‘Remember that we deal with alcohol – cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power – that One is God. May you find Him now!’
From Chapter Five of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
The Higher Power Project at Chester University is an attempt to record and map the range of understandings of ‘Higher Power’ or ‘power greater than ourselves’ used by people in recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs. Those in recovery through Twelve Step Programmes, or Treatment Centres which use the Twelve Steps, are likely to have some concept of Higher Power, but people in recovery through other methods may also use the concept, or have a response to it that they might like to share with the project team. Until now, little academic research has been done into the Higher Power. The nature of the 12-step fellowships, especially the anonymity which underpins the traditions, make their effectiveness difficult to evaluate. The Higher Power project is leading the field in this area.
This video, not related directly to the project but made specially for this website, shows some of the common ways the Higher Power is referred to in meetings.
For the Higher Power Project research, more than 100 volunteers with six months or more clean time or sobriety filled in a survey form. Some also did longer interviews with the team, led by Wendy Dossett.
This pie chart illustrates the most common phrases used in response to a question which asked for a brief description of the volunteer’s higher power. In the 102 responses, more than 500 words were used in total to describe the concept of the Higher Power as seen by the person in recovery. The illustration at the top is a word cloud representation of every single word used by the volunteers in response to the question. The size of the words indicates frequency of use.