Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 900-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 30th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Higher Power?

Higher Power is a term is a term that one hears frequently in the twelve-step programs.

And Higher Power is a term that a lot of new addicts and alcoholics have a problem with. And I suppose, in some ways, that this is understandable. After all, most addicts and alcoholics that we meet at 12 step meetings or treatment programs didn't get there because they were on a winning streak. They almost all arrived there because life, in one way or the other, kicked their asses.

And Higher Power pops up a lot in the rooms and sometimes one even hears the word "God." And if one wants to have problem with the twelve-step programs this is an easy and obvious way to start. A lot of people object to the idea of having to believe in anything or anybody – especially a power greater than themselves.

But if one sticks around the rooms long enough and is under the guidance of a wise sponsor she/he will come to understand that there are many powers and forces in our world that are greater than ourselves.

My personal opinion – and I emphasize that this is my personal opinion – is that people use the idea of "God" or "Higher Power" as a way to not commit to the program, as a sort of backdoor because they really haven't yet committed to their sobriety and recovery. Now I could understand their feelings if some denominational church or worldwide religion were pushing this idea upon them. And there are churches that do have twelve-step programs. But as far as I know, none are registered with the central office of any of the twelve-step programs that I'm familiar with.

For those who have trouble with the concept of a higher power I suggest they think of it in a more philosophical fashion. Perhaps they take a walk on the beach, sit down, and marvel as the waves roll into the shore, then recede gently back into the depths of the ocean. One doesn't have to believe in God to accept the idea that a power greater than themselves has created this marvel they are witnessing. Or perhaps they take a walk into a forest or canyon and recognize that some force greater than themselves created that wonderful landscape.

And sometimes I see things as being created by a power greater than myself – a spiritual force – in modern projects. I once drove two to three times a month between Phoenix and Las Vegas on business on US Highway 93 over about 12 years. I passed over the Colorado River via Hoover dam on each trip, where a bridge was being built so that people wouldn't have to drive across the dam any longer. It took some seven years to build the dam, which is considered the longest concrete arch in the world. And during my trips I would observe the project as it slowly arose from each bank of the Colorado River where it was to meet in the center. I marveled at the expanse of the project. I was amazed that a group of human beings could cooperate in such a way as to create what is a truly amazing structure when looked at from below. (Driving over the bridge from the top, one might barely notice it if they weren't aware of the project before hand.)

I was able to witness the project from beginning to end, and because I only took trips out there every few weeks I could see the slow progress of the project and marvel at the idea of so many diverse people working together toward one goal. And when they finally completed the arch it was reported that it was only three quarters of an inch off from one side of the concrete span to the other – which to me was a miracle.

One doesn't have to look far to see powers greater than themselves: think the corona virus that's spread all over today's news, witness the devastation of typhoons and hurricanes and forest fires and floods and perhaps visualize yourself as having more power than such forces. It's okay if someone doesn't want to get sober. But to use the concept of a Higher Power as an excuse to not do so is rather naive.

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