You don’t need to be Religious for 12 Step Treatment

The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous realised that alcoholics in recovery need a power, some sort of external strength in their lives to help them stop drinking. This “Higher Power” was first described in the book Alcoholics Anonymous (aka “the Big Book”).

The men who founded AA were Christians, who believed in the power of God and the power of prayer. But they were also careful to embrace people from other religions or people of no religion.

In the 12 Step programme we use at Castle Craig abstinence is the goal of treatment. To achieve this the patients need a sense of purpose, something they have not had for many years due to the addiction.

One of the challenges some patients face is that part of the programme which talks about the Higher Power. Step Two of the programme asks the individual to try and come to believe that there is a power greater than themselves which can restore them to sanity.

Our experience is that many patients are atheist or agnostic. We help patients realise that it’s not a religious programme. If patients choose to identify God as their Higher Power we will support them and I might say “you’ve been brought up as a Protestant or a Catholic or perhaps you’ve been brought up as a Muslim, or Jewish, and this is your faith, your family’s faith, your people’s faith – and that’s great.”

But we also say that this is not the only power that can be the Higher Power. The people that they meet at Castle Craig, the 30 or 40 people in the community, are a power greater than themselves. That is a very powerful tool the patients can rely on when they’re struggling with their emotions during treatment. We also take them to the local 12-Step meetings in Edinburgh, Peebles and Biggar and these groups are a power, a strong power.

Then we introduce them to Step Three which describes making a decision to turn their will and their lives over to the care of a God — as they understand him. For me what that means is that now they have each found different powers they can turn to, whether it’s a traditional religious power or whether it’s the group, the meetings they’re going to, the fellowship — and they’re listening to it.

When the patient leaves rehab treatment we recommend they go to the fellowships, the local 12 step meetings in their area and if they do that it’s a very powerful tool for them for the rest of their lives. 

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