Is 12 Step Recovery Religious?

When seeking recovery, most of us who drink and use is trying to get clean…not find god.  Sometimes in meetings, it may seem that the whole program is centered around religion. “God, Him, spirituality” are mentioned throughout numerous recovery readings and even the 12 steps.

First, let us look at the beginnings of 12 step recovery.  From 1919 until 1933, alcohol was illegal in the united states.  The temperance movement was in full swing, and some of the first recovery groups were formed.  Namely, the Oxford Group and the Washingtonians.  These were Christian based recovery groups that required a belief in Christ.

Modern 12 Step Recovery

The founder of modern 12 step recovery, Bill Wilson, was attempting sobriety in late 1934 when he was visited by his old friend Ebby Thatcher.  Ebby was an old drinking buddy who had found a way to stop, the Oxford Group.  Ebby explained the program, and it all sounded great until he got to the part about God.  Bill was an agnostic, he thought there could be something out there greater than he but had no idea what.  Instead of stopping there, the two decided that it didn’t matter what Bill believed in, as long as it was something more powerful than himself.

Modern 12 step recovery was started by an agnostic and certainly doesn’t require religion for membership.  That being said, all religions are welcome. “God” can be anything you please.  “Good orderly direction” and “Group of drunks” are some common acronyms, meaning that something as simple as your recovery network can be your higher power.

The point is our own decisions and will power have led us to use and drinking time and time and time again. We must try something different and follow a new way of life.

Please feel free to share your concept of a higher power below.