A Higher Power

Today is day #664 on this particular journey and it was a matter of time. God, eh? Some people really love God. I for one, used to. Now, I don’t believe there is a God. Luckily I live in a part of the world where my opinion is both allowed and shared. I am all in favour of someone’s right to believe in and worship a God (I even think you should be able to pick which one!). I am a supporter of your right to believe whatever you like. But, for me personally, God is irrelevant.

However when it comes to AA, recovery and the steps, unfortunately, it really isn’t that clean cut. I have no problem with another person using God as a means to get or stay sober. Hell, I’d encourage just about anything to accomplish that. The problem for me is that I have put one hell of a lot of work into being sober. I’ve lost a lot to alcoholism and I am not going to hand over the praise/credit to (what I consider to be an imaginary) character. If I’m going to give credit to a fictional literary character I’m going with Dumbledore. Or maybe Randall Flagg. (Google that!)

Giving God credit for my sobriety would very much like giving credit to the catheter for saving your life after a major surgery. Since, in some small way, it helped. I think that’s pretty damned disrespectful of the doctor, surgical team and nurses, (et al.) that actually did the work. When you word it in this way it seems ridiculous, right? Good. Because people do exactly this all the time except they credit God, not a catheter. I’m not going to do that. It is only denying my own struggle and if I have to struggle, why shouldn’t I get the ‘glory’ as it were?

Here is where it gets murky. In AA the idea of a higher power isn’t ‘god’ specific. Your higher power can be whatever you feel it is. If you are a Christian, it will be Jesus. If you are Jewish it will be Yaweh. And so on. There is a requirement that there be some inclusion of a higher power, however. So where do I fall? I fall in the group of people who smile and nod but aren’t praying. I say the Serenity prayer because I think it’s a great prayer. But, I’m not under the impression that it’s anything more than a poem. I see it as a guide, not a conversation with a deity.

In the twelve steps the term higher power is mentioned often and several steps are entirely devoted to a higher power. So, how do you get through the twelve steps with a real, genuine effort when some of the steps hinge on something you see as nonexistent (and in a lot of ways, downright bad and harmful)? Well. You adjust because ultimately the people in the rooms would rather a sober atheist in their midst than a drunk bible-thumper. That’s the reality, whether others would agree or not, I don’t know. But how I see it is that being sober is about not drinking, learning how to overcome the issues that lead us down the path of alcoholism. That’s at the heart of it all.

More than discovering god or a higher power, people are in the rooms because they have a problem with alcohol. Faith in God and any iteration of a higher power is simply a tool to achieve this. It just happens that we live in a world where a belief in God is common, and accepted as normal. So, because of this we live in a world where AA includes a lot of searching for a higher power. (sigh)

So, here’s what I do to avoid any awkward situations in the rooms surrounding god. First, I never, ever question someone else’s beliefs. The fact is that it doesn’t impact my sobriety, but it might be a huge part of theirs. The last thing I’d ever want to do it negatively impact someone’s sobriety, so I keep my mouth shut. As I’ve mentioned: I support anything that helps someone get and stay sober (within reason). Secondly I just ‘have’ a higher power. I’m still an atheist, but I higher power doesn’t need to be a god. This is where it gets good…

A higher power refers to something more powerful than ones self. Well, if you ask a teacher why they assign students to work together on a project, invariably they say something to the effect of “two heads are better than one.” And I believe that to be true. As humans we are inclined to seek out other humans because there is strength in numbers. Herd mentality is a real thing. So, when I’m in a room full of other people who have a problem with alcohol we are all working together to solve the common problem. Well, this has a better chance at being productive than me by myself. So, the way I look at it is that the people in those meetings are my collective higher power. Those people working together with all their collective thoughts, efforts and points of view combine to achieve more than I ever could solo.

Now, I have news for you. If you spout this idea of what a higher power is to a room full of recovering alcoholics there will be some people who would not accept this idea. That’s cool. Someone’s version of god is a personal matter and does not need dissection or opinions from others. It doesn’t bother me or make me feel as though I need to reevaluate my position. What it allows me to do is move through the steps seamlessly and accept the principles of AA without getting snagged on the idea of a god. It allows me to navigate a world of ‘believers’ that ultimately has much, much more to offer than a search for god. This wonderful collective offers me the chance to learn how to operate without alcohol in my life. And baby, that’s the most important thing!

We get a reprieve for today. My name is David and I can not drink today. That’s about as far as I’m willing to go.

Thanks for reading. I wish you another 24.


A friend of Bill


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