You’re Going to Need a Higher Power to Quit Your Asshat, Even if You’re an Atheist

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I was raised Mormon, which didn’t suit me.

It made me suspicious of God. I became agnostic. I wore my agnosticism like a Girl Scout merit badge.

My inner monologue when the Mormon Missionaries came to convert me:

Through the steady, extended use of my rational brain, I’ve decided I don’t know if God exists and you can’t make me! So, missionaries, (gosh, you’re so handsome!) get back on your bicycles and be gone!

However, I secretly hoped that God did exist (not the Old Testament God full of brimstone and scorn, just to be clear).

So when I started working on my co-dependent, pitiful self to try to get out of a toxic relationship with my boyfriend Mr. Cruelly Handsome (he earned a 4.0 GPA in chicanery), I had to get really humble.

My version of getting “really humble” was attending a 12-Step program, which meant getting on my knees and praying to the Higher Power of my Understanding.

Here was my inner monologue while I prayed to the empty room:
  • Why are you praying to an empty room, Shannon?
  • No one is out there. Can’t you hear your voice echo? …..
  • Hmmm, I’m hungry, I wonder if I have any chocolate? …..
  • Focus, Shannon, focus on praying to this empty room! …..
  • I wonder what my boyfriend is doing right now?
  • He’s probably having sex with another woman on the top of his fire truck at work …..
  • My knees hurt in this position.
  • Does one have to pray on one’s knees?
  • Couldn’t one stand or do it while stalking one’s boyfriend? …..
  • God Dammit Shannon, focus! …..
  • Oh great, you just took the Lord’s name in vain while praying, now you’re really fucked …..
  • I should probably just drive to the fire station to see if my boyfriend is having sex with another woman on top of his fire truck.
  • Then I’ll be able to finally break up with him ….. is 10 a.m. too soon to start drinking?

As you can see, praying did not come naturally to me.

But, I’d accepted such unacceptable behavior from my man, I kept praying anyway.

That’s how humble I’d become. Which was new for me; a dyed-in-the-wool know-it-all.

At first, I didn’t notice much change, just a slightly diminished embarrassment level every time my knees hit the floor.

Then one day, the Higher Power of my Understanding spoke back.

It was a particularly unfortunate day in my relationship.

Mr. C had decided to break up with me.

It wasn’t the first time, but this time he thought it best t0 drive me an hour up the Pacific Coast Highway to do it. Which meant an hour drive back with a broken heart.

I was just contemplating that horrible drive back as we sat on a frigid, mostly deserted beach that winter day, when suddenly, I had to piss like the proverbial racehorse.

My bladder seemed to be controlled by a force greater than my body.

“I just don’t think it’s working …” Mr. C was saying, when I interrupted him.

“Hold that thought,” I said, then dashed off to the bathroom, praying as I went: 

“Please God, please don’t let Mr. C break up with me. Please soften his heart and make him realize, despite the fact he cheats on me and won’t marry me, that deep down he really loves me and that frightens him because of his childhood issues’ and makes him behave badly!”

When I entered the women’s bathroom, I was briefly distracted by how clean it was, since beach bathrooms tend to be disgusting.

I dashed into one of the stalls, still praying for the salvation of my relationship when I realized this bathroom really was clean because there wasn’t even any graffiti on the walls.

Except for two small, perfectly lettered words on my right, exactly at eye level. The two words said this:


I knew, with absolute certainty, my Higher Power had responded to my prayers.

Now I just had to decide whether or not I wanted to take his advice.

In the 12-step programs, there’s a saying that the intellectuals (c’est moi?) have the hardest time working the program, because it’s very difficult for them to turn their life and will over to the care of God as they understand him.

But, I’m here to tell you, regardless of your religious affiliation and/or atheism, once you start reaching out to God, The Divine, The Universe, The Force, The Good Orderly Flow, Your Higher Self, Your Unconscious Brain or whatever other name you want to give your Higher Power, strange and wonderful things begin to happen.

Because we cannot fix our brain with our brain.


I want you to write down exactly and precisely what you currently think God is. Don’t leave out any details. From physical characteristics, to personality and his/her/its attitude toward you. You might be surprised at what comes up.


Next, I want you to write down what you wish God could be. Write this all down in detail. Again, from physical characteristics, to personality and to his/her/its attitude toward you.

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