Alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous

One of this blog’s readers sent me an email (slightly edited by me):

I received a disturbing phone call from my sister-in-law yesterday about her husband, my brother-in-law.

Seems that my bro-in-law is experiencing difficulty with alcoholism, but he is reluctant to attend AA meetings because of their insistence that in order to be successful in the AA program, you must submit to a higher power – a power greater than yourself – God. Of course, you are permitted to define God anyway you choose, yet you are reminded in the chapter “We Agnostics” from the “Big Book” that “As soon as we admitted the possible existence of a Creative Intelligence, a Spirit of the Universe underlying the totality of things, we began to be possessed of a new sense of power and direction, provided we took other simple steps.”

Seriously, is AA the only non-profit group out there that addresses alcoholism? Is there no god-free group that is focused on addiction? Surely there must be someplace an addicted atheist or agnostic (or secular humanist, pagan, or other) can turn to for assistance with addiction.

I am hoping that perhaps you or one of your readers can offer some advice on what I might communicate to my bro-in-law and his wife about such a support group… one that preferably doesn’t have a huge fee attached to their services.

The brother-in-law has a good point. AA’s solution to alcoholism involves a lot of submission to God.

The only group I know that is similar to AA, but gives secular advice, is Save Our Selves (SOS). I don’t know much about them, though.

Maybe someone else can offer some better suggestions?


[tags]atheist, atheism, Alcoholics Anonymous, God, Save Our Selves, Pagan, Agnostic[/tags]

  • http://r.holmgrensasktel.net Makarios

    Ya, it’s called Rational Recovery. It’s active in Canada. I’m not sure about the States. I’ve referred a few clients there.

  • http://jewishatheist.blogspot.com JewishAtheist

    People will no doubt point out that there are plenty of atheists in AA. However, a bigger problem might be that AA is not, empirically speaking, effective. A while back, I posted a link to this article which goes into some of the evidence for various kinds of recovery programs.

    William Miller and Reid Hester, editors of the most comprehensive and most methodologically sound evaluation of treatment methods ever published, state that, “We were pleased to see that a number of treatment methods were consistently supported by controlled scientific research.”xxvii But they continue, “On the other hand, we were dismayed to realize that virtually none of these treatment methods was in common use within alcohol treatment programs in the United States.”xxviii Worse, “A significant negative correlation (r=-.385) was found between the strength of efficacy evidence for modalities and their cost; that is, the more expensive the treatment method, the less the scientific evidence documenting its effi­cacy.”xxix They list the treatment methods showing the most positive results, as shown by controlled studies, as brief intervention, social skills training, motivational enhancement, community reinforcement approach, and behavior contracting.

    Personally, if I were an addict, I’d seek the best mental health professionals I could find and work from there.

  • http://glork.wordpress.com David

    An episode of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit (S02 E11) actually addresses this issue of the 12-stepping religion that was spawned from AA. I don’t recall which groups were featured in there as secular alternatives (or even if there were multiple alternatives). I’d recommend watching the episode.

    I can’t find any clips of this episode on gootube, but here’s a torrent search to get ya started:

    http://www.mininova.org/search/?search=bullshit+season

  • http://glork.wordpress.com David

    Smart Recovery: http://www.smartrecovery.org/
    Rational Recovery: http://www.rational.org/
    Secular Organizations for Sobriety / Save Our Selves: http://www.cfiwest.org/sos/index.htm
    Women for Sobriety: http://www.womenforsobriety.org/

  • Stephan

    If admitting that there may be a “higher power” helps you overcome addiction and opens you up to “a new sense of power and direction”, how is that a bad thing? That attitude almost seems like, “holding onto atheism is more important that making my life better.” It seems a little self-defeating to me.

  • Miko

    If admitting that there may be a “higher power” helps you overcome addiction and opens you up to “a new sense of power and direction”, how is that a bad thing?

    Because it doesn’t.

  • http://glendonmellow.blogspot.com Flying Trilobite

    The Centre for Inquiry Ontario has some links for combatting alcohol & smoking.
    Hopefully there will slowly be more institutions & programs like this as atheism & rationalism slowly prevail.

  • Stephan

    Because it doesn’t.

    It doesn’t what?

    If you mean it doesn’t help overcome addiction, I’m sure there are plenty of people in AA that would disagree with you.

    If you mean that it doesn’t open you up to a new sense of power and direction, again, I’m sure there are people who would disagree. And would that be a good reason not to try it?

    The standard Christian line on atheists is that they don’t want to admit that there might be a god because it would hurt their pride. All of the talk on this topic would give that opinion credibility. I’m looking to you to show me why it’s not true.

  • Richard Wade

    Finally a subject I know well. All too painfully well. I worked as a substance abuse counselor and educator for 12 years, and as the latest in a long line of proud drunk Wades, I’ve abstained for 25 years. The rest of us are dead.

    The hospital where I worked required 12-step programs as part of the treatment plan. It was awkward as a non-believer sending my non-believing patients there, but I emphasized the importance of the social and logistical support. Many of them made the group itself their “higher power” and seemed to do just as well as those who had a strong religious practice. At the time, Rational Recovery was just getting started in the U.S. and was not available close by. Now they seem to have more of a presence.

    It should be acknowledged that “just as well as” is still miserably bad. JewishAthiest and David above point out the dreary reality of very low rates of success for any kind of recovery program. Of the 10,000 patients assigned to me, I’m confident that a few hundred are still alive and well. The rest, no bet. Nothing works very well, but some kind of competent psychotherapy, including family therapy, combined with some kind of peer support group seems to do less miserably badly than other methods which are less all-encompassing.

    Stephan’s point above should be addressed as well. The abject suffering from this affliction is so unimaginable that many non-believers come to believe in something just out of sheer desperation. Whether or not that is an appropriate foundation for a belief system is up for argument. Coming to believe in a higher power is not a bad thing, as long as it works. Statistically it doesn’t work any better than anything else. I have no objection to anyone finding anything that works. It is only the pain that is unacceptable. But many atheists aren’t choosing to not believe; they know, if they keep honest with themselves that they are incapable of believing. If a person’s inability to believe in something is still going to be an obstacle, we must, must, must find an alternative that works.

    How have I done it so far? Well getting to know intimately 10,000 people living in hell on earth has had a lasting impression on me. It’s easy.

  • http://www.harvardhumanist.org Greg Epstein

    Hi Hemant, thanks for asking about this. Dr. Joe Gerstein is a co-founder of SMART Recovery, a program that uses Behavioral and Rational Emotive Therapy (basically the kind of therapy that is most demonstrably effective) to treat alcohol and narcotics addiction. SMART Recovery has been growing by leaps and bounds around the world and I’m hopeful your reader may be able to take advantage of one of its local groups. I mention Joe specifically for a few reasons– first you might be interested to know that it was his Roxbury Foundation that worked with the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard to provide travel grant money to the SSA for last month’s conference– SMART Recovery and the HCH have been working together for many years now; second, because Joe will be at the AHA conference in Portland coming up soon if you or anyone else would like to speak more about this with him. He is an Emeritus Professor at Harvard Medical School and this is the medicine-related subject about which he is most passionate, so I’m sure he’d be happy to answer any inquiries.

    http://www.smartrecovery.org/ for more info.

    Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.blakeclan.org/jon/greenoasis/ Jonathan Blake

    If you mean it doesn’t help overcome addiction, I’m sure there are plenty of people in AA that would disagree with you.

    Sure. Some people will be overcome addiction after they start attending AA, but does AA provide any demonstrable help in the process? My wife was told by a psychology professor that the success rate of for those who walk through the doors of AA is less than 10%. That number is born out by the article Jewish Atheist linked to (which has more rigorous definitions of success). The people who succeed in AA may have succeeded without AA.

    The standard Christian line on atheists is that they don’t want to admit that there might be a god because it would hurt their pride. All of the talk on this topic would give that opinion credibility. I’m looking to you to show me why it’s not true.

    Your impression that the atheists’ motives in criticizing AA are to pridefully avoid admitting that there might be a God seems founded on the misapprehension that AA is an effective treatment for alcohol abuse. It’s not.

  • Miko

    If you mean it doesn’t help overcome addiction, I’m sure there are plenty of people in AA that would disagree with you.

    Those were people who already believed in a god. If you don’t think there is a god, suggesting there is one isn’t going to help you one bit. What the theist is actually doing is moving from “there is a god” to “god helps those who help themselves,” helping themself and giving god the credit. An atheist accepts that they need to help themselves already, so adding a “higher power” into the mix is just a useless detour through the idea that “god helps you by not doing anything” that will eventually lead them back to exactly where they started. It’s as if a fitness instructor were to tell you that you have to believe there’s life on Mars before you can start an exercise program: the two things have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

    The standard Christian line on atheists is that they don’t want to admit that there might be a god because it would hurt their pride. All of the talk on this topic would give that opinion credibility. I’m looking to you to show me why it’s not true.

    Yeah, I’m sure it takes an enormous amount of pride to suggest that the creator of the universe isn’t willing to drop everything at a moment’s notice for the sole purpose of helping one with one’s insignificant problems. It seems to be a Christian tradition to try and mold what atheists think and do by suggesting that we’ll have quality X if we don’t go along. Unfortunately, I lack sufficient pride to care about this one, so you’re on your own there.

  • Richard Wade

    Millions of people are suffering and dying of this in misery beyond description. I have witnessed things that would shock you to your core. The nastiest person in the world does not deserve to live or die this way.

    Self righteous people of all persuasions have used this issue for their personal soap boxes, interested only in making themselves right and their opponents wrong, while caring not one bit, giving not one dime for treatment, not one minute of time, not one hand of help or word of encouragement for the actual victims languishing without effective help during all the futile bickering.

    NOTHING WORKS WELL. Believing in a higher power works for a very few, and not believing in a higher power works for a very few. No one method has an edge. Most fail.

  • Stephan

    Richard, thanks for your thoughtful and too experienced thoughts.

    Miko, you continue to play into Christian stereotypes of atheists. You seem like the idea of a higher power is somehow a threat to you.

    Your fitness analogy is absolutely off the mark. While fitness has nothing to do with aliens, it makes perfect sense that higher power that is concerned with the welfare of its creation would help those who seek to live a better life. This doesn’t mean it’s like a genie in a bottle just waiting to do our bidding, but it’s not at all what you make it out to be.

    It seems to me that AA’s definition of (or lack thereof) a higher power is about as non-threatening as it can be. It’s only those who feel the need to ridicule the beliefs of others that would have a problem with it.

  • Miko

    Miko, you continue to play into Christian stereotypes of atheists. You seem like the idea of a higher power is somehow a threat to you.

    Nope, not a threat. And the point is that atheists shouldn’t care what Christian stereotypes are. Your argument only works by making atheists think that we need to be on the defensive, prove we aren’t arrogant, prove we aren’t spiritually dead, etc., when every stereotype you bring up fits Christians as a group exactly as well as it fits atheists as a group, which is to say not at all. I was perfectly aware you’d respond that way, but I didn’t care because it reflects a flaw in you rather than me. Not to stereotype whole groups or anything, but Christians sure seem to be big on stereotyping. ;-)

    Your fitness analogy is absolutely off the mark. While fitness has nothing to do with aliens

    Aliens see lifting heavy objects towards them as a sign of devotion and reward us by using their magic powers to give us larger muscles.

    It seems to me that AA’s definition of (or lack thereof) a higher power is about as non-threatening as it can be. It’s only those who feel the need to ridicule the beliefs of others that would have a problem with it.

    I agree completely. You said:

    If admitting that there may be a “higher power” helps you overcome addiction and opens you up to “a new sense of power and direction”, how is that a bad thing?

    This thread was started when someone asked about secular alternatives to AA and you ridiculed their belief that god had nothing to do with recovery from alcoholism. I was merely pointing out that the OP didn’t want a solution involving admitting there may be a “higher power” for the simple reason that it wouldn’t help him overcome addiction. I’m not trying to force you to become an atheist and I’m not trying to defend atheists against stupid stereotypes: my sole goal was to get you to consider exactly why you would choose to respond to a request for help finding a secular support group by attacking an individual’s desire to do so. Hopefully stating this goal explicitly will help clarify this.

  • James

    As a psychologist and therapist I have to say i find the AA unconvincing, their research and effectiveness are not nearly as good as they would lead you to believe and they seem to retain a culturally good reputation not backed up by the evidence. There is a good discussion of their methodology (and it’s flaws) in this book:

    SHAM – How the Self Help and Actualisation Movement made America Powerless by Steve Salerno.

    In terms of alternatives I would recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy however I’m not sure about the States (I’m UK based) but it is expensive over here and I am not sure if it will be covered by your health insurance. It also relies very much on commitment and motivation of the patient to change

    Hope that helps and I wish your brother in law all the best

    Cheers

    James

  • Pam M

    I am sober over 20 years now. I went to AA as a non believer and am still a non-believer. If you are miserable enough and want to stop drinking you can do it in AA. If I could do it anyone can. I attend very few meetings now but still attend one every now and then. Yes, most do talk about “their” god, however, I do what I was told as a new drunk. Take what I need from the meetings and leave the rest behind. Get a sponsor that understands your feelings about god and go from there. I could have never gotten sober without the help of AA. I needed something to do both day and night and it gave me something to do besides hanging around the bar rooms. I also had a D & A therapist and attended a group therapy every week. I still needed something to fill in the time between those sessions. AA did it for me and I will be forever grateful to the group I got sober at. I used the group as my higher power at first and it got me to the point where realized I no longer wanted to drink.

    I now live in Florida and we have atheist AA meetings here in this state. Not many but they do exist.

  • Richard Wade

    In terms of alternatives I would recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy however I’m not sure about the States (I’m UK based) but it is expensive over here and I am not sure if it will be covered by your health insurance.

    CBT as it’s called in the States was the latest psychofad sweeping through the field when I left, and insurance companies were accepting it. It seemed to have promise at least theoretically, but it takes a lot of time and money to get empirical data and it’s always difficult to compare the effectiveness of different squirt guns against a forest fire.

    My advice to the brother-in-law is: Immediately get all the therapy you can, be open to psychiatric medication if mood disorders are an issue, be sure your family is also involved in therapy that helps them change how they interact with you, abandon any fantasies about finding acceptable levels or methods of using any alcohol or recreational substances, and don’t ever, ever give up.

  • Anthony

    If you mean it doesn’t help overcome addiction, I’m sure there are plenty of people in AA that would disagree with you.

    Keep in mind that there is a infinitesimally low probability that God exists. So any transformative experiences these alcoholics experience is in response to their own visualization of powerful, loving “god” archetypes that they’re customizing with their own imaginations for use while they pray/accept in to their hearts/whatever you call it.

    Since this is likely the case, I consider it unethical of AA to exploit the desperation of addicts to promote delusion of reality in hard working citizens.

    And on a lighter note, it is certainly limiting AA’s effectiveness to use only one type of meditative visualization for their transformations (again, since there is likely no god, this is what they are actually doing).

    To the original author: There is nothing wrong with reaping the benefits of visualizations as a form of meditation. All these unfortunately deluded folks are just confusing visualizations, folk logic, and personal intuition with reality. There may be a way to him to use AA and the visualizations of powerful archetypes, like The All Loving Forgiver, to his rational advantage :) Any perks offered by religion (from relaxing prayer to pretty church music) belong to the responsible atheist.

    Never let a theist keep a human experience away from you.

  • HappyNat

    Stephan said,

    May 30, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    If admitting that there may be a “higher power” helps you overcome addiction and opens you up to “a new sense of power and direction”, how is that a bad thing? That attitude almost seems like, “holding onto atheism is more important that making my life better.” It seems a little self-defeating to me.

    Stephan,
    We aren’t saying belief in a higher power wouldn’t help some people. If it helps some people I would never say it is a bad thing. But why is a belief in a high power required for people to take part in an organization to help them stop drinking.

    It has nothing to do with “hold onto athiesm”, it is about seeking help for your problems. If you have trouble with the drink and are trying to stop, how is introducing a new unknown “higher power” going to help an unbeliever?

  • Stephan

    Since this is likely the case, I consider it unethical of AA to exploit the desperation of addicts to promote delusion of reality in hard working citizens.

    I think it would only be unethical if they knew for a fact that God did not exist, and yet they were still using a belief in God to modify people’s behavior. Since they actually believe it, it is not unethical. Also, I do not consider the existence of God to be a low probability. That is an opinion not based in fact.

    But why is a belief in a high power required for people to take part in an organization to help them stop drinking.

    It seemed to me that the initial post here was not questioning whether or not AA works (according to Richard it doesn’t work to the same extent that everything else doesn’t work) but was saying that they would stay away because it would require them to acknowledge that there might be a higher power. It was like saying, “I would rather continue to drink myself to death than admit God might exist.” That’s how it hit me. Being an atheist seems more important than getting sober. Doesn’t that sound self-defeating to you?

  • Miko

    It was like saying, “I would rather continue to drink myself to death than admit God might exist.” That’s how it hit me. Being an atheist seems more important than getting sober. Doesn’t that sound self-defeating to you?

    No, it sounds more like an ad hominem and a straw man had a child.

    The problem is that god and alcoholism have nothing to do with each other and forcing people to accept a belief in the former is going to do nothing for solving the latter. How about another analogy: a new program is developed stressing personal responsibility. As the first of twelve steps, participants are forced to declare nonbelief in god and that they can only get better when they stop relying on any higher power. Is the reluctance of the religious to join a sign that they see believing in god as more important than getting sober? Is it self-defeating? Or is it a sign that they realize that something is wrong with the program and want a better option?

    I think it would only be unethical if they knew for a fact that God did not exist, and yet they were still using a belief in God to modify people’s behavior.

    By the same logic, I trust you think it was right for people to burn witches because they thought that God existed?

    Also, I do not consider the existence of God to be a low probability. That is an opinion not based in fact.

    This is talking about Bayesian probability. God either exists or does not, so the probability is either 0% or 100%, so stating the probability is low is an attempt to measure our level of ignorance rather than any statement of fact. And since 100% of the evidence suggests their is no god (because, honestly, all you need is one piece of evidence suggesting that their is a god to prove it), it’s reasonable to conclude that the Bayesian probability of god’s existence is low.

  • Pam M

    First of all AA does NOT force one to believe in ANYTHING. It is a choice you make one way or the other. Please, those of you who have NO idea what happens in an AA Meeting should not assume anything. I was in therapy for years before I quite drinking and those doctors never even addressed my drinking as a problem. One therapist finally figured it out and handed me an AA schedule of meetings. I took one look at it and said to her that I would not go to anything that mentioned the word god. Seven years later I crawled into that AA Meeting. God and allthat went with it. I did not longer care if they talked about god. I needed the help.

  • HappyNat

    It was like saying, “I would rather continue to drink myself to death than admit God might exist.” That’s how it hit me. Being an atheist seems more important than getting sober.

    The person was looking for an alternative to AA. He wasn’t saying if there wasn’t an alternative I’ll stay a drunk because I’m an atheist.

    First of all AA does NOT force one to believe in ANYTHING. It is a choice you make one way or the other. Please, those of you who have NO idea what happens in an AA Meeting should not assume anything

    I have never been to a meeting as I like beer too much. :) So I’m sorry if it is not a requirment.
    I understood, from friends who were part of AA, that the 12 steps are key to being in AA. From the link from the AA Web site God is mentioned in several of the steps. I can see how anyone who did a little reseach and was looking into AA would think believing was a requirement to go through the process. If this is not the case, their Web site does not do a good job of representing their program.

  • Pam M

    Hi HappyNat,

    If I sounded very defensive I apologize however, I do feel as if AA saved my life. As I said I was at the least an agnostic when I arrived in AA and can say that now I am atheist. So my 20 + years in the program did not change my feelings toward a god. I also knew other atheists that went to meetings.

    Everyone is accepted simply for the fact that they drink too much. Anything other than that is no ones else’s business. I was put off my their advertisements at first. But if you are at the point I was in my life I was willing to try anything. As I said in my earlier posts I had been in therapy for many years trying to find out why my life was such a mess. Never did one doctor or therapist pick up on my drinking until near the end. She was a wise woman. Thank goodness for her. It took me seven more years to decide to attend even with the god in the advertisements and I am very grateful to this day that I did.

    Good for you that you can enjoy that beer!!!!!

  • Pam M

    I just found this site. It may clear up some questions.

    http://www.positiveatheism.org/rw/naway99.htm

  • Stephan

    As the first of twelve steps, participants are forced to declare nonbelief in god and that they can only get better when they stop relying on any higher power.

    Actually that is a much better analogy and helps me understand your viewpoint much better. Thank you.

    By the same logic, I trust you think it was right for people to burn witches because they thought that God existed?

    No, but right and ethical are two different things. If you are acting on what you truly believe, then you are ethical whether or not you are right. Acting contrary to what you say you believe is unethical whether or not you are right. Let’s not confuse the two.

    And since 100% of the evidence suggests their is no god

    I sincerely doubt you are looking at all of the evidence. You are looking only at what supports your current beliefs in order to support your beliefs. It is circular reasoning at its best.

    The person was looking for an alternative to AA. He wasn’t saying if there wasn’t an alternative I’ll stay a drunk because I’m an atheist.

    Perhaps I was reading too much into it, but it sounded as though, between alcoholism and belief in God, alcoholism was seen as the lesser of two evils.

  • Scott

    Thanks for the info. I’m a member of AA and my understanding is we describe GOD is 3 different ways. Thank you Pam M. for what you shared. GOD #1 – Good Orderly Direction, trying to do the next right thing; GOD #2 – Good Orderly Design, The 12 steps are suggestions in a design for living. GOD #3 – Group Of Drunks, that is the fellowship of the Groups you attend. We have found a way to recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. It also states in the AA preamble that, “Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to acheieve sobriety.” Not that I’m suppose to shove the AA program down your throat. AA works for me and I am a believer and for that I’m grateful, but I need to remember the primary purpose. If I can help another suffering alcoholic by leading them to SOS or some of the other form of recovery then I’m fulfilling that primary purpose.

  • Miko
    And since 100% of the evidence suggests there is no god

    I sincerely doubt you are looking at all of the evidence. You are looking only at what supports your current beliefs in order to support your beliefs. It is circular reasoning at its best.

    I am. This is a bit off the topic of this post, but I’ll go into it briefly (yes, the following is brief for this subject). The existence of god is like the existence of a tails side on a coin: you only have to see it once in order to believe its there. Now, if you continually flip a coin and get heads twenty times in a row, you may suspect that the coin is double-headed, but you couldn’t be sure without looking at the other side, since there’s a 1 in 1048576 chance that you’d get 20 heads in a row by pure chance. This is why it’s said that proving a negative is impossible, or so much more difficult than proving a positive statement. Without looking at the other side of the coin, I can’t know that it’s definitely double-headed after 20 heads in a row, but I would be justified in being unwilling to bet that the next flip is going to come up tails. However, if it came up tails even once, then my reluctance would be totally unjustified on probabilistic grounds (assuming that it can be established that the coin is properly weighed, etc.). Thus, if there were any evidence for god whatsoever, the world would soon be devoid of atheists. If there were a single piece of actual evidence, theists would parade it around. Atheists would see it, check for alternative explanations, procedural errors, etc., and having eliminated such possibilities would accept that there is a god—we wouldn’t all necessarily choose to worship the god, since that’s a question of merit rather than existence, but we would update our scientific understanding of the universe to include the fact that their is a god.

    Now, the evidence for atheism is of the same sort as the evidence for the double-headed coin: each experiment gives the result we would expect if there were no god (physics according to natural laws, no documented miracles, scripted remote prayer has no medical effect according to numerous studies, etc.) but does not rule out the possibility of god existing. Thus, it’s possible to believe in god even if 100% of the evidence is against the proposition. If you’ve read Collins’ book in which he purports to give evidence for god, you’ve probably noticed that he actually gives no evidence whatsoever but instead focuses on this idea that it’s possible that god could exist despite the complete lack of evidence for it.

  • http://ollywomp.us/ olly

    Well, the scientologists claim to have great success in this area, but I hardly think that’s the route you want to take!

    -olly

  • Lee

    Thanks to everyone for sharing their thoughts on the subject of my brother-in-law and his alcohol dependency.
    Granted, there is not a lot in the responses that offers significant hope, at least there is the show of support that is so neccessary when a fellow human being is in need.

    I don’t know at this point if my BIL would be willing to give the nod to any program… seems as though he is more interested in finding excuses for failure, and in practicing avoidance.

    His wife is at wit’s end and is making exit preparations… and I do not fault her for that. It is an exceptionally strong person who is capable of weathering such a storm – not many of us possess that amount of strength.

    My husband is also disinclined to reach out to his brother… he has reached out to this brother before and the result was a five-year disappearing act. We only recently reconnected with my BIL – we had given him up for dead.

    My hope is that he will reach out for help for himself… and I believe that this is his only hope.

    My intention is to direct him as much as possible toward help for the duration of time that he permits us to have contact with him. My fear is that he will abandon all and disappear again – but this time for good.

    Again, thanks to all for your concern. In good faith, I will continue to reach out to my BIL – hopefully he will grasp the hand that is extended to him.

  • Anthony

    between alcoholism and belief in God, alcoholism was seen as the lesser of two evils.

    I think this is reasonable. I’d prefer a country of 50% drunks to a country of 50% voodoo shamans. I’d wager the drunk’s country would have less oppression, less censorship, less prejudice, less tribalism, and less division.

    I do concede, however, that the personal experience of a drunk is overwhelmingly harsh and that recovery is very important to them. I’d wager that a voodoo shaman (and by this, I mean a Christian) would also feel this way and to a greater degree; but alas, drunks have less delusion than theists.

    That is an opinion not based in fact.

    The facts dictate my opinion. I didn’t want this opinion at first – but i had no choice under the strict demands of facts. By all means, if you have some new fact on the subject, let me know. Save me.

  • Anthony

    Lee,

    From Scott’s post, it looks like god (as in supernatural) has less to do with it, and that there is a open culture for nontheism in AA:

    GOD #1 – Good Orderly Direction, trying to do the next right thing; GOD #2 – Good Orderly Design, The 12 steps are suggestions in a design for living. GOD #3 – Group Of Drunks, that is the fellowship of the Groups you attend.

    If your BIL is looking for excuses, the god concern doesn’t seem to be the most valid.

  • Richard Wade

    HappyNat said to Stephan,

    Stephan,
    We aren’t saying belief in a higher power wouldn’t help some people. If it helps some people I would never say it is a bad thing. But why is a belief in a high power required for people to take part in an organization to help them stop drinking.

    It has nothing to do with “hold onto atheism”, it is about seeking help for your problems. If you have trouble with the drink and are trying to stop, how is introducing a new unknown “higher power” going to help an unbeliever?

    Here’s the basic rationale for the higher power model as I have come to understand it:
    The method is intended for people who are truly addicted and have already tried many times to be more “powerful” than their substance use, generally in three ways: 1. They have tried to be stronger, as in using will power to limit or stop their using, just toughing it out but they have failed repeatedly. 2. They have tried to be smarter than their substance using, as in figuring out clever ways to avoid the negative consequences of using, or limit or stop their use through intricate procedures, but they blew it every time. 3. They have tried to be better than their using, appealing to their own sense of morality, propriety, or piety to “rise above” their desire to use, but have fallen down every time. As the song says, they “go back, Jack, do it again.”

    Having failed spectacularly at being stronger, smarter or better, they become convinced that they are weak, stupid and evil. They generalize this self loathing from their struggle against their substance using to all aspects of their lives and sink into a pit of despair and self hatred, which of course feeds the desire to use more.

    When they come to AA or the other 12-step programs they are given an alternative angle on their painful view of themselves. Trying to be stronger, smarter and better than their problem hasn’t worked so AA doesn’t argue with their results, just their conclusion. They are told that they’re not weak, stupid or evil, they’re just powerless against their substance use. They may have done weak, stupid or evil things along the way but that is not the essence of their problem. AA encourages them to give up their efforts to be powerful over their using and adopt a power greater than themselves to help them.

    12-step members interpret that higher power in any way that works for them and if they apply themselves with lots of support from their peers, they have a chance of success.

    Some people outside of 12-step programs think that members are taught that they are “powerless” over everything. No, just the particular behaviors that they have repeatedly failed to change. Members can, once they regain physical and emotional health, be successfully strong, smart and good in many other aspects of their lives, just not the ones that kicked their asses.

    If you are not personally afflicted by this obsession and compulsion you’re very lucky, but you know people who are, even if neither you nor they yet realize they have this problem. You’re surrounded by them and they profoundly affect your life.

    I strongly suggest to everyone to become more knowledgeable about addiction because we’re all affected. Read the first few chapters of the Big Book of AA. Yes, it’s statistically not any more effective than any other method, but it is an important part of our culture and the stories will help you understand what it’s like to be an addict. The basic principles and experiences apply to any abusable substance or behavior. Written by Bill Wilson in 1939 it’s actually interesting and entertaining, with a well crafted use of language. It’s available at cost at any open AA meeting, (anyone can attend) or if you don’t want to be in a room with a bunch of sober drunks you can even read it online.

  • HappyNat

    If I sounded very defensive I apologize however, I do feel as if AA saved my life. As I said I was at the least an agnostic when I arrived in AA and can say that now I am atheist. So my 20 + years in the program did not change my feelings toward a god. I also knew other atheists that went to meetings.

    No problem, Pam. I was going off of the information at their site and didn’t mean to sound like an expert. I’m glad AA has worked for you. I see how the feeling of community and shared experiences could be a great help. Best of luck in the future!

  • Nick

    Just a technical question, I suppose, but how is your sister-in-law’s husband ALSO your Brother-in-law?

    How is this guy related to these two?

  • Richard Wade

    Dear Lee,
    I commend you for your courage to speak about this with others. You are doing far more than most who have an addicted family member. Most families have powerful unspoken rules against discussing anything about a member’s addiction with each other, let alone with outsiders.

    My theist and atheist friends, I apologize for this long post that has nothing to do with atheism or religion, which we usually love to talk about around here. But I cannot ethically or humanely let Lee go without having said all of the following:

    Lee, as the apparent resident “treatment expert” on this posting I’m aware that my frankness about the poor statistical showing of all efforts of recovery may have been especially discouraging. So I want to amend my remarks with this caveat: I have seen many people successfully recover using some kind of organized method. It does not apparently matter what that method is. The most primitive, rudimentary treatment plan will work if the person is sufficiently motivated, and the most elaborate and encompassing treatment plan will fail if the person is not sufficiently motivated. What usually motivates recovering people is a combination of pain and encouragement. Those administering that pain and encouragement need guidance and skills.

    Regardless of what happens to your brother-in-law there are other people in your life who need help too. This problem affects the entire family. In their efforts to help and cope with the addicted member the family builds up a large amount of frustration, hurt, anger and shame. Often they see the addict’s failures as somehow caused by their own inadequacy.

    Your brother-in-law’s wife is the most profoundly effected by this. She is likely to have slipped into the efforts to be stronger, smarter and better that I described in my earlier comment. Over several years she may have adopted a role of nurse/mother/probation officer with her husband. But all her efforts have failed, so the danger is there that she will conclude that it is in part from her own weakness, stupidity and evil. The negativity soaks in and will remain and the family role she has adopted will persist unless there is a concerted effort to counter it. Even if she ends up divorcing her husband, she is statistically more likely to re-marry another addicted person or someone who needs lots of maintenance.

    The tension and estrangement between your husband and his brother must have caused anger and hurt. If there is any of that pernicious family rule to “not talk about it,” or the unfortunate attitude in our culture for men to deny expressing their hurt feelings then he’s likely to have a continuous source of unhappiness. That, like dominoes moves down the line to you and your children.

    If your brother-in-law has children they have a two-fold risk. Firstly It is likely that being raised in the emotional chaos of a family with an addict has given them negative, self-defeating self images that will dog them all their lives unless they get specialized help. Secondly, because addiction runs very strongly in families and has clearly been shown to have a powerful genetic component, his children have a far higher risk of developing addiction if they use any addictable substances. They should be educated and warned about this. Your husband is also statistically at risk for this same reason.

    So I strongly recommend that you, your husband, your kids, your BIL’s wife and his kids all attend some kind of guided family counseling that focuses on the issues of a family’s reactions to an addicted member, completely irregardless of what your BIL does. The side effect may be that he ends up getting help, but the primary goal is to help yourselves. At the very least, there are 12-step programs for the spouses and children of addicted people; Al-anon for spouses and Alateen for the children. No charge, no age limit, no strings attached. They pass a basket for voluntary donations to pay for the room, and newcomers are not obligated in any way.

    Give it a chance and let health spread through your family the way illness may have.

  • http://www.onlynola.com Nola

    I’m the sister-in-law in question. I appreciate everyone’s input on this matter. Things at home have been getting progressively more rocky for the last six months, and I’m not sure what will happen next.

    As Richard said in the above post, I have, in fact, taken on an insane amount of responsibility for the collective lives of my family. I’m the resident worrier, tender, fixer and planner. I only recently (i.e. the last two days) realized just how much I was blaming myself for my husband’s failure to stay sober. Just one more thing I was taking responsibility for, but it was an insidious thing, creeping up on me without me even realizing it.

    I went to my first Al-Anon meeting this week, just seeking some kind of help and support before I threw myself in front of a bus. Yes, the God thing was a bit off-putting at first, but when I was there in that meeting it was NOT something that was the focus of the group discussion. Was it a presence? Sure. Was it unbearable? No. The majority of what I felt from that group was a desire to help without judgement. Mind you, I’ve only been to one meeting so far, so I could be missing the dark underbelly, but I really don’t think so.

    That being said, I’m not sure I buy all of the concepts put forth within the program. I have to give it more time and consideration before I make up my mind. But whether I do or I don’t, I have no doubt that merely having a group of people with an emotional investment in your progress is helpful in and of itself. These people seemed honestly concerned about and committed to one another. That’s no small thing when one is feeling lonely, cut off, angry, depressed and resigned to a life of unhappiness.

    I sincerely think that my husband is just using the God thing as a handy excuse to not attend meetings. He’s never, previous to the appearance of the drinking problem, espoused any real opinion on God one way or the other… awfully convenient that, at the first AA meeting he attended, he suddenly developed an allergic reaction to the mention of a deity. Who knows. All I know is that what one poster said early on applies here… take what you need and leave the rest. I’ve told my husband that before, but so far it’s had no effect.

    If my husband knew I was posting about his ‘private problem’ here, he’d probably have a spontaneous embolism. But hey… there’s always life insurance!

    *zips lips*

  • Richard Wade

    Good for you, Nola. You’re light-years ahead of most people with this predicament. Keep moving forward and gradually doing things for your own benefit will become more natural. Give a few more meetings a chance and attend different ones. They can vary in their flavor a great deal. The Tuesday one is kind of yucky but the Thursday one is great. You’ll find that the focus will not be on your husband; it will be on you, the only person in the world whose act you can clean up. Exactly as you say, take what you need and leave the rest. I expect the only dark underbelly you’ll discover are the annoying personalities of one or two people. Big deal. After a while if it’s still not for you, then no problem, you gave it a fair try.

    If you can afford it also consider family counseling with a therapist who works with families with addicted members.

    No one is to blame here, no one is the villain, not even your husband. Everyone in the family is a victim. We hate the idea of being victims so much that sometimes we’d rather be the villains, but still it’s not true or fair. Victims can begin to find their way out of the mess, especially if they help each other.

    As you keep sorting out what’s really your responsibility and what’s your husband’s you’ll gradually start respectfully handing those things back to him. “Sorry hon, that’s your problem, I’ve got my stuff to take care of.” And you’ll gradually stop protecting him from the consequences of his drinking. Keep going despite any twinges of guilt that you’re abandoning your duties. No, your duty is to yourself and to your underage kids. Without the undiluted consequences your husband will not have the sufficient motivation to recover, and that decision does not belong to you. Whether or not he ever does, you no longer have to take part in protecting his illness. You may love him, you may care about him, you just must stop taking care of him. At first it may seem totally heartless but that’s an illusion and in the long run it’s a much wiser expression of love.

    I wish you and your family all the best, and you deserve the best.

  • Lee

    Isn’t my SIL, Nola, great? I have never actually met her in person (BIL married her during the 5-year absence mentioned in my earlier post) but I think she has the most interesting conversational dialogue. Whenever we are on the phone, I prefer to be on the listening end of the conversation… her sense of humor and expressive language are top-notch. I hope to meet her in the near future.

    (*In response to an earlier question – my BIL is my husband’s brother. Nola, my SIL, is his wife. That is how they are both my in-laws.)

    As for my BIL, I agree with Richard that he should be responsible for himself and he should not impose his responsibilities upon Nola. That being said, BIL in the past has imposed upon himself a victim’s mindset of worthlessness and of being deserving of misery. He has suffered a great deal of harm in the past, so the alcohol was likely an escape from the demons he is still avoiding.
    Listen to me – I’m psychobabbling. As if I really am capable of analyzing such a thing.
    Anyway, I do believe it is healthy to share our problems and to receive support from others. I also agree with Nola that the BIL in question does not think that way.
    Forums such as this allows for a degree of anonymity that I enjoy for reasons such as venting and open discussion. Hallelujah! (just kidding)

  • http://plainhelp.com joe

    There is no problem in being an atheist at AA. I am, I wasn’t when I started, never really thought about it. But have thought about it since joining and know I am a non-believer, it is fine – just another reason to keep drinking, perhaps…

  • Bob Stewart

    Hi. Thanks for the blog. We in AA need more discussion on this topic. If the truth were known, a lot (perhaps one-third???) of us old timers in AA have doubts about the existence of god. I am an athiest and although I was agnostic in the beginning,(mainly because I never gave the god belief thing much thought prior to joining AA),I did whatever I thought was necessary for me to stay sober. Yes, I had to act as if it there were a god at first. I also jumped into the steps immediately and used my home group as a higher power. I actually had hit a bottom and surrendered to the principles of AA. The people are my HP now, after 22 years sober. Collectively they know more than I do.

  • Darryl

    The people are my HP [higher power] now, after 22 years sober. Collectively they know more than I do.

    Bob, I understand what you’re saying here. It’s funny, religious people are forever making the argument that if you rid your life of God then all sense of the value of life will go with it (and they are usually referring only to human life). On the contrary, I think I began to value the lives of people and all other kinds of life more once I put the focus where it ought to be–on this life, not on the next.

  • Bob Stewart

    Thanks Darryl. You hit the nail on the head. It took several years for me to finally realize that whether there is or is not a god, I personally must continue to do the next right thing (or, the next thing right) to have some degree of serenity in my daily existence. I do not believe in the existence of a god in any shape or form. That game ended years ago. When I was agnostic, I was confused when I would hear (or read about) people saying souch nonsense as..” I guess god doesn’t want me to have that.. or thank you god for putting that in my life”. For those people god is a win- win situation and the burden of responsibility is gods business, not theirs. Talk about childish drivel.

  • Dan

    Getting high is fun, thats why I did it.
    It got messy and not fun, so I decided after reading rational recovery to quit for life.
    When I still wanted to get high I was fortunately in the 5 detox’s, 9 full stays in rehab, meetings twice a day for 3 months. They take relapse with their recovery there, I loved that, stop for a bit get str8tened out, “oh hes doing good, hes been going to his meetings” talk about acting school!!!
    Then Id get to use in peace for a while until I ran out of money and cause to many problems.
    The meetings made me worse, became someone I didnt like, ewww gross!
    As a youngster learning from all these hardened addicts/Criminals I used new drugs, (gotta try that!)

    I’m a lucky hardcore addict/alcoholic.

    Drugs are fun, until they werent anymore, I couldnt imagine human life without them, now its so beautiful without them.

    The gift of pain/suffering/people I met and influenced me w/ knowledge all kept me alive.

    Some people are just unlucky?

    One day at a time works for everybody.

    Quiting dope forever worked for me, because I had to visualize in every moment when I wanted just one more hit my future without drugs, those mental pics are magic , manifest your dreams! Dont sit in a boring meeting with a bunch of people feeling uncomfortable.

    You only get one life!!

    And for christ sakes if you want to get high or drunk or eat lots of donuts no ones gonna stop you but you.

    We all die alone, nobody else can make us happy, lifes an inside job.

    A beautiful life when you are aware and you are your strongest advocate

  • Maria

    If admitting that there may be a “higher power” helps you overcome addiction and opens you up to “a new sense of power and direction”, how is that a bad thing?

    Because it doesn’t.

    Wouldn’t bother me either way, if I could define it however I wanted. Richard made a good point about using the group as the higher power itself it one wants to and the other definitions of how to use it were good too. However, if AA itself really doesn’t work too well, I’d rather go somewhere that does, no matter what they “invoke” or “don’t invoke”. Getting help with alcoholism is the main thing here.

  • Steve

    If your sister-in-law (your brothers wife) is married to your brother-in-law (your sisters husband) you have a lot more problems in your family than alcoholism!
    Nice fake story, you even have fake comments underneath to provoke comments from morons. I’m sure this comment will be deleted by the advertisers (who no doubt have a religious agenda)
    that run this site. Give it up god freaks! We are atheists because we have brains as opposed to being programmed fairy-tale believing automatons!

  • Dan

    AA keeps people sick, dont give away your will, your gonna need all the power to beat it once and foraver

  • http://NOT Dan

    AA was started by a white supremisist who supported Hitler, Dr Bob stole the idea, its just like any other pyrimid scheme, where do you think that money goes? It goes to support the advocation of the “disease” agenda.
    Go to an AA meeting, now how do you feel sitting there listening??
    How does your stomach feel?
    If your brain works you will get up, and go to the liquor store, because you were forced to go to the AA, or you will go to something healthy and fun and get on with your life, YOU ARE NOT DISEASED!!!!!!!!
    yOU just did too much, now you have to pay. you know that, learn it now!!

  • Richard Wade

    Steve, you are very confused about several things:

    Firstly, there are other ways to have in-laws besides your siblings having spouses. Your spouses can have siblings, and they can have spouses, making them in-laws as well.

    I’ll explain:

    Lee is the principal narrator of the original posted story that you call “fake.” Lee has a husband. Lee’s husband has a brother. He is Lee’s brother-in-law. Lee’s brother-in-law has a wife. That makes her Lee’s sister-in-law. So a brother-in-law and a sister-in-law can be married without any weird inbreeding, if that’s what you’re implying.

    It would be a good idea to carefully read the story and comments before you say that it is all “fake” and call people morons. It makes you look like the only moron on the page, but I’ll assume you just jumped to a conclusion.

    Who you mean by “advertisers” is not clear. If they have the ability to delete your comment that would mean they are the proprietors of this website. This website is run by Hemant Mehta who is an ATHEIST, not someone with a “religious agenda.” You’ll notice that your comment, as absurd as it is will remain.

    Most of the comments on this particular posting are by atheists, such as myself. A couple of Christians have commented, but their remarks have been thoughtful and respectful, and they don’t deserve to be called “god freaks.”

    If you pride yourself as someone who has a brain and doesn’t follow a programmed fairy-tale, then use your brain before you open your mouth and stick your foot in. If you also try using some basic manners, you will represent atheists in a better light and the rest of us will be grateful.

  • Richard Wade

    Dan, thanks for sharing. You sound like several thousand of my now-dead patients. Lots of luck with the will power routine. I sincerely hope it works for you. It didn’t work for them.

  • Lee

    Thank you, Richard, for coming to the defense of myself and our little group.

    This is one of those situations where I can thoroughly enjoy the use of the phrase “Ow, the stupid. It burns!” (Though I’ve never used this phrase in response to a fellow atheist before… there’s a first time for everything).

  • Lee

    On another note, so far my BIL and his wife are still holding their own. It’s just one of those tales that will have to tell itself over a period of time, and only time can say whether this tale will end in triumph or tragedy. Of course, I’m cheering for ‘Happily Ever After’.

  • Bob Stewart

    If the alcoholic is hurting enough, he/she will get help. Hopefully that help will come from AA. If belligerence sets in, the alcoholic is not ready enough. He/she needs to hit that wall again. If and when a hitting of bottom does come (that feeling of utter hopefulness) the alcoholic must surrender to a power greater than the self. That power can be the principles of recovery found in AA meetings as spoken by its members. If the word ‘god’ is bothersome then translate it to mean ‘Good Orderly Direction’. If this is an obstacle then the alcoholic is not hurting enough.
    Bob S

  • http://NOT Dan

    “Dan, thanks for sharing. You sound like several thousand of my now-dead patients. Lots of luck with the will power routine. I sincerely hope it works for you. It didn’t work for them.”

    What are you?? A counsellour or a doctor, you are enemy #1, your job depends on keeping me sick, trapped to listen to the “experts” You are the biggest part of the problem, you are HUUUUUUUUUUUUUURTING america!!

  • http://NOT Dan

    AA (almost addicts)

    LET the sayings vibrate in your head for all eternity sending misdirection and powerlessness to the masses, YOU IDIOT

  • Richard Wade

    Dan, as I said I sincerely hope that whatever method you use works for you. I get the impression that you feel that you have been hurt or held back by AA or counselors or doctors. That is quite possible in your case. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions, and as I said near the top of this thread none of the solutions work very often, including the one you have described for yourself. But it’s important to move on from what didn’t work to what might work for you, to let go of past failures and focus on present success.

    AA, counselors and doctors are not your enemy and nobody wants you to stay sick. If they’re not right for you then steer clear of them, but don’t blame them or anyone else for your difficulties. If you blame other people for your problems you’ll probably never solve your problems. As you yourself have implied, in the end you are entirely responsible for the decisions you make and the actions you take.

    I hope your decisions prove to be wise and your actions prove to be effective. May your life go well.

  • http://NOT Dan

    And I dont blame anyone but me for being a crack addict. That and only that was the beginning and end of my recovery. If I relied upon you or others for my recovery I would be loaded still.

    If I was healed and didnt need anyone to do it, you would be out of the job, and all the money that “goes” to treatment, addict doctors, and other wastes of money and bureaocracy would possibly go to areas in desperate need, like schools or for housing. And you know this.

    I feel like you are talking down to me on the basis that you disagree with me, only one of us can be right, and that would be me. And as time goes on and your BS fades away and AA collapses like all the other religions….

    Im not trying to slam AA, I used to go to AA/NA so that I could get loaded afterwards, worked great, Then I was “ready to quit”, done with drugs, I could have been at a cocaine lab and not use, or even sitting in a AA meeting talking about myself being in a cocaine farm every week and STILL not get loaded, WHY? because it became a stupid , morally wrong thing to do, I was done____ Im just trying to point out what actually offers the state of being recovered. When I go to my monthly meeting, I say Im recovered and Im attacked by all these people who are dumbfounded that I have found it on my own and love to be recovered vs. sick and diseased forever. Try it! Try saying you are “recovered” even in your own head, you will feel freedom and then go swimming instead of going to meetings everyday.
    70 % of people just quit on their own, 3% actually make it in AA.

    Math is too hard for you??

    You hope. hahahhaahha

  • Richard Wade

    Dan, I’m not talking down to you. If you are succeeding in your efforts to not suffer from abusing substances, great! Like you, I have been able to abstain from all mood altering substances on my own efforts, without the use of any 12-step program for 25 years. I know that AA does not work for everyone, but it does work for some. I know that doing it on one’s own does not work for everyone, but it does work for some. So I don’t rule out any possible tool that might help people. You say that AA didn’t work for you but then you jump to the conclusion that therefore it can’t work for anyone. Rule it out for yourself but don’t rule it out for others.

    To go around saying that AA is the only way for everyone is a mistake. To go around saying that AA is no good for anyone is also a mistake.

    Each person must find what works for them. I don’t care how anybody manages to beat addiction, just as long as somehow they do. Some people need the strength of their own determination. Other people need the support of a group who understand what they’re going through. Whatever works for you is what works for you. That’s all anyone can say.

    I don’t know where you’re getting those percentages, but it doesn’t matter. Overall the percentages of anyone with addiction recovering in any way are miserably bad. Regardless of your method, if you are succeeding you are rare. Keep going. If it’s working for you keep doing it. The only success rate you should be concerned with is your own, and I hope it’s 100%

  • Dan

    I agree with all you have said.
    Stats from State of California…
    3% for AA, sober after one year.

    People just giving it up on their own 70% clean and sober.

  • Richard Wade

    Dan, keep in mind that people who are abusing substances and have come to the point of wanting to quit fall along a wide spectrum of the depth of their addiction. Many are far less hooked than some. Most people who want to quit will try to quit on their own first before going to AA or any other kind of help. Many of them will be able to stop on their own because they are the ones who are not as deeply addicted as others. That is probably the 70% you’re speaking of. After several failed attempts only the most deeply addicted remain, and so they are the ones who are more likely to go to AA. That means AA gets a more selected group that is going to have a much harder time, and will be more likely to fail no matter what method they use.

    So comparing the two methods side by side in that way is not a meaningful comparison of how effective they are, because AA tends to get the much harder cases that are left.

    There is so much pain involved in addiction that people get very emotional and sometimes get very rigid about what should be done. This is a monster that wins most of the time. So we have to be pragmatic and flexible about it and be willing to give anything that has a chance for success an honest try.

    One of these days you may meet someone who has tried to control or quit on their own but has failed many, many times, someone who is clearly not in that 70%. Even though it wasn’t the right way for you, it wouldn’t be betraying your values if you were to say, “Well, maybe you should go to AA. I mean it wasn’t right for me, but you look like you don’t have much left to lose, so what the hell?” He might be in that 3% and you will have helped to save a life.

  • Dan

    Ive sent MANY people to AA. I send them there first, because its easier to just leave them their than to teach them morality, self respect, will power.
    And hey, AA kept me busy sometimes before I learned that i wasnt a piece of shit and deserved to die of a disease I had no control over, I enjoyed many many meetings, maybe 1400, and I listened intensely.

    I think that some people are just doomed, and will never be able to get clean, and hey thats ok,but whats more important, being clean or being happy, over the long haul, thats the real question. Said that, I have seen some AMAZING recoverys. People who are covered in dirt and steal my smokes and money, and a few years later they are doing amazing things, even more amazing because they do it so fast and with NO previous good memorys.

    We will all die, so does it really matter when we die, its how we live, with all due respect.

  • Dan

    The 70% is people who HAVE first tried AA.

  • Dan

    There is 250 different ways to wash dishes.

    I think this is what we are discussing here but about addiction.

    Your pro anonymous group mentality is pre set to spin whatever I say anyways, its not your fault, you have been brain washed by society to react in this way, you and millions of others.

    Stay sick.

  • Dan

    God is fake…… and dead….deal with it.

    Show me ANY proof that god exists or ever existed, ANY proof will do.

    God’s love is a healing balm. Use it to restore your perfect
    health and peace. In your imagination see the love of God
    wrapping around you and filling you with its healing power.
    Imagine yourself living a life of health, strength, and prosperity.
    Combine those images with joy and release them into the light
    knowing that they will return as your reality!

    Today’s Positive Thought:

    Wrap yourself in God’s warm love.

    Today’s Positive Affirmation

    I am wrapped in God’s loving embrace.

    Today’s Positive Visualization

    In my mind’s eye I see myself wrapped
    in God’s loving embrace. I feel completely
    loved and cared for. In my mind’s eye I
    see myself healing and growing through the
    power of divine love. I imagine myself going
    through my day expressing God’s love in all
    that I do. I see the positive responses from
    other people that my loving actions attract.
    I combine these images with the feelings of
    joy and let them go, knowing that they will
    create the good things I am visualizing and
    thinking.

  • Dan

    Whatever works, do it!!

    I know a guy in NA, a 12 step group copied from AA, he has been clean for 8 years, and his higher power is satan666the devil, all the power to him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Richard Wade

    Dan, of the many, many addicted people I got to know very closely, almost all of them were good, moral, self-respecting, strong-willed, smart people. None of that was useful to them against their addiction. In spite of their extraordinary good qualities they continued to use, out of control. They got physically more damaged, they got mentally and emotionally more damaged, they lost everything precious to them and then they died. So I’m glad that you don’t try to teach any of the addicted people you know morality, self respect and will power because it most likely wouldn’t help them. That’s what worked for you, and I’m glad. But for most of them it wouldn’t work. The ones I knew paid with their lives proving that it didn’t work.

    I have witnessed some amazing recoveries too. To me, any recovery is amazing because by any method it’s rare. Some did it on their own. Some did it with help. Some of them are moral, self-respecting and strong-willed. Some of them are shady, neurotic and weak-willed. But they’re all still clean and sober after several years.

    If the 70% you speak of comes from stats from the state of California, I would really appreciate it if you could tell me the exact source including the date. I’d be very interested in reading the studies in depth.

    I’m not interested in defending 12-step programs against your accusations. All I know is that my experience has been different from yours. I never heard anyone tell anyone that they were “a piece of shit” or that they “deserved to die,” or anyone trying to “keep people sick,” or any of the other awful things you talk about. Wherever you were, I’m glad you left. I just never witnessed or heard of anything even close to that.

    The continuing reality is that addiction is rampant, and no solution works for everyone, no solution works for no one, and no solution is guaranteed to continue to work.

    I think that you and I will just have to accept that we have had different experiences, so our outlook is different. The one thing we have in common is that we’re both C&S, and that makes everything else in our lives possible.

  • http://www.askanatheist.org AskAnAtheist.org

    Are any of you both atheist and alcoholic? Can you help this guy with some guidance? See hist post: http://askanatheist.wordpress.com/2007/08/15/aa-atheist/

    Thanks!

  • ADRIAN

    A few of your blogs have already made the point: Alcoholism and the existence of God are two entirely unrelated issues. If AA members could stick to what was in their third tradition: “the only reqirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking, we’d probably all get along better.
    As I understand it, alcoholism is a health issue, ( it certainly effected my health), and people seeking treatment should reasonably expect help without bias due their beliefs , (or lack of them). The medical profesion banned such practices decades ago, (in Australia anyway). It is as inappropriate for other AA members to try to impose their beliefs in a higher power on me as it would be for me to impose atheism on them. (Just as most doctor’s keep their personal beliefs outside the surgery). Some of my friends do have beliefs, which I personally think are irrational, but pressing the fact, beyond where it directly affects their behaviour only hinders me in helping them prevents me in being a friend. Presumabably they are there for the same primary reason as me, to stop drinking, and I want to be helpful in that respect.
    My last sponsor made the point that I needed to stop thinking of adults in chronological terms. I suspect many people simply lack the insight to see how fallacious and egocentric a belief in a personal god is.
    Unfortunately AA at an organisational level lacks the fortitude to move with the times. It is abundantly clear from reading AA literature that, especially chapter three, that the official line of AA is that staying sober is contigent upon forming a relationship with God. As an athiest, being asked to hand my life and my will over to God as I understand him would be as pointless as asking me to hand my life over to Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy as I understood them, although proof in these cases would be less nebulous. I must concede my vast disappointment and discomfort everytime I hear “How it Works” read out in AA meetings. I imagine most Christians would be equally appalled if they heard AA’s preamble read out every time they went to church. They’d probably think they were in the wrong place, (as I often do). I suppose I should be grateful , apparently you Americans have to listen to the Lord’s Prayer at meetings as well.
    In conclusion, however, I submit that being confronted with religion or spirituallity is a poor excuse for avoiding taking resposibilty for treating your alcoholism by interacting with other alcoholics. I certainly can’t recall ever refusing to buy alcohol or other drugs of particular people because I didn’t share their beliefs. I might have though they were of questionable sanity, but I made sure that I got what I needed from them. If I had my way, all references to God and spiritaulity would be removed from AA, however, I feel the benefit of the company of other sober alcoholics outweighs the irritations I get from hearing about God at meetings. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any secular self help groups for alcoholics. Women For Sobriety did improve on the twelve steps, but unfortunately I cant go because I have testicles. For the time being I’ve had to make do and find the handful of atheists inAA who are commited enough to their sobriety that they’re not willing to let other people’s beliefs stop them getting help.

  • ADRIAN

    A few of your blogs have already made the point: Alcoholism and the existence of God are two entirely unrelated issues. If AA members could stick to what was in their third tradition: “the only reqirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking, we’d probably all get along better.
    As I understand it, alcoholism is a health issue, ( it certainly effected my health), and people seeking help should reasonably expect help without bias due their beliefs , (or lack of them). The medical profession banned such practices decades ago, (in Australia anyway). It is as inappropriate for other AA members to try to impose their beliefs in a higher power on me as it would be for me to impose atheism on them. (Just as most doctor’s keep their personal beliefs outside the surgery). Some of my friends do have beliefs, which I personally think are irrational, but pressing the fact, beyond where it directly affects their behaviour only hinders me in helping them prevents me in being a friend. Presumabably they are there for the same primary reason as me, to stop drinking, and I want to be helpful in that respect.
    My last sponsor made the point that I needed to stop thinking of adults in chronological terms. I suspect many people simply lack the insight to see how fallacious and egocentric a belief in a personal god is.
    Unfortunately AA at an organisational level lacks the fortitude to move with the times. It is abundantly clear from reading AA literature that, especially chapter three, that the official line of AA is that staying sober is contigent upon forming a relationship with God. As an athiest, being asked to hand my life and my will over to God as I understand him would be as pointless as asking me to hand my life over to Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy as I understood them.

    I must concede my vast disappointment and discomfort everytime I hear “How it Works” read out in AA meetings. I imagine most Christians would be equally appalled if they heard AA’s preamble read out every time they went to church. They’d probably think they were in the wrong place, (as I often do). I suppose I should be grateful , apparently you Americans have to listen to the Lord’s Prayer at meetings as well.

    In conclusion, however, I submit that being confronted with religion or spirituality is an excuse for avoiding group therapy, however imperfect it is. I certainly can’t recall ever refusing to buy alcohol or other drugs off particular people because I didn’t share their beliefs. I might have though they were of questionable sanity, but I made sure that I got what I wanted from them. If I had my way, all references to God and spiritaulity would be removed from AA, however, I feel the benefit of the company of other sober alcoholics outweighs the irritation I get from hearing about God at meetings. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any secular self help groups for alcoholics. Women For Sobriety did improve on the twelve steps, but unfortunately I can’t go because I have testicles. For the time being I’ve had to make do and find the handful of atheists in AA who not willing to let other people’s beliefs stop them helping each other. Part of the reason I go is as living proof that even even the most stubborn athiest can stay sober by going one day without one drink, (much to the chagrin of some believers).I guess I was lucky, I was told at my fisrt meeting “If you don’t have the first drink, you can’t get drunk”. This works no matter what my views on God, AA or even whether I’m an alcoholic. It’s jst a simple way to avoid a problem that I struggled to control.

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  • http://www.myspace.com/leecookebarbo Lee the female

    And the tears come again… I just noticed that my last post on this subject was dated a mere 11 days before my BIL died. Dammit… I miss the stupid son-of-gun… even if he did manage to piss me off on several occassions. That’s what in-laws are for, right? Anyway, we love our relatives in spite of their inherent tendency to aggravate us.
    Overall, though, Jon was a good heart. Anyone who was a friend of his could count themselves as infinitely fortunate.

    So much for ‘Happily ever after”.

  • PrimateIR

    Richard Wade – Thank you for the insight.

    One of the things that frustrates me the most about addiction is how inept we are at handling it. It’s especially curious given that, regardless of the addiction, and in spite of all the associated drama, there is a definite pattern to the behavior. You would think that neurologists would be able to derive some useful clues from the patterns.

    I have always thought that AA’s “Higher Power” model was a mistake. Acquaintances of mine that have the most trouble with addiction always seem to have a very external locus of control and I can’t help but think that the concept of “God” exacerbates this.

  • Richard Wade

    PrimateIR, I think one of the reasons that we are so inept at it is the prejudice surrounding it. It is a complicated problem with many root causes, but we should have been able to get a much better response to it after nine thousand years since we began enjoying rotten fruit juice.

    Addiction Medicine was always the ugly stepchild of Psychology. When doctors or social workers asked what department I worked in, I’d tell them and they’d look at me as if I was something they didn’t want to step on. It was like a scene from high school; they wouldn’t eat at the same table with me and my colleagues in the cafeteria. Billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives are lost to this scourge each year, yet it gets the poorest funding for research because nobody wants to dirty their hands with it. The average doctor gets only a few hours of classroom education about the single biggest medical problem in America.

    You’re right about the locus of control issue. It was a constant conflict in my mind while treating patients. I tried to get them to compartmentalize the HP method to just behaviors around drinking and using, so that the too independent ones would not chuck it all out, and so that the too dependent ones could still increase their responsibility in other areas of their lives. Sometimes it seemed to work and sometimes it did not. It was like a scaffolding just to somehow get them enough time clean and sober so their brains could gegin sorting out what was in their control and what was not. I was an earnest worker using flawed tools. The models and theories are weak and conflicted. I hope some day a better theory and method arises, but the subject is so shunned in even the medical field that it may not be for a very long time.

  • PrimateIR

    It was like a scene from high school; they wouldn’t eat at the same table with me and my colleagues in the cafeteria.

    How stupid. I wonder how many of those professionals woke up dreaming of Starbucks.

    When we see someone with an addiction, we often see “Other” not “Me if I was chemically dependent.” A lack of compassion born of fear.

    Like religion it is another instance in which our desire to separate ourselves from death causes our logic to miss fire.

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  • Ross F

    I attend AA and am an atheist. Whatever organization you become part of you will disagree with some parts of it.

    People who have a problem with alcohol are always looking for an excuse why they can’t stop drinking and AA being a religious organization was a great excuse not to get help.

    I went, got annoyed a lot about the religious connotations then I stopped fighting, I had no more excuses, I wanted to stop drinking and I found people around me who didn’t believe in god, ones who did and respected my view, and of course ones who will try to convert you.

    If anything, through this experience I have a stronger conviction in atheism today and I am sober.

    If your a drunk who needs help go to AA. And when you have a clear perspective you won’t use you atheist beliefs as your excuse. You can come back and rationally discuss your point of view.

  • Mike

    Interesting blog. First of all, to the woman who lost her relative my condolences on your loss.

    I came across this blog when I googled “A.A. and atheism”. The reason I did so was because I’ve had a hard time comprehending what “power greater than myself” is referring to. I’m a lapsed Catholic/agnostic so religious overtones can have loaded meanings for me, especially when they use the famous “7 Deadly Sins” as a “universally recognized” set of character defects. Higher principles, group dynamics, experience of others are the alternative ideas of a “Higher Power” I’m getting from the discussion. Of course when I go to meetings “power greater than myself” is almost invariably followed by “who I choose to call God”.

    My main problem is the program and steps seem to not have any real scientific basis to them. I really wish a more rational approach was offered instead of just blind faith (“it works if you work it” and the “I’ve done it, so can you” approach). For example, when A.A. blames the alcoholic’s relapse on not working the program enough (“Rarely have we seen a person fail who’s thoroughly followed our path” which Bill Wilson later said should’ve said “Never…”) it seems be a contradiction against the open-mindedness of “take what you can use and leave the rest”. The program is both strict and vague in the text and amorphous in practice (that’s probably how some atheists are able to reconcile with it). It’s like the 12 steps are giving specific instructions on the one hand (and the Big Book has some very specific guidelines on how to execute them). Also, the whole process is supposed to lead to a “spiritual awkening” and the end of the 12th step says to “try to carry the message to other alcoholics and practice these principles in all our affairs” (notice it says to CARRY THE MESSAGE of the steps, not to help alcoholics find their own path to recovery or advance research in addiction medicine). It makes it sound evangelical and that it’s there primarily to propagate itself.

    Granted my experience has been that AAers are mostly a nice bunch of folks just trying to help themselves and be helpful. At meetings I’ve not been told what to think or believe. It also affords me an opportunity to become honest with myself, take inventory, make amends for past wrongs and be humble and helpfully see how I can do better. In the 1930′s and 40′s recognizing alcoholism as more than a moral failing was a great contribution. All that is great stuff. However, the way A.A. is presented it makes it hard to not swallow believing in God (which some of us constitutionally CAN’T do) just to stop drinking. It can make the non-believer, especially a vulnerable and sick one, feel even more like a failure. It seems like it’s time to supplement our understanding with scientific reasoning (it’s not something we should be afraid of) since the Big Book can be so archaic.

    Of course, it’s just great that we can have this discussion. Being a doubter to me means being against a dogma of ANY kind. However, I’m open to ideas of value and A.A. has that as well.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Mike, I agree with everything you have said. It sounds like you have been “taking what you can use and leaving the rest,” which is about all anybody can do. Given the terrible pain and suffering of this problem whatever works is always the guiding principle, and there is no guarantee that it will be the same for everybody. I hope you keep finding whatever works for you.

  • Kaity

    it sounds to me your brother in law needs a more open mind, and a more open heart. i’m in AA, and i was an atheist. the word ‘god’ left a bad taste in my mouth, and i would debate with anyone who believed in him. it doesn’t have to be ANY sort of text book god. it can be a tree, a doorknob, the AA meetings, a sponsor…anything. it has nothing at all to do with religion.

  • ADRIAN

    I walked out of my last AA meeting some months ago. It was a relief. I seldom think about drinking and the main reason I was going was because I was lonely and a misfit. While I was busy zooming in on alcoholism, I wasn’t treating the issues that made me miserable before I started drinking. I’ve never accepted the 12 steps. Pretending to be powerless over my actions and expecting a mythical being to fix my life is entirely irrational. Freely making up my own conception of a mythical being is even more pathetic than having been indoctrinated with someone elses’s conception. It is a relief to no longer have to censor myself every time someone spouts complete nonsense from the floor of a meeting.

    There’s a number of simple alternatives to AA for atheists who are uncomfortable:

    1) Take personal responsibility for your actions and realise that no one else can make you drink. No one else can make you stop either.
    2) Stop going.
    3) Get rid of negative people in your life and find people who will support you in improving your life.
    4) Secular self help groups, although they are harder to find than AA meetings
    5) Work on developing other interests and social connections outside AA and get on with your life.

    Its amazing how much time I have to pursue goals and interests now that niether drinking or AA meetings are consuming my time.

    Adrian.

  • AJ

    Stephan,

    If admitting that there may be a “higher power” helps you overcome addiction and opens you up to “a new sense of power and direction”, how is that a bad thing? That attitude almost seems like, “holding onto atheism is more important that making my life better.” It seems a little self-defeating to me.

    As an experiment start believing in the Invisible Pink Unicorn, Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Celestial Teapot, and the fairies at the bottom of the garden. No one is “holding onto atheism”.

    People have legitimate reservations about the effectiveness of AA in stopping addiction and if the practices of AA are overall benefitial, open to potential abuse, or could be improved.

    • Aaron B

      Admitting that there is a higher power, and giving up your belief in Atheism is not an either/or prospect.

      My higher power is my fellowship: It gives me guidance when I ask for it(much as most people seem to get when they pray), it is there for me when I need help(and unlike most people’s God, my higher power usually actually answers the phone!), but most of all, my fellowship represents something truly good in the world.

      My fellowship is formed from messed up addicts just like me, and yet it somehow manages to print books, organize meetings all over the world, reach out to addicts in need, it loves and supports unconditionally, it is patient as I make mistakes, and, best of all, it accepts absolutely no money our resources from anyone other than the people it serves so it is independent, and self-sufficient. If that isn’t a higher power, a power greater than me, then I don’t know what is?

  • Karen

    Its amazing how much time I have to pursue goals and interests now that niether drinking or AA meetings are consuming my time.

    Congratulations, Adrian! that’s terrific. I have several friends who are recovering alcoholics and a LOT of their free time is taken up with AA, although they’ve been sober going on 20 years. It seems like a huge time commitment!

    Your comment about secular support groups being lacking is a good one. That would seem to be a niche that atheist groups could perhaps fill, if not by offering therapy groups at least supporting those few secular recovery groups that exist.

  • Big Athiest yeah right

    Believeing in god is like believeing in Santa Clowse or leprachauns or fairies. Its fun but at the end of the day when you grow up we have to get rid of it. everyone has “godlike” abilitys, they just havnt switched them on yet, Christians and muslims are fucked up.

    Native Indians have a way of life that makes actual sense, based on real feelings, if you want to deeply live in denial and have fun be religious, and why the fuck do I have to have a word “athiest” affixed to me??? Like Im lacking in some way, all prophets ar e the same, all religions are the same, if you are spiritual you ARE religious.

    Religion has been the best scam humanity has ever witnessed.

    Christians DO NOT believe in evolution…… hello!!!!

  • b

    hi

  • Richard Wade

    Hi b. How are you? Glad you could come. Feel free to say more than just hi. It’s ok.

  • Mark G

    I am an athiest and have been clean for over 20 years as a member of Narcotics Anonymous. Working the steps is a highly individual process which requires the member to come to a personal understanding of the process of recovery. The literature represents a general view/concensus of NA members, but that is all. NA has taken votes to remove the word god and the gender-specific references from the literature, although a majority of members voted to leave the material.

    Most people who read the NA text will find differences with some of the material, and as stated before in an earlier post the fellowship encourages a “take what you want and leave the rest” approach. If there is a failing it is that the majority of members that believe in god and have failed to appreciate how this approach alienates potential members who suffer from addiction. I have also, at times, noticed that some members (usually newer ones) don’t understand how being an athiest is compatible with the twelve steps.

    The important thing is to find something that works, and many members have found success in NA. It is possible to be an athiest and be in recovery via the twelve steps of NA. The new sixth edition of the Basic Text of NA (about to be published) addresses the diversity of the fellowship and includes an athiests story, btw.

    Mark

    • Aaron B

      I too am an atheist that uses NA as my fellowship. I tried AA but found that they were just more into the God thing than I could deal with, and NA, while still having God in their language was much more accepting.

      I’m now working Step 7 though, and it is the first time I’ve really had to struggle to find a way to understand the steps without God because it specifically asks me to address God directly.

      Mark G, I would really like to here your thoughts on Step 7 if you care to share?

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  • brandon W

    i’m with pam

    I’m a BABY in AA, Actually CA as cocaine is my drug of choice,b ut it was whipping me like a red headed step child. I’m a strong atheist, and yes I am in the bible belt and I get grief about it from time to time for it at meetings. THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN STAY CLEAN IS TO ACCECPT GOD… some people even have the nerve to say accecpt jesus as your lord and savior. that’s not pimping god, that’s pimping christanty.

    Anyway it’s very simple. first of all, I wanted to stop using so bad I didnt’ give a damn what they said. i needed help. i was about to die. well i was well on my way to.

    I got a sponser that broke down step 2 to me and said if you dont’ believe in god, believe in me as your higher power, because I have 10 years sober. That and while I am an athiest, I am WILLING to admit that I MIGHT be wrong. I’m big enough of a man to do that. okay, so I got pass step 2.

    step 3, my sponser just said look, all that means is that you make the committment to work all the rest of the steps while turning your life over to your higher power, which I see as him.

    It can be done as an athiest. I’m 2 years clean now and I’m still an athiest, lol, probably more so than when I got in. just take what applies to you and leave the rest.

    if you take out the whole god thing.. AA is actually a darn good program. not only am i CLEAN, I am in the best shape of my life, I am making more money, twice as much, well into 6 figures, as I ever made in my life, and most importantly, I am doing my part to help people who want to make a change in their lifes, do so. I get more out of that than anything.

    so it can be done, and if you aren’t WiLLING to at least TRY, as I lke to say, you just haven’t gotten that just right ass whopping just yet.

  • brandon W

    i fully believe that the story, “student of life”, in the big book is about a woman who if she isn’t an athiest, she difinatly isn’t christan. She doesn’t mention GOD or really higher power one time one time in her story.

  • Mike O’Neil

    I beleive in God. (Please don’t try to convert me to athieism.) I Googled AA and athieism because I wasn’t interested in changing my religion to AA. Yes, i beleive that AA becomes a religion to those who practice it seriously. I attended two or three meetings and found myself excusing myself from the group prayer at the end. Any constructive comments on alternatives to AA would be apreciated.

  • dax i eschete

    HA, This is funny, really, ok to whoever opposes AA or the God concept move past it, pay no attention to any organization that speaks of a supreme being. you believe whatever you want, no one is forced into AA Just move past it. It is a suggested program of recovery there are no rules and you cannot be kicked out. Hey why dont some of you who are atheist which all seem to be of a higher intelligence than those who seek or believe in a higher power, come up with a solution to the drink and drug problem then once thats done all of the atheist can use that solution and all of the lesser humans can use AA or religion then everyone can be happy.

  • apryl m.

    in response to brandon w., i am female, and have been attending aa for 2 years. i attend weekly mtg’s and social get togethers. i have met probably 5 agnostic and atheist men, but no women. i would like to do the steps, but no one will adapt them to my view of atheism. i generally get a cold response when i tell people my views. thank goodness for the internet, because i attend a secular recovery group there.

  • Richard Wade

    apryl m.,
    If you live in or near a major city you will have more variety to choose from within AA. For instance in the Los Angeles area there are several “we agnostics” AA meetings which are probably more geared to your sensibilities. If you’re in a rural area then your choices are more limited. In the meantime, if your internet secular group is doing the trick, great! Keep working at it and eventually you’ll find some face-to-face support, which is so essential. All the best for your recovery.

  • Bob M

    I am an active member of AA with 26 years of continuous sobriety. I am also an atheist. I have many friends in AA who are convinced that a belief in a higher power keeps them sober. Of course, their beliefs are supported by the official AA literature, including the ‘Big Book’. Many members of AA are convinced that one cannot maintain long term sobriety without a close personal relationship with God. That is their perogative. I am living proof that God is not necessary for long term sobriety.
    I very much enjoy the social aspects of AA. Our group has frequent golf outings, live music events, and group meals. I can tolerate the God talk. I rarely talk in meetings, however. If the topic is something other than God, I can contribute. Since the ‘official’ word of AA is God, I don’t feel comfortable presenting arguments against God – no matter how rational those arguments may be. Since most of my friends are AA believers, I doubt I would attend one the alternatives – even if I could find one.

  • jimmac

    as a buzzed up atheist, i can fairly say that i would like a forum to talk with others and better myself, but as a career tradesman i just wont lower myself to being that annoying guy with the POS rusted car cause he spends way too much time at meetings, and shiny bumper stickers on the back who annoys most around him blessing every f-ing grinder he eats despite who is at the table with him and seeing jesus in every pebble and tree stump.I would rather drink myself to death than compromise my core beliefs and gain a “new addiction”. I also wont sit there while a bunch o shiny happy people reference jesus for 10 minutes out of my hour. Time is too valuable.
    Any advice for a guy like me? (besides being “open minded” to believing in things that dont exist to me). I think everyone is entitled to treatmend without compromising their spiritual beliefs

  • http://www.askanatheist.org AskAnAtheist.org

    jimmac: My first thought is that you might consider starting your own group. This is not a trite retort to your complaint – I think you have a valid complaint and I see a need and some opportunity here.

    Reading your post, you seem to me like a level-headed guy who knows how to organize and how to motivate. I would recommend first setting up something online, like a blog or forum, to see if you can get enough people interested to make something like this a go (if you’re not “techno-savvy”, contact me and I’ll show you how you can do it for free). You might consider including non-atheists as well – perhaps members of other faiths who would prefer a secular organization because they have the same problem with Christian-based organizations.

  • John B

    I am 60 years of age an atheist, alcoholic and an AA member for about 5 months. It seems as though people need to point fingers and be righter than the next. Maybe it helps those who do this feel better about themselves by demeaning others. Race, Politics, Religion seem chock full of this with plenty of people who will stand up and die for it.
    As an alcoholic I know that without some kind of help, I will end up dead more sooner than later. The people I have met at various AA groups which I have visited in the past 5 months have all been kind and sincere believers. Most of whom have been with AA for many years and admit freely that they are sober only a day or a week.
    I don’t buy the God thing and have been more frequently annoyed with it’s constant insertion at meetings.
    I recently attended an AA meeting in Shenzhen China. It was held at a coffee shop and the most liberating meeting I’ve been to yet.
    Many beliefs and no Lord’s Prayer reared it’s head.
    I could do this and make it work.
    A pity I have not found something like this on LI NY

    Yours in Sobriety

  • http://PrenezGardedeL'ennui Marcella Winter

    I have started a blog on which I will chronicle my experiences in AA for other atheists. Tune in see if it works!
    ennuiarebored.blogspot.com

  • http://atheistalcoholics.com Dog

    Hello, I just wanted to let everyone know that I started a forum for those who are in or out of AA and are atheist or agnostic and don’t want or need a higher power. All are welcome.
    atheistalcoholics.com

  • Richard Wade

    Marcella and Dog,
    I’ve visited both of your sites and they are interesting. Keep doing everything that seems to work and don’t give up. You’re both very early in your sobriety, and it will be difficult, as you already know. Visit each other’s sites and support each other.

    Since you know the “god stuff” is empty nonsense, then what is working for the successfully sober members of AA must be what you can see all around them: Each other! They are surrounding themselves with real people who can see if they are sober or not, see if they’re emotionally distressed or not, and they’re offering immediate encouragement and real life help. Both your blog and your forum are good ideas, and you should keep them up. At the same time, don’t let them be a substitute for physically being with other recovering people in the same room. They can look right at you and see if you’re bullshitting them or yourself, and in early recovery you need lots of that. Any completely blotto drunk can write whatever he wants others to think. Write what your truth is, and then be certain you go out to find other recovering people. AA or not, Rational Recovery or not, just physically be with others as much as you can. Whatever the hell you can find. Ignore the nonsense and pay attention to the practical advice. The point is to not be physically alone, and to be with sober people. In time it will get easier, just never soon enough.

    Stay sober, get sober again, don’t ever, ever give up. To paraphrase that ritual at the end of the AA meetings, Keep coming back to your best self. You work, when you work your best self.

  • http://Encouragement Dog

    Thanks for the encouragement. I’m actually doing pretty well and its not that difficult for me day to day. When crisis arises is when I need to call in the troops, regardless of faith issues its good to know I have people to call if I’m even thinkin about a drink. There’s value in that, too bad the container is a superstitious one. But its a luxury to pick bones about beliefs, in the face of the alcoholic crisis or otherwise there are alturistic motives at play and I’m grateful for that.

  • Sydney(mtf)

    It’s not about not liking AA cuz they think a higher power will help them. (I still attend AA by the way)
    It’s the fact that if I choose to not believe in a higherpower (I am a satanist) Then I cannot even BEGIN the steps.
    Is this fare to me? Weather it’s fare or not isn’t the why I’m here. I need some some real fucking support.
    ~Sydney

  • Dan Fanetti

    Good Lord people – start believing in yourselves. Hasn’t occured to you that if you don’t believe in God and their really is one – then it’s because that’s what He/She/It wants. I don’t believe in God. So I say; “Look God, if you exist you already know I don’t think you do, so how about you do this – help me to do your will even against my own.” Now I get to annoy people who do believe and I think that’s the way God would want it if he really did exist. Let’s face it – most true believers in AA are assholes, right? Who else but an asshole alcoholic could believe some simpleton experience like stopping drinking with all the upheaval it causes makes them a better judge of what God wants than all the Spiritual leaders (combined) that have ever lived?
    AA is the only place these people can go to and pretend they are somebody. And god is the only thing they have left to pretend they know anything about.

  • Dan Fanetti

    I know a guy in AA, Jessie, who was left a fortune by his father. Now Jessie may be a great guy but really – he don’t know anything about making money – only spending it. Like most wives and kids of rich guys. Not that you could get him to understand this.
    Well, that’s what people in AA are like with the steps, too. They can’t write them, they cant conceptualize the reason for them, they can’t truely understand the magic in them – the can only spend them, and they frequently do a bad job of that. But you’d be hard pressed to get them to understand this.
    Again, I say to you, blieve in yourself. Do the best you can with the steps you can work and screw whatever anyone else thinks. They are stupid, really.
    I have been sober for in the neighborhood of 12 years, not believing in god, sometimes miserable because of what I have to deal with in AA just to be me. But I’m me and I’m sober and God or no-god I’m satisfied I did what I could to help my fellow man is some simple ways.

    • Ponyjon

      Hi all sober ones.  All I wanted to say is that Bill W. wore the cloak of AA a lot more loosely than most of the so called “old timers” you run into these days.  As Bill Sees It contains many of his personal letters to friends, read it and you’ll see what I mean.  Especially read page 191.  Also check out Bill W. on wikipedia.org.

  • todd

    I have tried AA and feel that the program might be effective IF ONLY ALL REFERENCE to a higher power (AKA GOD) be removed. I refuse to be subjected to a relgious cult. Most people may not feel AA is as such, however, we are told that the only way you can progress through this “program,” and succeed, is to BELEIVE that some imaginary force (HIGHER POWER) will ultimately fix or resolve the issues in your life. In order for that to suceed, you must turn your life over to that “HIGHER POWER.” For those of you that believe that we are not alone on this planet, I’m glad it works for you – I wish I could believe as well, but logic prevents that. In the mean time, I would sure like to find a program or group that could meet that has NO connection with religion or anything other than science and psycology.

  • Kelly

    Wow. The OP explicitly asks for AA alternatives and what do the posters give the OP? Arguments to get the addicted BIL into AA. Major fail.

    I’ve been sober for 13 months. I go to therapy, use a recovery web site, and (shock) I rely on my own brain to keep myself sober.

    AA isn’t end-all be-all. People don’t have to compromise their beliefs or lack of belief in order to get and stay sober.

    Here are some ways to get sober:

    –an addiction counselor or therapist
    –SMART
    –Save Our Selves
    –online recovery forums
    –Rational Recovery
    –LifeRing

    If you can’t get to some of the secular recovery groups in person, some of them (such as SMART), hold meetings online.

  • Kelly

    I just read the post stating that the BIL died. I’m sorry, Lee.

  • Kevin

    Lee, and Nola, I am terribly sorry to hear about your loss.

    I found this when I googled “AA atheists” and for anyone else who happens to come across it that way, I would like to add my voice to those who consider themselves atheists and still work in AA. I have found a handful of others who share my views and that is enough to let the pathological or simplistic aspects of some peoples’ take on AA and God roll off my back. I have toyed with the idea of rewriting a version of the Big Book into language I agree with better. The way I have been able to make peace with some parts of the book and the program that can be really maddening is to translate them into something that makes sense to me. To AA’s credit, it does leave room, technically, at least, for interpretation, although I agree that most people in there take a simplistic, sometimes quite pathological, stance. However, I can translate any precept in AA into something explicitly non-theistic, and I think anyone could who really wanted to get sober. Do I think they should have to? No. Do I think the pathological aspects can be toxic? Absolutely. That is a big part of why I still go to meetings and share frequently – not to bash God, but to share a more rational, practical point of view so that others like me who come in will hear something different. For instance, you might hear in meetings that God has a plan for all of us (or something like that) and that no matter how bad things get, we find that we learn a lesson from it. Well, I translate that thusly: human beings have evolved in such a way that we are incredibly adaptable and resilient, and no matter how awful things get, we can always find a way to turn it into something beautiful or use it to fuel the meaningfulness of our lives. E.g., I don’t think God had my friend wreck his car and kill himself to teach me or his mother or anyone else a lesson, but I can live with the memory of him and in respect of that loss and find ways to honor it as the world keeps turning. Incidentally, staying sober is one way I do that (though there are many other reasons for me to stay sober, too).

    I looked into alternatives about a year ago and most of them looked even more kooky than AA, except maybe SOS, which had virtually no meetings anywhere near me.

    I think the connection to the people is the main thing that AA has given me, although working the steps also helped clear out a lot of guilt, shame, and fear. Especially once I stopped feeling guilty for not being a believer!

    I am 29 and have a little over three years sober at this point. If I start a blog about my thoughts or a wiki to translate the Big Book into “atheish” I’ll post a link.

    Good stuff, Richard.

    For those advocating to people to essentially just “snap out of it”, um, pretty much, **** off. It really is not a question of will power or moral failing. If you’ve been able to stop on your own, great, but don’t presume to know other people’s circumstances.

    They say in AA that the higher power can be anything, but a concept that CAN mean anything has nothing it MUST mean, so it would be an empty concept and therefore useless. I think the literature gives the impression that the higher power must be something that can “do for us something we can’t do for ourselves” and many people, including Bill’s story, give the impression it should be a god who responds to our prayers and can be swayed to help us. Therefore, when I’m told it can be a doorknob, that’s ridiculous. Although that’s me saying that, not AA. I myself don’t believe that if there is a god he should be amenable to dishing out favors when we pray or “are good.” I think there are a few things the higher power is supposed to be able to do for us, and I guess I distribute those functions among different things – the people in AA; psychological and philosophical insights, especially Eastern ones, about learning to detach and not be the cause of our own suffering; my desire to live beautifully. The people help me not be alone and to get perspective. Buddhist thought says that attachment is the cause of our pain, and that helps me keep my pain and distress in bounds – if it gets to be too much, I examine what it is that I’m holding on to and why. Psychology largely reinforces that. My idea of the 11th step – continued to improve our conscious contact with god as we understood him – is basically journaling or doing mindfulness meditation. A higher power also usually provides the function of calling theists to aspire to behave well. I don’t need any external sense of right and wrong to do that; like Nietzsche, my sense of aesthetics about life inspires me to try to live well. For instance, I don’t need to be told god wants me to help the poor; my sense of empathy and frankly some sense of moral aesthetics does that just fine. Life may not have absolute meaning, but if my life is meaningless, that is on me. Bringing a different message to AA is one way I feel good about making my life mean something in my own eyes.

    You don’t have to believe in God to get sober! Just make the effort to translate their language into something that does make sense to you. If you’re resisting because it’s more important to you to be right than to get help and be sober, that’s not a valid criticism. If you genuinely have misgivings about what is required to stay sober in AA, don’t worry about it, just make the effort to have it make sense to you. I’m quite comfortable being an atheist in AA now (functionally, I’m an atheistic; epistemologically, probably and agnostic). I just want to make it a more comfortable place for others, and to drive out some of the pathological self-flagellating influences of Christianity, if possible.

  • Kevin

    Also, if anyone’s curious, I usually do two or three meetings a week, although sometimes I may go ten days or so without one, and sometimes I may do 3 or 4 days in a row. i have a lot of friends in AA. We usually go out and do something afterwards, like watching documentaries at my place or going out to eat or going to concerts. I have backed off some as I have been making more of a conscious effort to do more non-AA stuff, like joining a local book club and doing bike races and traveling a lot.

  • http://yahoo.com Joe

    hello, i don’t even know what to say. i’ve been to countless meetings. Different types,areas ex. I’m a drunk. I’ve been battling it for years. Took many aproaches. i’ve found especially AA & the VA AA programs are all religious. You are told you are accepted no matter what but, I see BS. Whenever I speak my views you are always told god will forgive you, stop blaming god. Its me and I want to stop drinking. Nothing is going to magically hold my hand. Most meetings you are supposed to pray. If you don’t go with the god angle you feel like crap. “poor lost soul” the “devil must be tricking him”. Or I’m using that as an excuse to drink. No. I think people use god as an excuse. Its up to him to help you, -no responsibility. If doesn’t work it wasn’t part of his plan. Your own wickedness is tricking you–join us and beg. I’ve heard everything from god blessed me with a delicious sandwhich to the stories of people getting a horrible disease-suffer for years. Then it’s not the medical stuff involved- it was god that blessed/saved me. Ummm who gave you the disease to begin with? Well that was to test you. Anybody here love there children? Yes-Good! Now do you feel the need to test your childs love? And if they do not worship you or they make poor choices are you going to litteraly torchure them?
    I’ve even been asked to leave meetings not just because I don’t believe there version of a god, but because I am a Vet. They did not agree with the current wars, I was in Iraq & Afgan. I was told how horrible I am. Nice huh? My way or suffer/die. If that is love/acceptance I don’t want it. Now if at these meetings Everyone kept there personal beliefs or lack-of to themselves it would be different. i’m not accepted because I do not follow there ways, but I have to accept them? I should just take out what I need? Yes I should but it would help if they kept their occult frame of mind to there own hearts. The religious aspect of it makes me feel even lower and worse. I’m below them. I’ve watched children step on land mines because they were starving and trying to get to some food. How loving. Once again this not an excuse to avoid rehab. I see this dark aspect of the religious everywhere. All the wars, murdering and control for profit and power. The best mask for evil is something good. ?’s- Why were humans able to create the atomic bomb decades ago, but there is still not even a vaccination for athletes foot. Its funny how religion sneeks in when people are at their worst/weakest. Jail, suffering, etc. I smell a hook on that bait. Religion uses peoples fear and hope to gain.God kills soldiers because god hates gays. um? Religous people are very discuraging not only in AA but everything throughout history. It work for you cool, keep it to yourself or your kind. You are not above anybody else. I’m sorry for the spelling/grammer-I’m trying to write this quick & short. Good luck to us all! ps-pray 4 me. lol.

  • http://www.smartrecovery.org/ Cathy Billis

    I have a strong belief in God and because of that I don’t like AA. I feel they really trivialize God. I much prefer an atheist group, in particular http://smartrecovery.org. Also, I really like how SMART Recovery doesn’t make alcohol the end all and be all. In real life many of us switch addictions and SMART is for all addictions. I learn a lot from people dealing with food addiction, addiction to drugs and other addictions. They give concrete tools to use and classes/groups to practice them. They also have a good online forum.

  • aminfidel

    thanks for an interesting trip of a couple yrs worth of postings.
    Richard, i think your comment about the low recovery rate of aa is really not so much about aa as it is about addiction treatment as a whole. for what it’s worth, there is nothing better than aa. when an alcoholic hits bottom and needs a place to go, aa is there more than anyhthing else. boiled down, it’s one alcoholic talking to another, “sharing experience, strength and hope.” this leaves a lot of room for non-professional practices, but also a lot of room for real personal interaction that is missing in professional settings. that “you don’t know what it feels like!”, “you don’t understand!”, “you’re doing it for the money!”, “you don’t know where i’m coming from!”, “you haven’t been there!”, won’t wash. you can’t bullshit an old bullshitter. (although i’ve been bullshitted many times).
    being an atheist and needing to get sober in aa isn’t easy for most, but it’s not impossible as is proven by the many atheists who have posted here with double digit sobriety in aa. also at the International Conventions of aa, which are attended by tens of thousands every five years, the atheist/agnostic/freethinker gatherings are SRO. so things are changing. there is room for all.
    if i had to wait to find a “secular” roomful of drunks to get help and fellowship, rather than aa, i doubt that i would be here today. thousands and thousands owe their lives to aa. that’s a fact, jack.
    SOS, RR, and any other or all others rolled together can’t begin to claim the numbers that aa has helped.
    so whatever we come up with to improve on aa, if we do, will have to give props to that Group of Drunks.
    whatever it takes to get out of the grip of addiction, i take my hat off to it. once out of the fog, other roads can been seen and taken.
    for positive sobriety,
    dave

  • Lmg333

    Wow, so great to see so much feedback on the exact subject I am struggling with tonite. I have been in and out of ‘traditional’ recovery for years now. A.A. can be extremely intimidating unless you are a devote Christian, which is fine, but not a belief I was brought up with. I have found many deep difficulties with AA and in my earnest questioning of the god issue have been told that I will never ever ‘get’ sobriety if I don’t give my life and will over to AA and the god of choice- very discouraging indeed. I believe in the philosophies of Buddhism and meditation and these two practices along with a good therapist have been so much more of a daily joy and encouragement than all the AA meetings I have ever gone to. AA folk can be very threatened by people who may not be ready to turn their will and entire day over to what in their opinion is the ‘correct way’ to gain sobriety. I need to find a group that can accept some of my heartfelt beliefs and lend a gentle guiding hand through the recovery journey without telling me that my way has never worked and will continue to not work unless I do exactly as they say. Thank you for the great subject, and I will now be checking out Rational Recovery as a result of my random search and landing here!!!
    Namaste, Lisa

  • betterthingstodo

    Wow. This is the best discussion on addiction and religion I have ever seen.

    Thank you all for somehow reading my thoughts.?

    People are cool.

    toddg

  • betterthingstodo

    Oh yeah, now I am going to have ONE drink. Just because I can.

  • betterthingstodo

    Maybe I will continue to NOT struggle with that crap and move on with life.

  • Kees

    Pretending to believe in something you know to be untrue in order to recover from your addiction is dishonest and only repeats the lies you told yourself when you were using. Total honesty is essential for your recovery.

  • undrgrndgirl

    meh – atheists are too rational to have addiction problems, right?

  • Richard Wade

    undrgrndgirl,
    I hope you’re just trying to be a smartass, right?

  • gary

    Thank you all for the thoughts and suggestions, you have been very helpful..everyone.

  • Bth22

    Hello fellow atheists!

    I am coming up on my one year sober anniversary thanks to AA, Vivitrol, and an excellent psychiatrist.  My experience in AA has been very positive despite my staunch atheism.  My sponsor and his sponsor are both atheists and my journey through the 12 steps (currently on step 7, we go slowly) has been pretty pain free.  I think that it’s very easy to get bogged down over-analyzing the role of “God” in the recovery program.  I sometimes find myself picking apart sections of the Big/Step Book(s) and invalidating passages with the voice of Christopher Hitchens narrating the thoughts in my brain.  It is very easy to find logical faults in such an old and dated piece of writing!  But the fact that AA is based on misguided Christian theology doesn’t necessitate that atheists should abandon the program.  All that you have to do is reinterpret the AA literature into language that squares with your own beliefs.  Here’s a little sample of how I think of the 12 steps:

    1)  Experience has shown that I am powerless to stop drinking alcohol by sheer force of will.   

    2)  By seeking outside help I can find the tools and guidance necessary to remain sober.

    3)  Made a decision to recognize the limits of my willpower and live in accordance with my capabilities as a rational individual.  Basically made a decision to live by the sentiments of the Serenity Prayer.

    4)  Same as AA 4th step.

    5)  Discussed with another person the exact nature of my wrongs.

    6)  Became willing to accept my character defaults and made a decision to actively work on becoming a better person on a daily basis.

    7)  Humbly recognized that correcting one’s character flaws is benefited by asking someone else for help and feedback.

    8)  Same as AA 8th step.

    9)  Same as AA 9th step.

    10)  Same as AA 10th step.

    11)  Sought through daily meditation to improve my state of mindfulness and awareness, so that I may cultivate a more perfect understanding of myself and others.

    12)  Same as AA 12th step.

    AA is also an invaluable source of camaraderie, advice, wisdom, and example shared from people of all different backgrounds, educations and beliefs.  I can’t even begin to describe how much I have benefited from hearing other people’s stories of success and failure.  I’m sure that other programs like SMART Recovery are great too, but in my opinion you can’t beat AA!  It’s free (or give a dollar), meets every day of the week and can be found in abundance anywhere here (USA) and overseas. 

    So my advice for an atheist in AA is to take it easy!  Stop listening to the meeting with the critical lenses on, or you might just miss something helpful and profound!

    • Earthchild5627

      thank you so much; i needed to hear this and i like your interpretation of the  steps. thank you

    • Elizabethr330

      Just have to tell you how much i appreciate your interpretation of the steps- i’ve been sober for 18 years and struggle at times with the ” mainstream” AA fellowship-how wonderful to simply “live and let live” so to speak loved the “take it easy” in the meetings advice as well

    • mello444

      I found this very helpful as I am struggling with my new found sobriety. What a great way to look at things.

  • Bth22

    Hello fellow atheists!

    I am coming up on my one year sober anniversary thanks to AA, Vivitrol, and an excellent psychiatrist.  My experience in AA has been very positive despite my staunch atheism.  My sponsor and his sponsor are both atheists and my journey through the 12 steps (currently on step 7, we go slowly) has been pretty pain free.  I think that it’s very easy to get bogged down over-analyzing the role of “God” in the recovery program.  I sometimes find myself picking apart sections of the Big/Step Book(s) and invalidating passages with the voice of Christopher Hitchens narrating the thoughts in my brain.  It is very easy to find logical faults in such an old and dated piece of writing!  But the fact that AA is based on misguided Christian theology doesn’t necessitate that atheists should abandon the program.  All that you have to do is reinterpret the AA literature into language that squares with your own beliefs.  Here’s a little sample of how I think of the 12 steps:

    1)  Experience has shown that I am powerless to stop drinking alcohol by sheer force of will.   

    2)  By seeking outside help I can find the tools and guidance necessary to remain sober.

    3)  Made a decision to recognize the limits of my willpower and live in accordance with my capabilities as a rational individual.  Basically made a decision to live by the sentiments of the Serenity Prayer.

    4)  Same as AA 4th step.

    5)  Discussed with another person the exact nature of my wrongs.

    6)  Became willing to accept my character defaults and made a decision to actively work on becoming a better person on a daily basis.

    7)  Humbly recognized that correcting one’s character flaws is benefited by asking someone else for help and feedback.

    8)  Same as AA 8th step.

    9)  Same as AA 9th step.

    10)  Same as AA 10th step.

    11)  Sought through daily meditation to improve my state of mindfulness and awareness, so that I may cultivate a more perfect understanding of myself and others.

    12)  Same as AA 12th step.

    AA is also an invaluable source of camaraderie, advice, wisdom, and example shared from people of all different backgrounds, educations and beliefs.  I can’t even begin to describe how much I have benefited from hearing other people’s stories of success and failure.  I’m sure that other programs like SMART Recovery are great too, but in my opinion you can’t beat AA!  It’s free (or give a dollar), meets every day of the week and can be found in abundance anywhere here (USA) and overseas. 

    So my advice for an atheist in AA is to take it easy!  Stop listening to the meeting with the critical lenses on, or you might just miss something helpful and profound!

  • Lunderick

    Hey Folks!! Been sober for 33 years last month.. Started out an agnostic and more and more became an atheist. More so now than ever.. I look at it this way.. These people that are so headstrong on the “god” principle ,why don’t they just pray to be turned into social drinkers.. Oh I know, most of them would die of the illness.. That’s why.. It would be gods will… Give me a break!!!

  • Ron

    Thanks to all the contributors for a very interesting discussion.

    I am going to my first AA meeting in approx three years tomorrow after spending those years in a cycle of long dry spells followed by short but very intense and psychologically devastating binges.

    Like a lot of people, I thought I was packing in AA because of  the ‘God’ associations, implications of powerlessness etc, but being honest I left because I still believed I could figure out a way of drinking with impunity.  Didn’t work out that way.

    I would categorise myself as an atheist in search of a guiding philosophy in life and I don’t expect that particular void to be filled by AA.

    However, I am willing to put my own reservations on that score to one side and — not being able to afford or access a lengthy in-patient rehab process — use AA as a practical tool to help me stay sober.  As I recall, there’s a line in the preamble about ‘there are no rules’ in AA and I intend to follow that as my core principle and use meetings as a support and something to bolster my resolve.

    So what if some of the speakers attribute their recovery to the presence of God in their lives? So what if some people blame their ‘spiritual defects’ for an addiction to a powerful chemical?  That’s their perogative; mine is to arrest a long, slow decline that’s been going on for the best part of 25 years – all my adult life. I am going to tune in to what helps and tune out of the rest.

    A few people I know who have successfuly sobered up and prospered have used a combintion of one or two AA meetings weekly along with attending a secular support group (www.lifering.org) and one-on-one help with professionals if needed. 

     Live and Let Live, or as the even cornier Morgan Freeman line from The Shawshank Redemption has it, ‘Get busy living or get busy dying.’

    Slainte

     

  • 2.5yrsTampa

    I have been sober for 2.5 years. I still struggle everyday. I am not a fan of AA. It is not the god or God thing, it is the redundancy of being helpless to something you cannot have. It is IMHO retarded. “I am powerless?”. If you can put that drink down and admit you have a problem with drinking and make the attempt to quit, no matter AA or whatever, YOU ARE POWERFUL. That is the major flaw with AA. Yes, there are bad days, but everyone has them, not just alcoholics. Be strong and whatever method keeps you  aways from getting drunk and destroying your body is AMAZING and you should be proud of it. Just remember you cannot cure or curb alcoholism, it is in you and you fight it with your power. Personally, I do not have any friends anymore and I do get lonely from time to time, but it is ok because you are not drinking. Stay on top and do not allow AA to beat you down and make you feel like an idiot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.ledeboer Paul Ledeboer

    HI, I have 7 years alcohol and drug free. I don’t believe in God, think religion is the worst thing invented. I haven’ t gone to any AA meetings in a while, but in the past when I went to meetings, I learned to just listen to others and take in what would help me. The other stuff I just let go. I’ve never felt better in my life. I got involved with donating some of my time to installing solar panels on low income house every so often. Helping animals and people is always good. One thing I did find out after I got sober is that there are alot of people that are not nice and are out there to hurt you, and the sad thing about it is most of these people church going people. It’s disgusting to me. This probly didn’t help much, but the point is that I’m proof that you can be sober and happy without believing in god.
    take it easy

  • jcebbing

    The only recovery group, system whatever that ever struck a chord with me was Rational Recovery. That higher power thing… the very thing that turned me off catholicism when I was about 6 years old.


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