By: Tami Harper Winn
I am the product of an Atheist sponsor. Many of you will stop reading this after the first sentence and that’s ok. It is sad, as you will miss the flavor and comedy about my discovery of finding out who my higher power is, but none the less it’s your prerogative. If you are still with me up to this point, then you are about to find out just how silly and unique my higher power is.
Many people along the course of my sobriety have asked me what my higher power is. It’s a common question asked by either those new in sobriety or just those in recovery in general. In the program of recovery known as Alcoholics Anonymous, it is pretty well known that a key component of staying recovered is to find a power greater than yourself. It is also what often times scares people away from or out of the rooms. We generally referred to it as “God.”
“WHAT?” you say.
That’s right, I said it, the G-word. Now don’t get all freaked out. Not yet anyways. I’m far from the point of my story. I am not here to throw Bible verses at you (like that would work even if I did), nor am I here to convert you into any “cult” for that matter. I will not say you are wrong to disagree with me, nor will I say in order for you to recover from alcoholism and addiction you must believe in the God the rest of the world believes in. I won’t say any of that. Because that is just not true. Ask most anyone in AA and they will gladly back me up on this one.
But, what they will tell you is the truth. They will tell you that in order for you to escape from the bottomless pit of self demoralization and ruin that you are in, and have a life worth living, you absolutely need to find something greater than yourself to put your trust and reliance in.
It has worked for millions of people across the world for many years now, and it has worked for me as well. But for some, the idea, even the mere mention of “God” freaks them out and they leave before the miracle happens. I have heard others refer to us as being a religious organization and even a “cult.” However, that couldn't be further from the truth than you can imagine. Just ask my Atheist sponsor. She’s stayed sober with her power greater than herself. Her higher power is not mine to share. It is her story. However, it does go without saying that her sobriety is to be admired and emulated. She is a strong and powerful example of a woman who has a healthy grasp on sobriety. If I were to pick a higher power, (because you can do that), I’d want my higher power to embody all of the qualities my Atheist sponsor has. Let me go into more detail about how I came up with that conclusion.
I thought I had a good grasp on what my higher power looked like when I came into the rooms of AA. I had always known of God and was raised with a belief in “God.” I felt like I knew mine pretty well. However, that belief would be challenged and stretched to the very edge of possibility in the course of time I have spent in recovery.
I like to share with others that I came into the rooms with my concept of a higher power all safe and tucked away in my little box that I carried in with me. I was protective over it and really didn’t want to share it with anyone else. I was still very uncertain of my belief. I like to say I came into the rooms with my little box full of “God” and I put my little box down in the middle of the room. I opened up my little box to show everyone my “God” and amazingly no one judged me or told me that my “God” wasn’t the right one or big enough.
Instead they shared with me their higher power and they told me that if I ever needed to borrow theirs that I was more than welcome to. The crazy part was, no one could really tell me what their higher power was either. Believe me, they tried. The even crazier part was that no one person had the same higher power. It was insane. I could pick my own? What a concept?
So as fate would have it, I left my box open with my little “God” and what happened next still leaves me in awe. Through the years my little “God” began to grow and grow and grow. It no longer fit in the box that I came in with. It was way too big now to ever fit in any size box ever again. It grew like it was on steriods. It was growing at a phenomenal rate and I just let it. It couldn’t be stopped. Truth be told, I didn’t want it to anyways.
It was growing into an amazingly beautiful creation, bigger and better than I could’ve ever dreamed it to be. What was odd though, was how it began to grow. It grew with the love that was felt within the fellowship, in the countless meetings I attended, through each individual I met in recovery, and oddly enough, through my atheist sponsor.
I saw my sponsor for the first time in an AA meeting when she spoke. Automatically I was drawn to her not only for her humor but her words of experience. There was an angelic light that emanated from her (although she would beg to differ) and the words that fell out of her mouth were the words my higher power knew I needed to hear. I don’t remember all that she said, I just remember how I felt when she shared and that she told us that staying sober was the most amazing thing that had ever happened to her. She would’ve never guessed that a byproduct of sobriety was that she would look this great. I laughed and knew she was the one my higher power knew I needed.
I wouldn’t see her again for another few months, but believe me, when I saw her I grabbed up the opportunity. She agreed to meet with me and we sat and talked for awhile. What did occur during that meeting was a discussion on higher powers. That’s when she told me that she was an atheist. She, nor I, were sure how this would work, but we let our higher powers’ collaborate together and the result is proof - we have worked together now for over six years.
As my higher power grew it took on characteristics of many people in the rooms. I like to say it became a piece of your higher power, their higher power, just about everyone I met in recovery’s higher power. It was thrilling to watch it grow. I took what I needed, as they first suggested when I got sober, and I left the rest behind.
I think the strongest qualities my higher power possesses come from my atheist sponsor. She is kind, gentle, soft spoken but opinionated, self-sufficient, confident, calm and reassuring, positive, loving, non-judgmental, experimental, enlightened, driven, passionate, vulnerable yet strong, and a host of the most colorful explicates I could go on and on about. She is absolutely perfect. I am the luckiest lady to know her.
She quietly allowed me to explore what my higher power was, even encouraged it. She let it blossom into what ever it has become. Sometimes I’m sure she disagreed with me, but she never said so and I am so thankful for that. Who or what ever her higher power is, I know it works. It has allowed her to stay sober, and me too, in the process. It helped me find mine and together we are a force to be reckoned with. She taught me that the world is multifaceted and there is no one way to look at anything. I am blessed to be raised up in sobriety with her as my mentor.
So, if you asked me again what my higher power is I still couldn’t tell you. It is omnipotent, undefinable. It is too big for me to even begin to try to. I believe it would be a great disservice to it if I did, as it is beyond what mere words could describe. I call it “God" and I absolutely love and trust it. It knows me like no one else does and it has never let me down. So, I continue to let it grow every day. I don’t limit it, because in doing so I only limit myself.
At this point in my sobriety, I don’t think that defining a higher power is going to keep me or anyone else sober. So, if you are hung up on defining it that’s ok, just borrow mine for awhile. He’s big enough to handle whatever you got, trust me. I know this for a fact. He handles me and that’s a lot, believe me. Stay open minded and willing and your higher power will reveal itself to you in its perfect form. It’s already there waiting and ready for you. It’s brought you this far, why would it let you go now?
So, in closing, I’ll tell a little story about the physical (symbolic) representation of my higher power and how it came to be. It’s cute and silly, and rest assured that it is not my actual higher power, but when I see it I am reminded he is near by and always with me.
One day, during a very difficult and dark moment in my early days of sobriety, I called upon my sponsor who knew the problem was big enough to call in the “big guns” (my grand sponsor). While waiting for her I had begun to spin into a deep spiral. At that very moment, my sponsor brought me out of it by pointing out that a little squirrel was waiting near me, staring at me intently. She said, “It looks like your higher power is checking in on you. It must be concerned because he hasn’t left here since you showed up.” I looked down to see this little guy at me feet and immediately I was brought out of my self sabotaging thoughts. He was so cute. He made me smile. She then said, “He’s been peeking around checking on you and now he came down to make sure you knew he was here.” Wow! What if? I couldn’t help but feel love. The true essence of my higher power.
Since that day, every time I have been having a difficult time, or just need reminded to get outside my head, a squirrel shows up. It’s crazy, but cool. I wake up every morning to them chattering in the trees outside my bedroom window and I am reminded each day to check in with him. So, my friends now tease me (not too bad) about my higher power, and they bring me squirrels of all kinds to humor me and keep me grounded. I’ll admit, it makes me happy.
So, I guess the point of this story is that it doesn’t matter if you higher power is a squirrel, or you are an atheist, or it is Buddha, or the universe, or a Christian God, or any other deity, just so long as you have one you will be able to survive this thing called life. Trusting in something greater than me is a relief. I don’t have to have all the answers, nor do I have to be the answer.
So, in the wise words of a friend of mine…Namaste
~Tami Harper Winn~
The story written here is solely the work of the author’s. Any use or reproduction of this article is prohibited without written consent of the author or credit to the author through works cited.