In the recovering alcoholic and addict communities across the nation and throughout the world, that question is asked almost every day. Many if not most men and women who begin the journey from drinking and drugging to living clean and sober struggle with just finding some concept of God, as they are strongly urged to do. Developing an active relationship with a God who will play a constant and critical role in their life in recovery is even more foreign.
That three-letter word, god, is off-putting to some, discouraging to others and infuriating to still others. The very mention of the word is enough to turn some away, keeping them from making use of recovery programs and communities that could help transform their lives. Without investigating, they reject all 12-Step programs as being too “religious” and, tragically, use this misconception as an excuse to continue drinking.
The book, Alcoholics Anonymous, has several appendices, one of which is entitled, “Spiritual Experience”. Only a page and a half long, it is well worth reading and internalizing. The section ends with the following quote:
“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance----that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
As a recovering addict, as well as in my role of working with alcoholics and addicts as an M.D. Addictionist, I see so many people in the early stages of living sober become angry or fearful when they are told they must find a Higher Power. They protest at being told that that they can no longer “do it themselves,” as they have tried to do all of their lives. The saying “your best thinking got you here,” meaning that your own thinking and behavior got you in enough trouble with alcohol and drugs to land in a recovery program, provokes a puzzled look. Yet once digested, this statement may persuade the alcoholic to accept the need for something outside of him to help, even to take control of his life.
To those who believe they are in charge and can live by will alone, the idea of enlisting outside help in the form of a Higher Power can seem uncomfortable or even terrifying—not to be in charge may bring back memories of a childhood where they were victims of the alcoholism and abuse from the adults in their lives. Others just find the concept of God to be perplexing, challenging, or simply too difficult. Even those raised in traditional Judeo-Christian homes, or those who have regularly attended churches or synagogues often struggle with accepting the concept of a God who can help them run their lives. They may believe in God, but they don’t necessarily trust that they can develop a working relationship with God in the initial struggle to live a life free of alcohol and drugs. The concept of a bond with God, an ongoing and constant relationship is, in fact, not typically discussed, much less taught in churches and synagogues. More likely, one raised in a religion has been taught just that: religion. Bible scholars may know where to find verses, what church doctrine says and the history of their particular sect and yet not have that personal relationship with God.
The need for, although perhaps not the desire for a Higher Power, is addressed throughout the 12 Steps, beginning in Step Two (We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity) and Step Three (We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him). It comes up again in Step Seven (We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings) and then is elaborated upon in Step Eleven (We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out). Unfortunately, many people who come into AA, NA or other programs do not work through the steps. They may remain abstinent from their drug of choice, but they often simply change drugs, perhaps switching to a process addiction such as sex or work, or to food. Or, despite not using alcohol or other drugs, they just endure constant pain and struggle, especially in their relationships. Never able to accept the God concept, they miss so much they could have.
Dr. Obrecht’s new book, Who’s Your Higher Power, Finding a God of Your own Understanding, will be available through www.docdawn.com and on Amazon, in June, 2013.
This book shines the spotlight on all those struggles, concerns, fears and anger around finding a Higher Power. As you or someone you love may know well, finding a “God of Your Understanding” is a life-and-death issue. Alcoholics and addicts who steadfastly refuse to open their minds to this basic tenet of recovery are unable to take advantage of all that recovery and, indeed, life has to offer. Don’t let this happen to you!
Copyright, D.V. Obrecht, M.D. 2013
Photo Courtesy of: flickr