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Can Drug Addiction Recovery Without God Be Possible?

by | Last updated Oct 2, 2020 at 2:09PM | Published on Jun 4, 2020 | Sober Living


The relationship between drug addiction and religion has been a complex one for decades. With most recovery centers focusing heavily on faith and belief, is it possible to succeed at drug addiction recovery without God?

According to various studies by the Pew Research Center, there might be a connection with drug recovery and religion. Based on the findings, there seems to be a correlation between lower drug use and higher religiosity per state. Unfortunately, it might just be that. 

Addiction recovery involves more than religion differentiates, and comparing overall drug-use rates between believers and non-believers at a state level might not be accurate. To get a precise view of the role religion plays within addiction recovery treatment, we would need to analyze drug abuse and beliefs within the same states. 

The Influence of God in AA and NA Meetings

In most Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, the role of spirituality is clear and consistent. Religion, particularly Christianity, lies at the core of these programs. 

However, the conflicting mindsets of non-believers can cause tension, one that traditional step programs try to address by encouraging everyone to find their definition of God as this higher power they can turn to for support. 

12-Steps and Religion

Generally, the “God part” of most 12-steps groups can be quite troublesome for non-believers. Nonreligious people are still encouraged to follow the same steps, seek prayer, practice meditation, and develop a conscious relationship with God. Through the steps, the member, or addict, will create a sense of a relationship with a higher power. Thus, 12-step groups believe that recovery without God or a higher power is unlikely.

Yes, offering a sense of faith and higher power can be helpful for many. But, it indeed doesn’t prove that religion can help in the addiction recovery process.

Alternatives to 12-Step ProgramsAlternatives to the 12-Step System

The truth is, recovery is all about community, support, and engagement. When those in recovery feel alienated by their beliefs, it poses a higher risk of relapse. Also, not feeling part of a community, being left out by believers, and not understanding the faith-based coping mechanisms to live a successful sober life can be uninspiring.

Facing these issues, non-believers are seeking alternatives to the traditional 12-step system and moving away from classic AA and NA meetings. Here are some other options to typical group therapy for those looking for a path to recovery without God guiding them.

Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART)

Self-Management and Recovery Training programs follow a science-based 4-Point Program directed to drug and alcohol abusers. Generally, their mutual-support program encourages self-empowerment and self-reliance.

Unlike other programs, each person goes through the different stages at their own pace. The idea is to use it as a stand-alone program for long-term sobriety support or with other recovery paths such as outpatient treatment programs. People can choose from online self-management, or visit in-person meetings near them.


LifeRing Secular recovery programs are non-12-steps recovery paths for those seeking peer-run support groups. In meetings, participants are encouraged to share practical experiences about their addiction and sobriety journey.

Instead of trusting a higher power for guidance, members of LifeRing look for positivity. Additionally, they hope their modern-day personal stories offer a sense of belonging. Many members also use LifeRing as a complement to other treatment solutions. Others solely rely on these types of meetings for recovery support.


RefugeRecovery is a different type of recovery support group based on Buddhist principles. The program believes everyone has the potential to free themselves from addiction. Using Buddha’s teachings, they hope to carve a path of recovering and awakening.

By promoting mindfulness to respond to stressful situations in non-harming ways, members can find addiction relief. Through their supportive community, they offer a safe, nontheist approach to addiction recovery. Generally, ideal for those who can’t find what they’re looking for in traditional 12-step meetings. Thus, this recovery support group does not subscribe to the idea that recovery without God is impossible.

The Practical 12-Steps

While this might not be a group or a certified treatment plan, many looking for ways of staying sober without God find this book comforting. The Practical 12 Steps to Long-Term Recovery from Alcoholism and Addictions by Jeffrey Munn offers a unique practical version of the classic 12-step program, with a hint of humor. 

The book takes the reader through 12 practical steps:

  1. Admitting we experienced a self-destructive cycle and didn’t have the tools to stop it
  2. Trusting that we can achieve a healthy lifestyle through conscious self-improvement and support
  3. Committing to a lifestyle of recovery that focuses solely on what we control
  4. Making a list of resentments, fears, and harmful actions
  5. Sharing these lists with trustworthy persons
  6. Making a list of unhealthy character behaviors and traits
  7. Begin cultivating a healthy character
  8. Finding the best way to make amends to those we harmed
  9. Making direct amends to these people when we’re ready
  10. Practicing self-reflection 
  11. Meditating
  12. Working to maintain our newfound sobriety by teaching to those willing to listen

The first three chapters of the book lay the groundwork for following these steps. The book hopes to empower individuals to reframe spiritual tactics and look for real-world psychological events that can help them recover. Munn understands that not everyone can find progress in religion. That’s why the book offers non-believers a take of fresh breath that can help them make better choices to live a healthier and sober life. 

Finding Your Addiction Treatment Program

As if battling addiction wasn’t challenging enough, finding the right addiction treatment program isn’t easy. Many addiction treatment centers focus on spirituality and faith to help people through their recovery. However, those who offer personalized treatments will never push an agenda or religion in their patients.

At Lighthouse Institute Recovery, we believe everyone has a chance of a better life, regardless of your religious beliefs. Even if you consider yourself an atheist, non-believer, or think your faith isn’t helping your recovery process, our team will be supportive. We can find the coping mechanisms that will help in the real world through individualized and personalized treatment

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, contact us today to start your recovery journey. Our admission specialists will talk to you about our treatment options, and our therapists will help you find the best program for your needs. 

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Digital Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and experience in the digital media industry. Geraldine’s writing allows her to share valuable information about mental health, wellness, and drug addiction facts, hoping to shed light on the importance of therapy and ending the stigma.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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