How To Benefit From a 12-Step Program if You Aren’t Religious


A widely-held belief is that 12-Step programs are religious in nature, and if you are an atheist or agnostic who wishes to participate, then good luck. This is not the case and is a common misconception people have. An important distinction to make to understand the true intent behind 12-Step programs is realizing the difference between religious and spiritual.

Religious vs. Spiritual

Religion is the belief in or worship of a personal God or gods and generally has a formal system of beliefs, traditions, and attitudes, usually shared by a community or group. Spirituality is less formal than religion and has a more individualized approach to finding meaning in life and connection to others. Spirituality may exist within religion, but you do not need religion or a belief in a god to be spiritual. 12-Step programs were inspired by ideas of spirituality rather than religious ideals. The steps are specifically referred to as the twelve spiritual principles.

How to Participate in a 12-Step Program as a Non-Religious Person

There are several references made to God throughout the steps, but the first mention is directly followed by the phrase “as we understood Him” to highlight that each person’s perception of a greater Power is allowed to be unique and personal to them. Under spiritual principles, God can be understood in many different terms. To some, it can mean a traditional God-like found in religion, but to others, God can mean karma, love, the universe, and so many other things. 

If you do not choose to believe in a traditional God, then simply substitute any word you wish that is a power greater than yourself and helps you stay sober and heal. It can even be something as simple as your recovery fellowship since it is a force greater than yourself.

You can still find long-term recovery through a 12-Step program without a belief in God or belonging to a religion, unlike some think. However, if you have tried finding sobriety unsuccessfully through 12-Steps, there are many alternative treatment programs available that may work better for you.

If you wish to join a 12-Step program but are worried that aspects of it will be too religious for you to find success, then understand that 12-Step programs are not inherently religious and are founded on spiritual beliefs. If you choose to not seek out a 12-Step program for recovery or are unsuccessful with one, then seek alternative treatment programs. If you or a loved one needs help getting or remaining sober, contact Avalon Malibu. Avalon offers a nurturing and therapeutic environment for patients to find recovery through a combination of 12-Step and holistic therapies for a comprehensive treatment program. We understand that everyone’s needs are different and will find you the right treatment that works for you. Call us today at (844) 857-5992 to begin your life of hope and freedom from addiction.

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