I Have No Faith. Can I Still Work the Twelve Steps and Recover?


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The matter of faith is a big question — a huge question, in fact. It touches people from every walk of life, whether they are alcoholics or addicts or not. And people have been wrestling with the issue of faith since the dawn of man. That’s a long time. Whether we have great faith or no faith, personal beliefs and inner faith are things that every person has a position on. Some believe that faith is all that matters, while others believe it doesn’t matter at all. These disparate positions can cause a lot of trouble, and that’s not an arena for us to step into.

What we can weigh in on is faith in recovery. But we aren’t going to tell you what to believe — that’s not our place. What is our place is to help people understand how our personal position on faith plays into our recovery. So, we aren’t going to solve the faith issue right here and now. But we can point to some very helpful actions and ideas that can help you get a personal grip on the faith situation in recovery for yourself.

The Big Book

The book Alcoholics Anonymous, affectionately known as the Big Book, is the authority when it comes to recovery. It outlines the Twelve Steps and the entire program of recovery. It contains chapters on how to work the Steps and how to deal with our jobs, our families, our sponsors, and our sponsees. And, most importantly for many, it has a chapter on faith. Called “We Agnostics,” this chapter should answer just about any question you have about faith in recovery. It’s a keystone chapter at one time or another for almost everyone in recovery.

Whether you struggle with the faith of your upbringing, don’t know where you stand on faith, or know that you have no faith and aren’t interested in getting any, “We Agnostics” is the chapter for you.

Different Kinds of Faith

We all have operational and practical faith of some kind. In our daily lives, we have faith that the sun will rise. We have faith that if we go to work, we will get paid. We rely on the things that we have faith in. For the most part, our practical faith is subconscious or even unconscious. We don’t think about the things that we have faith in — we just rely on them.

But there is another kind of faith in greater forces at work in the universe. Whatever you choose to call it (or not call it), there is a faith that many people have in something supernatural. This kind of faith isn’t really different from practical faith, it just happens on a grander scale. And it isn’t for everyone. Some of us don’t have any faith in something bigger than us out there in the universe, and that’s okay. There are plenty of people who do not believe in a god or gods by any name or in any form. The good news is that you don’t need to have religious or spiritual faith to work the Twelve Steps and recover.

Faith or No Faith

There is no hard and fast rule for what kind of faith (if any) you need to have to recover. To put it simply, if you are honest, open-minded, and willing, and if you actually follow the 12-Step program as outlined, you can recover. That’s it! Be honest. Keep an open mind. Be willing to work the Steps, attend meetings, and be of service. That’s all it takes and you can find recovery and freedom from alcoholism and addiction. You don’t have to have faith — you just have to do the work. Many of us struggled with the faith issue until we were told to read “We Agnostics” and just work the 12-Step program. Many of us who had or have no religious faith are still happy and usefully whole in recovery.

Faith in the Twelve Steps

Okay, so we have to admit there is still a little faith required, but it’s not what you’re thinking!

The only kind of faith necessary to find recovery is faith in the Twelve Steps. We have to believe that the solution will work for us, as it has worked for so many. But this is a practical kind of faith. Would you go to work if you had no faith that they would pay you? Would you turn on a light switch if you had no faith that the lights would come on? Practical faith is somewhat necessary in life. Thankfully, we can see that the 12-Step solution works with our own eyes. We can see the proof we need in all the people living happily in recovery. So, our practical faith is immediately rewarded.

This faith that the Steps really work is the only faith we need. There is much talk about a higher power around here, but rest assured, the Twelve Steps can easily fill that role. As powerless alcoholics and addicts, we do need a higher power to free us from alcoholism and addiction. But our higher power can be anything that has more power than us. It doesn’t have to be supernatural — our higher power can easily be the Steps themselves. This is an effective and comfortable path for many of us, and we certainly won’t be the only ones whose higher power is the recovery program itself.

At Jaywalker Lodge, we believe in the Twelve Steps with all our hearts. We believe in them because they worked for us. All people at one time or another struggle with their faith or lack of faith. For alcoholics and addicts, that time is often in early recovery. We are asked to consider what we believe, we are asked to have faith in the 12-Step program, and we are asked to learn to rely on a higher power. This notion causes many to run from recovery and risk losing their lives — but the higher power we are asked to find can easily be the Steps themselves. We don’t have to rearrange our private beliefs and find religion, but we do have to have faith that the 12-Step program of recovery will work for us. If you’re still struggling but ready to find recovery, let Jaywalker Lodge help you navigate the road ahead. Call us now 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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