If you are a person with deep religious convictions, hearing that you need to believe in a power greater than yourself in order to recover makes a lot of sense. But if you are an atheist or agnostic, or if your faith has been shaken by tragedy or loss, you may not want to hear that you should not only believe in but rely on a power greater than yourself. For many people, faith in a higher power is the core of their recoveries. There are many ways to define a power greater than yourself, however.

Newcomers who don’t have strong religious convictions are sometimes turned off by 12-step programs when they hear people talk about a higher power. They may feel that 12-step programs are religious programs and for that reason probably won’t work for them. But although some people are comfortable bringing their religious beliefs into their recoveries, it isn’t imperative that you have strong religious convictions in order to recover using the 12 steps.

The Freedom to Choose Your Higher Power

The good news is that you have complete freedom to define your own higher power. You don’t have to follow the path of traditional religions and you don’t have to believe in anything in particular just because other people may want you to. You can choose to believe in anything that makes sense to you and gives you strength, courage, and something to hold onto.

Some people in recovery since a power greater than themselves in nature. The sun and the stars are bright, beautiful and powerful. The wind can be a strong reminder that there is a commanding force moving through the universe. You can witness the power of nature in storms, in ocean waves, in the transformation that occurs every season. You can choose Mother Nature or the universe itself as your higher power.

Belief in the Group

For people who feel resistant or reluctant to turn their lives over to any kind of God or even to the power of nature or the universe, consider simply believing in the unity of the recovery group itself. Many people in recovery say that God stands for Group of Drunks, and that is the God that has the power to keep them sober and to heal their lives.

There is something transformative and healing when a group of alcoholics or addicts gets together and shares experiences, strengths and hopes. As you get to know the people at the meetings you attend, you will be able to witness amazing changes in other people that are nothing short of miraculous. It’s often easier to recognize change and growth in other people than it is to see changes in yourself. As you see people make incredible transformations in their lives, you may come to believe that there really is a power greater than yourself, and it is in the group itself.

Other Forms of Faith

When you attend meetings with an open mind, you will hear many interpretations of what God is, or what kind of power people rely on as part of their recovery journeys. The definitions of a higher power are probably as varied as the many people recovering in 12-step programs. While you may not agree with some of what you hear, you may also hear perspectives that you never considered before.

You may not be comfortable with the concept of God that you learn about in any church or other religious establishments. You may instead believe that the power that keeps you sober is some kind of spiritual force that can’t be defined or described but that you know is there. Or faith may be as simple as recognizing that there is some kind of higher power and that it isn’t you.

Your definition of a higher power may evolve as time goes on. Your convictions may seem strong and unwavering, but over time your beliefs may change slightly. You have the freedom to define your own higher power in whatever way works for you. Believe that there is some sort of power that works to keep you away from a drink or a drug one day at a time. If all else fails, simply believe that others believe.

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