Do Buddhism and AA have to be exclusive?


The word “God” appears in four out of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. When that three lettered taboo arises, many people feel intimidated. In fact, the “God thing” often precedes AA, causing people to avoid entering the rooms of recovery for years; they don’t want ‘religion’ forced on them. Two out of those four mentions of “God” are followed by some critically important words: as we understood Him. Judeo-christian sentiments are usually assigned to AA without people understanding founder Bill Wilson was hugely supportive of spiritual exploration. Multiple times throughout The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous there is mention of ‘spiritual principles’- not religious, but spiritual. Spirituality is not a one size fits all, which is why the twelve steps grants the opportunity for personal customization.

Nothing says Buddhism and the twelve steps should be mutually exclusive. Meditation is a core component of Buddhist practice and number eleven of the twelve steps. Buddhism can be practiced along with AA, instead of AA or because of AA. The spiritual program of Alcoholics Anonymous and Buddhism have a lot of similarities. Their defining common denominator, however, is you.

Working through the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous brings you to a challenge: define your conception of a higher power. Step two, “came to believe in a Power greater than ourselves” is wide open for interpretation. Recovery, like spirituality, is not a blanket life choice. Much in the same way Buddhism begs contemplation, mindfulness, and consideration, so do the steps. Recovery is a unique life experience belonging to you. Divine opportunity grants people in recovery the chance to create for themselves a spiritual lifestyle of sobriety. Buddhism can be a great asset in the recovery lifestyle, which is why we created Refuge. Ultimately, that lifestyle belongs to you and whatever keeps you on the path of living clean.


Refuge Recovery is home to everyone seeking to end their suffering from addiction. We are a treatment center for addiction and co-occurring disorders as much as we are a way of practicing life. For more information on our levels of care and programs of treatment call 323-207-0276.

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