If you or someone you know struggles with substance abuse, you’ve probably heard about the 12-Step approach to recovery in drug rehab centers. If you’re non-religious and notice how central religion seems to be in 12-Step, you may be anxious to find help that aligns with your beliefs.
Religion is part of the founding idea of the 12-Step program, but that doesn’t mean you need to be religious or a Christian to participate and gain the benefits of this effective group therapy approach. You have options, including a non-12 Step program that doesn’t focus on faith.
About the 12 Steps
The 12 Steps were originally created in 1934 to treat alcohol addiction, leading to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).1 Since then, various drug rehab centers and organizations have adopted the 12-Step foundation and philosophy within their recovery programs, such as Heroin Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Marijuana Anonymous.
The founders of AA, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, were Christian and thus included a lot of religious beliefs in their program. One of the best-known examples of this is the Serenity Prayer, which is as follows:
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Despite the addition of God and being prayer, the Serenity Prayer is a good philosophy for helping people recover from substance abuse.
Religion in the Official 12 Steps
The official 12 Steps also have religious undercurrents:2
1. Admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care and direction of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely willing that God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly, we asked Him to remove our shortcomings on our knees — holding nothing back.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make complete amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and promptly admitted it when we were wrong.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual experience as a result of this course of action, we tried to carry this message to others, especially alcoholics, and practice these principles in all our affairs.
Do You Have to Be Religious to Attend a 12-Step Program?
With the religious aspect of a 12-Step program, you may feel like it’s not right for you as a non-religious person.
Remember that just because the program was founded by Christians and included aspects of their faith, it has since been tailored to different programs and isn’t religious at all.
In short, you can still get the benefits of a 12-Step program, even if you don’t believe in organized religion or any god.
The principles may be spiritual, but they focus on more abstract ideas of faith, such as humility, honesty, and repentance, not necessarily the Christian God or scripture. Furthermore, the references in the prayer and 12-Steps aren’t necessarily a specific God but a general idea of the higher power as you understand it – whether Allah, karma, nature, science or any other higher belief system.
What If I’m Atheist and Not Spiritual?
Though the 12-Steps are more spiritual than ascribing to a specific religion, but what if you’re an atheist? You may benefit from a non-12-Step program that leaves religion out of the equation.
While there’s no set definition for a non-12-Step rehab program, it simply means that it doesn’t follow the structure and tradition of the 12-Step program and may include other scientific and evidence-based approaches to recovery.
In many cases, a non-12-Step program addresses the needs of the individual and offers effective results and recovery. Another benefit of the non-12-Step program is that it focuses on personal responsibility, allowing people to take control of their addiction and make concrete steps toward recovery.
Finding the Right Drug Rehab Centers for You
If you’re not sure whether a traditional 12-Step program or an alternative non-12-Step program is the right choice, you can choose either with Clear Life Recovery. We offer both options and can create a tailored treatment plan that fits your needs. Contact our knowledgeable and supportive team to get started.