Can I Attend 12-Step Meetings if I am Atheist or Agnostic
Many times, individuals in recovery will ask if they can still attend 12-step meetings if they are atheist or agnostic. The short answer is of course! A higher power is associated with 12-step meetings such as AA or NA; however, there are many individuals who attend these meetings who are atheist or agnostic. The truth is the support you receive in 12-step meetings far exceeds religious preference. The fellowship and support are what helps you stay clean and sober.
The obstacle for some is that 12-step meetings emphasize a higher power and there may be some members who argue that you cannot achieve abstinence without a higher power. This should not deter you from attending meetings and getting the support you need. There are some suggestions that you can use that can help alleviate your concerns.
The language of 12-step meetings includes a “higher power”; however, this term is not exclusively defined. A higher power can mean anything that is outside of yourself that provides you with purpose or joy. If one of the 12 steps refer to a higher power, simply rewrite the step. You will still get what you need from the step to begin work on it.
One thing to consider is honesty. If you attend meetings, tell others about your preference. There is something wonderful that happens when you are honest and there is research to support that sometimes self-disclosure can help you overcome shame. Not everyone in your meeting will support you and there may even be a few naysayers. This is okay and should not deflect you away from the reasons you attend 12-step meetings. Often, you might discover there are others who share similar beliefs.
Experience and develop the connections you make with others in these meetings and pay less attention to the higher power concept. Remember, that believing in a higher power is not a requirement for 12-step meetings but your desire to be clean and sober is. Focus on what you are doing for yourself and your recovery.
You also might want to “shop around” for different meetings in your area if you find yourself feeling uncomfortable. There are now even 12-step meetings for atheists and agnostics so you may be fortunate to find one of those meetings.
At the end of every meeting, the Serenity Prayer is recited. You are under no obligation to recite this prayer if you choose not to but remember it is a good idea to be honest with others. Keep in mind the connections and support you receive from others in these meetings far outweigh whether you believe in a higher power or not.