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- AA Members Understandings of the Higher Power (HP) A Qualitative Study | OMICS International
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Carl, distraught, went through a time of intense prayer that led him to a shift in his relationship with the HP, making it more real, intense and satisfying:. And then I was distraught But then I had to pray and meditate, pray and meditate. And it… then you know through whatever happened… So it all made clearly this connection with my HP bigger. Lily described feeling like a spectator to prayer, observing people in meetings, and reading about it.
She wanted to learn more about it and tried to reason her way into a closer relationship with the Higher Power. I need to work a bit on my prayer Why do people pray to something? Is it within or without, or both? Though she likes meditation, she cannot adhere completely to the Buddhist faith which she sees as inconsistent: In summary, different types of prayers have been cited: Liz reported that she was able to hand over big things and bad events to God and trust, more than daily life situations.
Alex, who has been suffering from seasonal depression in the past, believes that he needs another strategy than handing over to deal with it:. The category of Expression of Gratitude is a form of communication with the HP often referred to. Sponsors advise to do a nightly gratitude list for the past day. Dom, John and Gabe mention it. The most obvious gratitude usually listed is for a sober day, as an interviewee notes. Giving thanks can be a problem for atheists or agnostics, but Fred finds his own strategy for it:. Here set prayer and gratitude are linked.
Fred also showed gratitude by saying that finding AA is a privilege.
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He noticed that gratitude had a positive effect on him. Liz said she appreciated being alive and feeling. She thanked God for better relationships. Now she felt blessed for having and trusting a HP, and for a normal life. Gratitude is reported by four participants as also helping to make a Connection with the HP, a category cited by six interviewees. Carl said he got connected with the HP when he felt grateful for the sea, the mountains, or while running. Nature reminded him of when he experienced a shift from agnosticism to faith in God. Talking about it touches him to the point of tears during the interview.
Contact with the HP has to be constantly worked at. The HP is a force that we can access. It can be found by seeking it with altruistic intentions, through kind and altruistic thought processes and practices, and can be transmitted through altruism. It is accessible by being altruistic.
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Thoughts are not enough to access it. Challenging self or helping others is necessary at times. Liz felt more connected with the HP and with the universe. Things seemed to have more purpose for her than before AA. Emma felt a connection when handing over her will to the HP and believing that things would get better. Those people who maintain a constant dialogue with their HP — whatever that is — seem to be happier than the people who struggle with it.
The problem that causes me is that intellectually I struggle with it… I try not to let it worry me too much! Lily mentioned hearing people talk about that contact. The realisation that while busy with meditation she neglected prayer made her want to learn about it. I wonder how I can converse with what I find abstract like love or goodness.
AA Members Understandings of the Higher Power (HP) A Qualitative Study | OMICS International
I read about emotional connection in rituals and thought I needed an object to connect to. So I started some rituals to connect with the HP, physically bowing, kneeling One way or another, no one in AA can ignore that contact with a HP. Most interviewees talk about feeling it in meetings. Fred mentioned a less direct way he listened and heard. He relates how he interpreted a serious physical health problem. But this is turning the negative into positive! Concerning his daily life, he says the HP is helping him along, slowing him down and commenting on decisions, telling him when it is appropriate to apologise, keeping him in check.
He believes that not craving when he has a bad day is proof of the presence of the HP, without which he would drink. Gabe said he received the message from the HP to choose life over drink and death. To him it meant pursuing the good. Alex talks about that foremost intervention in the creation of AA itself, which two drunks could never have wrought by themselves,.
So there must be a power greater than them. And then you kind of think man this is too spectacular! HP Interventions includes the sub-category of Signs. It was mentioned by four interviewees. What makes that possible? Three participants state that they perceived them as interventions from the HP. Liz thought about randomly finding a book about alcoholism, and being shown the way to a meeting by a stranger as signs.
They are important enough for her to say that without those signs she would have continued drinking and probably died. Human choice is also needed. She also remarked that in order to see the signs, she needed to want it. Having opened up to spirituality, she is now much more willing to open her eyes to HP interventions. And then it stops. Being looked after is another subcategory of the category of HP Interventions that is very dear to those who mention it.
Six interviewees had the assurance of being looked after by noticing interventions, for example:. All expressed at least some gratitude. Some handed over their cares and some felt a connection. The first category of impact on Self is that of Sobriety, emphasised by most interviewees. Left to my own devices, this would not be happening.
Sharing at meetings makes me feel stronger. Trust in the future is a category that represented a new vision for the majority of participants. Four participants said that their new unconditionally loving HP helped them to value themselves and to reinterpret life events. After three years in AA, Liz said she was still in the process of remembering the HP and thought it would last a life time for whoever sets up to learn it.
It becomes more natural with time. The category of Shift had happened at some point to everybody if only from active alcoholism to sobriety. But four in particular related a shift which gave them a close contact with their HP. It gave him a calmness, trust and faith for future tough situations.
This marked a shift in him. He, who had remained an agnostic in AA for 18 years, now experienced a. Just sitting at home, I was suffering a great deal with… losing someone and I had to look at myself, my part in causing the suffering and something made me accept some of my shortcomings.
These shifts enabled participants to see the bigger picture; six of them related seeing the good out of bad situations. In spite of pain, there were moments of trust. Good came out of a bad situation. Things feel more connected, I like it… I feel more connected to the universe and the bigger thing. Yea and things… seem to have more purpose. Sobriety and belief in a HP as benevolent force enabled him to see a great range of skills and experience in his CV, where he used to see catastrophes. In the subtheme of Impact on Relationships with others, 7 interviewees reported a change.
Carl and Emma said they had the ability to love with others because their new HP was loving and accepting. You can still be talkative and friendly but know where the boundaries are. In the subtheme of Impact on Work, five people related how they had changed.
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Alex was able to handle the thought of tasks that used to overwhelm him. Annie was satisfied in being self-employed after having been in a highly pressured post. Dom had left his very stressful job for a better one. Though there was still pressure there, morning meditation and prayer made it ok.
The job that I did… I thought I had to have the perception of being ruthless and calculating. I thought I had to be cunning and calculating… but I saw things through a negative perspective. And I changed a lot now It would be useful to find out whether different choices led to different outcomes. The research question was: How do AA members understand the HP?
To answer it, the relationship the participants had with that HP and how it affected not only their sobriety, but their entire lives, including relationships, work, etc. Religion and spirituality have been evidenced to affect substance abusers positively, resulting in less anxiety [ 30 ].
Many alcoholics suffer from anxiety. Their addiction is most of the time an attempt at selfmedicating it. Qualitative research has been compared to an adventure, an exploration [ 25 ]. This one seemed like the exploration of a territory where extraordinary people lived, the survivors of life after drunk.
The one other research on the subject of the Higher Power at Chester University [ 32 ] is not one engaging with narrative through the use of open ended questions like this one, but is one conducted with the use of questionnaires. It is ongoing and not yet finished. As noted in the literature review, lasting recovery comes more from practicing the AA program than mere meetings attendance [ 33 ].
Most important AA recovery behaviours involve working the steps [ 34 ] in which the centrality of the HP, even of God, cannot be avoided. All participants in this research practiced other aspects of the program than just attending meetings. It was obvious from what Alex — the oldest member over 20 years of AA membership — said, that he was commonly sponsoring other members. That was identified in previous research as one of the best predictors of sustained recovery [ 34 ].
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- AA Members Understandings of the Higher Power (HP) A Qualitative Study.
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Being asked what impact the understanding of the HP had on their lives, the participants could have taken that question as meaning the impact of AA itself on their lives. It could be thought that different understandings of the HP in AA lead to different outcomes in life. And it is not just the understanding but the living and the practices that affected the interviewees.
In this small sample population was a wide range of backgrounds and understandings of the HP. The two participants who seemed to have the most difficulties in their lives were both atheist intellectuals. They struggled with the very concept of a HP. Annie, the most intellectual, which described herself as an academic, still had occasional thoughts of suicide. John was more satisfied in his life.
He realised, and tried to avoid thinking about it, that those who did best in AA seemed to be the ones with the closest relationship with their HP. Nevertheless, they both managed to not only stay sober but be content in doing program-recommended practices, one majoring on meditation, the other one on meetings attendance. The third declared atheist, Fred, not an intellectual, integrated more of the HP concept by interpreting it as being in nature and in his conscience. On the other hand, the two participants who seemed the most contented with their HP had a childlike view on it and were educated but not intellectuals.
They both felt looked after by their unconditionally loving HP. Both had shifted from their former beliefs, Emma from Catholicism, Carl from atheism. Two other participants were quite passionate about their HP. Gabe, who had lost well-loved family members to alcoholism, had recently gone through a shift which led him to see altruism as the way to live. Later, driven away from established religion for its intolerance, he had clung to his faith not knowing how to practice it.
Coming into AA had set him free to live his love for God while practicing the program. The three other participants in our study had never rejected religion. The third one, Lily, whose emotional life had been transformed by meditation, was now searching through prayer for a closer relationship with the Love HP she perceived in other members. This study confirmed the importance of social peer support [ 21 ] but for some like Dom, it would be nothing without the HP. The agreement of researchers about the centrality of contact with God in AA fits in with those findings [ 20 , 35 ].
Other elements of this study findings, mentioned here as factors of recovery by Participants such as Gratitude, Socialisation, Prayer, or Humility fit in well with a number of other published studies, notably within areas of Positive Psychology [ 36 - 38 ]. Research has been done on the effects of different treatments on addiction recovery.
It would be useful to further investigate how the diverse backgrounds of AA members affected their understanding of a HP, which seems so central to their recovery. In this small sample, two participants had come to AA via Addiction Treatment first, both atheists. Treatment appeared to have been what eased them into AA. Annie said it would have been too difficult to go into AA otherwise. Another area worth exploring would be how the different understandings and relationships with a HP affected the degree of contentment of AA members.
Love and God are defined as synonymous in Scripture: As said above, for those resisting its religious connotation, the term HP is more acceptable. Liz, coming into AA, felt that at last she was given permission to have a HP. For her, those who argued about the word God had no point. But he feels he has to be discreet about it there. It took him a while in the interview to feel enough trust to mention that his HP was Jesus. A note about the context of this research: It is not surprising to have found the idea of God strongly rejected by some AA members. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.
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