Hope For the Hopeless: Can You Get Sober if You Don’t Believe in God?

Can you get sober if you don’t believe in God? The short answer is: sure you can, come on in! But there is more to the story…

Often people in need of help for their alcoholism or drug addiction wander into treatment centers or 12-step programs and are taken aback by the seemingly religious undertones of the whole thing. Many turn and walk directly back out the door.

But it is our experience, that yes, you can get sober if you don’t believe in God. Although there is a catch. In order to get well, you will most likely need to become willing to find something besides yourself to build your recovery on. If you’ve truly been confronted with your own powerlessness, chances are you’ll agree that you can’t do it on your own.

Many extremely successful 12-step programs are modeled on the foundation principle that you are A) totally powerless over your alcoholism or addiction B) you need to find some power to get clean and sober C) Another human being won’t cut it. But here is the good news: just about anything will do, as long as it is bigger than you. The door is wide open and can accommodate almost anyone, if they are open-minded enough.

If you have some particular prejudice against religion, or just the G-word, it may be helpful to remember that 12-step groups and most recovery centers use the word as short-hand and are not affiliated with a particular religion or conception of God. Try regarding the word as just a general term used to describe the who or what each individual connects with.

If you are desperate to change and nothing else has worked, it may be that you can muster up some creativity and find something other than yourself and get some help. Some people use their support group, some people pray to the moon, and some discover Buddhism. I once knew a girl who prayed to Stevie Nicks. The gist is, if you are willing to seek some help, and get honest and humble enough to receive it, that is more than enough to get started. Willingness to believe in something, or even having a flicker of hope that you could live differently is enough to begin. Many of us began our recoveries in these humble ways and had our conceptions of a higher power grow and expand over time. Perhaps you may never feel comfortable with the word God, but you can still have a long, happy and contented recovery. IF you are willing to get humble and realize you are not God.

Personally, I was violently anti-religious and was really turned off by the talk of God when I finally sought help for my alcoholism and addiction. But my desperation made me open-minded, and willing to pray to a God I didn’t believe in. I began to say some prayers, ask for help, and say thanks at the end of the day if I didn’t drink or use, and miraculously, it worked. I discovered I didn’t need a fully formed notion of a higher power, I just had to take some action in the direction of something bigger than myself. It was enough, and to me, it became proof that there was something out there intervening in my life, because I had never been able to stop drinking for any real length of time. Suddenly, I had started asking the thin air to help me and just as suddenly I was free. So, if the jury is still out for you—that’s ok. The door is open wide, and you can find your own way in.


It’s not the end. It’s the beginning.

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