Do I Have To Believe in God To Get Sober?

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Faith and belief are both deeply personal, almost private issues. What each of us has faith or believes in, whether we are in or out of recovery, is entirely our business. Yet many alcoholics and addicts who come to 12-Step programs looking for help immediately find their minds closed upon seeing the words “God” or “higher power.” There is much — in fact, an entire chapter — written about this and what we can do to stop the misunderstanding from costing someone their recovery or even their life. Ultimately, however, it is up to each of us to remain open-minded as we seek help and recovery. We might do well to remember that our lives were ruined and nearly lost, to alcoholism and addiction. Wouldn’t freedom from that nightmare be worth maintaining an open mind?

That question may seem obvious or reductive. The idea of faith, or the idea of being against faith, are again very personal and sometimes causes extreme emotional reactions. For those who are not bothered by the mention of God or a higher power in the wording of the 12-Steps, by all means, proceed with vigor and let nothing hold you back. For those who are bothered by seeing God and higher power in the language, you should also proceed with vigor and let nothing hold you back. You may very well find recovery and change, and you certainly lose nothing by trying. 

The Starting Point You Need

You do not have to believe in God to get sober. You especially do not have to believe in the same God as anybody else. Your faith and belief are deeply personal choices and a journey unique to each of us. You will not be told what you must believe in order to get sober and recover, though you will hear some “musts” about what to do. Although it is essential to remember a simple truth — we will only realize the things we believe are possible. If we think our goal is impossible, we won’t take the necessary action to make it happen if we don’t believe in it. So keep that in mind.

You don’t have to believe in anything to recover, although it will be incredibly difficult to get sober and recover if you don’t believe sobriety and recovery are possible. So maybe we can just start with believing in that. There are a whole lot of alcoholics and addicts who are living happy, useful, and free lives in recovery, and they did it through the 12-Steps. That’s something we can believe in, and it’s the only starting point we need. You don’t have to believe in God, but at some point, it may be incredibly helpful to your recovery to acknowledge some type of higher power in your life. Surely, a group of alcoholics and addicts who are free from their disease and living happily in recovery is a power greater than ourselves, isn’t it?

Believe in Your Recovery

By many different metrics, we can see the truth in this. These people are living in recovery. We want it for ourselves, and they happen to want it for us, too. We can believe in their recovery, and we can trust that they used the 12-Steps to achieve it. That’s all the belief and faith we need to recover ourselves. The names and labels and designations and denominations are a whole different ball game, one that 12-Step fellowships don’t play. It’s not our business. Our business is to help keep alcoholics and addicts from dying of their disease and finding the way to achieving long-term recovery.

Believe what is in your heart to believe. Discover for yourself what you truly believe. Perhaps recovery will reveal things to you that you didn’t know about your own personal beliefs. Many find this to be true. And whatever our opinions on faith and belief, God, or a higher power, we likely cannot afford to let this be the hill that we choose to die on. For if we suffer from alcoholism and addiction, it really is a life-or-death matter. Allowing our preconceived notions to prevent us from giving recovery an earnest effort may literally cost us our lives. We can find a sponsor who has similar beliefs to our own, or even a similar higher power, if that helps make the 12-Steps more accessible to us — whatever it takes to give ourselves a chance at life.

We do not have to believe in God to recover, but we do at least need to consider believing in recovery. We might need to reframe our definition of what a higher power is. If no higher power was needed, we would’ve been able to find and maintain recovery on our own, right? So we do need a higher power, but it doesn’t have to be God. We don’t have to violate our personal beliefs, but we must need to keep our minds open if we hope to enjoy and experience our recovery fully.

Alcoholics and addicts are often fiercely independent and defiant people. We hate being told what to do or what to believe. It would be unfair of us not to admit that perhaps we are being stubborn. In fact, it may be our beliefs and our perspective on life that are helping the disease of alcoholism and addiction kill us. If you need help maintaining and achieving long-term recovery, and you are earnestly willing to do what it takes, Jaywalker Lodge is here for you. Most of us alcoholics and addicts could not have recovered on our own. Let us help you find a new life in recovery. Call us today at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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