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October 18, 2019

What is a Higher Power and How do You Find It


One of the biggest hurdles for newly sober addicts and alcoholics just leaving inpatient treatment is grasping and developing their own conception of a Higher Power. Many of us come from situations or families where we have been handed an image of what that Higher Power should look like, and let’s be honest, it rubs most of us the wrong way. 

So, when we are faced with the decision to either surrender to a spiritual way of living or suffer until we die, how can we drop the resentment and discover our Higher Power?

First, forget what you know

As was previously mentioned, most of us come in here with preconceived notions of what is right, what is wrong, and who or what God is. Many of us feel abandoned by the God we were raised with, and some of us never even had one, to begin with. 

When we want to develop a NEW relationship with a Higher Power, because we have been told by others that it worked for them, we have to forge our own path. Whether it means straying from what we have known or walking towards it, the point is that we are making some sort of contact. 

From one agnostic alcoholic addict to anyone who cares, here is what I did:

  • Cherry-pick what you like from other religions and beliefs, forget what you don’t 
  • Lean into new avenues of “spirituality” that you are curious about
  • Ask people you trust about their Higher Power, and how they found there’s
  • Use the rooms and the fellowship as your Higher Power until you feel comfortable finding your own

Second, MAKE FREQUENT CONTACT

The eleventh step is worded “sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact”. Notice the bolded words. We SEEK to IMPROVE our CONSCIOUS contact. In other words, we aren’t going to do it perfectly. The point is that we are searching for a better connection every day. 

In order to do this – as foolish or pointless as it might feel in the beginning, we have to make contact. How you do this is completely up to you, and this will evolve and develop as you progress in your sobriety. Some of the tried and true methods are:

  • Prayer (I pray in the form of a chatty conversation, rather than on my knees)
  • Meditation
  • Journaling

When the book says meditation, it doesn’t necessarily mean sitting on a mountain top cross-legged with a completely empty mind. The original 100 writers of the book were describing focused thought. This could be anything from spiritual reading and pondering to an actual meditation.

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Third, don’t worry about looking stupid

The coolest thing about finding your own Higher Power is that it is YOUR OWN higher Power. Literally, no one cares who or what your HP is, as long as it isn’t you. This means you have the complete creative freedom to pray or chat with or write to WHATEVER Higher Power feels comfortable for you. 

It is going to feel weird at first, especially if you have some resentments or angst against a past life of organized prayer, but hey man, if you wanna dance and shout while you talk to your God, have at it. 

When I was first getting sober, I couldn’t really shape my own conception of a Higher Power, so I used the grandmother tree from the movie Pocahontas for a long time. To be honest, I sometimes still do. I would have to go sit under or hold my hands onto a tree when I wanted to pray. I figured this developed from the years of eating mushrooms in the woods, but hey, it worked. 

Fourth, enhance, enhance, enhance

Again, and to reiterate until the cows come home, the best and most effective way to figure out your Higher Power, is to continue to chat, evolve, and connect with whatever works for you. Drop the judgment against yourself and what you have been told. Take this time to explore what feels right, what doesn’t, and what you want more of. 

I realize that many of us will be hesitant and completely doubtful that finding a Higher Power will help us stay sober, so let me tell you why it has worked for me. 

Grandmother Tree

I grew up agnostic, my parents didn’t go to church, and neither did we. I always knew I felt something magical when I would explore the woods or play in my backyard. That started to fade as I got into drugs and alcohol. 

It wasn’t until I discovered hallucinogens that a similar sort of feeling to that childlike wonder came back. Then the coke and heroin stomped out any hope of that feeling again. 

When I got sober and experienced my first feeling of a connection to a Higher Power, it felt like that same feeling. That childlike wonder, the warm feeling in my tummy. I experienced it after being told to just “give it up to God” at a moment when I was ready. I went outside and did a little ceremony of giving this problem over to a God that I did not understand or even feel comfortable talking to. When I did, I felt it. Ever since then, reconnecting to that feeling has been what has made me want to continue my sobriety when things get dark. 

I have had wonderful conversations with other members of the fellowship on the topic of Higher Powers.  No one really disagrees with each other. Out in the real world, wars are fought and people are killed over it. In here, we have the freedom to decide who we surrender our thoughts and our actions to. The value lies less in what is in, and more in that we are doing it.