Let’s face it, taking the first wobbly steps down the road to recovery is filled with uncertainty and can at times be downright scary. There are no antecedents and no previous native experience that we have to be our guide in this new journey. The road to recovery is more like a tightrope with no margin for error if we stumble or fall. It is essential that the newly recovering individual finds support in the recovery community which provides the basic foundation and a safe haven. Twelve-step programs like AA or NA are the best places to find that community—however, for some there is some hesitation.
When people are thinking of joining a twelve step program or already are part of a home group, they read and hear the three steps emphasized repeatedly and with verve. Those first three steps state that 1) we admitted that we were powerless over our addiction and 2) we came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity and 3) made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him. The first step for most is easily understood—we are seeking support and help because we are powerless in our addiction.
We tried to live life of our own free will but in reality we were the puppets and the addiction was pulling the strings. While we can acknowledge the powerlessness aspect of addiction the declarations made in the second and third steps commonly cause hesitation, apprehension and may often turn people away from the recovery community and recovery itself. The whole higher power concept is one that tends to rub people against the grain for a myriad of reasons.
One reason is the simple fact that when someone hears the term higher power is means God and when God is mentioned the veritable Pandora’s Box can open up and all sorts of connotations can fly free. For some they may have come from a religious background and through a culmination of events or the flashpoint of a singular event turned away from God. When those events occur, there may be a sense of betrayal and an overall sense of being lied to. With that in mind, turning over one’s will to a higher power is equated to feelings of possibly being let down.
Another reason may be the fact the person grew up in a sort of spiritual vacuum. They may have never attended a church and their parents maybe never subscribed to a denomination or religious belief. They lived life on life’s terms—which in of itself is not necessarily a bad life philosophy. While being pragmatic isn’t necessarily a problem, being pragmatic without some sort of moral compass can be troublesome. For the newly recovered person in this category, it isn’t necessarily the case they don’t think a higher power may exist; it may be a foreign concept for them to understand.
A more common reason that people may bristle at the notion of a higher power boils down to the matter of control. Human beings crave control—over situations, settings, and perceptions of self and by proxy how others perceive them. We want our lives to be how we envision it: successful, filled to the brim with pleasure and full of happiness and love. When those illusions are shattered by the gravity of reality, we seek avenues that give us a measure of control such as the use of alcohol and drugs.
A possible way to envision a higher power concept in recovery is to move away from its’ association from an entity, being or single thing. The touchstones of recovery is feeling a genuine sense of humility and gratitude and part of feeling those things is to realize that we as human beings are a tiny jigsaw puzzle piece in the greater schema. Look at the limitlessness of the universe and the great scope of nature. If you have ever stood under the base of a mountain or been at the mouth of a great body of water you realize there are greater things at work and working together to provide a power that can be seen with the eyes and felt with the soul.
That “higher power” doesn’t have to be God in the most literal sense (though if it is and it works that is awesome). A higher power can be that ideal image that is held in the deepest recesses of the mind and soul. What are the pieces that comprise that puzzle? Is it benevolence or righteousness? Is it humility, grace and forgiveness? Whatever the pieces may be, once it forms flesh, bones and blood in your mind breathe life into it, share it with others and let others share with you.
Despite the proliferation of social media and the advent of recovery sites, forums and chat rooms, recovery will not blossom in the long-term. While those avenues can be solid supplements, the best way to grow and prosper in recovery is to be part of the analog recovery community, one of flesh and blood where you can see and be seen, heard and be heard.
Tim Powers – bald, tattooed, a business professional by day and rocker by night. Sober by the grace of God since the 8th of May in the year of our Lord 2003. Sharing my stories and myself in order to pay it forward. You can follow me on Twitter @tpowersbass42