Perspective: You Don’t Want Addiction Driving Your Car

by Joanne Steel

I grew up in a family where the Easter Bunny had more sway than the crucifix.

Growing up, I only went to church for the occasional wedding or funeral.

My dad, moved to tears every time Jerusalem was sung (must be a British rite of passage), couldn’t sing to save his life but was drawn in his formative years to churches where they sang with gusto. My mom got herself baptized at the age of 19 so she, like my father, grew up without ideas that boxed them in.

While I love Michelangelo’s paintings, I have always rejected the “old white man on the cloud” number. I’ve always preferred Morriseau’s line drawings featuring energy lines connecting all things.

I was a child who fell in love with Star Wars – and who later fell in love with Joseph Campbell’s book The Power of Myth. It’s not a coincidence that Joseph Campbell advised George Lucas on Star Wars – on the journey of the hero who connects with his higher power, the force. In this way, my concept of a higher power is masala – a mixture informed by Nature, The Universe, Humanity, and the Unknowable.

But religion, as so many in recovery are quick to point out, is very different from spirituality. (Religion is for people who are afraid to go to hell. Spirituality is for people who’ve been there.)

But I always liked this definition of spirituality: it’s the relationship you have with yourself, with others, nature and something bigger than yourself. So the 12 Steps are the perfect recipe to exercise your spiritual muscle, regardless of your belief systems.

Somehow country and western lyrics fill my head when I think of why a higher power is so essential to making this recovery program work. If you’re in the driver’s seat instead of your higher power, addiction is actually driving your car. You don’t want addiction driving your car.

Last night at an alumni meeting, we had a good discussion about higher powers. We had agnostics, atheists and men of the cloth sharing in the room and all were in synch on the subject of spirituality. As Chris noted, you don’t need to define the orange in your hand – you just need to eat it.

I am a blank slate when it comes to understanding a higher power. I feel no need to define it. It can evolve and breathe and float. I didn’t have to overcome the God barriers that Wylaine and Natasha did to become spiritually connected beings.

What a gift this is! My mind and family framework give me full license to absorb different conceptions of what a higher power it.

I once had the privilege of observing an Alateen meeting where the topic was the higher power. A young woman shared that she had a tough time with the concept of God when she first started working the 12 steps, and felt very uncomfortable using the word God. She embraced her group as her higher power, but she outgrew it. She felt most at home in a forest, so a tree became her higher power – but once again, this idea failed to encompass everything she wanted. A few more transmutations and she realized she was comfortable with the word God as it now was inclusive of all previous incarnations – as well as those she had yet to conceptualize.

Reading TGIF feeds my sense of Higher Power. I found Robyn’s piece about her higher power, the wolf, compelling. Conversations with Roger and Murray allow me to see how spirituality and atheism can comfortably co-exist. I read Mary O.’s piece about music and she gives me new insight. I like the way the program allowed Aruna go deeper in her Hindu faith.

Enjoy the journey of getting to know your higher power. It’s yours.

About the Authors

Renascent Alumni
Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email