I heard another newcomer at a meeting complaining about how she’d had God shoved down her throat by her parents, and she wasn’t having any part of this Higher Power stuff, blah, blah, blah. I find this sort of thing tedious, to put it lightly, having listened to and read about it frequently over the years. Even when I was claiming to be an atheist I thought it was shallow and ill-considered. So, since it’s my blog, I thought I’d write about my take on the issue.
It seems to me that if there is a Higher Power, in the sense of someone or something unknowable that affects the physical world, then it must be right here, right now. I have to admit that I have yet to develop that faith. Frankly, I find the concept of some metaphysical being busy watching over the entire universe a bit difficult to fathom, while still entertaining the idea that I can appeal to that entity for help with my little problems.
On the other hand, I find the idea of a god within me, you, and perhaps every other living thing or even the Earth itself not only (remotely) possible in a physical sense — or at least not impossible — but rather pleasant. The idea of something that permeates my world and provides a gentle push occasionally to keep things running smoothly for those who wish to have things run smoothly is comforting and engenders hope. I hope that I may come to believe in that sense, someday.
That said, I most emphatically do believe in a higher power in recovery. The fellowships, their members and my other supports are my higher power at present, and for now they seem to be enough. Their collective wisdom provides guidance, and their attempts and successes in sobriety and recovery give me hope. They’re there when I call on them — not always individually, but invariably in the collective — to provide the sympathetic ear and moral support that I need to further my own recovery. And I am here for them, which makes me part of someone else’s higher power, I suppose.
That being the case, I want to register my strong opinion that using the “God Issue” as an excuse for turning away from the 12-step fellowships is simply an excuse for not pursuing recovery. In my quarter-century-plus of hanging around AA, NA and some of the other A’s, I have never been told by anyone whose opinion I thought worthwhile that I was required to believe in someone’s God-with-a-capital-G in order to stay sober or work a program of recovery. That is borne out in the basic texts of every fellowship that I have encountered, if a person cares to read beyond the “G-word.”
We don’t have to believe in God to work a good program of recovery. Period. But we DO have to believe in some power beyond ourselves, because the humility to accept new ideas is absolutely essential in order to drag ourselves out of the morass of our own twisted thinking and into a place where we can begin to change and grow. As a sponsor of mine used to say, “There may or may not be a God, but if there is, you ain’t it!”
So spare me the stories of the Gawd of your childhood and the atrocities committed in His name, then or now. Spare me the sophomoric, angst-filled testimony of how you can’t “get into” AA or whatever because you have to believe in god. One more time: You can work a perfectly good program without believing in God, regardless of what the Bible-thumpers in the rooms might say. As is announced at meetings, the opinions there are those of the individual members, not the fellowship as a whole.
The only higher power you MUST have is the people who will help you drag your sorry butt out of the hole of addiction and into sobriety. If you get careless and start believing in something else — well, I envy you.
Reblogged this on Celebrate Recovery.
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I totally agree. Thanks for writing, and keep on keepin’on!
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This struck a chord with me. I have friend who I took many religion classes with who is an atheist. He has a hard time believing in the monotheistic, religious text God. He would always joke that he must have no morals and conscience since he has no God. But we all knew that unfortunately some people really think that way. I truly believe that there is something spiritual in finding connection to the people who build you up and there is something spiritual in the strength we find deep down in ourselves to keep going day to day.
In my experience, the only ones who make a really big deal out of the issue are folks who aren’t having much luck with the first and second steps.
I have to admit, reading the big book and how many times they mention god, higher power, spiritual, creator, pray, faith…etc- can certainly make a non-religious person wonder if they are in the right place or can make them feel uncomfortable. For me, I have referred to a higher power as my “mind” but like how you utilized the term to refer to those who are helping you along the way. “Spiritual” can be deep thought, meditation, how you feel while taking a walk in the woods.
What is difficult at first is taking some of the terms above and defining it our own way. If it is a big issue, one could always look for some of the non-religious alternatives.
i value this perspective. a lot. i’m an atheist. I appreciate the open mindedness it takes to have the views you do on this topic. But i want to play devil’s advocate for a minute on behalf of the ‘complainers.’ i agree not believing in God is not a good reason not to ‘get into’ AA. But I would also posit that not wanting to hear about God as thee answer all the damn time IS a good reason not to ‘get into’ AA. Walking into meetings, talking to people in the AA community, where between 90 and 99 percent of people talk about the higher power bit and God synonymously can be a major turn off. Enough that someone in search of sobriety would turn away from the program completely. So if the AA community could talk about higher powers as you just have, the ‘god thing’ would be less of an excuse. As the world is now, however, I totally get it.
A-men. I am not the higher power that keeps me sober…that is first and foremost!
You’re absolutely right. This was me to a T. And the result was a close-minded approach which kept me stuck hard and fast to my addiction. It was an excuse. It’s still early days for me (day 4) but I’m on my way to my third meeting and what I’ve learned there already has been invaluable.
It’s so common in early recovery that I’m not surprised it came up someplace else. However, unless you were at a meeting in South Florida, I wasn’t there.
Good luck on your quest, and
Keep on keepin’ on!
You must have read my mind, or happened to be at the meeting where I was talking about my struggles with Step 3. Thank you very much for this post! Annie B.