Do You Need to Be Religious To Work the 12 Steps in Drug Rehab?

The 12-step program, which has its origins in Alcoholics Anonymous, is a staple of many alcohol and drug rehab programs for reason – because it works. The 12-step program gives recovering addicts a world-wide support network of other recovering addicts who know what they’re going through, who can support their recovery, and who can help them through the inevitable rough patches that every recovering addict hits in times of stress and temptation. Many recovering addicts have avoided relapse and discovered fulfilling new friendships and relationships in recovery by joining the 12-step program.

But the 12-step program has a reputation for being very religiously-based. Some recovering addicts feel that the 12-step program places too much emphasis on God and religion. Do you have to be religious to benefit from the 12-step program during and after alcohol and drug rehab? No, of course not. While the 12-step program does encourage you to look to an external “Higher Power” or “God of your understanding,” that doesn’t mean you have to profess a belief in the Christian God, or any other God.

Explain Your Preferences

Bill Wilson developed the 12-step program in the 1930s, and its writings and teachings reflect the pervasiveness of Christian belief in American society at that time. Times have changed, and while many people in 12-step programs do fervently believe in Christianity, these groups now make a point of welcoming all comers, regardless of religious belief.

While you’re still in alcohol and drug rehab, you won’t have much choice about which 12-step group you attend. The 12-step program’s spiritual overtones are nondenominational and nonreligious, so if you practice a religion other than Christianity, or if you’re atheist or agnostic, you can still benefit from membership in the program.

If the group you attend while you’re going through rehab is too religious for you, simply explain that you are uncomfortable with displays of religion. For example, one 12-step group in Toronto adheres to the original tradition of reciting the Lord’s Prayer after each meeting (most 12-step groups no longer recite any prayers). Members who are uncomfortable with the prayer are invited to step aside and not take part.

Choose the Right 12-Step Group and Drug Rehab

Once you leave alcohol and drug rehab, you’re free to attend any 12-step group you choose – and we strongly recommend that you continue to attend a 12-step recovery support group. The support network that the 12-step program provides is invaluable to your recovery.

Some 12-step groups are more religious than others; it depends largely on the personal preferences of the individual members of each group, and it’s true that some groups do emphasize fundamentalist Christianity more than others. If the group in which you find yourself after you leave alcohol and drug rehab is too religious for your liking, seek a group made up of more agnostic or atheistic members. 12-step groups made up of less religiously-inclined members are more likely to de-emphasize the role of God and instead encourage members to look to one another for external support and to the program itself as a Higher Power.

Should You Attend a Non-12-Step Recovery Support Group?

Some recovering addicts no longer want to attend 12-step groups at all after leaving an inpatient alcohol and drug rehab program. Instead, they may be interested in attending one of the non-12-step options for recovery support. The largest of these is Secular Organizations for Sobriety, or SOS. Like the 12-step program, SOS offers practical and emotional support to people recovering from addictions, but in a completely secular, non-spiritual and nonreligious format.

However, SOS does not have as many members as the 12-step program; it has only about 100,000 members to the 12-step program’s two million, so when it comes to finding meetings, you’ll have far fewer options. There may not even be SOS meetings where you live, and you may not be able to find any when you travel for vacation or business trips. The primary advantage of the 12-step program is that no matter where you are or where you go, there will always be a meeting nearby if you need support to get through a difficult moment.

Recovery from addiction is possible, but you don’t need to go it alone. With help from our alcohol and drug rehab, you or someone you love can finally be free of addiction.

Call FHE Health at 844-299-0618 to learn more.

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