What Does ‘’Dependence on a Higher Power” Actually Look Like?

dependence on a higher power

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Whether we are an alcoholic or addict, both, or neither, we’ve likely had some experience with the various styles of spirituality that people engage in. Whatever we believe or practice — or don’t believe and don’t practice — we are likely aware of many of the ways that people engage with the spiritual side of life. There are no right or wrong answers for our purposes here today. What we each believe is personal and private and wholly up to the individual. However, if you are an alcoholic or addict like us, you’ve obviously encountered the spiritual language in the 12-Steps of recovery and hopefully read what the literature of recovery has to say on the topic. If not, grab the book Alcoholics Anonymous and read the chapter titled “We Agnostics.” And now, let’s dive in.

To Each Their Own

Recovery does not demand any specifics or place any limits on what you believe. However, it does raise the solid point that we need some kind of higher power to help us recover from alcoholism and addiction. After all, if our own power were sufficient, we surely wouldn’t have needed the program of recovery — yet here we are. On this journey of discovery, we are encouraged to let this higher power reveal itself to us as we work the 12-Steps. The 12-Steps are literally designed to produce within us the necessary psychic change and vital spiritual experience that can bring about recovery. It is an unfolding and emergent process of taking the spiritual actions of the 12-Steps and coming to discover and understand a higher power of our very own.

The connection to and reliance on this power enables us to recover, but what that higher power looks like and feels like is not dictated by anyone. The 12-Steps merely facilitate our beginning to answer these questions for ourselves. There are no decisions made for us when it comes to what our higher power is or how we understand it.

We Come to Understand

The language used in the 12-Steps and the literature of recovery does mention God a lot. But upon closer investigation, we can see that the word and idea of God are simply the most easily understood and accessible ways to refer to a power greater than ourselves. Saying “higher power” and “power greater than ourselves” is not the smoothest form of speech, but this is absolutely what is meant when we see the word God in the 12-Steps or the Big Book. Our higher power is the one we come to understand as we work the 12-Step program of recovery. So if we are confused, angry, or simply lost on the entire subject of higher powers and/or God, the best thing we can do to begin to shine some light on this part of our lives is to work the 12-Steps.

Rigorous and thorough completion of The 12-Steps can not only save our lives and help us recover from alcoholism and addiction, but they can begin to clarify our own personal spiritual journey. This is similar to the concept of faith — we don’t have to believe in a specific God, or any God at all, to practice faith. As the book Alcoholics Anonymous explains, we use faith when we flip a light switch. We take action, believing wholeheartedly in the best possible outcome. Most of us don’t even notice that we’re using a little faith when we flip the switch and the light comes on. For recovery, faith, open-mindedness, and willingness are needed to begin. We have to muster them up for ourselves and within ourselves. Of course, our recovery community is going to help a lot along the way. So will that mysterious higher power we have yet to discover or understand. So take a leap of faith and start working the 12-Steps. The important answers will come as we go along.

Dependence on a Higher Power

You’re going to hear this phrase a lot in recovery. It may not make a ton of sense until you come to understand a higher power of your own. You’ll also hear alcoholics and addicts talk about needing to “depend” or “rely” upon their higher power. For a lack of power is our dilemma, and by definition a power greater than ourselves has more power than us. We need access to that power to recover and live our best possible life. How we begin that relationship is by working the 12-Steps. But how do we come to depend on our higher power? Spoiler alert — we’ve already kind of talked about it.

Faithful action is the best evidence that we are depending on our higher power. We don’t have to take big leaps of faith all day, every day. But just like the light switch, we will need to take steps of faith pretty much constantly. Even if the higher power we come to rely on is the 12-Steps or our recovery community, we will need to take daily actions with plenty of faith to remain connected to our higher power. This may look a little different each day, but will most often mean prayer, meditation, 12-Step work, and being of service. It will also mean letting go of demands and loosening our grip on the results. We must come to trust our higher power for all events in our life, big or small.

It’s like this. We know as human beings that we can get sick, but we don’t live every day in fear of a mortal disease. We know that we need to take care of our health every day, and we do our best. When we get sick, we go see a doctor and follow their instructions, believing that we will get better. If we get exceptionally bad health news, we follow our doctor’s orders even more closely, do everything we can to get healthy, and then ultimately rely on our higher power, trusting that our lives are in the hands of the very same force that helped us recover from alcoholism or addiction. This may be an extreme example, but dependence on a higher power ultimately boils down to taking faithful actions every day and believing in the thing that saved our lives from our deadly disease.

Alcoholism and addiction are all too often a fatal disease, but there is a solution. We do not have to lose our lives to this disease. The 12-Step program of recovery is designed to produce the necessary psychic change and vital spiritual experience that are required for lifelong freedom from alcoholism and addiction. Those who honestly and faithfully take the 12-Steps and actively engage with all elements of the program often find themselves free, restored, and living happy, whole, and meaningful lives in recovery. It doesn’t matter what you have tried before or how many times you’ve slipped before. Recovery is still possible for you. At Jaywalker Lodge, we specialize in helping men who have struggled to maintain their recovery finally achieve lasting sobriety. We’ve been in your shoes, and we found the way out. No matter what your story is, we are ready to help you find long-term recovery. To learn more, call Jaywalker Lodge now at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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