Christianity fits well with 12 step programs. In fact, much of the content of the 12 steps is directly from the Bible. We don’t tell people this in early recovery, as so many have resentments against religion, especially Christianity. Sadly, many individuals have been damaged in the name of religion. Parents, teachers and religious leaders sometimes use religion, or “God” as a way to demean, blame, and intimidate children.
Many children feel threatened by the concept of a critical and punishing God. In addition, abuse, including sexual abuse, by clergy is all too common, often doing irreparable harm.
After some time in recovery, many addicts realize they are learning, through the steps, many of the principles found in the Bible. The Serenity Bible, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, Thomas Nelson Publishers, is a Bible that correlates the steps with the New Testament and Psalms, illustrating how Christianity and 12 step programs fit together well. Remember, though, that Biblical teachings have much in common with teachings of other religions. 12 Step programs are non-religious for a reason: so that they are available to everyone seeking recovery, not just the religious. The hope is that even those who may have been scarred by religion find recovery programs palatable and accessible.
Christians in recovery who combine the instructions found in the twelve steps with their religion are inspired in an ongoing relationship with God, often specifically with Jesus. Many come out way ahead of their Christian friends who may know the Bible and religious doctrine in more detail but have not had the encouragement to develop an intimate relationship with God. The connection, trust, reliance and bond with God are an enormous part of what the 12 steps are all about.
This being said, I have found that forcing a belief does not work for me. Allowing a belief is much more effective. Belief in God requires a spiritual component and I have never been able to force anything spiritual…I must just make room for it, clearing out prejudices and judgments, and let it happen.
By definition, Christians share two core beliefs: that Jesus is the Son of God, existing as both man and God along with the Holy Spirit, the third member of the trinity, and that He came to earth to save mankind and provide us with everlasting life after death. This, however, in my experience, is where the similarity among Christians ends. Sometimes there seem to be as many details about beliefs as there are Christians! That sounds a lot like the wide pool of recovering alcoholics and addicts: agreement on core beliefs about the need to stay clean and sober and the need for a relationship with a Higher Power, but dozens of philosophies, theories and practices about how that really looks and what it means in everyday life.
For many Christians in recovery, the process of deepening their faith and celebrating their recovery go hand in hand. Naturally, then, like many other Christians who are not addicts, they want others to rapidly adopt their beliefs. If you feel that pull, I urge you as one fellow Christian in recovery to allow that each of God’s kids is on his or her individual pathway. Some may join you in your beliefs; many will not. We all need to evolve at our own speed, digesting what we learn and processing what we can at any given moment.
Christian experience is valuable; religious tenets perhaps less so. I hope and pray you will share your experience, strength and hope, refraining from “shoulding”, judging, criticizing or giving advice unless specifically asked for advice. Just as our children do what we do, not what we say, so do other adults observe our actions or lack thereof, often not hearing what we say. So, Christians in recovery, be patient and trust God to speak to His kids. Do your part by being the best child of God you can be. Continue to feed, water and nourish your own relationship with Him and you will be a great example and teacher.