Higher Power Contemplation

Shane Letts

On April 18th I gave the men in the Discipleship House a writing assignment in the form of a challenge; I asked them to give their personal take on two subjects. The first thing I asked them to write was a definition of Higher Power and what that means to them in a simplified fragmented form, and then as one. Then I asked them what their newfound strengths were that blossomed during the pandemic.

Three of the residents wrote responses, and I want to highlight the intersection of all three responses before giving the individual answers - giving readers insight into the momentum of their recovery journey’s.

At first the idea of a word study sounded like a taxing assignment, but parting out the term Higher Power into its respective parts (higher and power) and asking for a personal definition condensed the submissions in length. Any memorable definition is blunt and clear, but the term Higher Power has such a fluid and ever changing meaning to people on a personal level. In the recovery community there is no “fan favorite” when it comes to naming something so delicately profound.

In 12 step communities, there is no regulations, rules, or limits on who or what a Higher Power can be. Higher Power can be a term used to signify the God of your understanding, supreme being, deity, life force or simply a power greater than yourself.

In the responses from Hunter, Zack and Ryan there were noticeable similarities for the meaning of the word “higher”. All three guys draw the resemblance between height and or distance in relation to themselves. I think this reveals an interesting side of their characters, that being humility. To enter into a stance of submission is opening the flood gates for the will of your Higher Power to enter your consciousness and for the execution of that will in your life.

In war, high ground is an advantage, it gives you the upper hand, pun intended. Ask anyone who struggles with addiction or is in recovery if their journey has been a battle, and I guarantee at some point it was. Fighting from above gives you the advantage, or the power. Which leads me to the second definitions, each of the guys described power as a force or control.

Being above in a literal sense represents vision and perspective; and as I mentioned earlier, in a battle it would offer advantages. So in essence the fact that this entity is indeed above us or higher than us is the reason it has power and is power. The idea that it is above; above our human standards, principles, reasoning, worldliness, materialism etc. That is what gives it power, that and our designation of value to it in our lives.

Whatever one chooses to call their Higher Power shouldn’t matter to anyone but the person who has to maintain that very personal relationship.

I think Ryan, Hunter and Zack perfectly lay out two criteria for what that Higher Power should represent; above us and in control.

Now on to the second question which was intended to draw out some positivity by means of reflection. I asked the guys to list their biggest strengths/positives they have found since the pandemic began.

We are all feeling the effects of this pandemic in some way, whether it be health concerns, feelings of powerlessness, distrust of government, boredom, mental health, the list goes on. Something I have heard a lot of, sometimes out of my own mouth, is complaints and negativity. Negativity is almost never the correct tone to approach a sensitive issue like another lockdown or pandemic as a whole. There’s enough gloom and evident setbacks to silently feel the societal tension.

Gratitude and positivity are two of the best weapons in the recovery arsenal.

I hope this provokes thoughts and is a refresher on the things we do have and the things we can do. All three guys also listed patience - I think a lot of people can relate with that. I think that this reflects the gratitude of these men who see the lockdown as an opportunity for growth, instead of just counting the days in a disgruntled state.

Tolerance and discipline were also listed, I grouped the two of them together because I think they are a package deal. It takes tolerance to adapt to the changing health restrictions, cancellations of activities and new methods of working and attending 12 step meetings.

Discipline is another indispensable quality to acquire during a time where we are under so many restrictions. It can be difficult being in a situation where you must choose to abide (or not). Going to see family, wearing a mask, giving hugs or handshakes and getting groceries are all having their validity and importance questioned.

Change is stressful and we’ve had a major influx of it, finding structure and routine means practicing discipline but ultimately limits the amount of unnecessary stress and change in your personal life due to external forces.

I hope something resonated with you or encouraged you to keep moving forward in spite of the unknown as we continue to trek forward together.

Read the responses of Hunter, Ryan and Zack here:

  1. What do the words Higher and Power mean to me?

  2. What are the 3 biggest strengths/positives I have found during COVID?


  1. To me the word higher means something beyond me or something bigger than me. For me power is something that fills you up and makes you feel complete ie. God, drugs and alcohol; take your pick. Alcohol and drugs were a power greater than myself and they worked for a bit until they stopped. The power I am working to receive is the Holy Spirit so that I may be filled with divine intoxication.

  2. Tolerance - I have been able to put up with people that really irritate and annoy me with God’s help. Patience - I have accepted the lockdown and being in rehab. I have never had this much patience in my life. Discipline - I have always had my homework done on time and forcing myself to workout/ run when I don’t want to.”


  1. For me higher would mean above me, and God, also superior to me in the sense of God. To me power does not always mean strength it means my driving force and guide.

  2. For me my biggest positives are learning patience, to be alone and to be content with my crazy thoughts. Strengths are still being discovered with God.


  1. In my opinion, Higher is an adjective that means above or greater than. In my recovery and spirituality, I keep in mind that I am not above or greater than anyone else. There are tons of places in the Bible that recommend we do not think this way. When we think we are above or greater than others we treat people differently than we would with the mindset that we are equal. I can't be of real help to somebody if I think that I am better than them. I am a sinner, alcoholic and addict just like the rest of the people in the recovery community. In my opinion, Power is a force or ability to control. I usually tie the word strength to this concept as well. After strenuous study and thought, I have come to the realization that I have none. I can't force satisfaction or happiness out of life. I certainly can't control anything except for the way I respond to events and circumstance. My own Power is so small that I get frustrated by how powerless I am. Thankfully there is a Power we can connect to and have relationship with that will let us soar to new heights. We realize that we were never actually in control and that the Pseudo-Power we thought we had was in reality a damaging falsehood. Higher Power: I call it God. The Jewish people call it 'Yah Weh'. In Islam 'Allah'. Buddhists speak of a life-force that is part of all things and in everything. I believe all of us are talking about the same Higher Power. Scripture teaches us that no one can come to the Father except through the Son, but it is still evident to all of us that there is something greater than all of us. I suggest that there is an intelligent creator who has made all of us and everything we can see, feel and touch. How else could so much existence, order and beauty come from 'nothing', chaos and destruction. Having a Higher Power in recovery is quintessential because it allows us to find Power though we possess none. It is how we function and truly get to understand what the promises from the A.A.'s Big Book are.

  2. There are tons of new business opportunities as a result of COVID. One door closes and another opens. Digital goods and online markets have sky-rocketed in impact in value. It's given me insights for new business ideas and career paths that I wouldn't have thought of otherwise. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, no? I have a lot more patience than I thought. Previously in life I have struggled in a major way with the virtue of patience. I want what I want, and I want it now. I want to see my family. I want to socialize. I want to move things forward. COVID has granted me the opportunity to truly exercise patience. I've come to the realization that when it calls for it; I am patient. I have found creative ways to use my time. I have been able to pour my heart out into my passions and hobbies. I enjoy painting, playing music, fixing things of a mechanical nature and meditation. I've had a lot more time to do these things as a result of COVID. Even if all of societies events and allowances are closed, I'll be okay. Even if I can't see my family, I'll be okay. He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.

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