Updated on 09/12/23

Content reviewed by Christian Losch, LCSW, LCADC

While it may be a new concept for some, identifying and learning to connect with a higher power is a staple for many treatment and recovery programs. This is because many programs are built upon the belief that addiction is not only a disease of the brain but also of the spirit. Most people who misuse alcohol and other drugs do so to achieve relief from stressors or physical and emotional pain, essentially because they lack a deeper connection to themselves and the world around them.

Treatment programs, such as the Twelve Steps program, emphasize how crucial it is for individuals in recovery to address the spiritual aspect of addiction. The first of the Twelve Steps is admitting powerlessness over substances. The second step is instilling the belief that some power greater than oneself — a “higher power” — can help restore one’s control. This “higher power” term is addressed multiple times throughout the 12-Step rhetoric as well as in other sobriety programs, which acknowledges just how impactful spirituality can be when achieving and sustaining sobriety.

Does one have to be religious to connect with a higher power in treatment for substance use?

At first, the idea of a higher power might cause some people to hesitate or avoid recovery programs that utilize a spiritual component. Some individuals balk at spirituality or religiosity, especially if their experience with religion is rooted in fear or judgment. Additionally, some people do not believe in God and would rather avoid thinking about spirituality entirely. When spirituality is so ingrained in recovery culture but not everyone is spiritual, how is a person supposed to connect with a higher power they don’t believe in?

Religion and spirituality are used interchangeably, but are not one and the same.

To better understand what a higher power is, it is essential to recognize that the term “higher power” is not synonymous with God. Similarly, it may help to understand that while religion and spirituality are terms often used interchangeably, they can mean different things.

On the one hand, religion is defined by a set of organized beliefs, teachings and practices that are shared by a community or group. Similarly, religion is often led by the belief in one specific higher power or entity. On the other hand, spirituality is a personal quest to find one’s meaning and purpose in life. While some people include their religion as a part of their spirituality, the term spirituality defines an individual but universal search for meaning and oftentimes, transcendence.

What is a higher power in addiction recovery?

A higher power is important to one’s sobriety and recovery because it essentially helps one remain motivated and feel supported throughout their healing journey. As substance use was once a guiding force in one’s life, it is essential to put faith and trust in a power greater than oneself to act as the guiding force in one’s recovery journey.

There is no pre-determined or single definition of a higher power. While many people acknowledge God as their higher power, individuals who do not believe in God can still learn to identify a greater spiritual entity in their life. Everyone’s higher power should be personal and make sense to them. The following forces are just a few things that may be considered higher powers:

  • Nature
  • Love
  • Music
  • Consciousness
  • The universe

Four ways to connect with your higher power in the 12-step program.

If one is struggling to identify a higher power, it is important to not force it. Talk with other people in one’s group therapy programs or other recovery groups about what they consider their higher power to be and why. With patience and mindfulness, one will likely experience a higher power making itself known.

Once a higher power is identified, there are various ways that one can learn to connect with that entity:

1. Be mindful.

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully aware of the present moment. Mindfulness stresses strategies such as nonjudgment, compassion and gratitude. Connect with one’s higher power by setting aside time every day to just be, allowing oneself to sit with and listen to one’s spiritual guide. This may involve mediation, yoga or journaling.

2. Go into nature.

Being immersed in nature allows one to connect with the beauty of the world. Learning to be still and embrace all that surrounds one can help one to feel the force of one’s higher power.

3. Search for meaning.

Spirituality is a quest to find deeper meaning in life. One can connect deeply with their higher power by wrestling with the unknowns about existence and finding synchronicities happening in the world around them every day.

4. Reflect on the experiences that have made you.

Reflection is not only a skill for healing but also for transcending. It is important to take time and reflect on what life experiences have gotten one to where they are today. Learn to be grateful for those experiences, even if they were painful. Looking back on one’s life can help one set more meaningful goals for themself and their connection with their higher power moving forward.

Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford is a premier drug and alcohol treatment center that utilizes 12-Step programming for treatment and recovery. We recognize that spirituality can and does facilitate tremendous healing and growth for individuals wanting to achieve and sustain sobriety. If the thought of religious practice makes you hesitate, know that spirituality is not dictated by a set of organized beliefs. To learn more about spirituality and recovery, call us today at (877) 557-5372

Related Articles on Pinelands