Acknowledging Something Higher

“Mediocrity,” Arthur Conan Doyle would say, “knows nothing higher than itself.” In 12 Step Groups the step many addicts struggle with most is Step 2—acknowledging a higher power. But I don’t believe in God,they say. What does this have to do with getting sober anyway, they complain.

These are perfectly reasonable questions but in fact completely miss the point. The step actually isn’t about God at all. It’s about surrender. It’s about admitting that there is something bigger than you out there, that you are not the God of your own life, able to do anything and everything that you want. Especially after the dismal track record an addict has with that kind of power.

In any case, hopefully you never get to the point where you have to find yourself in a recovery program. But we all benefit from acknowledging something higher than ourselves. To the Stoics, this force was the logos—the path of the universe. They acknowledged fate and fortune and the power these forces had over them. They knew that no matter how brilliant or successful or powerful they became, they would never be bigger or higher than these forces.

Did this make them mediocre? Not in the least. It made them powerful and unstoppable in every human way.