Higher power

My name is Lannie and I'm an alcoholic. I'd like to tell you about my higher power. I was raised Catholic. I actually had twelve years of Catholic education at the loving hands of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Newark. So naturally when I got to college I became an atheist.

At college I learned to use alcohol for stress relief and for fun. I carried this lesson with me into the working world, and for twenty-five years I had little going on in my life besides work and drinking. I was lonely and depressed, and my atheism stood me well through this period.

A few years ago there was a drunk-driving accident, a bad liver, and some other things going on in my life which led me to quit drinking. It wasn't very difficult for me to do. I was very lucky to not have the strong physical cravings that torture many alcoholics. One source of strength was that I rediscovered my spirituality. I guess I was just ready for some changes in my life, and spirituality was one of them.

My spirituality got jump-started in an seemingly random way. I was chatting with an anonymous stranger on the Internet, and he asked me if I knew where he could find a copy of The Handbook to Higher Consciousness by Ken Keyes. (Ken Keyes is different from Ken Kesey, the One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest guy.) I have no idea why he was asking this of me, rather than just going to Google or Amazon, but I suppose he was being an angel for me. I asked him what the book was and he told me that it contained a simple, practical formula for finding happiness in life, and that it wasn't religious at all. He said he thought I would enjoy it. I was actually feeling pretty happy about my life at the time—happier, in fact, than I had been in many years—but I liked it and I wanted more happiness. I also wished I could understand where my happiness was coming from. So I was intrigued, and I located a copy of the book.

The Handbook to Higher Consciousness presents a model in which our brains are perfect computers, but our thoughts, which are like the computer's software, are messed up. All we need to do to be happy and successful is to reprogram our computers with better software. Coming from my atheist viewpoint, this model appealed to me because it did not depend upon the concept of a higher power. Besides, my career was in computer hardware engineering, and I liked the idea that the hardware is perfect and it's all the fault of the software.

The second major principal taught by Keyes in The Handbook is that on the whole, good things happen in the universe. For example, I exist, and what are the odds against that? Even if it is not empirically or absolutely true that the universe tends towards goodness, it seems to me that my life will be better if I choose to believe it is that way. Therefore I do so choose. Now the correct software that I need to program into my brain is one that goes with the flow of the universe, rather than trying to control it or fight against it. Little did I know at the time that the seeds of a higher power had been planted in my mind. That is pretty much the concept of a higher power that I hold today: the power of the universe to tend toward good outcomes, in which I consciously choose to believe.

I started to apply some principals from The Handbook to begin to reprogram my own mind. This felt so good that I found myself becoming open to a renewed spirituality, and I began sampling some different spiritual philosophies and religions. I landed in a Unity church, Unity of Silicon Valley, where I invite you to join me any Sunday morning at ten. I learned to pray and meditate, and I host a Course In Miracles study group in my home on Monday evenings. My higher power has become a source of strength for me, but I still live in a lot of fear, worry and doubt. I didn't acknowledge my alcoholism as such until I began coming to meetings a few weeks ago, and I haven't started working the steps yet. I think my spiritual foundation and my higher power will help me with my steps, and I hope my steps can help me overcome my fears and doubts.

—Lannie R, 4/2004

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