Higher Power

Traditional God

There are many different ideas of a Higher Power. The chapter on Step Two in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions describes several types of experiences with God before getting into a recovery program. Some are what one might call a traditional idea of God and some are very nontraditional.

All that seems to be required is that the Higher Power be someone or something that you can relate to that is more powerful than your addiction. You may believe that this Higher Power is God or has some kind of intelligence, even if it is not something mortals can understand, and that in some way it is more benevolent than vengeful.

People and the Program

It might be that the best you can do for now is to understand that people in recovery, and the things that make sense in the recovery program, seem to have some power that you are lacking. If so, that will do. Many people have gotten into recovery with no more than that germ of an idea at first.

Vague Ideas

You may have only vague ideas about God or a Higher Power or spirituality. That is OK too. For people in recovery, either vague notions of God seem to get much sharper, or they become comfortable with spirituality remaining vague. An older idea in AA for people with negative reactions to a traditional God that for they have to think of the word “GOD” as meaning Good Orderly Direction, from wherever it comes. Some even said their Higher Power was just a Group Of Drunks.


Some use the term Program to mean guidance from a secular spirituality. If the term God, or even Higher Power, presents a problem for you, we suggest using Program or some other term to remind you that you can recover from addiction like many have, without any traditional idea of a deity.

Direct Line to God

There are people who believe they have a very strong spirituality -- that they have a “direct line” to God. They talk to this God several times a day and ask for help with their addiction. While they may be on the right track for spirituality, a possible danger in this way of thinking is that they envision God as a kind of supernatural servant whose job it is to grant favors. Sometimes people who believe they have a direct link to God close their ears to feedback from others, and ironically, perhaps from their God in the certainty that they know what their Higher Power wants them to do. See Step Eleven in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (pp. 103-lO4)


Sometimes just a single person, like a sponsor, is the only Higher Power or Program you can relate to. That is fine for the moment, but eventually you will begin to see that all humans have feet of clay, and you will need to refocus your idea of a Higher Power on something more spiritual, even if that is the people in a Twelve-Step program, collectively, and the spirit and community that unites them.

Higher Power, see also: Acceptance, Beliefs, Character defects, Control, Grace, Honesty, Humility, Magical thinking, Openmindedness, Power, Powerlessness, Prayer & meditation, Program, Religiosity, Sanity, Self-centeredness, Spirituality, Step One, Step Two, Step Three, Step Eleven, Trust, Willingness.

Updated 14 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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