Many claim that we can put the 12 Step Program itself in the place of God in our Recovery. There are a couple of reasons why this can be a deadly decision to our recovery. First off, putting your trust in the program means one of two things: One must either place trust in an abstract idea that is intangible, therefore inexistent by a naturalistic framework, or you are placing trust in people; basing your sobriety on fickle members of a group in the same boat that you are. The latter is like trusting a kite to fly with no wind. You may get it to do what you want, but you’re going to be doing all the work.
Let’s look at the first option for replacing God with the Program: Putting faith in the idea of the program. Many say that simply exchanging the word “God” for the word “program” makes recovery possible for the atheist. However, doing this violates a substantial rule for the atheist. According to the naturalistic worldview, such abstract concepts do not exist. Immeasurable feelings like love, emotions, and moral principles are relative to each person. If this is true, then all of these concepts are merely figments of our imagination. The program you claim to put trust in for sobriety has no basis in fact. If people do not have intrinsic value bestowed on them, there is no such thing as good or bad. Because there is no objective moral law, there is no need for sobriety. Whether you continue or not depends only on how your brain has been predeterminetly hardwired. But, should you choose to follow these principles despite your own worldview, you will find that the program is nothing more than a means by which to lead you to a true higher power, not a higher power in itself.
The next option for following the program and not God is to follow the people in the program. After all, they are tangible and personal, so this means you can hand your own relative will over to them. But consider this: In giving your will and life to another person, you are handing it over to subjectiveness. You would be giving yourself to a group of people who were in the same mess you were. We made mistakes. We made bad life choices. That is what brought us to AA in the first place. To speak personally and frankly, if you give me control of your life, I WILL mess it up. I couldn’t handle my own life by myself. Doing this puts a responsibility on every member or sponsor in your life that they were never meant to bear. Expecting any one person or group of people to take your life and will and make you better is a concept warned against in many 12 step circles: “We cannot, nor should we attempt to fix each other.” The others in your circle have enough going on trying to stay sober without getting caught up in your life.
No, the 12 steps were not meant to work by replacing God. Especially not with an idea or a person. The only way we get better is by giving our lives and wills to something with the ability to handle them. This highest power must have the ability to change us from the inside out, and it must be willing to. God is the only plausible answer to how the program works in practice. With Him, we have recovery not only from drugs and alcohol, but from the mess that we called life.