I’m an atheist, but every now and then I go to church. Does that make me a hypocrite? Maybe, but probably not. When I go, it’s usually for one of three reasons:
- to connect with someone of religious faith
- to find a calm place to reflect, or
- to appreciate the art, craft and history of the building or the belief.
Just because a place, or an idea, is linked with religion and/or faith (they’re not the same) it doesn’t make it inaccessible to me as a man whose faith is not placed in gods and spirits. The pathway offered through 12-step recovery programmes can be just as useful to those of us who choose not to capitalise their ‘higher power’, so this is how I make sense of it:
Step 1: I admit I’m not managing
Step 2: I believe that I can get help
Step 3: I decide to get help
Step 4: I name my problems
Step 5: I take responsibility for my mistakes
Step 6: I find a framework to help me recover
Step 7: I allow myself to trust others who can help me
Step 8: I reflect on the damage to my relationships
Step 9: I work to repair damaged relationships where I can
Step 10: I keep working on a healthier approach to my relationships
Step 11: I choose to remain conscious of this process
Step 12: I offer help to others with integrity and humility
If you find yourself in need of the help of a 12-step group (pretty much any ‘Anonymous’ group), but the ‘God’ bit puts you off (which is what I very often hear in my practice), there is still hope.
Think about whether it’s ok to:
- connect with others who have similar struggles
- find a calm place to share, get support and grow, and
- value the experience of a community dedicated to recovery from suffering.
Yes, you’ll probably encounter people who want you to put ‘God’ into your recovery… but that’s likely to be an expression of their need rather than yours. This is your chance to remain true to yourself and to practice respecting difference… and that can also be really helpful.