Finding A Higher Power: A Spiritual, Not Religious Process

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A Spiritual Rather Than a Religious Program

When it comes to recovery, the program maintains a focus that is spiritually-based as opposed to religiously-based. Finding a higher power is of the utmost importance to the successful practice of a recovery program. We require simply the belief in a higher power as opposed to a god in the traditional monotheistic sense of the word. The two may not seem as vastly different as they truly are.

Throughout my journey in life both before and after recovery, this imperative difference in identity between the two was muddled in confusion and a lack of true comprehension. This unintentional ignorance coupled with religious concepts I was force-fed at a young, impressionable age kept me from the pursuit of any sort of spiritual connectivity whatsoever. Subsequently, this lack of connectivity to anything other than ambiance left me with a severe void in my life, thus fueling my addiction.

Confusing the Two

When it came to any sort of spirituality, I was doomed from the very beginning. My parents made the decision to opt to enroll me in the local private Catholic school rather than allowing me to pursue my education in the public school system.

The curriculum and overall educational standards were far superior to anything being provided in public school, and considering I was their only child, my parents insisted on the best educational experience I could obtain.

It was here I was first introduced to the tradition of Roman Catholicism. As both an integral portion of the actual curriculum as well as the social aspects of the school, these traditions were immediately implemented from my first day until my last day of school.

I entered my Catholic school’s kindergarten program and from age 5 until my ultimate departure to the public school system at age 15, I was subjected to the practices of the religion. Neither of my parents were practicing Christians, so my first exposure was in the school setting, vastly different than the other children whose families were all active members of the church community.

This lack of familial involvement in the community immediately put a target on my back for the administration, as the children of the more active members in both the volunteer and donation aspects were blatantly favored in the school.

The Birth of the Rebel

I was born with a natural affinity to the sciences and logistical thinking. This, coupled with natural inquisitorial nature, made many of the religious themes and preaching not very palpable. I was often in trouble for questioning the Religion teachers as well as presenting my rebellious streak in my lack of willingness to participate in religious ceremonies.

Over time, the combination of the discrimination I felt at the hands of the school and consistent reprimands and disciplinary actions taken against me allowed for a nice, ripe resentment towards religion to flourish.

When I finally departed the Catholic school system at age 15, I already had over a decade to foster my resentment. Upon my induction to the public school educational system, my rebellious and inquisitorial nature took on a negative connotation as I used these traits to begin my drug and alcohol addiction, which would subsequently take me on my journey to recovery.

Endlessly Searching

By age 18 I entered my first detox and rehab treatment facility. It was here I was first presented with the ideation of spirituality and the encouragement to implement a 12-step program. Remaining adamant in my disposition towards anything intangible, I immediately rejected any notion of spirituality.

I was too much of an intellectual to actually accept that there was something out there that reflected the concepts of organized religions. I was neither ready nor open to the idea of finding a higher power. I felt I could do it my own way without finding a higher power.

As a result of my stubbornness, upon my release from the treatment facility, I failed to actively and honestly work a thorough program. The subsequent relapse was both imminent and swift.

I would spend many nights, sick from my drug use, desperately reading my boyfriend’s tattered Bible, hoping that maybe this God everyone would speak of in recovery would come down upon me and save me from myself. He did not. I failed to realize finding a higher power was a journey in and of itself, and no foxhole prayers would save me.

And so, I suffered.

Another stint in rehab later, I found myself in the same predicament as I had before. With no seismic interior changes to speak of, I was back using drugs in the same dysfunction I always did. The consequences of my using arrived with an unprecedented quickness this time, with the threat of being evicted from my halfway house staring me in the face within weeks of my arrival.

The Death of the Non-Believer

After much imploring forgiveness and fraudulent promises, I was granted leniency and allowed to stay on the conditional meeting attendance and actually working a program. I fervently agreed to adhere to all guidelines set before me. Before the manager was even out of the driveway I found myself in the bathroom using the last little bit of narcotics I had in my possession.

However, despite it being a seemingly normal day in the life of an addict, that day was inherently divergent.

I had what they refer to in the program as my “moment of clarity”. The higher power I had earnestly declared nonexistent had reached into my life right there. I felt a peace fall over me, and in that very singular, spectacular moment, I knew that I never wanted to use again. This wasn’t the life I had pictured for myself. Drugs were no longer the object of my obsession.

I wanted to cling to this feeling forever.

I began attending meetings and actually delving into the program of recovery without apprehension. I still did not have a concept of a higher power formulated quite yet, but my internal existential dilemma had been quelled. I knew that indeed, something did exist out there in the recesses of the universe.

Through honing my program over the course of the last few years, finding a higher power became easy for me. I have been able to implement a conception of spirituality that works for me. That’s the beauty of recovery; it’s spiritual and not religious. I could finally comprehend that integral difference.

Where Science and Spirituality Meet

For me, being the logistical and scientifically-inclined individual that I am, the ideation of a cognitive higher power still exists beyond the reaches of my mind. But what I have found works in my particular case is that energy makes sense to me.

Energy cannot be created nor destroyed; it merely changes forms. It is infinite; it exists within and around everything and possesses either a positive or negative connotation. It was through finally opening my mind and possessing the willingness to find a higher power that dug me out of the trenches of my battle with addiction and joining my brothers and sisters in recovery.

While I’m not saying that my particular conception is superior or inferior to the next person’s, my journey to finding a higher power is uniquely my own. What works for me today may not in a few months or years down the road, but the benefit of it being a spiritual, not religious program is that I can utilize the freedom to conceptualize at my leisure.

If you or anyone you know is currently struggling with addiction, know that you’re not alone. Our knowledgeable and experienced admissions staff are available 24/7 to provide information and assistance in obtaining drug and alcohol treatment. Give us a call at Pathway to Hope at 844-557-8575 or contact us online.

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  • I am a beginner in AA but it is obvious that tis igher power ting is important to the success of the program. Not sure how to begin the search.

  • This is the exact conversation I had with my sponsor today. I am currently on step 3 of my program after two years of clean time followed by a progressively worse lapse. The difference? I am actually have a program this time, and one that I designed based on my beliefs and personal conception of my higher power. Funny thing is that is in allowing it to be my own it keeps me accountable (no religion to blame) as well as motivated to continue to grow in my spirituality. This was a great article to read and exactly what I needed to hear today. Coincidence? Never. Thanks!

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