Can I Live in Sober Housing If I Don’t Believe in a Higher Power?

As I am sure you have discovered, a lot of sober housing requires residents to attend 12 step meetings, and those meetings typically hinge on a belief in a higher power. If you don’t follow a traditional religious model, this fixation on a higher power can make you feel like you don’t belong. But, that isn’t the case.

Although sober houses date back over a century, their beginnings also have a religious overtone, as groups like the Salvation Army and churches oversaw them. Don’t worry. By the 1960s and 70s, the therapeutic community was starting to see the importance of sober living for people attempting to abstain from drug use and they took over the sober living movement.

Current sober living homes essentially provide a drug- and alcohol- free space for people in recovery. They do not, at their most basic, have anything to do with organized religion, although there may be homes that are specifically designated for followers of a specific religion. You can avoid those.

There are approaches you can take to avoid the overt Christianity that you fear color every aspect of life at a sober house. You can also take comfort in recognizing that the function of a sober living house is not tied to religion. They can be entirely secular.

You can keep religion out of your sober house residency, but you need to find a house first. is the answer. We can link you to resources, answer questions, and direct you to housing that meets your needs. Give us a call at 800-953-3913 (Who Answers?).


Believe in a Higher Power

The humanist steps are one nonreligious 12 step alternative.

The therapeutic community took an interest in sober housing because addiction specialists saw the role environment played in relapse. Yes, relapse is a natural part of the recovery process, but people in environments full of stressors slipped more readily back into substance abuse.

How can a recovering addict return to a life where they are surrounded by people using? How does someone struggling with sobriety live in a family whose dysfunction is so severe that it makes them want to us? And isolation doesn’t fix the problem. If you cut yourself off from every environment, who supports you? These stressors all cause a person to use.

Sober houses provide relief from these stressors. Plus, it keeps you connected to peers who understand what you are going through. Residents include people attending outpatient treatment, people who have completed inpatient treatment, people exiting the justice system, and people using sober living as an alternative treatment. This provides a wide variety of viewpoints.

If Christianity functions as a stressor for you and you need distance from it during your recovery; be sure to do research and avoid any sober housing labelled Christian. When you find a sober house filled with a variety of peers and no overt religious affiliation, you will feel a sense of belonging.

Working the 12 Steps

Yes, roots of 12 step programs lie in a Christina model that depends upon a belief in a higher power in order to work the system. The solution isn’t to reject the 12 steps. It is to adjust them to meet your needs and this has been done before. There are agnostic and atheist groups dedicated to getting God out of the 12 steps.

After all, the founder of AA—Bill W.—wrote in Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, “We must remember that AA’s Steps are suggestions only. A belief in them as they stand is not at all a requirement for membership among us.”

The Reality of Living at a Sober House

Alternate Steps

There are many revisions of the twelve steps; two of them are discussed here. You can do some research and find others.

The humanist steps were developed by B.F. Skinner. Her rejected free will and, alternately, believed people’s actions depended upon the response to their previous actions. His steps include:

  • We have made a list of the situations in which we are most likely to drink.
  • We ask our friends to help us avoid these situations.
  • We are ready to accept the help they give us.

White Bison, “A sustainable grassroots Wellbriety movement that provides culturally based healing to the next seven generations of Indigenous people.” Developed alternate steps based on the “Teachings of the Medicine Wheel, the Cycle of Life and the Four Laws of Change.” These steps include:

  1. Powerlessness
  2. Belief
  3. Surrender
  4. Moral Inventory

Don’t let an aversion to Christianity keep you out of a sober house. Give us a call and let’s work together to find a house you will feel comfortable in. Call 800-953-3913 (Who Answers?) to talk with someone that can help you.

Where do calls go?

Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline will be answered or returned by one of the treatment providers listed, each of which is a paid advertiser: ARK Behavioral Health, Recovery Helpline, Alli Addiction Services.

By calling the helpline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses. There is no obligation to enter treatment.

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