Deborah has several alcoholic relatives. She became active in Al-anon, for families of alcoholics, over 37 years ago, often helping others.
Alanon Lets You Choose Your Own Version of God Based on Your Personal Beliefs - All Religious and Non-Religious People are Welcome
God, a Higher Power and the 12 Steps
Many people struggle with the fact that Alanon, Alcoholics Anonymous and most of the other 12 Step programs refer to themselves as spiritual programs. They may feel that their current religious beliefs, or lack of them, satisfy their spiritual needs, and they are suspicious of any organization which may be trying to trick them into changing what they believe. Although these feelings are understandable, there is no reason to be concerned.
When you join a 12 Step program, it is suggested that you eventually turn your will and your life over to the care of a Power greater than yourself. Some people see this as any power at work in the universe other than themselves. You can call that power God, Buddha, Mohamed, Christ, Fate or the Universe.
Whatever that power is, this is your Higher Power.
If you already have a concept of God, then nothing needs to change for you. AA and Alanon only ask you to continue to put your faith in that God. Continue to attend the church or religious institution where you have always gone. Follow your faith.
However, if you are an atheist, this concept can be a stumbling block for new members. After all, if your past life seems more like a train wreck than a successful journey, how can you seriously be expected to trust in a loving God? It may take time, but most people are able to find a version of universal power or strength which surpasses their own power. In other words, they begin to realize there is a power in the universe which is greater than their own.
Once you have accepted that there are forces at work in the universe which are more powerful than you are, then you are well on your way to accepting the idea of a Higher Power.
Personally, I have found that my experience in Alanon has enhanced my spiritual life, not changed it. My religious beliefs have remained the same. However, through Alanon, I have learned to depend on my faith more than ever, and have learned to trust that the God of my understanding has much more control over my life and lives of my loved ones than I do.
Who is the God of Your Understanding?
The God of your understanding, as mentioned in the 12 Steps, is exactly what it says. Your God can be Christian, Muslim or Jewish; your God can be male or female; your God can be all-seeing and all-knowing or more limited. Your Higher Power can simply be the universe, nature or whatever power you think is greater than yourself.
Alcoholics Anonymous, Alanon and similar 12 Step programs only hope that the God of your understanding is one that makes you feel comfortable when you give up trying to control everything and everyone and turn to God, or your Higher Power, in prayer.
How Do You Communicate with God?
How are you going to share your problems and your struggles with the God of your understanding? Many people do this through formal prayer or meditation. Other people share their problems by writing in a journal. Sometimes, people write letters or notes to God, or their Higher Power, and put them in a “box,” sometimes called a “God Box.” When our prayers are written down, it is often comforting to go back and read them later to see how our issues were resolved. The solutions are frequently much different than what we expected; but somehow things worked out, and our lives have moved on. I have often enjoyed spending time reading my old prayers. It sometimes amazes me how things were resolved.
The Benefits of Having a Higher Power in Our Life
Once you begin to feel comfortable with the idea that your Higher Power or the "God of your understanding" is playing an active role in your life, you will never feel alone again. You will come to feel greater peace and serenity in your life. You will still have problems and people in your life who are causing you stress; however, your life will no longer feel so chaotic. You will have restored sanity to your life and to your home. As a result, you will also be aware that you have greater spiritual health. And, people with greater spiritual health often have better physical health, as well.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Deborah-Diane
Deborah-Diane (author) from Orange County, California on October 31, 2014:
Some people come to 12 Step programs feeling overwhelmed and depressed. The idea that there is a God may be something they have given up on. These programs will help restore your spiritual life.
Deborah-Diane (author) from Orange County, California on September 08, 2011:
Thank you for sharing how you have found your Higher Power. We each seek God, and find Him, in a variety of ways. The important thing is that we find Him.
Edwinoel Tanglao from Los Angeles, California on September 05, 2011:
Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his through our union with Christ, as in Ephesians 1:4 (echoed from similar messages in Isaiah 49:16 and Jeremiah 1:5). And those who believe and do what God teaches will be blessed. Still, we should not lose heart but try to win the unbelievers that they too may see the light and be healed. As Jesus has said to his apostles (Matthew 13:14-15), “In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving; for this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”
Christ tells us not to deny him because he and God the Father are one. Denying Christ is just like denying the truth in God. Whereas if we follow and believe in Christ Jesus, we find true peace and happiness in this life and the afterlife.
Deborah-Diane (author) from Orange County, California on September 04, 2011:
I am glad that my readers are revealing that they have found the God of their understanding, even though both commenters view God in different ways. In either case, if they needed to belong to a 12 Step program, their beliefs would fit right in!
Edwinoel Tanglao from Los Angeles, California on September 03, 2011:
In John 14:6 (Holy Bible) Jesus said to His apostles, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. Further in John 3:16, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
“I and the father are one”. In John 14: 11-14 Jesus added, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me… I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
Only when you open your heart and spirit to Christ Jesus will you be able to understand him more especially in his words of truth and love. Godspeed Deb. Christ loves you.
Deborah-Diane (author) from Orange County, California on September 02, 2011:
Wonderful! This is exactly the kind of thinking that is encouraged in 12 Step programs. You can have ANY higher power that you choose. That is the point of this article ... to make people realize that you do not have to believe in a Christian version of God in order to belong to Alcoholics Anonymous, Alanon or the other 12 Step programs!
Jonny Tyson from Adelaide, South Australia on September 02, 2011:
One must find strength within themselves...not a deity.
Why is it every time someone preaches of self-improvement does it need to relate to god?!...
Personally I am an Odinist..yes...a faith that is hardly known to the masses, therefore insignificant to society.
I look for my strength and ambition within but look to the Gods for direction.
The only reason a Christian "GOD" is accepted as the main form of higher being is because unfortunately that is what has been brainwashed into the peoples minds of the world.. generally from birth. Just because its the majority does NOT make it right.