God = Higher Power

A lot of people have hangups and prejudices against the word "God". They fear that they are getting involved with some sort of religious organisation, or cult, when they are considering a 12 step programme for their recovery.  I experienced these concerns myself.

This is not the case with any 12 step programme.  People of no religious denomination at all, and people of all conceivable religious beliefs, support each other within all 12 step programmes.

In all 12 step programmes the word "God" is simply an abbreviation of a concept introduced in Step 2 - "a power greater than ourselves".

The process of finding god is a personal journey.

God = a Power greater than ourselves

Every member of every 12 step programme develops their own personal understanding of "a power greater than themselves". This is your journey of recovery and no-one pressures you towards any particular religious doctrine.

How you go about finding god is up to you.

God = A Personal Choice

Your concept of God is unique to you.

God = Love

For me, Love is the Power.

God, in 12 Steps' history

From those who discovered the 12 steps:

In his old age Carl Jung loved to tell about the Naskapi hunters of the Labrador peninsular, about whom Marie-Louise von Franz gave this account:

In his lifelong solitude the Naskapi hunter has to rely on his own inner voices and unconscious revelations; he has no religious teachers to tell him what he should believe, no rituals, festivals or customs to help him along.  In his basic view of life, the soul of man is simply an "inner companion" whom he calls "my friend" or Mista'peo, meaning "Great Man." Mista'peo dwells in the heart and is immortal.

What is "God" in 12 step programmes?

Page 46 of the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, tells us:

Much to our relief, we discovered we did not need to consider another's conception of God. Our own conception, however inadequate, was sufficient to make the approach and to effect a contact with Him. As soon as we admitted the possible existence of a Creative Intelligence, a Spirit of the Universe underlying the totality of things, we began to be possessed of a new sense of power and direction, provided we took other simple steps. We found that God does not make too hard terms with those who seek him. To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all men.

When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God. This applies, too, to other spiritual expressions which you find in this book. Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you. At the start, this was all we needed to commence spiritual growth, to effect our first conscious relation with God as we understood Him. Afterward, we found ourselves accepting many things which then seemed entirely out of reach. That was growth, but if we wished to grow we had to begin somewhere. So we used our conception, however limited it was.

We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. "Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?" As soon as a man can say that he does believe, or is willing to believe, we emphatically assure him that he is on his way. It has been repeatedly proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone a wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built.

Humility and God

Step 3 helps 12 step members understand the concept of humility .  This humility enables each member to respect every other member's concept of God. Members are reminded of this humility and the group's acceptance of all religious persuasions when The Preamble is read at the beginning of most meetings.  The Preamble states that the group, "...is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization, or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes."  All 12 step programmes also welcome people who may be atheist and agnositc.  It is rare for group members to describe their concept of God, for this would suggest an arrogance that their concept is better than someone else's -- a behaviour in conflict with true humilty.  Other members would not correct them, they would just smile inwardly knowing that they still have a little more to learn about ego-deflation. Eclhart Tolle refers to this type of behaviour as "egoic delusions", below.

So in 12 steps programs the word "God' has an unlimited number of meanings.  As many meanings, in fact, as there are members of 12-step programmes world wide.

GOD Acronyms

GOD acronyms heard at Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step meetings:

  • GOD - Good Orderly Direction
  • GOD - Group Of Drunks, AA's higher power.
  • GOD - Gift of Desperation
  • GOD - Grow or Die

Others GOD acronyms include:

  • GOD - Getting Off Drugs
  • GOD - Great Omnipotent Designer
  • GOD - Great Out Doors

God - What does this word mean?

In "The Power of Now" Eckhart Tolle elegantly describes the meaning of "God" in today's world:

The word God has become empty of meaning through thousands of years of misuse. I use it sometimes, but I do so sparingly. By misuse, I mean that people who have never even glimpsed the realm of the sacred, the infinite vastness behind that word, use it with great conviction, as if they knew what they are talking about. Or they argue against it, as if they knew what it is that they are denying. This misuse gives rise to absurd beliefs, assertions, and egoic delusions, such as "My or our God is the only true God, and your God is false," or Nietzsche's famous statement "God is dead."

The word God has become a closed concept. The moment the word is uttered, a mental image is created, no longer, perhaps, of an old man with a white beard, but still a mental representation of someone or something outside you, and, yes, almost inevitably a male someone or something.

Neither God nor Being nor any other word can define or explain the ineffable reality behind the word, so the only important question is whether the word is a help or a hindrance in enabling you to experience that toward which it points. Does it point beyond itself to that transcendental reality, or does it lend itself too easily to becoming no more than an idea in your head that you believe in, a mental idol?

Finding God

The process of finding god is a journey.

This journey may well start for you by finding a 12 step meeting near you.

Practicing God-Consciousness

God is love. It isn't finding God which works, but practicing God-consciousness.


Pray for inward God-consciousness, and smile to give love.


Smiling, that priceless free gift of loving compassion, is often the first thing a newcomer receives, along with a hearty “Welcome” from the group, when they arrive at their first 12 Step meeting.