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If you go to one of the thousands of 12-Step meetings held every day around the world, chances are you are going to hear or read something about “How It Works.” This reading offers a concise breakdown of what the Twelve Steps are, who they can help, and of course, how they work. It also quickly touches on how a Higher Power and religion are different from each other in 12-Step programs.

The third step of the 12-Step philosophy states that we should “make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” Also, the eleventh step of the 12-Step philosophy states that we should “seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him.” The key here lies in the italics. “God” mentioned in the Steps actually refers to a “Higher Power of our own understanding.”

Understanding 12-Step Philosophy

The first technical 12-Step program was created roughly 88 years ago by two gentlemen who determined that the only way they were going to recover from addiction was by working with other people struggling with addiction and by giving over their will to a Higher Power of their own understanding. These two men were Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith, and the program they created was Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

The 12-Step philosophy used in AA has since branched out into countless other 12-Step programs, focusing on other substance use disorders and addiction issues. It is estimated that 12-Step programs are being utilized in over 180 nations worldwide, and have helped millions of individuals and their families recover from addiction.

A large part of this success is due to the concept of connecting with a “Higher Power” and incorporating a spiritual life into their recovery. However, this is also an aspect of 12-Step recovery that many people bristle at and even causes some people to avoid the Twelve Steps altogether.

Understanding the Difference Between a Higher Power and Religion

Many people hold the misconception that 12-Step recovery is a religious-based recovery program. This is false, but it is also understandable why many people are under this impression; most 12-Step programs often use the term “God.”

The primary text of AA and other 12-Step recovery groups is known as the “Big Book.” This text was first published in 1939 and because of its efficacy, it has gone through very few editorial changes. Furthermore, this means that most of the terminology that was used in 1939 remains in the text. This includes the use of “God,” rather than the term “Higher Power.”

However, anyone that investigates 12-Step recovery soon discovers that both the terms “God” and “Higher Power” are used interchangeably to mean something unique to each member of the program. Even the founder of AA, Bill Wilson, discusses his balking at the term “God” in the Big Book. However, he discovered that he was only doing so because of his religious past. When he eventually took God to mean a Higher Power of his own understanding, it helped him immensely in his long-term recovery.

How to Utilize a Higher Power and Religion in Recovery

While it is not a requirement, acquiring a spiritual life in recovery is a highly beneficial tool for many people struggling with addiction. Again, it is important to note that taking on a spiritual life does not necessarily mean taking on a religious one; though it is also important to note that, for some, it might. Whatever helps someone recover from addiction is a positive tool.

Utilizing a Higher Power in recovery can be as simple as realizing that there is something else other than ourselves. This helps us to stop thinking about ourselves and our own problems and start to focus on how we can care for and help those around us. One of the concepts of the Twelve Steps is that by helping others we are also helping ourselves. Connecting to a Higher Power helps us connect to this concept.

Why the Phoenix Recovery Center Supports and Facilitates 12-Step Recovery

Another misconception that people often have about 12-Step recovery is that its members don’t believe that other types of recovery work. This is also false. In fact, the Big Book clearly states that the Twelve Steps do not hold a monopoly over recovery, and if something other than the Steps works better for an individual, then they should stick with what works for them.

Here at the Phoenix Recovery Center, we believe in the efficacy of the Twelve Steps, though we are not a specific 12-Step treatment program ourselves. For individuals that come to us for addiction treatment, we can help facilitate their 12-Step journey as part of their individual recovery plan. The truth is that spirituality can be a critical part of our recovery, but many of us won’t know that unless we try.

If you feel like you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please know that you are not alone. We can help. For more information on pursuing addiction recovery, please reach out to The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.

The Phoenix Recovery Center
489 W. South Jordan Pkwy
Suite 400
South Jordan, UT