The 12 steps which form the backbone of Alcoholics Anonymous and many other self-help groups for addicts were first devised in America in the 1930s – and whilst they only mention alcohol once, God features four times, along with references to a higher power and spiritual awakening.
So what does that mean in a society where only around one-third of us say they believe in God? Can the 12 steps work without a religious faith, and if so, how? And on the other hand, if a higher power is so central to recovery from alcoholism, why are there so many Christians with addiction problems?
Ruth Gledhill welcomes three guests to discuss the issues thrown up by the spiritual dimension of the 12 steps:
Fr John, a Catholic priest who is an alcoholic in recovery and leads retreats for people who attend Alcoholics Anomymous;
Gary Smith, an atheist and former university lecturer who lost his job because of his alcoholism and has been in recovery for three years;
and Wendy Dossett, a senior lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Chester who is working on the Higher Power project, which examines how people understand the concept of the “higher power” in the 12 steps. More can be found out about the Higher Power Project by clicking the following link.
This programme is part of our Mental Health Season.
Fr John and Gary Smith, both members of AA, have chosen to appear under different names to safeguard their anonymity.
If you are in Britain and need help with a drinking problem, you can phone the national helpline of Alcoholics Anonymous on 0845 769 7555. Or visit their website by clicking the following link.