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Old 01-31-2013, 10:38 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Higher Power, God, Alanon and the Agnostic/Atheist.


I know there is a Secular 12 step recovery forum and I post there but I wanted to start a thread here because there is a steady stream of posts from people who are reluctant to attend Alanon because of this “issue” and the other forum has large number of people in or trying recovery from alcohol and other addictions there. It isn’t always a comfortable place for F&F members because it exposes you to things you may not be ready to deal with, especially if you haven’t started a recovery program of your own.
I think this could be a good place for those with concerns about God, higher powers and spiritual conversions to discuss their feelings about this in regards to Alanon.

I am an agnostic, I don’t believe in God or gods. I won’t say there is no god because there is no way to prove that statement, just as there is no way scientifically to prove that there is a God. I have rather strong Buddhist and Taoist leanings but only from the point of view that there are some great self improvement tools to be found there.

I have had issues with the whole higher power thing and turning my life over to an outside force. No matter how much Alanon says they are not religious there is a underlying Christian ethic in the program. The 12 steps have a strong confession, forgiveness, and redemption feel to me.

At times the attitudes are somewhat condescending from some of the members and the literature. Just hang in there, you’ll get it and fake it till you make it don’t really resonate with me.

That being said, Alanon probably saved my life. Having a place where I can go, a sanctuary, where people really understand is a huge part of my recovery. To break the isolation, the lies and the self doubt is a major part of healing. I feel like I am home when I am in a meeting. Mostly I feel safe. I know I can share about my feelings, my thoughts, my recovery and I won’t have what I said thrown back in my face or used against me at some future point.

I have come to terms with the concept of a higher power as well. I know my ego is not the answer, my best thinking is what got me into and kept me in this mess for so long. I can’t think my way out of this.

My higher power is “Don’t Know”. I don’t need to define it anymore than that. It is as simple as something other than my ego. It could be the universe, the Tao, the Force for you Star Wars fans, Buddha nature or my favorite - intuitive awareness. Whatever it is it is not my monkey mind (ego). By the way I use all of these as my higher power as it seems to shift depending on my mood or feelings at the time.

I don’t discuss my higher power, as vague as it might be, at meetings because I know it might be taken the wrong way by some of the members and I really don’t need to as part of my recovery. I try to be respectful of others beliefs. There is too much good in the program to let myself get hung up on what others believe of or don’t believe.

Thanks for letting me share,

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Old 01-31-2013, 11:02 AM   #2 (permalink)
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This is an excellent post - thank you. It was largely because of what you wrote I decided to find an Al-Anon meeting close to my home, despite the backlash it will cause at home.

As for the "higher power"...The Force sounds good to me. Perhaps the Q Continuum...? I'll think of something.

Jan = huge geeknerd.
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Old 01-31-2013, 11:04 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I didn't realise there was a secular 12-step forum. Thanks, Mike.

Although I have now moved passed this, the religious slant I initially saw in the 12-step program really put me off in the beginning. I am not anti-religion, but I just felt I couldn't base my recovery on faith in something when I don't have that faith. Like Mike, I could say Buddhist thought resonates with me, though I would never call myself a Buddhist. I have had a very educational relationship with a Jewish partner, studied yoga in Hindu ashrams, stayed in Sikh gurdwaras, sat Buddhist meditation retreats, and now live (in sin) in a strictly Catholic village. I have never avoided religion. In fact, I have found all of these experiences very interesting, it's just that I'm never going to be a religious person.

Thanks for your insight, Mike. I'm still a relative newby, so your honesty is very helpful.
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Old 01-31-2013, 11:06 AM   #4 (permalink)
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My beliefs are similar yours, regarding a higher power, or god. I believe in an undefinable benevolent force in the universe, an energy, a life force, a power that I'm pretty certain exists that is much more powerful than me. Yet not a god, as god is generally defined, nor religion. For simplicity sake I just always encapsulated my beliefs into the word "god". It makes things a little more concrete and works perfectly into the steps. I agree that the steps are Christian based, yet the principles are pretty sound IMO so I have no reason to take issue with them. Just as with any other things that work for me.
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Old 01-31-2013, 11:09 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I almost feel this should be a sticky - or something like this should become a sticky. Trying to find answers to this question/issue is hard. Especially when everyone's first (and often only) advice is "go to alanon".

Thanks Mike - this does help a bit!
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Old 01-31-2013, 11:14 AM   #6 (permalink)
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My higher power is “Don’t Know”. I don’t need to define it anymore than that. It is as simple as something other than my ego. It could be the universe, the Tao, the Force for you Star Wars fans, Buddha nature or my favorite - intuitive awareness. Whatever it is it is not my monkey mind (ego). By the way I use all of these as my higher power as it seems to shift depending on my mood or feelings at the time.
Mike, this summarizes my HP feelings almost exactly. I know I believe in SOMETHING & that it's bigger & less tangible/easily defined than me as a person. Great post!
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Old 01-31-2013, 11:22 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Trying to find answers to this question/issue is hard. Especially when everyone's first (and often only) advice is "go to alanon".
No kidding!
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Old 01-31-2013, 11:43 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I have had issues with the whole higher power thing and turning my life over to an outside force. No matter how much Alanon says they are not religious there is a underlying Christian ethic in the program. The 12 steps have a strong confession, forgiveness, and redemption feel to me.

At times the attitudes are somewhat condescending from some of the members and the literature. Just hang in there, you’ll get it and fake it till you make it don’t really resonate with me.
These two thoughts were on my mind yesterday and today...
I support AA/NA/Alanon/Naranon/any other anon I have missed. They are great programs and have helped so many people deal with all the many facets surrounding addiction/recovery. I don't speak ill of the programs themselves. And more power to anyone that is questing for answers to their own or a loved one's addiction by any means!
But. I do have problems with the advice or suggestion so often given here and elsewhere that these programs are a "one size fits all" thing. I don't believe they are. Everyone is unique and I think that there has to be some room for interpretation in recovery programs. But I know in Alanon, when I have had these types of questions that I have tried to ask after the meetings are over, I usually hear "well, you are in denial." Ummm.... I am here. Therefore, I am clearly NOT denying there is a problem.
And the "fake it til you make it" thing just drives me batty! I thought 'recovery' was supposed to be about learning/practicing and being honest with yourself and your feelings. Soooo, how is it honest for me to be "faking" something? Isn't faking my feelings part of what has led me to where I am, trying to recover?
I used to read the encyclopedias for fun when I was a kid, so I have always been a questioner But I am getting really frustrated that IMO, alanon seems not to be a place that welcomes questions. That feels an awful lot like religion to me...
Sorry for the ramble folks, but was thinking "brilliant" thought on all this before I got my coffee this morning and wanted to put them down somewhere...
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Old 01-31-2013, 12:53 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Thanks Mike,

I'm one who can easily buy into intelligent design as a mathematician but I just never found any sign that there is a God watching over me. I looked... Sure would be great to have that peace but after earnestly inviting him in I never heard back and I can't reconcile the idea of god being able to intervene but choosing not to ...maybe if someone is walking into a school with an AK47 and a lightning bolt explodes his head I will reconsider.

What works for me? To me it's that inner voice or feeling up the back of my neck when I'm not doing the right thing, it's that intuitive sense of right and wrong and how screwed up my life gets if I ignore it.

Poh grew up in a strict religious culture different than mine and has similar feelings.

This may offend someone but I've always thought that I'd you took all the god stuff out of the bible it's a pretty good text on how to live a happy and serene life.

Don't do stuff you know is wrong
Forgive
Seek forgiveness
Make amends
Don't covet your neighbors ass or his wife or especially his wife's ass
Try not to kill anyone
Don't lie or steal
Don't be an *******

...none of that is hard for me to internalize :-)
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Old 01-31-2013, 01:08 PM   #10 (permalink)
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What works for me? To me it's that inner voice or feeling up the back of my neck when I'm not doing the right thing, it's that intuitive sense of right and wrong and how screwed up my life gets if I ignore it.
Something similar works for me, but it's more of a gut churning thing. What confuses me is that I'm pretty sure we all have some kind of unpleasant physical reaction when we know we're doing the wrong thing... a bit like touching a hotplate and pulling our hands back... yet all of us occasionally battle through that grotesque feeling and do the very thing that causes it anyway.
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Old 01-31-2013, 01:14 PM   #11 (permalink)
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From one atheist to another, I give you this wonderful quote by scientist and fellow atheist Niel deGrasse Tyson. It certainly helps me out when I'm looking for that elusive "HP" thing everyone talks about. Good luck, may the FSM rain his tentacles down upon you!

“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson
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Old 01-31-2013, 01:26 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Bigsombrero, Thanks, I really like that. It is a rather cool way to look at it.

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Old 01-31-2013, 01:27 PM   #13 (permalink)
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“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson
Nice.
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Old 01-31-2013, 01:46 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Bigsombrero, Thanks, I really like that. It is a rather cool way to look at it.

Your friend,
You are welcome. I also think it's cool. YouTube has a clip of him reading that quote, it's great and inspirational to hear it. Best to you.
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Old 01-31-2013, 02:17 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Thanks for this thread. I don't let linguistics/semantics/the limits of language/speech get in the way of truth; the twelve steps are based on solid human psychology and principles of human spiritual development.
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Old 01-31-2013, 03:09 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I'm an agnostic sober 21 years in AA, my sponsor is an atheist with 27 years. The book Alcoholics Anonymous says it's a higher power and we can define it as we wish. In the beginning my HP was a tree, later it became GOD = group of drunks. Or, God = good orderly direction. The point is my HP isn't me! It's the action we take, the act of praying, turning our will over and asking for help. My best thinking kept me drunk and obsessed with a distrous relationship. Trust me, my higher power does much better!
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Old 01-31-2013, 04:18 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Hmmmm, I experienced the exact opposite of what many of you have noted above in Al Anon. I've attended regular Al Anon meetings and have never had anyone bring this up or try to push off their beliefs on me (until today). We all have shared our ESH and talked in terms of God or HP when germaine to the discussion, respecting everyone's right to have their own opinions and thoughts on this matter - and, to stay on respective sides of the street in this regard.

Today though, I went to a non-program Al Anon step study and one of the attendees expressed her displeasure with others who spoke of God/Christ when sharing their ESH in working through the steps. Others expressed their concern and confusion, and I asked her for examples so that we'd know exactly what she was talking about and she could come up with none. I was really trying to understand what was "off program" and would've upset her. Others in the group said they felt comfortable with accepting the faiths of others becasuse it has nothing to do with their own personal faith, this woman stood her ground, wouldn't give examples and just said she didn't like "it". It's amazing to me. Her rigidity and inability to accept others has made it a hostile place to be now. I have walked on eggshells to talk in terms of HP since I started Al Anon - trying to respect everyone in the groups. With this; however, I now feel like I'm being discriminated against, and that a muzzle and filter are being slapped on my face becasue I'm a Christian. I feel like I can't say anything, not even HP without her getting her nose out of joint. The group leadership kind of rolled over, so if this is the "consensus" for this group, then I choose to leave because I don't feel safe in an environment where one person can manipulate the rest into submission. It's kind of a sick CODA thing to me. Anyway, it's too bad that this woman has to be so selfish and won't follow a few tenets of Al Anon - be an adult, take what you like and leave the rest, it's not about you, it's about the group, etc.. Just thought you might like to hear the other side.

Also, for those who can't grasp the HP thing, why do you go to Al Anon or other 12-step programs? I'm confused as it is an HP-focused program. Aren't there other programs that you can work through that don't have this focus? I ask becasue I was going to a 12-step group and couldn't handle some of what was going on so I just stopped. I found other support and have found it very helpful and enriching. There's always a choice, right? So, who needs extra drama when you've already got an overflowing plate?!

P.S. I've just recently started going to ACA. If you have this in your area and are an adult child I HIGHLY recommend it. It's been wonderful so far and the discussion has solely been on our stuggles in recovery and ESH. It's not as "spiritual" as Al Anon.
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Old 01-31-2013, 05:03 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Just my two cents on "fake it till you make it". Another similar expression is "act as if."

To me, neither one implies that you "pretend" that you aren't feeling what you are feeling. It has more to do with practicing a better way of feeling. There's a saying in AA that "You can't think your way into right acting, but you can act your way into right thinking." To me, that means (and I can attest from my own experience that it works for me), that if I wait until I am "feeling it" to do what I need to do, I stay stuck. Because my feelings aren't likely to just change on their own, and WILLING them to change usually doesn't work much better. How many of us cheer up because someone TELLS us to?

OTOH, if I am feeling sorry for myself, or angry, or depressed, but I do something I WOULD do if I WEREN'T swimming in self-pity or anger, like do something helpful to someone else, do something productive for myself, the feeling tends to follow. Not right away, and not every time, but little by little.

I also used those techniques to overcome fear, such as when I tried my first cases in front of a jury or gave my first presentations in my new job. I act AS IF I am confident and competent. The good performance that follows actually helps me BE confident and competent.

I think a lot of the slogans get misunderstood in AA and in Al-Anon. They sound almost ridiculously simplistic and naive, but they are actually shorthand reminders for complex tools that work to get the job done.
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Old 01-31-2013, 06:59 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Lexie, I agree whole heatedly with what you are saying. What the program has given me is a set of tools that have allowed me to change my thinking. I am comfortable enough with myself and my beliefs that I don't feel threatened or put off when someone shares how God has given them the strength they need to deal with the types of situations we have all experienced to one degree or another.

That wasn't true when I started. I was in a state of crisis and at that time all the talk of God and higher powers seemed like just one more roadblock to any hope I had of getting back to a normal life, whatever that might be.

My goal with this thread was to let those who are reluctant to try Alanon know that you can still attend and find courage,strength, wisdom and hope even if you don't have the same beliefs as the majority. Recovery is possible no matter what you believe or don't believe and that there are others who are like you and have been there and have found sanctuary in these rooms.

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Old 01-31-2013, 09:06 PM   #20 (permalink)
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What kept me from the Alanon program for so long was that I knew there was the "god" component. When I finally, out of pure craziness, headed into my first meeting, I was ready to try anything.

I had been raised in a church-going home, but I would never have considered us religious. It was all left at church. When I was old enough to decide for myself, I stopped attending.

I had decided when I started Alanon to be open to the idea of god coming (back?) into my life, instead of the condescending attitude I had developed over the previous years. I was a little envious how much easier it was for people of faith to get right to work on the program. I listened and I learned, but it did not happen. I've attended long enough now that I do not believe it will happen.

I had tried for a while to have a "Mother Earth" type of higher power, which was fairly easy as I think nature is amazing. The cruel tsunami stopped that.

I floundered for a while after that. I marvel at coincidences, but don't believe they are god shots. I don't believe that there is anything out there that could be possibly be interested in solving my problems or concerned with the life of lil' ole me. So, pray to who? Ask who? Let who? (I've not found a comfortable answer to this. Good Orderly Direction etc. seems contrived, forced.)

I can relate to karma, and how it just makes sense to be a good person.

I find that when I am not being the person that is being true to me, I can't sleep. If I am sleeping well, I am functioning well.

Having said all that, I find some of the readings and when my group ends with the Lord's prayer difficult, but I try to work the program the best I can, within the belief system I have at this time, and I still find it invaluable.

I always hear something to take home and mull over. I leave with spirits lifted. I feel a special harmony with this group of people that I've not had with other groups.

I'll keep going back.

Why do I go if I don't have a HP? Originally, because there were no other options where I live. Now, because I love what I get from the meetings, and with some experience under my belt, I believe I may have something to offer to that new person coming in - I recognize crazy.

(While my group knows how I am about HP they are fine with it; they don't judge and try to convert me. I don't try to change the program to suit me. I do a fair amount of taking what I want and leaving the rest.)

Just my experience.
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