Is it Required to be Religious to Get Clean and Sober?

Why is religion so common in stories about recovery and sobriety? Undoubtedly, part of the reason comes from a simple overlap in numbers. 80% of people in the United States are religious to some degree, so out of all of the people in the U.S. who struggle with addiction, many are bound to be religious. Still, is there a stronger connection between religion and sobriety? Does one have to be religious to recover from drug or alcohol addiction?

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Religion in Recovery

Many of the groups and organizations that help with recovery have very religious overtones. They say recovery prayers as a group, and they often meet in church basements or other religious locations. Recovery from addiction has a long history with religion.


Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the most well-known recovery groups, began with two Christian men who sought a spiritual solution for alcoholics. Although one doesn’t have to be religious to join AA, the 12 Step process that this group created is a deeply spiritual process. Many of the steps involve surrendering to a Higher Power, although AA leaves the definition of “Higher Power” up to its individual members. Because AA and its inherent spirituality has dominated the conversation around recovery, religion and sobriety have a societal connection.


Granted, this connection between religion and sobriety doesn’t only exist in a cultural way. Religion does correlate with good mental health, and overall mental health can benefit sobriety. Religious people tend to deal with stress and anxiety relatively well, which can translate into more calmness when dealing with triggers or other temptations. Religious practices such as prayer give people an easy, practical way to face certain difficulties.

15.1 million adults in the US have an alcohol use disorder.

Religious Qualities You Can Use

If religion can help with sobriety, does that mean that you have to be religious to get sober? No. People of any faith or no faith can recover from addiction. However, you can use certain aspects of religion to maintain your sobriety if you’d like, even if you’re not religious yourself.


Since the community aspect of religion helps many people stay sober, look for a community of your own. This community may or may not make sobriety its central focus, but try to find friends who understand your needs and who will encourage you in your sobriety. You can always call our helpline for guidance on this and other addiction related questions.


Some traditionally religious activities may benefit you as well. Meditation, for example, has a connection to multiple religions, but many non-religious people practice it too. Meditation can help you maintain peace of mind and minimize anxiety, which will curb your impulse to drink or use drugs.

If you’re struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, help is available. Call 800-492-QUIT.

Are the 12 Steps Right for You?

If you have a thriving spiritual life, or if you want to revitalize your spiritual life, the 12 Steps may be right for you. Many of the Steps are spiritual in nature. Six of the Steps mention either God or a Higher Power, and they involve seeking forgiveness and asking God for help.


Atheists and agnostics may be less comfortable with the spiritual language in the 12 Steps, but because AA does not adhere to any one religion, being nonreligious does not disqualify anybody from joining AA. Bill Wilson (one of the founders) himself said that AA has no religious requirement.


If you’re not religious but would like to use the 12 Steps as they were written, you’ll be welcome to do so. What if you don’t want to use the spiritual wording but still feel that a 12 Step process may benefit you? AA Agnostica has put together an alternate version of the 12 Steps with non-spiritual language.


If the 12 Step format doesn’t work for you, and you still want a sobriety-centered community, you have other options. The organizations on the list below cater to people who need a method other than the 12 Steps.


  • SMART Recovery
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety
  • Women for Sobriety
  • LifeRing Secular Recovery


Look for meetings near where you live, try out a few groups, and see which ones work best for you.

Sobriety Is for Everyone

Whether you consider yourself religious, atheist, agnostic, or questioning, your recovery matters. Rehab Info is here to help you no matter your religious or spiritual background. If you have an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you have many options for getting help.


Recovery can start for you with just one phone call to 1-800-492-QUIT.

The process of choosing from those options can be stressful

and overwhelming. We want to make that process easier for you. Call us today at 800-492-QUIT. We’ll help you make the right choice.
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