Contrary to popular opinion, 12-step programs do not require a belief in the traditional idea of God. Maybe you’re an atheist or you’re an agnostic or you recoil when hearing the “G” word because it conjures images of a punitive, bearded old man in the sky. Whatever your shade of belief or non-belief, please know there IS room for you in programs like AA and NA. This blog post explains why.
First, it’s important to recognize that AA and NA are spiritual—not religious—programs. Religion, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, is “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” Whereas, the word spiritual typically implies an experience of being connected to something larger than ourselves.
Next, consider this 1965 quote from AA co-founder, Bill W.: “In AA, we are supposed to be bound together in the kinship of a common suffering. Consequently, the full individual liberty to practice any creed or principle or therapy whatever should be a first consideration for us all.”
By the time most people consider working a 12-step program, it’s evident that their lives have become unmanageable. Recognizing that unmanageability is Step 1. For Step 2, AA and NA suggest that members accept the fact that they are not running the universe, that some other being (higher power) is and that this other being could restore their sanity. AA and NA enable each member to choose a higher power of their own understanding, which might be nature, the Fellowship itself or even G.O.D. as an acronym for “Good Orderly Direction.”
Check out the suggestions below to learn how, regardless of your beliefs, 12-step programs CAN work for you:
- Find a sponsor who supports your ability to choose a higher power of your own understanding
- Attend meetings specifically for atheists or agnostics (yes, they do exist)
- Use these tips from AA Agnostica to start your own meeting
- Review Big Book Chapter 4: We Agnostics
- Read this AA Pamphlet for atheists and agnostics
At First Step Recovery, we understand that effective treatment requires an individualized plan. For some, that means 12-step programs in addition to formal treatment. For others, it might be treatment alone. Contact us today to learn how we can help you succeed on your sobriety journey.