Higher Power Concept

Many people new to Twelve Step recovery have questions about the Higher Power concept. Some wonder if they will have to become Christians or put up with Christians in order to benefit from the Twelve Steps.

Others, who by choice do not believe in God, wonder how to reconcile the Higher Power concept found in the 12 steps.

If there was a FAQ for Twelve Step recovery, these questions would probably head the list, or, run close second only to: "What is co-dependence?"

Some support groups are Christ-centered. They usually go by names such as "Overcomers" or indicate in some way that they consider the Higher Power to be Christ or the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible.

Other support groups strictly stay away from promoting any concept of Higher Power other than what that concept means to each individual. Hence the clause in Step Three: as we understood God.

Some support groups have a mix of people, and encourage members during the meeting to abstain from "preaching" or using the sharing time as an opportunity to "share their faith" or "witness."

I had to attend several different meetings to find the right support group for me. I now attend a mixed CoDA group. Personally, I am a believer in Christ and consider my Higher Power to be the God of the Bible; however, I am very open and accepting of the fact that some people are turned off by organized religion, or, have difficulty with the "Father" concept of God, etc. I don't push my faith or my beliefs, but neither do I hide them.

My belief in God didn't become real until I got into recovery. My idea of God previous to recovery was simply inherited from my family of origin. In recovery, I discovered the difference between organized religion and true spirituality.

I don't bash religion, but at the same time, I can see where a lot of ministers, clergy, and well-meaning lay people promote an identity for God, rather than teaching people how to get in touch with God. They tend to set themselves up as God's spokespeople, rather than teaching people how to find God or how to discover God's will for themselves and their individual lives.

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Clearing away all the stuff I was taught and discovering who God really is has been a delightful and refreshing part of my recovery. Hence, I can not allow myself to believe in the god propagated by many religious groups, and I empathize with those who have been hurt by holier-than-thou attitudes or misguided by religious error.

In recovery, I am seeking to understand God's will for my life (Step Eleven). For me, the Judeo-Christian God is big enough and strong enough and "higher power" enough to fit that job description. By doing my best to honestly live the Twelve Steps, hopefully I can point people to the discovery of God, rather than getting in the way of their process. I believe this is God's will for me.

Personally, I needed to accept that I could not be my own Higher Power (Steps Two and Three); however, I needed to exude more godlike characteristics (i.e., loving, forgiving, compassionate, etc.) in my own life and in my own relationships.

The Higher Power concept is central to my recovery, because I learned to forgive myself, love myself, and be compassionate with myself. Now, I can give those same those gifts to others. I could not have learned these characteristics unless I learned them from a Source outside myself—a Higher Power—(in my case, a personal being of a higher order who created me, bestowed these gifts on me, and created within me the capacity for sharing these gifts with others). But I first had to empty myself of my way, my will, my self-centered self-ish-ness.

For recovery to work, this same emptying of self must happen to all individuals at some level who are honestly working the Twelve Steps.

This giving up of self, or loss of self was the necessary ego-deflation I needed in order to be filled with God and the aforementioned godlike characteristics. I have found these characteristics, always coupled with a profound humility and gratitude, in people who are really recovering and really working a program. They change, they transform, they acquire these qualities by seeking God and seeking God's will for their lives.

To me, God is all One, regardless of what nomenclature I may use: God, Higher Power, Jesus Christ, etc. God is bigger than any name or any concept I have of that Being. God is Enough. Whether a Christian perspective, agnostic perspective, or anything in between, the Higher Power concept is big enough to relate to any person, regardless of where they may be in the recovery process.

next: Recovery and Discovery

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2009, January 9). Higher Power Concept, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Last Updated: August 8, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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