I haven’t had a Mental Health Monday article in a while, but this is one that I’d been thinking of doing for some time.

One of the most accessible and free tools for addiction recovery is Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. AA and NA provide a safe space for addicts to recover, to depend on each other, and to fill their lives with something more than their next fix.

I was always a bit resistant to the disease model of addiction, but after a lot of review of the literature and the research done on addictions, I’ve come to the notion that both the disease models and the cure models have validity and application to full recovery. It depends on what works best for the person struggling with addiction.

However, I had always balked at the notion of a Higher Power. What about atheists? I wondered how many could come to terms with the spiritual nature of NA and AA and reconcile that. Sure, I’d heard “this coffee cup can be your higher power” or whatever, but that always felt a bit hollow to me.

No one could seem to explain it to me in a way that I could relate to it. But finally, a friend in recovery was able to explain it to me, and I’d like to quote that person here (in keeping with the spirit of AA/NA, I am leaving this person anonymous):

A higher power simply has to be something bigger than yourself. I picked the universe. It was mostly hard to consider the cosmos a higher power without making it into a deity. I thought really hard about it, and just came to the conclusion that the way I fit into the natural order of things was my higher power. The most challenging part was to keep from making myself my own higher power if that makes sense. Seeing my place in the universe as a healthy person [is] the goal that guided me, when it has to be that my place in the universe is of equal value either way, and that everything does not begin and end with myself. I am merely a cog, and the universe will do whatever it does either way.  In place of let go, let God.

That was it—that’s what it took to finally click with me. I wanted to share it with you in the hope that, if you are a reader struggling with addiction as an atheist, that there is hope. Don’t give up. Seek a power greater than yourself even if that power is the Universe in its natural state, or the force of nature itself.

I put together a list of questions for the recovering addict that may help flesh out what that Higher Power is all about:

  1. What does your Higher Power look like? Does it have a personal connection, or is it something more amorphous?
  2. How do you plan to depend on that Higher Power?
  3. How does the Higher Power serve your recovery?
  4. If you woke up tomorrow and your addiction magically vanished, what would your life look like? How would the concept of the Higher Power fit into this world?
  5. How does the Higher Power fit into your relapse plan?

Perhaps answering these questions will help you create a Higher Power that helps you depend on something that’s tangible enough to aid your steps as you walk this road to recovery.


Your use of this website indicates your understanding of the following:

The information and resources contained on this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to assess, diagnose, or treat any medical and/or mental health disease or condition. The use of this website does not imply nor establish any type of therapist-client relationship. Furthermore, the information obtained from this site should not be considered a substitute for a thorough medical and/or mental health evaluation by an appropriately credentialed and licensed professional.

This website includes links to other websites for informational and reference purposes only. This website does not endorse, warrant or guarantee the products, services or information described or offered at these other websites. Examine the content carefully.