Up rises the hair on the back of many people's necks. I know this may not sit well with many of us, but I honestly believe it to be true for all of us. Whether or not we believe in a higher power outside ourselves does not change the fact we are all individually capable of assuming the enigmatic role. It occurred to me today while listening to another teacher ask the following question of her students: "Who is somebody you look up to?" My immediate answer was myself. I am thankful I only said it in my thoughts because I do not know how well people would receive or react to such a statement. After a little thought, however, I realized there was nothing for which I needed to feel concerned. At first listen, a person could construe the statement as egotistical, conceited, or even narcissistic. Dig a little deeper and a person may find an entirely different motivation behind the statement. For an addict, who has successfully negotiated recovery, we have involuntarily acquired a new lens through which to view ourselves. Or, I should say, we should have acquired a new lens through which to view ourselves. Unfortunately, we are often told this is not acceptable because we "have" to give up ourselves to a higher power in order to succeed in sobriety. I disagree.
The more we bombard ourselves with a specific belief,
the more we will believe it
In my opinion, if our higher power is not ourselves, then we are forever at the mercy of an external force. In this case, addiction. By giving up ourselves to a higher power, we are forever solidifying a core belief that extends much further than sobriety. We are saying, "I cannot control the outcomes of my life." Some may argue it is only meant to be over addiction. While this may be true initially, the more we actively practice a belief about our inability to control our addictions, the more our subconscious and even conscious minds hear and begin to believe we cannot control other things as well. Ask anyone in this type of recovery how much time they have to spend reminding themselves about their higher power, and they will most likely say, indefinitely. Core beliefs are built from repetition. A consistent and repetitive bombardment of one perceived outcome. The more we bombard ourselves with a specific belief, the more we will believe it. The more we believe it, the more we begin to only see evidence to support it. As an addict, the evidence to support our inability to succeed is always there as long as we hold that perception.
I believe this is one of the culprits of the repetitive relapse. How can we ever garner a sense of strength, confidence, and courage when our innermost thoughts are focused on phrases like I can't, I am not strong enough, I cannot do it? We can't. Instead of turning the onus back on ourselves and taking on the personal responsibility of overcoming and correcting our problems, we are told to give them up to someone or something else. For the life of me, I cannot see how this ever puts us in a position to effectively grow, heal, or overcome our addictions or any other problems. I believe, by turning them over to a "higher power," we are effectively giving up on ourselves. Now, I know this has worked for many people and I never want to take anything away from those of us who have made it work in this way. With that said, many of the people who do not appreciate my views on addiction and sobriety are the same people who believe in a higher power outside ourselves. These people are often proud of and believe in a forever sentence of recovery and addiction. While I respect and admire anyone who can stay on a path toward recovery with those labels attached, I am simply not one of them.
We are not giving up ourselves we are re-finding ourselves
Let's break down the idea of a higher power a little further. There is no religious affiliation needed to believe in the traditional form of a higher power. The idea is to find something greater than ourselves to lean on as a guide in our recovery. Whatever we choose as our traditional higher power, we are saying that person, thing, or idea has more control or power over our lives than we do. This is where I struggle with the concept. As soon as we do this, I believe, we are potentially letting go of the possibility of ever living past recovery. I have heard the following statements more times than I can count; "We are forever in recovery," "We are forever addicts," and; "We are forever at the mercy of our higher power." I am sorry, but if I truly believed that, I do not know if I would have ever had the ability to quit drinking. When I quit, I quit with the intention of moving on, growing, and never looking back. I quit with the intention of living better every day, not living in a state of stagnation. A forever sentence of recovery and addiction does not feel like growth, it feels like an emotional concession.
At this point, if you are still reading, I imagine you are asking the following question; "Okay, I hear you, but what does a personal higher power look like?" Let's go back to a loose definition of a higher power: noun - a deity or another powerful but unknowable force, conceptualized variously as the Supreme Being, nature, the universe, invisible energy, etc. Now you are probably asking, "So, are you suggesting we are supreme beings over the universe?" No, I am not suggesting we are supreme beings over the universe, but I am suggesting we can be a supreme being over ourselves. Think about it, as an addict, there are two different personas present at any given time. There is the unadulterated persona with which we were born, and there is the persona directly affected by an external chemical. The two are generally nothing alike. If a higher power, as defined, has power over something else, then we certainly have the ability to have power over our chemically induced other selves. Obviously, and unfortunately, this holds true in both directions, which is why we are here in the first place. The point is, by communicating with and leaning on our other self to overcome our addicted self, we are taking back what once was ours. We are not giving up ourselves we are re-finding ourselves and by doing this, we obtain the strength, confidence, and courage necessary to effectively grow, heal, and overcome our addictions.
Be your own higher power
I will be honest in saying I did not set out with the intention of finding, what I like to call, easy sobriety. Nevertheless, easy sobriety is what I found and because of that, I cannot help but want to pass it along to anyone willing to listen. One of the reasons I consistently and continually find things to write about for this blog is because there is an endless array of addiction and sobriety related tropes with which I have a hard time identifying and therefore acceptin