Losing my Higher Power

In 12 Steps fellowships, we talk a lot about God (however we understand Him). Some people prefer to use the term ‘Higher Power’.

For some people, their ‘Higher Power’ is simply a way of talking about the many benefits that the fellowship brings.

A month ago, I felt I was constantly in touch with my Higher Power. But for the last 2-3 weeks, that feeling became more and more rare, until I started to wonder if I’d ever really felt anything at all or maybe I’d just made it all up.

The good news is that the feeling has fully come back today – I’m in touch with my Higher Power again.

If you’re a scientific thinker, it might seem daft to make decisions based on intangible feelings like being connected to a Higher Power. But if you’re a more intuitive or spiritual type, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

It’s just a kind of knowing. Scientific facts are one kind of knowing, but there are certain things we know just because we feel them.

And I promise you, this type of knowing happens even to the most scientific atheists out there, it’s just that they may not be consciously aware of it.

So, what happened while my faith was wobbling recently? A few things…

  • I believed I could keep myself away from drugs without any external help.
  • I felt I didn’t really need to be part of a 12 Steps fellowship any more.
  • I was resisting doing “step work” – I’m currently on Step 1 of the 12 Steps and there’s a comprehensive workbook I’m gradually making my way through. But it’s hard work and uncomfortable – I was wondering if I really needed to put myself through that discomfort.
  • I was getting a bit fed up with the dogma and some of the slightly weird aspects of the 12 Steps.

So, twice in the last few weeks, I messaged my sponsor to say I felt the 12 Steps were no longer for me and I was going to take care of myself instead.

But as soon as my thumbs had typed those messages, I had a sinking heart and a strong physical sensation that I had made the wrong decision.

I talked it over with my ever-patient and understanding wife. She pointed out that I was focussing heavily on a couple of minor things that I didn’t like about the 12 Steps, whilst ignoring all of its benefits.

In other words, I was throwing the baby out with the bath water.

I decided it would be much better if I could just accept or ignore the small bits which bothered me, and focus instead on all the parts of 12 Steps that I like and find beneficial.

Luckily, veterans at 12 Steps know how difficult it can be for newly clean addicts like me. Both times, my sponsor was understanding and welcomed me back with open arms. I’m really grateful to him.

In the last week, it’s become increasingly clear to me that drugs aren’t my real problem. They’re just a symptom of other underlying issues.

And guess what – those are the kind of issues that 12 Steps fellowships are experts at helping people to overcome.

I said to myself, “There’s this lovely organisation of wonderful people who really seem to understand a lot about addiction, what it’s like to be an addict, the thinking patterns, the self-destructive behaviours… and they want to help me… and it’s basically free too.

It would be mad not to be a part of 12 Steps!

And then I also realised… these addicts, over time some of them might actually grow to become my friends. Maybe even really close friends. With 12 Steps, I’ve got a wonderful method of socialising with people who truly want the best for me. That’s going to help my depression too. And I’ve been saying for years that I need more local friends.

But, at this point, my “Higher Power” was still a sticking point. I had so many doubts. What exactly is it? Why do I need it? What’s the best way for me personally to think about it so that I don’t feel I’m compromising myself?

I think I’m finding some answers now which I feel comfortable with. My Higher Power (God) could be any or all of the following:

  • A part of my unconscious mind which wants the best for me;
  • Fate or Destiny;
  • A way of describing the love, kindness and supportive environment at 12 Steps fellowships.

I realised – I feel intellectually comfortable with any of those definitions. I definitely don’t feel I’m trying to fool myself.

The more I thought about my Higher Power, the more I realised there are some really great benefits in believing in God, especially for addicts.

I’ve mentioned before that I now believe it’s worth holding a belief purely for its utilitarian value, even if part of us suspects it may not be objectively (scientifically) true.

For one thing, at 12 Steps fellowships, we’re encouraged to surrender our will to our Higher Power (however we understand Him/it). On the face of it, surrendering might seem strange. I’m a competent and (mostly) sensible man in my 40s, why do I need to surrender to anyone or anything? But then I realised… that’s just my ego talking. My ego wants to stay in control.

When we surrender to a Higher Power, we release our need to control the outcome of our efforts. Sure, we are still 100% responsible for putting the hard work in. But sometimes our best laid plans fall apart. When our plans go wrong, if we believe it’s the will of a Higher Power, it makes it much easier to avoid getting stressed or upset. This is hugely beneficial!

Another useful psychological function of surrendering: it makes us more humble, more willing to accept our own limitations, more willing to be open-minded and consider new ways of living or being which we’d previously dismissed.

Being humble is a really good thing. It means we accept we don’t have all the answers, making us more willing to learn and change.

So, there you go. I was a Doubting Thomas for a few weeks, but I feel I’m back in touch with God again. And it feels good… really good.

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