The 12 Steps and the Non-Believer

Can a God skeptic find hope in a 12-Step program?

Countless people have wandered into a 12-Step group, only to be put off by the seemingly religious undertones of the program. The church basements, talk of miracles, and G-word are just too much for some. And who can blame them? For the person just looking to clean up a bit, the spiritual hype can seem like unnecessary fluff. Especially as addiction medicine has advanced over the years, it can seem absurd to say that only a spiritual experience will remove your addiction.

So here’s the truth in my experience:

You don’t need to believe in God to benefit from a 12-Step program. If you have just finished treatment and want to stay connected to the recovery process, or are struggling to do it on your own, twelve-step communities have countless benefits that should not be overlooked and have nothing to do with God or spirituality.

  1. Community – Some amazing research in recent years has demonstrated the vital role connection plays in addiction recovery. There is little doubt that 12-Step fellowships offer access to a community of like-minded people who often create lasting friendships with each other as a result of regular gatherings.
  1. Support – Recovering from alcoholism or addiction is no easy work. Going it alone makes recovery unnecessarily difficult. This is why all reputable treatment programs suggest finding a support system beyond the treatment facility. Twelve-step fellowships offer a reliable network of people who can lend support and insight into handling life’s challenges.
  1. Opportunities for Service – Being of service to others can be a powerful antidote for anxiety, fear, or shame. Getting involved with people who share your problem will give you countless opportunities to be helpful and selfless. These opportunities are a gateway to feeling more purposeful, more grateful and satisfied in your own life.
  1. Life Skills – A lifetime of substance abuse leaves most people with less-than-optimal coping skills. Learning how to navigate personal and romantic relationships, financial matters, and the professional world can be overwhelming for the newly sober. Learning from others who have braved these territories can be extremely helpful, and save you countless hours of trial and error.

So there you have it. A solid list of reasons why you might benefit from a 12-Step fellowship even if you are ambivalent about the spiritual side of things.

Now, all of that said, mounds of recent research indicate that people who believe in something greater than themselves have lives that are richer in satisfaction, meaning and personal connection. Many people arrive to 12-step meetings deeply skeptical, only to grow slowly into their personal faith. It’s also worth noting that although sometimes they can seem otherwise, 12-Step fellowships are not dogmatic about what you believe. It’s a big tent approach, and all are welcome. I once knew a girl who prayed to Stevie Nicks (the very much alive singer of Fleetwood Mac). So in the end, what matters is how you are living. If you are staying sober, living comfortably, and finding some happiness, you’re doing great. If you are struggling to find some deeper sense of meaning or strength, staying open-minded on the higher power thing might really serve you. And at a minimum, it won’t hurt you.

Christina Rock is a Seattle based writer and photographer who loves late sixties music, strong coffee, and days that go better than planned.




It’s not the end. It’s the beginning.

Benefits of EMDR Everything You Need to Know About EMDR what is an addict What is an Addict? overdose rates Twin Pandemics: Overdoses are More Common and Deadly than Ever Before neurofeedback Who is Neurofeedback best suited for? Neurofeedback What are some benefits of Neurofeedback? neurofeedback What is Neurofeedback? What are the Benefits of Somatic Experiencing? How Does Somatic Experiencing Work? Treatment Modalities: What is Somatic Experiencing? overdoses Record Setting Overdose Rates as Pandemic Continues Life After Treatment: Finding Wellness Hope is Alive in Hopelessness scottsdale rehab The Role of Trauma in Addiction Treatment 4 Ways to Stay Sane During COVID-19 mental illness SPRC Primary Mental Health Care The Hidden Epidemic: Coronavirus Pandemic Unleashes a Spike in Overdose Deaths treatment Why Now is the Time to Put Wellness First Social distancing Staying Connected While Social Distancing Treatment Don’t Let Anything Stand in the Way of Change Stress Test: Dealing With Anxiety in Recovery Addiction and the brain How Addiction Affects the Brain OD Overdose Deaths Have Dropped But Remain Shockingly High New Years Resolution 3 Ways to Live Your Best Life in 2020 Does rehab work Does Rehab Work? gratitude The Science of Gratitude Autumn Anxiety is Real: Four Ways to Deal overdoses Overdose Deaths Drop for the First Time Since 1990; Fentanyl Remains Deadly Risk leaving treatment Life After Treatment: Getting Connected and Getting out There sober summer fun 5 Ways To Have Fun in the Sun Without Drinking 12 step spirituality The 12 Steps and the Non-Believer sponsorship The Priceless Magic of Sponsorship 12 Step Fellowship The Undeniable Power of Connection Amends Recovery Thoughts on Amends and Forgiveness New year How to Make 2019 Your Best Year Yet Choosing the Right Treatment Center: 10 Things to Ask Holidays 5 Ways to Stay Sane And Sober Through the Holidays mindfulness A Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness fentanyl The Problem on the Street: Fentanyl and The New Face of the Opioid Crisis EMDR The Healing Power of EMDR: 2 Women Share Their Experiences Finding Peace at Last: How Neurofeedback Therapy Helped Samantha Get the Help She Needed DBT Healing Through DBT: The Life-Changing Effects of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy CBT How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Changed Cherie’s Life - and It Can Change Yours, Too recovery month How We Are Celebrating National Recovery Month Overdose Overdose Stats for 2017 Are In: Drug Deaths Are Breaking Records Pay the Bills and More While Getting Your Life on Track Post-Addiction Hope For the Hopeless: Can You Get Sober if You Don't Believe in God? Why Now? Getting Sober Young The First Day of Treatment