Each one of us works our own individual program. In twelve-step programs we are given many suggestions, but there is only one requirement: the desire to stop drinking. Attending meetings or speaking with our fellows, we see how differently each of us works our program. It is a beautiful thing that we are encouraged to work the program how it works for us, and there are always people more experienced than us who have different experiences to offer. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says on page 29, "Each individual, in the personal stories, describes in his own language and from his own point of view the way he established his relationship with God."
Our Own Higher Power
In my personal experience, the ability to choose your own Higher Power is one of the greatest examples of people working their own programs. I have met people of all faiths and traditions in the rooms: Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, Atheist, and simply spiritual. Regardless of your spiritual/religious beliefs, there is a place for you in twelve-step programs.
Although Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by Christians and on many Christian principles, it was created with an expressed intention to work for people of all belief systems. I practice Buddhism myself. My sense of a "Higher Power" or "God" is very different than a lot of my fellows. I choose to utilize the Dharma as my Higher Power. Rather than a supernatural or ethereal force or figure, I use the path of Buddhism as my Higher Power. It works well for me, for I am able to turn my will and my life over to it. I am able to pray and meditate, be grateful for my Higher Power, and not fully understand my Higher Power.
Whatever your beliefs are, the principles are the same: trust in God, pray, meditate, turn your will and life over. I have met many atheists in my time sober, and have found the principles also apply there. In Buddhism, there is the teaching that we all have seeds within us; we have seeds of doubt, anger, love, fear, acceptance, etc. When we take action, we are watering these seeds within us. Being of service waters the seed of compassion, love, etc. Punching somebody waters the seed of anger, hatred, etc. Speaking with atheists, I have heard a very similar account of things. Even though they do not believe in a greater deity, they do believe they have a better person within them. I see atheists in my home group be of service, share eloquently, relate to others, and be wonderful members of our fellowship.
As discussed in a recent post, it is important to keep religion out of twelve-step meetings. I have heard speakers that truly move me that I find out have completely different beliefs than I do. I have heard other Buddhists share that I do not especially relate to. Religion (or lack of) is not important in twelve step meetings. We are all sitting there for the same reason, and sharing our differences only separates us. If somebody is Christian, Hindu, atheist, or whatever, it is their program, not ours. It is my honest opinion that it is absolutely none of my business unless they are directly hurting me or the integrity of the program. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says on page forty-five about the program, "Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem."