A core tenant (some would even describe as a requirement) of the AA program is “finding a power greater than yourself.” Not only is this idea explicitly called out in the second step, “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity,” but, is also implicitly referenced throughout the Big Book and in countless meetings with the “Higher Power” concept.
While many AA members are passionate about this “higher power they choose to call God,” I am not. I can’t explain why that is. I know I am and know I’m not alone.
Not all in AA who get sober share a passion for God, Higher Power, and Spirituality. And, for zebras like us, it’s hard to change those stripes. But, many zebras of our dazzle have been able to get and stay sober, work the steps, and pass on the program to others – others who are not of the zebra class. Sobriety is a powerful enough idea on its own.
No Need to Alienate
Forcing the issue of Higher Power is a great way to alienate potential members who want to get sober. While the Big Book’s language on this topic is strong, “may you find him now!” the Big Book is even more grounded in open-mindedness.
“We realize we know only a little” is a terrific line and read at many meetings. Despite the strong opinions that exist with certain AA members on the program’s details, this acceptance of variances in approaches to obtaining sobriety is real and, in most cases, respected.
In that spirit, I want to share how I think about “a power greater than myself.”
A few years ago, my best friend from my high school days called me because his sister struggles with alcoholism. He knew I was sober and wanted to know what he could do to help his sister and what he was in for.
I told him that alcoholism is a very challenging problem, and recovery requires many factors to take. I did tell him that AA might be helpful for his sister, as it helped me greatly.
He asked, “If she goes to AA, how will I know it’s working for her?”
I told him the main thing to look for was her no longer drinking. Other indicators to notice would include regular attendance at AA meetings, a sponsor, and working the steps.
He then asked, “How will I know if she’s working the steps?”
I told him if she makes amends to you, that is maybe the best sign that her recovery is moving in the right direction, and she is availing herself of the steps.
I then said, you might not remember, but I made amends to you thirty years ago.
His reply, “Remember? It’s something I’ll remember until the day I die!”
Wow, just wow! That, my friends, is a power greater than oneself.
The steps, especially the action steps of five and nine, are clearly a power other than myself.
I didn’t think them up on my own, and were I not in AA; these are actions I would not have done. The fact that I was doing this outside my own thoughts and inner direction is by definition a power other than myself. And really, that is all I need.
By replacing greater with other, I avoid all the hubris that can automatically come speeding into my consciousness with the mention of God and Spirituality.
Debating the merits of faith in AA or elsewhere is not what I want to do. What I am interested in at AA is getting and staying sober. To that end, I’m not sure replacing “power greater than myself” with a “power other than myself” is all that sexy, but it is effective for me. Hopefully, this can help others.