Can a Higher Power Help You Stay Sober?

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I want to discuss a topic that many people prefer to gloss over or avoid entirely. But it’s an inevitable part of sobriety (long-lasting sobriety, anyway), and I want to tackle it here by getting right to the point.

Sooner or later, every alcoholic who wants to stay sober has to ask the question: Do I believe there is a power in the universe that is greater than me that can help me repair my life?

The notion of a higher power frightens a lot of people. It’s astonishing how many people I’ve met over the years who simply refuse to consider the existence of any kind of higher power working in their life. They prefer, instead, to rely on themselves to provide all the answers and solutions to their problems. The tragic irony is that it was their answers and solutions that caused so much trouble in the first place. Most of the people I’ve met who refute the idea of a higher power entirely don’t stay sober very long. Sad but true.


If alcoholics have one fatal flaw in common, it’s our over-bloated sense of self. Our ego is often our worst enemy. We think we have all the answers until one day we realize that our lives have turned into a cesspool, and we’re drowning in our own shit (how’s that for a subtle metaphor?).

I allowed my ego to lead me around for decades, and what I got in return was a life filled with addiction, remorse, debt, and sickness.  It wasn’t until I was willing to turn my life over to a power greater than myself that I was finally able to exorcise the demons that had haunted me for so long. 

I’m going to skip over all the niceties and state clearly that I have faith in God. If you’re a skeptic or atheist, that’s fine. But for me, the only way I was able to get sober, and most importantly, STAY SOBER, is by placing my faith in a higher power that is active in my life. I’m not talking about religion. That’s a discussion for another book. I’m talking about God. I don’t claim to know what God is or even how God works in my life. But I know with absolute certainty that the moment I asked God for help, everything in my life changed for the better.  

Not everyone comes to this decision easily. For many people, accepting the idea of a higher power is extremely difficult.  It can take years to develop a comfortable understanding of what a higher power is and how it can be a source of strength in sobriety.

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 In the 12 step community, there’s a lot of emphasis on turning our will and our lives over to God as we understand God. There’s no definition offered regarding what God is or how we’re supposed to find God. Instead, it’s left up to each person to figure it out on their own, in their own time, based on their spiritual exploration. There are no lectures or lessons on God, nor expectations to follow or specific rules to learn. It’s left entirely up to each of us to find God as we understand God.

This is one of the great things about the 12 step program that I’ve always admired, providing a safe opportunity to choose what God is, and what God means to each of us, through personal investigation. Once the decision is left up to us individually, free from dogma or religion, we’re free to explore the question any way we deem appropriate. 

Early in my sobriety, I wasn’t sure what to believe or where to look for answers to the endless questions I had regarding a higher power. So I listened to what others had to say about it, especially the old-timers who had been sober for years. What I slowly started to learn was that it didn’t matter how I defined God (I find it best not to try), but to simply have faith that there is a force, or energy, of love working in my life that wants me to experience joy and peace. 

The fact is — and I state this based on years of experience — that if I’m left on my own without faith in a higher power, I’m hopeless. I will quickly resort back to my self-destructive nature and probably repeat all the bad mistakes I made in the past, maybe even worse than before. But with faith in God, I live in an almost constant state of hope and optimism. Even on my bad days (and there are many), I always take comfort knowing that someone, or something, is watching over me, giving me the strength and hope I need to stay sober.

It’s a tricky topic, the idea of God. It’s difficult to place our trust in a power we can’t see or touch. It requires desperation, courage, curiosity, and of course, faith. But for alcoholics like me, it’s essential if I want to keep my sobriety and avoid the pain and suffering that brought me to my knees crying out for help.


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