by Jerome G.
These days, my relationship with Higher Power can perhaps be best described by an analogy with surfing. There is lots of effort required on my behalf to align myself properly. If I do, the results can be sublime. If I go against it, the results can be exhausting, discouraging or even disastrous.
To surf, I need to acquire equipment (proper clothing, board, safety harness) and get myself to an appropriate location. Once there, I walk down to the shoreline and try to spot where the waves are rising. Then I jump in. The shore break is hard to get past, it resists my even starting out. But I persist and soon am able to lie on the board and then must paddle hard to get out to the area I’ve spotted to catch a wave.
If I make it to the designated area, I then have to sit up on the board and watch out to sea in an effort to spot a promising swell. When I’ve done so, I turn and start to paddle like crazy, to get up speed to catch the wave. If I manage to do so — an uncertain proposition at best — I then have to try to stand up. If I can do all that and am still on the wave, I have a chance of a ride. Often the wave won’t crest or will break in the wrong place or I’ll just fall and I’ll have to turn around and paddle back out. But, once in a while, I’ll get a great ride!
Even then, I’ll have to be careful. I may try to ride the wave too far and could get dashed on the rocks or scraped on the beach. Or I could get going fast and then tumble and crash and watch out that I don’t drown. But, if my efforts align with the wave in the right way, I’ll have a few moments of bliss where I’m one with the power of the water.
That’s how I see higher power — like the power of the wave. If I put in the work and pay attention to the flow, I can go with it and be held. But many times I will fail. The more I practice, the better I’ll get. I’ll gain confidence and be able to face bigger challenges.
But there’s another element to my experience of higher power that’s not immediately obvious in this oceanic analogy, which seems primarily to be about relationship with the physical world.
My deepest problems are not in relating to the universe but to other people. I started practicing my addictions because I felt unsafe with people — in fact, often secretly terrified. I liked the ease and comfort I felt with booze and drugs, and tried to gain your love and acceptance by convincing you how thin, successful, helpful and funny I was.
Early in recovery, I struggled with defining Higher Power. Slowly, I started to gather helpful clues. Step 12 talked about “practicing these principles;” Tradition 2 mentioned “a loving god;” Appendix II told me the essence of spirituality is “willingness, honesty and open mindedness.”
I was asked what human traits, what principles my Higher Power should comprise. Based on the traits I admire in other people, I chose things like kindness, fairness, forgiveness, loyalty and a sense of humour.
So, as the St Francis prayer (Step 11) suggests, it has become my responsibility to be a channel — a practitioner — of those traits. Do unto others as I would have them do unto me.
In essence, those principles have become my ocean, the power of the waves, my Higher Power in relationship with other people.
Before recovery, it was all based on what I wanted. I was motivated by fear, shame and loneliness and used all the tools at my command to bend the world to my liking. I was about as successful at that as I am trying to make a wave rise or change direction at my command!
Now, like the surfer setting out to find where the waves are breaking, I have to pay much more attention to the ebb and flow of social and community behaviour. I have found that the key to that is practicing the principles of higher power. I can still try to influence the world around me, but have to be aware that I am much more likely to have a good ride if I am aligned with others rather than trying to bend them to my will.
I don’t worry too much these days about knowing god’s will for me — I’m here to have a human experience. But I pray often for the power and courage to practice love and to be of service, especially when I feel lonely and afraid. Sober and connected. What a ride!