On Gods and Dogs

I don’t think I’ve mentioned my best friend in this blog before.

I’m sure you don’t know her. She doesn’t speak much English and doesn’t have any troubling addictions. She isn’t in recovery as we are, she hasn’t read the Big Book. She’s never attended a meeting, doesn’t know what they’re about, and probably wouldn’t be allowed even if she wanted to.

She’s never spent a moment reliving and relitigating shameful moments from her past. She takes each day as it comes, one at a time, with no expectations for her future. She’s never forgone any opportunity for joy, adventure, or excitement. She maintains an infectiously positive attitude, is empathetic by nature, and becomes a fast friend to anyone she meets.

She’s never had a crisis of conscience. She’s mastered the concept of acceptance. There are no mysteries in her motivations. If she had any inclination toward addiction, she’d be a perfect candidate for this program. So much of it comes naturally to her.

She’s certainly perfectly accepting of the notion of a higher power.

I don’t put much effort into trying to hide from the fellowship that I’m an agnostic. If you’ve attended any meetings on this site, you’ve probably seen me mention it. It’s unavoidable if you want to share openly and honestly, I think, given how much of the literature references a higher power of some sort.

I suppose I’m more of an atheist, really, but I’m trying to avoid the stereotypes. I’m not hostile toward religion, it just isn’t for me. I’m not offended if someone shares about their love for Jesus, Krishna, Moses, or the Buddha. I don’t feel the need to chime in on others’ beliefs, and (most of the time) I find that people respect my lack thereof.

Yet with so much of this program skewing religious — though it’s stated to be spiritual, one can hardly divorce the language from the intent — it can be difficult to work the steps and follow the suggestions of the fellowship if you aren’t the praying sort.

I’ve heard it said that our higher power can be anything, but I’m not sure that’s true. The typical “doorknob” example never made much sense to me. How do I seek comfort and wisdom from a doorknob? How does turning my life and will over to an inanimate object further my development in recovery?

I don’t mean to criticize doorknobs, and if they work for you, I’m happy to hear it. They just never did much for me. Nor did trees, lucky charms, or other people. I struggle to this day with the concept of a higher power, and mine is certainly more nebulous and ill-defined than I’d like it to be, but I may be overthinking it.

Given that we’re here, there’s plenty of evidence that we’ve all had a higher power in our lives at some point. Our addictions were bigger than us, surely. We couldn’t overcome them on our own and they’d made our lives unmanageable. Yet we continued to follow them blindly, kept digging for new depths at their command, believing that nothing could offer us the solace we found in their abuse.

There are higher powers all around us, if we’re willing to look. We can certainly do better than doorknobs, no? That isn’t even this program’s most satisfying cliché.

What of the fellowship itself? We can love it and receive its love in return, it can do things for us that we can’t do for ourselves, we can seek comfort from it when we’re weak or dejected. What of nature, what of “love” itself?

We humans so enjoy placing ourselves at the top of the existential food chain, yet our lives are controlled by so many outside forces and influences. All of these are powers greater than ourselves. We must simply choose one that works for us.

When Sammy considers me to be her higher power, it isn’t because she’s meditated on it, worked it over in her mind a thousand times, or prayed about it. She’s doesn’t really care why the world works as it does, and she certainly doesn’t require some kind of mathematical proof.

She just trusts me, in that way only a dog can. I haven’t let her down yet, and I don’t intend to, but she isn’t anxious over that possibility. As far as she’s concerned, it’s a fairly simple thing. She knows that there’s love, loyalty, and trust on both sides of the relationship.

Could it be that easy for us as people? I don’t see why not.


  1. Shawn

    I love this article. It should be easy for us as people to be accepting of life as our beloved pets.
    Love, loyalty, and trust on both sides is indeed a higher power and a beautiful thing.

  2. MB

    Too bad we can’t be like our pets in so many ways. Loved your sharing. Thanks needed it

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