Most of us have heard of the 12-Step program before, but we may still be fuzzy on the details.

According to the American Addiction Center’s website, the 12-Step program was first pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The “steps” include the reliance on a “higher power,” and this model is used by 74% of addiction centers.

The founders of the program initially rooted the principles in the Christian faith, which led unbelievers (and people of different religions) to feel turned away.

What about addicts who don’t believe in a “God”? Does a “higher power” have to be God?

Over the years, the language has changed a bit to be more inclusive. However, this doesn’t mean that some people aren’t still uncomfortable with the idea that “higher power” generally means God.

A “higher power,” however, could be nearly anything that personally motivates you. For example, in her article “Different Forms of Higher Power in Recovery” published in Psychology Today in 2018, Dr. Peg O’Connor notes that “other examples of “higher power” include moral principles, patriotism, civic engagement, and quite importantly, a higher or better self.”

Dr. O’Connor notes that the idea of a higher power is a “very personal concept.” Basically, your “higher power” can be whatever works to drive you to get better. Some examples include:

Nature and the flow of the universe

Regardless of whether or not there is a “God” driving the world forward — the world does, in fact, move forward. The universe has a flow, and nature can be the ultimate source of finding your sense of a “higher power.” The third step of recovery (turning over control to your “higher power”) can be as simple as accepting that you can’t control the weather, natural disasters, or the universe. You must merely live in it and take it as it comes.


This could be anything you’re passionate about. Still, most would note the particular influence artistic expression can have as a “higher power.” For example, many give examples of how things like paintings and great music can evoke an emotional response in us that makes us feel moved. Other examples could include writing, drawing, sculpting, etc.

The human experience

The idea that there is a better, healthier version of you out there can be the ultimate driving force behind many people’s recovery. Bettering ourselves and connecting with our fellow man can be the ideal sense of a higher purpose and, therefore, a higher power.

Keeping your mental health in check is a vital part of keeping your sobriety in check. Never hesitate to seek help when you need it. For more information on help with your individual mental health and sobriety needs, call Alta Loma at (866) 457-3843.