Some of us came into CoDA eager to begin our recovery only to trip immediately on the word “God.” We were told that CoDA is not a religious program; that we didn’t have to believe in any particular version of “God,” that we could choose a Higher Power of our own understanding, but still that word “God” was everywhere. “God grant me the serenity...,” “Admitted to God...’” “Humbly asked God...,” “as we remain open to God's will for us...,” “...to be that which God intended....”
Although we were beginning to accept that we ourselves didn’t have the answer to our misery, it was still hard for some of us to swallow the idea that “God” was the answer. We may have just quietly refused to say “that word.” Or perhaps we grumbled that CoDA should do away with the word God altogether.
If we were still resisting the “God talk,” we were still focusing on what was wrong outside of us rather than inside of us. We were still practicing our need to be right, our need to have others change in order to provide us with our sense of well-being. In short, we were still practicing our codependency.
“Allow time for your spirituality to develop. It unfolds by itself as a result of working the Steps.”
Although we may have found it difficult to embrace the concept of a Higher Power as we began our recovery, we decided not to let that chase us away. Starting a Twelve Step program of recovery required honesty, openness, willingness, and no small amount of courage, but what did we have to lose? We had reached a point where we were willing to try anything, maybe even “the God stuff.”
“The point was, that in the beginning of our time in CoDA, we became willing to entertain the possibility that there was Something that could do for us what we could not do for ourselves.”
Over time, those of us who stuck with the program began to find a way to deal the word “God” without feeling compelled to follow someone else’s definition or to make them follow ours. We came to see the word “God” as a sort of verbal shorthand for “power-greater-than-myself-of-my-own-understanding-that-restores-me-to-sanity.” Some “old timers” suggested we think of it as “Good Orderly Direction.” As we began to develop a concept of our own personal Higher Power, we found it no longer mattered what others called it. We found that what mattered was our own personal willingness to form a relationship with something greater than ourselves.
Although a relationship with a Higher Power is the foundation of our recovery in CoDA, developing that relationship was a struggle for many of us. Fortunately we were not required to believe anything to get started. All we needed was an open mind.
“Building our own concept of a Higher Power...our concept of a safe being can begin to take shape.”
One thing we found helpful was learning about and letting go of those things we had used as our higher powers in our codependency. We had sought refuge in other people, in addictions, and in compulsively trying to control the world around us. We have had to accept that those behaviors cannot provide us with a true, lasting sense of security and well-being.
Another thing we found helpful was to explore the concept of faith or trust. Trust did not come easy for most of us. For years we had put our trust in other people or in ourselves to “make things right.” Routinely, others let us down, or our own efforts failed. The program asked us to trust in a Higher Power, but we were not sure how. How could we really believe that a Higher Power would take care of us? We learned that faith was possible if we pointed our old thinking in a new direction.
Most of us have faith that others will discover our unworthiness. We have faith that we deserve very little joy or peace. We have faith in the negative outcome and are rarely surprised when others disappoint us. In CoDA we can learn to embrace this faith we have developed and simply focus it in another direction – toward our recovery.”
Then came the task of deciding who or what exactly we could call our Higher Power.
The CoDA Book, Chapter Two, suggests we make a list of characteristics that our Higher Power has or that we would like our Higher Power to have. The Steps may have helped us begin our list. We understood that our Higher Power would be something greater than ourselves that we could trust to restore our sanity (Step Two) and to care for our lives (Step Three). It would be something we could trust with our secrets (Step Five) and that would remove our shortcomings (Step Seven). It would be something we could deliberately make contact with for wisdom and guidance (Step Eleven).
The forms we have chosen for our Higher Power are as varied as the individuals in CoDA.
Some of us chose a beloved ancestor who had passed away.
For others, a mystical being such as a wizard, goddess, angel, or mythical animal provided a Higher Power
Some of us used the collective wisdom of our home group as our Higher Power or the Twelve Steps themselves.
Some of us sought to strengthen our relationship with the Higher Power of our religion.
Others sought to develop a relationship with the Higher Power of a different religion.
Some of us turned to the power of nature or the forces of life or the universe.
For some of us our Higher Power was a combination of several elements.
We learned that the exact form of our Higher Power was not important. We were free to try out different forms over time and to choose what worked best for us. We found that just being willing to explore the idea of a Higher Power began to change our lives.
As we became willing to stop incessantly trying to control the people and things around us, we felt less burdened. As we became willing to trust in the wisdom of a Higher Power, we began to experience our lives differently. Things that used to bother us no longer seemed so complicated. Life became less of a struggle.
For many of us, coming to believe in a Higher Power required determined perseverance in the face of our own doubts and fears. Fortunately, ours is a program of progress, not perfection. We discovered that we could keep working the program without having an absolute conclusion or an exact answer as to what Higher Power is. All that was required was willingness to let go of our resistance and try to form an idea of a Higher Power that made sense to us.
“The miracles of recovery unfold. Loving relationships with our Higher Power, ourselves and others improve and evolve. We begin to feel more assured that our deepest needs will be cared for.”
Step Two assured us we would come to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore our sanity. Step Eleven reminded us that we would continue to seek to improve our conscious contact with that power throughout our recovery. The Steps guide us as we grow and evolve in our program, and our concept of our Higher Power is free grow and evolve with us.