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  • Writer's pictureIrving Najman, LMFT, CSAT

God and Recovery

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

There are many stories & blogs written about the importance of having and implementing a daily spiritual practice in recovery. The word spiritual is mentioned throughout the literature we read at 12-Step meetings, so is the word G0d. What I want to address in this blog are the negative reactions that some people have when they hear the word God in meetings, which subsequently creates an obstacle to working the Steps. That negative reaction might be rooted from being forced to go to church on Sundays, or maybe your family did not discuss religious matters, or perhaps you are an agnostic or atheist. Regardless of the reasons, I want you to consider the possibility that there is something greater than yourself - what is usually referred to in recovery as a Higher Power.

Let us briefly examine the origins of how humans developed the concept of God.

From the beginnings of time, the earliest humans looked up at the stars and wondered what caused those tiny specks of light to move across the sky, what caused the rain, what mystical powers the sun and the moon had, and many other mysteries. As humankind evolved, we started naming and associating events in nature with a particular god. In ancient Egyptian culture there were many gods, including a god for fertility, a god for death, a god for war, a god for wisdom, and of course the most powerful god in Egypt, the Sun god, Amun Ra. Other cultures like the ancient Romans and Greeks also worshipped many gods. Each of those gods had a name and some physical manifestation representing that deity.

According to, the world's primary religions fall into two categories: Abrahamic religions, such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism; and Indian religions, which include Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, and others. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are monotheistic religions and believe in one God. Hinduism has many gods and Buddhism believes in Enlightenment. So, as you can see, humans are still wrestling with the idea of a Supreme Being.

The word God is a word that people have created to explain something that we have limited knowledge of or experience with. Christians believe in Jesus as the Son of God and He is part of the Holy Trinity. Muslims pray to Allah. Whereas Jews refer to God with the unpronounceable tetragrammaton יהוה‎ (Yud, Hey, Vav, Hey) and use Hebrew words like HaShem or Adonai when talking about God. Native Americans and other indigenous cultures refer to this universal spiritual force as The Great Spirit, also known as Wakan Tanka In any case, cultures throughout the world have come up with diverse words to describe God - this Universal Creative Energy that is unexplainable and mysterious.

How does all of this relate to your recovery journey.

So, you find yourself dealing with problems and consequences in your life and in your relationships due to your unhealthy behaviors. Then, after some self-reflection, you acknowledge that you might have an addiction. Perhaps your therapist and/or family members have suggested you start attending 12-Step meetings. You eventually summon up the courage to go to your first meeting and then your skepticism begins to surface as you drive up and find out that the meeting is being held at a church. It does not help that at the start of the meeting, the group members recite the Lord’s Prayer and end it with the Serenity Prayer (a prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr, a Protestant theologian). Also, throughout the meeting you keep hearing the word God. Subsequently, the negative experiences of being forced to go to church come up, or you remember the shameful messages you received from religious institutions, or your doubts about the existence of a god surface and your immediate reaction is “this ain't for me.”

What I want you to do is to put aside your religious trauma and suspicions about a god and remember that the 12-Step program is a spiritual program, not a religious one. The purpose of the program is to share our collective wisdom and to teach ancient spiritual principles that you can integrate in your daily life, such as honesty, integrity, courage, humility and responsibility to list a few.

When you hear the word God, remember they are using that word to explain something that is unexplainable. Replace it with something that works for you. Come up with a concept of a Higher Power that aligns with your spirituality – remember We are all Spiritual Beings.

If you have a problem with the prayers that are recited in meetings because of their Christian origins, then create one of your own. If your sponsor suggests incorporating daily prayer and meditation (Step 11), you can view prayer as sending positive energy into the Universe as a way to make this world a better place and consider meditation as a way to connect with yourself and your environment.

Remember an addiction is an attachment to something. Gaining freedom from your destructive, demoralizing behaviors is about letting go. The Serenity Prayer teaches us that to acquire peace in life we must …accept the things that we cannot change, [have] courage to change the things that we can, and wisdom to know the difference. Basically, the Serenity Prayer suggests to let go (Step 3) and to take action (Steps 4 through 9).

Step 3 of the Twelve Steps reads “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives to the care of God as we understood God.” Again, remind yourself that this is about letting go, try not to focus on the word God. It is about recognizing that there are things outside of yourself that you have no control of. Step 3 is about deciding to turn your will (meaning your addictive thoughts) and your life (meaning your actions associated with those thoughts) to something greater than yourself, your Higher Power – whatever your concept is.

Do not let a word keep you from achieving freedom from your addiction and from creating the life and happiness that you deserve. Take charge of your recovery and commit to a program that has helped millions of individuals reconnect with themselves, have fulfilling lives, and rediscover their True Essence – as Spiritual Beings.

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