Is it possible to recover from addiction without the grace of God?

The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) answered with a clear “no.” In the face of true addiction, will power alone is not enough. Even if moderation is intended, it is impossible to maintain and the most powerful desire to stop is useless.

For Catholics, this may sound like a familiar story because it is the story of redemption. Christ came to save those who could not save themselves – those who were helpless on their own. The person suffering from addiction passes through death and hell, but to recover, they must be resurrected by God.

“The first thing I had to learn in my recovery was that there is a God and it’s not me,” said Janet Manecke, who organizes a chapter of Catholic in Recovery (CIR) at St. Timothy Catholic Church in Mesa, Ariz.

Catholic in Recovery, a movement founded by alcoholic in recovery Scott Weeman, puts first things first in the journey to freedom. The sacramental life that the Catholic Church offers is primary and everything else in recovery is built on this foundation. In his book, The Twelve Steps and the Sacraments, Weeman demonstrates the deep connection between the Twelve Steps and the practice of Catholicism.

“[In modern times] the New Age movement has really hijacked the recovery movement so it’s all about ‘mother earth’. People often change God into ‘the universe’ and I get that because our first image of God is our parents. If you had a bad childhood, you are going to have a bad image of God,” continued Manecke.

“At one meeting I went to they prayed, ‘Give us this day our daily strength’ instead of our daily bread. They clearly did not understand the concept of our daily bread: the Eucharist.”

Twelve-step groups do not maintain a particular religious affiliation, and this can be beneficial for those who are weary to dip their toes wholeheartedly into religion. However, “a Higher Power,” or a “Power greater than ourselves,” to be effective, cannot remain abstract.

Weeman knew, as the founders of the AA movement did, that a personal encounter with God (the reality of God in Jesus Christ) is what is necessary for lasting recovery. CIR recaptures this original intent and sets it again at the forefront.

“I heard a long presentation about Catholic in Recovery on EWTN radio,” Fr. John Greb, Pastor of St. Timothy’s recalled.

“I thought, ‘This is what we’ve needed because often in 12-step programs, you can speak about your higher power but only in a general way. This wasn’t true in the very early programs that were connected to the Oxford Groups – Jesus was very much in front – but over the decades that changed to keeping things on a general basis. There is some good reason for that – we don’t want to scare away the newcomers who may be from a different faith tradition. But it also felt like we were dumbing down the reality of our higher power.’”

“St. Timothy is often a parish of firsts so, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if we started the first group in the state of Arizona?’”

Since then, Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix also founded a chapter of Catholic in Recovery in April, 2023. At St. Timothy’s the Catholic in Recovery core team formed in September of 2023 and weekly meetings began in November.

“We are all in different recovery programs,” Manecke explained.

“I am in Adult Children of Alcoholics, there are members of Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Overeaters Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous and people from all different 12-step programs. This is not supposed to be your main program but a supplement that helps you build your recovery around your faith.”

“The beauty of this program is that we all come together in a way that is based on our faith. We can share how adoration has helped us through our recovery, how God has revealed things to us in the Eucharist or how God has healed us through Confession.”

Fr. Greb issues this invitation:

“I want to welcome anyone in the diocese participating in a 12-step recovery program to consider stopping in to St. Timothy’s CIR.”

Meetings take place on Thursday evenings at 6:30pm in the Christy Center, a house adjacent to the back of the church. Questions or inquiries can be addressed to Janet Manecke at 480-688-2469 or

“You’re only as sick as your secrets,” Fr. Greb concluded.

“I tell people, ‘Stay the course! You can’t see it right now, but following the twelve steps will bear fruit: if you work with a sponsor, if you pray on your knees, and if you receive the sacraments, things will change.’”