What’s Recovery Got to Do With a Higher Power?

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Even Hollywood recognizes the quest for a higher power. One of the most touching films from recent years explores substance abuse, its devastating consequences, and the intriguing notion of a higher power in recovery.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot stars Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, and Roony Mara. After a terrible car accident caused by drunk driving, Phoenix’s character is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life, paralyzed from the chest down.

His resistance and his psychological roadblocks in group recovery meetings stem from what his sponsor describes as the resistance to identify and submit to a higher power. Phoenix’s character struggles with this for a good portion of the film. Audiences see him relapse time and time again as he refuses to yield to something beyond himself.

This dramatized struggle leads audiences to mull over what this looks like in real life and in recovery.

History’s Higher Power

Whether someone believes in God or not, these three interesting, ancient quotes give a bit of context to a higher power’s function for people in history and in recovery:

  • Ego is the biggest enemy of humans.

This quote, taken from the ancient Hindu scriptures called Vedas, is taken out of context but expresses the need for a higher power rather than a personal sense of superiority.

Perhaps this sense of ego plays an important part in relapse situations, in which a person in recovery believes themselves to be stronger, stabler, or more prepared to fend off temptations than they actually are. A higher power in such a scenario removes the ego and replaces it with a sharper sense of reality.

  • His incomparably great power for us who believe…is far above all rule and authority, power and dominion.

This quote, taken from the book of Ephesians in the Bible, offers a sense of peace when it comes to feeling in or out of control. If a higher power is not subject to any other rules or regulations, it becomes untouchable—a permanent rock of psychological support. This can be extremely comforting and stress-reducing during the rocky, often revelatory phases of recovery.

  • All praise is for God…[He] Alone we ask for help; [to] guide us along the straight path…

This passage, taken from the Quran, enforces this sense of support and clarity that a higher power guarantees and provides, taking such pressures off of individuals or institutions.

Friends, family members, partners…any person can disappoint—but a higher power remains constant.

A Higher Power’s Impact

These three passages grouped together offer an idea of the practicality that the concept of a higher power creates in recovery:

  • A higher power has the potential to deflate egos that damage a person’s recovery process and relapse management
  • A higher power offers a sense of hope, direction, purpose, and safety that an individual in recovery may otherwise feel unable to recognize in their daily lives
  • A higher power takes the pressure off of people around the person in recovery to never disappoint, always offer sound advice, and never fail in delivering their promises

The Freedom to Choose

It’s true that a good portion of the American public believes in something bigger than human beings alone.

The Vedas put it this way: “Do not be led by others, awaken your own mind, amass your own experience, and decide for yourself your own path.”

Everyone in recovery is free to construct their own concept of a higher power. Although we are a faith-based organization, St. Gregory’s Recovery Center is not in the business of telling our residents what they should or shouldn’t believe in. This is one of the main features that makes us so different from other rehabilitation centers.

We support our clients’ independence, personal thought processes, religion or lack of one, and unique conceptions of the world and of the higher power that makes sense to them. A higher power is about support, not rejection.

If a Higher Power Doesn’t Resonate Yet, Let the Power of IOP Be A Guide

Our intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are group meetings led by top-notch health care professionals. These meetings are an excellent resource for learning how to manage substance abuse for people who have either completed a residential recovery treatment or are unable to attend one.

Through community, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), life-skills and substance abstinence training, and the power of a group dynamic, it’s possible to find the benefits of a higher power when entering our Iowa IOPs today. A group is more than an individual; it’s a lifeline. Call us today to find out more about how a higher power fits into your recovery today.

Researching Iowa addiction specialists? To learn more about programs offered at St. Gregory Recovery Center, call and speak with someone today, at (888) 778-5833.

Our graduates tell their stories…

When first arriving at St. Gregory I had mixed feelings about the health and wellness workouts. I came in at 136 lbs and didn’t think it was possible to reach...
- Chris
The good life is not merely a life free from addictions, physical and/or psychological—addictions that usually are the outward manifestations of deeper problems—but a life lived in harmonious balance, free...
- Matt
I came to St. Gregory’s at my all-time worst—physically, emotionally, and mentally. Having gone through a bad rehab experience once before, I had been very reluctant in succumbing to that...
- CJ
No matter where I start my thought process when reflecting upon my time before, during and after St. Gregory’s, I always seem to end up in the same place in...
- Kaele


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