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What If You Don't Believe in God?

One of the major turnoffs that drive people away from wanting to continue attending meetings is the subject of a “higher power.” In Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, this is a huge focus. The fact that God is mentioned in the 12 steps is sometimes reason enough for people, primarily those who do not believe in God, to be immediately turned off from wanting to attend meetings. So how do you get past it?

Reviewing the Steps

Look at whatever step you may be on and take a step back, even if it’s step one. As a whole, there are actually only four of the twelve steps that mention God. Step two is the basis of coming to terms with the fact that you are not all there is! Even if you hold absolutely no belief in God or want to call anything your higher power, the important thing to remember is that you cannot control everything nor should you try. The steps are there to help you live a better, healthier life. Don’t let the four steps that mention God scare you away.

Find Something Besides God

Maybe you aren’t quite an atheist but you lean more towards agnosticism, as I did in the beginning of my spiritual journey towards sobriety. As mentioned before, it’s only vital to accept that you cannot run the world. Remember, as addicts we have trouble running our own world, let alone trying to control everything else. In the beginning of your sobriety, keep in mind that your best decisions helped dig the hole that you’re in. Some people choose love, reality, Buddha, meetings–anything that can represent something positive or help you make more positive choices can be a higher power! Your choice of religion or lack of one does not determine the person you want to be.

Not Letting It Bother You

In meetings, there is an especially large majority of people who will choose God as their higher power. You will consistently hear God throughout the meetings and even in casual conversation amongst fellow members. Don’t let that turn you away from something that could possibly save your life. The truth of it is, whether you believe in God or not, everywhere you go there will be people constantly trying to push religion on you. The great thing about attending meetings is that the main reason why everyone is there has nothing to do with God; it is because they want to get sober and will take any steps to get there. For some people, accepting God works and for others, they choose not to. If you truly think religion is something that could make or break your decision of going, try to first feel out the meetings. Looking for a sponsor or confidant who feels the same way you do is a great way to discuss the details of where you stand. Your choice to pick something else aside from God as your higher power doesn’t have to be anybody’s business but yours and your sponsor’s.

Why It matters

Some people ask why it matters if you choose a higher power or not. An important part of completing the steps is choosing a power greater than yourself to represent your feelings. Not only that, but it is also extremely beneficial for you to recognize that at one point, you held drugs or alcohol as your higher power. In fact, you let them run your life. Drugs or alcohol made all of your decisions for you. Despite what you choose to believe in now, at one point you chose to believe that drugs were the answer to your life woes. That alone, despite believing in God or not, should be reason enough to know that you can pick something to represent your life that is not drugs or alcohol. We choose new activities, new friends and new hangouts; why not choose something new to help influence your life decisions?

I know the word “God” can send people running for the hills. Many people don’t even like to discuss religion at a casual lunch with a friend. But don’t ruin your chances of sobriety just because you see it mentioned in the 12 steps or the Big Book. There are a number of options and ways to avoid letting that scare you off from attending meetings.


Cassandra Huerta is a freelance writer who lives in an extremely small Michigan town and lives life one day at a time. She enjoys regularly entertaining her six-month-old daughter and can thank her wonderful fiance and coffee for all of her work.

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