A Skeptic’s Journey to a Higher Power
Originally published in TGIF at Renascent on February 27, 2015. TGIF Weekly Recovery News is an e-newsletter published on Fridays by Renascent, one of Canada’s leading abstinence-based treatment centre, and features articles and lived experience essays on a variety of themes relating to recovery from alcoholism and addiction. Email subscriptions are free and can be made here at Renascent. Once subscribed, you will receive a link to the e-newsletter every Friday.
by Lisa N.
The struggle I’ve had finding a real Higher Power has been 17 years long, and it turns out that Higher Power was so simple I almost missed it. If you are like me, perhaps my experience will be useful somehow. Here is what happened.
Round 1 — I Came:
I walked into AA 18 or 19 years ago. The God Issue turned me off completely as I was an atheist; the notion of a Higher Power was not only foreign to me but seemed a bit ridiculous. I stayed for about nine months, found a higher power in the form of a tall, dark, and handsome addict who had been in AA for 15 years yet was unable to stay sober. Suffice it to say things did not go well.
Round 2 — I Came To:
I returned to AA. I was properly defeated, beaten, bruised and willing to entertain the notion that there might be a power that could help me stay sober. They said “Fake it till you make it” and that the group could be my higher power.
Thankfully, I saw enough alcoholics in the rooms staying sober under conditions much worse than my own. This inspired me, and the collective wisdom of the group coupled with the literature became my Higher Power.
I got a sponsor, got rid of the addict, and started working the steps. I got very active in AA and in my new life. Thanks to the program, I haven’t had a drink since February of 1998. I haven’t been perfect and have had many struggles since. “Progress, not perfection” are words I truly live by today — and without alcohol I can manage to progress.
My sponsor told me to adopt the attitude “take what you like and leave the rest for now.” Often the things I left would make sense later on. The important thing was to focus on what I related to rather than the things to which I did not.
So, “turning it over” in Step 3 simply meant moving on the the next steps. Six and Seven were a little tricky but I managed to interpret them without the need of “God the Father.” For Step 11, prayer became my ongoing dialogue with the “universe,” akin to doing affirmations. I practiced moving meditation through yoga and exercise. I found an AMAZING church that spoke about joy and love — a language I could hear.
Fast forward eight years. I still was not a believer in a supernatural being who has a hand in the day-to-day affairs of humans. For me that never felt like truth. Although it is said in AA literature that your Higher Power can be a God of your understanding, I felt uneasy about mine being so different. The God most addicts shared about in meetings (and in the literature) was out there somewhere, personified as a “Him,” and had its hand in the material world in a rather arbitrary way. I could not relate at all.
Around 10 years of sobriety, I felt like I was a fraud. I just didn’t have a God. The Group of Drunks (GOD) was no longer enough to keep me sober because I began to see great (human) fallibility. So I decided not to go to meetings any more, as they no longer were a source of inspiration. This did not go particularly well. And that was the end of Round 2.
Round 3 — I Came to Believe:
Oddly, I still am atheist/agnostic, a skeptic and a science lover. However, there was something I had missed, and I had to fall and struggle to find it. That struggle brought me into another 12-step fellowship, as it was apparent that I was again powerless and needed to be restored to sanity. Frankly, it was a miracle I didn’t drink.
This time, however, I don’t feel pressured to believe what others believe any more. I have completely let go of what others think of me and my Higher Power. As a result, I have come to a Higher Power that is deep within and a very real part of me. I have often heard people say, “You need a god, just make sure it isn’t you.” But I personally needed a higher power that WAS part of me.
Turns out I had one! Here’s what it is …
I have always had a sharply intuitive voice of truth deep within me. I feel it in my stomach. When I listen to it synchronicity always happens, life flows like a gentle river and my heart feels lighter. When I don’t listen, chaos inevitable ensues. It is ever-present. I never ever considered that this was actually my Higher Power – it was too simple!
I’m not sure where intuition comes from, whether it’s a biological imperative genetically coded into our cells for survival, or if it has a connection to something bigger. I do know that I can “plug in” or “unplug” from the power. When I plug in, I am in that flow. Life is simple, without struggle, chaos or drama. When I unplug, life is an uphill battle that is meaningless, and I am left in the deep dark black hole I call “The Void.”
How do I plug in?
- Being an active part of a like-minded group like a 12-step program. Going to meetings and being around people who are striving to walk a spirit-centred life as opposed to an ego-centred life.
- Fitness: It has saved my life. I suffer from clinical depression and being active keeps my endorphins high and staves away the darkness.
- Connection with others: Keeping in contact with a small but healthy circle of friends is key. It has been proven that just being with another person raises our serotonin levels — which tells us we are programmed to be in community.
- Conversely, removing myself from toxic and addicted people is imperative.
- I love to read, or listen to podcasts about science, psychology, and spirituality. These tools help me see the universe and our place in it as a wonderful, majestic mystery.
Thanks to my sponsor, a new outlook and recovery program, my higher power simply is “The Great Mystery!” I love it.