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Higher Power or No Higher Power, That is the Question....

recoveryprogrammeetingstepspathwaysaanarecovery dharmacelebrate recoverysmart recovery

Becky Grant on February 10, 2020 at 10:43 AM


I’ve been thinking a lot about the different ways people learn, and in the case of recovery from addictions, how they recover. It’s been said that there is no right or wrong pathway to recovery so long as it works for you and doesn’t harm anyone else. While I’ve seen an impressive long-term recovery rate in my chosen recovery program, I don’t fault anyone for trying to find “an easier, softer way.”

Up until recently, every recovery program I’d come across had at least one thing in common. Besides a desire to abstain from whatever it is you’re addicted to, they also instruct you to find a Higher Power, or a “Power Greater than Yourself.” Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are very similar programs with steps and traditions that center around a Higher Power. This can turn some people off because it sounds too religious to them. Although some recovery programs specifically label this higher power “God,” it isn’t that way with most of them.

Celebrate Recovery is a “Christ-centered, 12 step recovery program for anyone struggling with hurt, pain or addiction of any kind.” The ministry of Celebrate Recovery was born in a church, and although it has spread to recovery houses, universities, and prisons, it is still a religious program. The creator even claims that God gave him the vision for the Celebrate Recovery program.

I was introduced to Recovery Dharma last summer. Recovery Dharma is NOT a faith-based program. They are a “peer-led movement using Buddhist practices and principles to overcome addiction through meditation, personal inquiry, and community.” Their program doesn’t require you to believe in a God or Higher Power of any kind. While many people use Recovery Dharma as an alternative to traditional 12 step meetings, many people also consider it an addition to their program.

SMART Recovery teaches “scientifically validated methods” for recovery. It doesn’t focus on a higher power and it doesn’t require any type of faith in anything. They believe “The use of religious or spiritual beliefs and practices in recovery is a personal choice and not a part of our program.” On their website it also states, “While the SMART approach differs in some ways from AA and NA, it does not exclude them. Some SMART participants also choose to attend AA or NA meetings.”

Now that I’ve given you a few examples of popular recovery programs, I’m going to tell you a little about my personal experience and views. I finally hit my own personal rock bottom on June 1, 2017 and admitted I was powerless over alcohol and my life had become unmanageable. I was willing to do anything to change things. One of the first things I did was google where to find a meeting so I could learn how others recovered and how to do the same thing.        

At my very first meeting they introduced the higher power idea. Although I was raised Catholic and believed in God, my feelings were complicated. How was I supposed to trust this God to restore me to sanity and turn my will and my life over to His care when he had let so many bad things happen to me and my children? I had begged him to get us through difficult situations time after time and felt as though He had abandoned me.

The thing was, I knew I could never drink again. I knew how to quit drinking temporarily, because I’d done that many times in the past, but I didn’t know how to live the rest of my life without my best friend, alcohol. I needed to stay sober, and I didn’t know how to do it alone. I had to trust these people who came before me and were not just surviving, but thriving, successfully navigating and enjoying life without alcohol. I had to do what they told me and open my mind.

Once this happened, things really started to change for me. I wasn’t running my own show, anymore. It relieved me of so much pressure and gave me a new perspective. After putting more effort into working the steps of the program and attending and participating in as many meetings as possible in my early days (I still go to meetings almost every day over 2 and ½ years later!), I came to the realization that my God hadn’t let those bad things happen, and he hadn’t abandoned me. He was with me the whole time. I am alive today because he guided me through those situations, and I survived! Everything I went through in my life is a part of my story and contributed to who I am today. I love the person I have become, and I love the fact that I can use my experiences and the voice I’ve developed with the help of my program and the amazing people I’ve encountered on my recovery journey to help others. 

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