My Experience of Struggling with Higher-Power Issues

–Bruce J.

This is a powerfully important issue for me and caused me to leave OA for more than a year. I cried and was so deeply saddened. We are reminded at each meeting that there should be no cross talk. However, often when the subject of HP comes up, some people have tried to define HP for me. A few people have told me to think of an HP as a big daddy. Why not a big mama? Actually, neither of those is good for me. This happened to me not only at meetings, but with a sponsor. My sponsor talked so much about his own HP and seemed to assume that I accepted his HP as my HP. It seems commonplace in OA for others to try to push people into believing or accepting a certain view and relationship with a HP. At a meeting I went to, we did a reading that mentioned HP. Many who shared said they go to church. That did not bother me. If they find their HP in the church, that is good. But there was clearly the implication that church is the CORRECT place to find a HP. That upset me and made me feel for the Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and others who are so obviously absent from OA.

I am a very spiritual—not religious—person and am blessed with friendships with people from all over the world. I teach English to adult immigrants. I have dear friends from the Pakistani Embassy who are Muslim. I have friends from Bangladesh and Nepal who are Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim. I have friends who belong to the Ethical Society and who view nature and the universe as their higher power—their higher power is not a "personified" being and is not a power that can be prayed to (note: I am speaking of their personal HP).

Everyone in this life is my teacher. I do not participate in any organized religions very often and am not a member of an organized religion. However, you may find me at a synagogue with my Jewish twin sister, at a Buddhist monastery in Washington, D.C., at a Unitarian Church. Most often I find my spirituality, my HP, in the hearts of other people. My HP is found in the "we" of OA. My HP is each of you. You cannot hear any prayers from me, nor can you guide me outside of my being in direct contact with you. The collective spirit of OA members is a higher power, as are other HPs. None is better than any other, in my mind. I believe that OA needs to make it truly clear that all HPs are good and that any HP is a personal choice. How wonderful it would be to see OA appeal to Hindus, Jews, Muslims, atheists, and others in a very direct way. I believe this would be good, because for too long OA has been strongly associated with only one religion, even if the Big Book makes some reference to other beliefs. OA websites are great advertisements. Websites should make it clearer that a god need not be a HP. Many of us don't believe in gods or omnipotent or omniscient beings. My mother was involved in OA for decades. She said that the Lord's Prayer was commonly imposed on others at meetings she attended. She, like me, found that very objectionable. It alienated many people and caused some people to leave OA.

I contacted my sponsor after 14 months. I felt guilty about ending my relationship with him, very abruptly. At the time I ended our relationship, I felt that I was an outsider in a veiled religious organization. Mostly, I feared being dishonest with myself. I loved my sponsor. Now, I am accepting myself as I am. I love OA. I come to meetings with a smile. I am very grateful for the spirit I find at each meeting.