Grapevine Online Exclusive

Published February 2019.

Higher Powers and Nonbelievers

He was finally going to admit the fact that he was ‘happy, joyous and God-free.’ Would others in the rooms accept him?

What does a Higher Power search look like for a nonbeliever? We hear about conscious contact with a Higher Power. That’s what I signed up for, so I started searching. I came up short—happy, joyous and God-free. I felt like I had the wrong answer in an AA game show, so I was in the closet about my doubts. My leap of faith was to stop pretending and admit my atheism. Would others insist that belonging and believing were synonymous or would I be accepted for who I was? In time, I came to see that my standing in the Fellowship and the quality of my sobriety were not contingent on adopting someone else’s beliefs nor denying my own. After all, we say Higher Power, not highest power; I find, in the example around me in the rooms and the value system within me, a power sufficient to sustain sobriety. 

In my early AA, I hid out in plain view. The best way to not be singled out was to be agreeable. I was a phony. The reason I said, “My name is Joe and I am an alcoholic,” was not because I was resigned to the reality that I could never safely drink again. I said what everyone else did. I could read “How it Works” with as much conviction as the next member. I never asked myself if the words I was saying were true for me. I read them because I was flattered to be asked.

-- Joe C.

Toronto, Ontario

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