Do you believe in God?

Broadly speaking, people who answer that questions can be divided into three groups:

  • People of faith who believe in God as their religion describes him
  • Those who believe in a “Higher Power” which is not explained by conventional religions
  • Those who reject any notion of the supernatural

It is essential that addicts on the path to recovery talk this through with anyone supporting them. You need to be totally confident that your guide understands, accepts and respects your view of religion. If not, you may soon find yourself dismissing good advice just because it sounds like it depends upon a spirituality you do not share.

In Step 1 we accepted that we were powerless over addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable. If we are powerless, we must find a power outside ourselves to empower our recovery. Everything depends on total confidence in that ‘power greater than ourselves’ so we need to be certain that we understand what it means for us.

People of Faith

Different religions explain God in different ways. Within any one faith there will be varying perspectives which, to outsiders, may seem subtle but which can lead to deadly disputes. Everyone will have their own vision and interpretation.

The one thing you need to know about God is that you are not it. If trust in God is to sustain your recovery from addiction you need a good understanding of what he means to you. No-one really has a total and unquestioning trust in God. If trust in God is to sustain your recovery from addiction you need to see your questions and uncertainties not as cracks in the foundation that supports you, but as opportunities to face and resolve issues, and become stronger.

A Higher Power

Sometimes people say, “It doesn’t matter what you mean by ‘a higher power.” It does if your recovery from addiction is to be based on turning your life over to something. You need to be certain you know what it is and know you can trust it. Maybe you think of God as one being or one of many. Maybe you think there is a common consciousness within the universe that actively sustains everyone. Maybe you think something else. Only when you are clear what your “higher power” is can it be a safe
foundation on which to build your recovery.”

We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

There is no God

Admitting that we were powerless over addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable is to state our need for another power to bring order. That may be the love of friends and family or the feeling of belonging in a mutually supportive group. It may be a sense that this complex universe is stronger when each person is able to make the fullest contribution.

The 12 Step programme works. But it is usually set out with religious language. If you do not believe in God you need to find, with those supporting you, another realistic and meaningful language that makes sense, a sense strong enough to support recovery.

Everyone Believes in Something

Psychologists call it ‘a schema’ but in lay person’s language it is ‘the way we see things.’ As we grow through childhood we rapidly develop a way to catalogue the world around us. The family pet is furry and has four legs and our parents call it ‘a dog.’ At the first sight of a goat we decide it’s a dog too and we must learn a new ‘similar but different’ category for that. As we grow to adulthood the process extends more and more to embrace the whole world… as we see it.

With this personal encyclopaedia in our heads we don’t need to waste time on a fresh definition for every new thing we see. But we too easily become comfortably blinkered to the possibility of new ideas and new understanding of familiar experiences.

Admitting that we were powerless over addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable exposes a flaw in our core schema that sees us in control of our own destiny or at least able to steer ourselves through the maze of challenges.

If our view of the world ultimately sees God in charge, then handing over our life to him is merely a matter of deploying the ‘schemas’ our religion has taught us.

For others, the view of how a Higher Power influences the world is a ‘schema’ that borrows from many other visions but is unique and personal. To begin recovery, we need to find, within our view of the way things are, opportunities to accept the guidance and empowerment of God as we understand him.

We may be strengthened by the love of friends and family. We may rediscover a goal that once drove us to succeed and can again give us a new sense of purpose. We may be empowered by seeing that society, nature, the world will be better if we are free to do more. There really is someone or something that can actively empower each person’s recovery. With help we can identify what it is and trust it to be the foundation of a new structure for our lives.