Finding a “Higher Power” When You’re Not Religious

Finding a “Higher Power” When You’re Not Religious

by Alek Sabin

When it comes to healing from addiction, the 12-Steps program, which originated in Alcoholics Anonymous, is one of the highest regarded programs in existence. It has helped millions of alcoholics and other addicts reclaim control over their lives and build a foundation for personal growth that lasts a lifetime. However, there is a very religious underpinning to the 12-Step program. 6 of the 12 steps directly reference the acceptance and interaction with something called a “higher power.”

For many people, this higher power is found through a personal relationship with God, or some religious connection. Does this mean that you need to be religious and believe in God to benefit from the 12-Step program? Not exactly. The idea of a higher power in addiction recovery is less wrapped up in specific dogma, and has more to do with the personal relationship that you share with it. Because of this, it is possible for addicts who are atheistic and agnostic to find their own higher power. Let’s look at how this can be done!

What Exactly Is a Higher Power?

First of all, it’s important to define and understand what a higher power is, exactly. The third step in the 12-Step program tells the individual to turn over their will and lives to a higher power as they understand that high power. As such, a higher power needs to be something that you can put your willpower into that will drive you towards sobriety. This is often described as an inner resource, which functions as a moral compass. A helpful way to think of this is as a higher purpose, rather than as a higher power.

Being Spiritual, but Not Religious

“I’m spiritual, not religious.” That is a common phrase to hear today, and it showcases one potential way to find that higher power outside of religion. Oftentimes, this approach still caters to a metaphysical approach to life. Even though you may not be part of a specific denomination, or even believe in a traditional God, you still are placing some value in a togetherness or binding life force. This type of spirituality can be an obvious form of a higher power, and can be an easy way to channel a similar type of strength into recovery.

What If You’re Not Spiritual?

The above option only works if your ideology can be classified in that non-religious, spiritual-positive aspect. However, what if you aren’t spiritual? Well, you don’t need to be spiritual at all to find a higher ideal than your own self-interest. The tenets of humanism, community, charity, and family are all ideals that don’t require belief in anything of a metaphysical nature. They are around you and you can interact with them, but they still function as something that is larger than the individual. These can all function as somewhat of a higher power that you can put your willpower into, and serve as a stepping stone towards achieving lasting sobriety.

Examples of Places to Put Your Higher Power

How do you find your higher power? Oftentimes, it takes a difficult period of self-reflection. An introspective journey can tell you what really matters to you, and what can fuel your drive to build a foundation that leads to sobriety. Here are some examples of places that you can find your higher power:

  • Nature: The natural world around you is majestic, powerful, and inspiring. It also puts things into perspective about how much bigger the world is than just the pleasure of one person.
  • Arts: Music, performance, and writing all have the power to move individuals, and can be poignant places to put a higher ideal. Art has the power to inspire in a way that few things can, which showcases how it can function as a higher power.
  • Family: Addiction recovery often requires a strong social network, which is often made up of family members. The intrinsic bonds we share with our family can function as a higher purpose to place your will into.
  • Goodness: No one religion has a monopoly on morality. Humanity has come together to define critical moral truths that have made the world a better place. Such goodness can function as a powerful higher purpose.
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