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Home » Narcotics Anonymous 'higher power' isn't necessarily God – The Washington Post

Narcotics Anonymous 'higher power' isn't necessarily God – The Washington Post

Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn:
I think I have a substance-abuse problem, but I don’t want to go to Narcotics Anonymous because I’m an atheist and don’t think I can “let go and let God.” What should I do instead?
Non-spiritual addict
Go anyway. If the meeting you attend is God-centric, ask about other meetings, or shop (more plentiful) Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for one that’s more your style. The “higher power” isn’t God, necessarily — it can be goodness or reason or whatever you regard as an entity that’s bigger and more enduring than you are.
Think of it this way: When people have big things to wrestle with, often they take comfort in seeing mountains, skylines or beaches. Why? Because monumental things make a person feel small and impermanent. So all you need for the higher-power process is the idea of something that makes you, by comparison, small and impermanent, something that will long outlast your pain. It’s about bringing your problems down to size.
Re: The addict:
Just let go. “Letting God” means accepting that whatever’s going to happen will, whether you throw a fit about it or not. I don’t know if I believe in God, but I believe the world revolves on an axis that isn’t me — something I didn’t grasp before recovery. God’s existence or lack thereof has been a minuscule part of my recovery.
Thanks. It’s “letting the chips fall where they may,” if God-free cliches make the concept easier to accept.
Even non-addicts can benefit from reminding themselves that much of their sense of control is an illusion, that choices that are truly, 100 percent ours are quite limited. Liberating, really, if you think about it, and quite useful when deciding where to focus our attention in increasingly cluttered times.
Dear Carolyn:
A friend of mine had the opportunity to meet my future father-in-law in all his childish, sexist-joke-making, benignly obnoxious glory. Within five minutes she was totally offended by him.
I used to feel the same way, but have grown desensitized and now just sort of tune him out. But my friend was really annoyed by his behavior, and was also offended that I didn’t jump in and censor him for her benefit. In her mind, if I really objected to the way he expresses himself, I would jump in and protest whenever he starts up. I just don’t think it’s worth correcting people all the time, particularly not older ones who aren’t likely to change.
And if I have to be around this guy on a regular basis for the next who-knows-how-long, I might as well do what I’ve already done, which is to develop armor against it. Right?
Your friend is right in one sense, that if you “really objected to the way he expresses himself,” you would jump in and protest.
It’s just that in this case, you don’t “really object.” You see him as an anachronism best brushed off without fanfare. That’s a calculation a lot of people make, and it’s often a legitimate one, though it does tend to expose fault lines with those who feel drawing a harder line is appropriate. Your friend, meanwhile, was free to voice her own objections; she didn’t need your protection.

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