“Trust God. Clean house. Help others.” We have all heard that one before.
Sounds simple enough, but is it really that simple? The most common form of apprehension within recovery organizations, especially twelve-step based programs, lies in the concept of finding a higher power. I have heard people say countless times that “they don’t get the whole God thing.” These uncertainties are not without merit and unfortunately, reluctance to find a higher power keeps many addicts from finding recovery and balance.
With this article, we hope to share some personal experience regarding what it means to find a higher power, and more importantly, why believing in a power greater than yourself has huge benefits in recovery and in life.
God and the Twelve Steps
Very few people come into a twelve-step program with a clear understanding of their beliefs, and even fewer live in spiritual principles. “Living in” the spiritual principles is a concept outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The biggest mistake people make is assuming that a higher power is a predetermined concept that they are forced to accept. It is clearly stated in the Big Book that one should “choose a God of his or her own understanding.” This is very confusing for many people. So what does it mean exactly?
We like to keep it very simple and take an open-minded approach in matters of God. Ideas will differ from person to person. I will speak to my own experience of the journey I took to find a higher power and how it has helped me.
A higher power is simply something bigger than yourself. The idea is simple. It is something to belong to. People need to feel connected to something. It is human instinct for us to need to feel a “part of” and to feel like we belong. For me, a higher power was something as simple as energy.
Like many other young people entering recovery, I was confused with how a God of my understanding would help me. I asked, “What does God have to do with any of this?”
Many addicts spend their lives on a path governed by self-will. Self-will and control is an illusion; it only exists in our own perception of reality. Finding a higher power is a way to give up control and subsequently, give up the burden of the future. The only thing any of us can control are our own actions. That’s it. Everything else is, and always will be, completely out of our control. “Giving it to God” is simply a medium to acceptance. The closer you are connected to your higher power, the easier it is to hand stuff over.
Science and Spirituality
When I first heard this idea, I was defensive. I spent so many years thinking that God was simply a mechanism humans created to give clarity to things we don’t understand. I didn’t, and still don’t, feel comfortable with the idea that life is predestined for us, by God. I am analytical and I like empirical data.
In the beginning of my recovery I was simply taking things at face value. I was acting on suggestions given to me by other people. I heard that if I did these things, I would stay sober and that’s what I wanted. However, I could not deny that very little of this made sense to me. But I kept searching.
Here is what happened for me. I do not say this to impose my beliefs on you. I am simply pointing out that if it is possible for me to find a higher power, it is possible for anyone else who may have doubts.
I’ve always believed that everything in the Universe has energy. Moreover everything IS energy. This is scientifically proven. Everything is connected. I studied this idea. It became clear to me that science and spirituality really aren’t all that different.
Everything in the Universe is connected; the plants, the sky, the stars, and even gravity. It all interacts in perfect harmony to create this beautiful existence and relationship of energy. I realized that I already had a higher power. I didn’t need convincing because it was based on fact. I found that merely being alive meant that I was connected to everyone around me and everything that will ever exist. This was such a revelation. I found something to believe in. At the time, I still didn’t understand why I needed it.
How Can a Higher Power Help Me??
Living in self will brings a lot of pressure. When we try to control the outcome of things, we find that we have little success. Whatever happens, happens without our consent. Understanding that there is a governing force behind everything takes away the burden of control. Whatever is going to happen is just going to happen. The truth is, there is very little you or I or anyone can do about controling the outcome of life.
Surrendering control of results will free your mind and your spirit. Don’t let the Higher Power dilemma keep you from living your life.
An analogy that I find helpful is swimming up current in a river. The river is going to flow however it decides to flow. The river is more powerful than I am. I cannot control the river. What I can control is my actions. If I am stuck in a river I can choose to fight the current. This will leave me exhausted and I will not get anywhere. I will waste energy. My other option is to let the river take me on its own course. So, I can save my energy and live with the results of where my higher power decides I should be. It is tough to not fight the current. It is tough to humbly admit that there is nothing I can do. I assure you, letting the current of life take you is much easier and a much more enjoyable way of life.
A higher power will give you something to belong to. Belonging to something stronger than yourself gives you strength because you are no longer alone. You will be tapped in to an infinite amount of energy. We need only to let go of control and listen to where our higher power is directing us. We all want to feel connected.
How Do I Find A Higher Power?
I realize that what I have said may not make sense to everyone. What is most important is that this message reaches those who are still confused about God. This all sounds well and grand, but how does someone come to believe?
Here are a few straight-forward tips that will help you find what you are searching for.
1 – Be Open Minded
Listen to everything people have to say. You don’t have to agree with everyone. It is absolutely your right to disagree with someone’s views. Still, listen with an open mind. Consume the information and then make a decision weather it works for you or not. You will find you have more in common with other people than you think.
2 – Meditate
Be still. Listen. In life, and especially within our society, it is so difficult to quiet our minds. It is very hard to find peace with so much commotion going on around us all the time. Dedicate some time to be by yourself; no music, no cell phone, no TV. Sit still and practice being in the moment. Do this consistently and you will reach new depths of self-discovery.
3 – Pray
Personally, when I pray I don’t think anyone is listening. I am not convinced there is an all-knowing deity listening to what I have to say. The important thing is that when you pray, you are engaged with your higher power. You are forming a relationship with the governing forces of the Universe. I can’t explain how or why, but I promise you that the Universe will talk back.
4 -Help People
When you serve others, you are getting outside of yourself. When we help other people, all of our own fears and insecurities disappear because we are focused on something outside of ourselves. Serving others is a direct line to understanding a higher power. When you feel the result of a good deed, it is its own reward and you will likely feel a part of something much greater.
5 – Keep Searching
You must stay open to new ideas and discoveries. No one will ever completely understand God. The human condition does not allow for absolute clarity in this. The more answers you find, the more questions you will have. This is a good thing because your willingness to search is directly correlated with your willingness to grow. No matter how content, how old, or, how confident we may become, it is critical that we always keep our mind and our hearts open.
I want to reiterate that nothing I have said today is fact. This is simply an understanding I have formed based on my own personal experience. If you agree with what I have said, that’s great. If I helped you in any way that’s even better. If you think everything I have said is horse shit, that is perfectly fine.
The important part is to see that we all have our own journey and all of us can find that peace and serenity that comes along with being a part of something bigger than ourselves.
When I look up at the night sky and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of these facts is that the Universe is in us.
– Neil deGrasse Tyson