If your reliance on alcohol or drugs is threatening to take over your life and you’re searching for solutions, you’re probably aware that 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have helped thousands of people overcome an addiction in a supportive environment.
You might also have heard that the 12 steps are more effective for religious people, which could put you off this approach if you’re not a person of faith. What are the 12 steps, how do they work – and can they help you reclaim freedom, even if you aren’t religious?
The 12 Steps’ Link to Religion
The 12 steps, as originally written by Alcoholics Anonymous founders Bill Wilson and Bob Smith, are inherently religious, with frequent references to “God” and a “higher power.” Wilson and Smith were both devout Christians, so they used their beliefs as the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous programming and literature. Many 12-step meetings also involve praying – specifically, reciting the Serenity Prayer at the beginning or end of the gathering.
Knowing that faith played a substantial role in the formation of 12-step groups could be daunting if you’re not religious. You might worry about struggling to find common ground with your fellow members, or fear that you won’t be welcome in a group if you don’t adhere to a specific set of teachings. The good news is that the 12 steps can benefit you, even if you are a non-believer or are questioning your faith.
A Tradition of Spirituality
While the 12 steps do mention God several times, the first reference specifically says, “God as we understood Him,” which is wide-open to interpretation by agnostics, atheists or anyone else who isn’t religious. That’s why 12-step groups accept people from all faiths – and none. Indeed, members of AA, NA and other programs traditionally refer to the 12 steps as spiritual – not religious – principles.
Twelve-step programming takes the approach that each group member’s understanding of a higher power is profoundly personal. While many followers of the 12 steps do believe in a god or gods, others choose to define the “power greater than themselves” as the universe, nature, humanity, science, music or even their recovery fellowship.
How to Find a 12-Step Group
Twelve-step groups are prevalent across the U.S., and have established a presence in nearly every city. It may take some trial and error before you find a 12-step group that feels like the right fit for you. It’s also perfectly normal for people to switch groups as their needs change and they grow in their recovery journey.
If you feel anxious or intimidated about attending your first 12-step meeting, rest assured nobody is there to judge you or coerce you into doing anything you aren’t comfortable with. There’s no “purity test” to be a member of AA, NA or any other 12-step program. The only requirement for membership is a heartfelt desire to change your life for the better. The support group is there to benefit you, which means you can adapt what works for you and leave the rest behind.
12-Step Recovery in Prescott, Arizona
Various venues throughout the community of Prescott host more than 200 12-step meetings each week. At Canyon Crossing, we believe 12-step recovery provides women with the foundation they need to recover from addiction and the tools to live a fulfilling, independent life. To learn what addiction recovery looks like in a supportive, compassionate women’s-only environment, please reach out to us today.