, the second step. This is the foundation of 12 step recovery. It is the basis for the problem. It is not that these 12 steps programs have spiritual elements. The very foundation of the steps to recovery is spiritual in nature. This does not mean you have to be a particular religion or practice a certain belief. While the term "God" is used, it is used in the most general sense. This is why the steps emphasize in italics these words: as we understood Him.
Many people debunk the success of 12 step programs by saying if you don't have a Judeo-Christian belief system you can't really take the second and third steps. However, these steps should be treated as nondenominational. While there may be some meetings that focus on a particular "style" of spirituality, you can almost always find a meeting that doesn't do this (or frankly, start one that doesn't). Of course, many people suffering from alcoholism will look for any reason to keep them from recovery. Recovery means no more alcohol, something an active alcoholic cannot imagine and often finds incomprehensible. Life without booze to take the edge off? To relax? To get in the groove at a party? How is it possible?
"I went in and out of the rooms for years, and I'd always gripe that it's because of the 'god stuff.' Really, I went in and out because of the booze stuff. I wanted to drink again. Period." Jake R.
The only requirement for membership in a 12 step program is the desire to stop drinking or doing whatever the addictive behavior is. Forget the second step until you are ready for it rather than let that step keep you from the hope of recovery. If you are open and willing to listen to other recovering people and how they created better lives for themselves, you are off to a good start.
"I always prided myself on my pragmatism. The fact I wasn't superstitious or religious. I thought spiritual meant religious, and that meant primitive thinking. I was an intellectual. I was too smart to believe in a power greater than me. What I started to realize was that if I was the greatest power in my life, I was in deep, deep trouble." Mark G.