A.A. is not treatment.

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Discussion by: simplyMark

My first post. I'm a recovering alcoholic & drug addict. 20 years of my life spent getting wasted. I've been to rehab 3 times & in group therapy I spent most of my time arguing with my counselor & other clients about part of the program the says to have a higher power & pray, to have spirituality. Well thats not me, I'm not that simple. But I am open minded & listened to what they had to say. Well, it was B.S. I tried A.A. & N.A which are pretty much the same thing. The 12 steps & the "big book" mention god over & over again & me being an atheist I just find the whole thing laughable & silly, yet this is the treatment I was given. " Came to believe a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity." & so on. It's a theist belief system that I don't have. If I would challenge them & say "there is no god" then I was told I wasnt open minded. So my reply would be "Hey don't believe in god, be an atheist & if you say no then you're not being open minded" It's exhausting to talk to these people & this is the medicine for my disease, well I'm screwed. I've been sober for 5 months & I see a therapist & take meds for my brain adjusting to a clean head, it's difficult & always will be. I know there are a few alternatives to A.A. like S.O.S. but they are so few that it's impossible for me to get to them. I do have hope & I'm doing okay but the fact that they push this A.A. garbage down your throat when in your heart you know better is so frustrating. Hey, maybe I'll just wish my addictions away…Same thing, right?

18 COMMENTS

  1.  I am an atheist.  I am also an addict in recovery.  I have over 30 years of abstinence.  I don't pray.  I don't do any gods, higher powers, spirituality junk, or "use the group as my higher power."
     Yes I go to meetings.  I go now to find the atheists among the newer folks who are also struggling with the pressure to believe.
     A.A. and N.A. [and some of the other As] in other places have less of a christian overtone.  But that is there and we are here.
     There used to be a saying that said, "Take what you need and leave the rest."  Use what you can that you find helpful to you and dump the rest of it.  You can also adopt one of the parody religions as a "higher power" if you are being forced to.  The Flying Spaghetti Monster is my favorite.  But there is also Discordia, The Invisible Pink Unicorn (bless her holy hooves).  A friend of mine uses a cartoon by the name of Bob the Dinosaur.  He gives wedgies to his enemies.  But if you are not being forced to or if you can resist the pressure that is great.
     One thing that I absolutely had to do-- I had to re-write the steps.  I suggest you do that, and no you aren't limited to exactly 12 steps.
    

    Here is one sample, and then I will shut up:
    1. I did not choose to have addiction.
    2. I recognized that if I wanted something different then I had to do something different.
    3. I sought out healthy people as role models.
    4. I made a list of assets and liabilities for my recovery. [p.s. being an atheist is NOT a liability].
    5. I shared some of my list with a counselor, friend, or another person of my chosing.
    6. I chose a liability from my list and 7. everyday wrote down one thing that I could do instead.
    8. I made a list of people that I had hurt and decided which ones I wanted to have a friendship with/relationship with/in my life again.
    9. I talked to each [living] person on my list. I agreed to stop hurting them.
    10. Every night I looked at the things I did today that helped my recovery and the things I did today that hindered it.
    11. I sought out my motivations for staying abstinent and for living life. I decided “what gets me out of bed in the morning?’
    12. I let other atheists who might be struggling with an addiction know that we atheists also do recover.
    Arguing with the god-believers is fairly useless. I am sorry that you aren’t being respected as a person who does not have the typical 12 step sort of beliefs. If you have to be in treatment, then use the time to discover what works for you. You already know that the gods stuff and woo-woo [new age or pop psychology] doesn’t. Every day in treatment and every 12 step meeting that you go to, look for one thing that you can use today. If you cannot find it, then have an extra dessert or an extra cup of coffee.
    The idea is to be good enough for yourself and true to yourself regardless of the others around you. You have to find the way to keep yourself abstinent. You are not the only atheist in recovery. In my small town, there is me and two folks who have less than a year. In the next county there is one guy who has more time than I do [and some other folks as well. Their county is bigger and more urban].
    I am on Twitter as at BloodyVirginMar. You can dm me if you wish to.
    Reading good atheist/scientific books also helps. And learning to recognize the fallacies that people use in the rehabs/meetings when they speak of their gods stuff.
    Good luck. Perhaps I will run into you in real life sometime. You never know.

  2. I have been in AA for 31 years. I went regularly to meetings for a number of years and now go less frequently. Luckily, I was first in recovery in San Francisco where there was an atheists and agnostics group. San Francisco being a progressive city, no one much cared that I ranted and railed about prayer, god etc in meetings. (I still rant and rave about it when I go to a meeting.) But what I got most from the meetings was a sense of camaraderie and a “we’re all in this together” attitude that I found very helpful. I took the Big Book as complete nonsense. I think it was the peer pressure and a sense that I was not alone that helped me most. A few talked about god, but most respected the fact that I was an atheist.

    • In reply to #2 by hugh.guilbeau1@gmail.com:

      I have been in AA for 31 years. I went regularly to meetings for a number of years and now go less frequently. Luckily, I was first in recovery in San Francisco where there was an atheists and agnostics group. San Francisco being a progressive city, no one much cared that I ranted and railed about prayer, god etc in meetings. (I still rant and rave about it when I go to a meeting.) But what I got most from the meetings was a sense of camaraderie and a “we’re all in this together” attitude that I found very helpful. I took the Big Book as complete nonsense. I think it was the peer pressure and a sense that I was not alone that helped me most. A few talked about god, but most respected the fact that I was an atheist.

      I’m not a member but I’ve been to several meetings and that has always been my experience as well. In fact one time I had a pretty interesting free for all discussion about God, higher power, rationalism, etc. I was always open about being an atheist and no on ever gave me grief about it.

      Also, I’ve worked in mental health and all the professionals I’ve ever discussed it with agree that AA and NA do very well, better than just about any other mental health therapy, in controlled empirical evaluations. If we really want to evaluate based on evidence AA and NA work very well for a very large number of people. Which is not to say they work for everyone. I’ve tried it but I’m just not a group therapy kind of guy. But I would also keep in mind that those of us with addiction problems are amazingly good at rationalizing and at coming up with excuses to not confront our addiction.

      • Also, I’ve worked in mental health and all the professionals I’ve ever discussed it with agree that AA and NA do very well, better than just about any other mental health therapy, in controlled empirical evaluations. I

        I’ve worked as a UK-based psychiatrist and naturally encountered quite a lot of people with alcohol related problems. Like many places in the UK, and, probably, ‘the West’, there were a variety of agencies in my local city, including state-provided. Quite a few clients found the religious style of AA a deterrent and went elsewhere. On the other hand, there were quite a few who did not like the NHS or other non-religious services and chose AA.

        I’d suggest choice is key, that is providing a chosen therapy has scientifically valid evidence of efficacy – which, if they are state-funded, is usually a reasonable presumption. But there were some funded agencies with an overtly Christian ethos which, unsurprisingly, could be more troubling than the AA’s typically vague theism.

        • I’d suggest choice is key,

          Sorry Mark, realise I was replying to other posts more than yours: if your area offers no practical alternative to AA that is tough. I think (as seems here) clients found AA groups varied eg in religiosity, but this city is near to several others, often making it practical to try out different groups – in some cases going to several in tandem. For people away from cities and conurbations choice is obviously restricted.

    • In reply to #4 by Mr. Meredith:

      My brother was given an atheist option when he was given the chance to clear his record of his DUI. I don’t remember what it was, but there are other options out there.

      and isn´t it a goddamned shame that atheism is an option in stead of the standard…

  3. I tried to get sober in AA over a period of 10 years, but kept going back to the bottle. During all that time, the “spiritual” aspect proved nothing but a distraction. Then, when I was in a state of despair (a recurring condition), I remembered Einstein’s comment that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” On the following morning I contacted my doctor and arranged to be placed on a reducing regime of drugs to allay withdrawal symptoms, while at the same time starting counselling sessions to confront mental and psychological issues. That was 17 years ago, and I have never had nor wanted a drink since. I would never recommend AA to an atheist; it is enough to deal with alcohol addiction without having to struggle through a morass of bullshit at the same time.

    • In reply to #7 by Ian Irving:

      I tried to get sober in AA over a period of 10 years, but kept going back to the bottle. During all that time, the “spiritual” aspect proved nothing but a distraction. Then, when I was in a state of despair (a recurring condition), I remembered Einstein’s comment that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” On the following morning I contacted my doctor and arranged to be placed on a reducing regime of drugs to allay withdrawal symptoms, while at the same time starting counselling sessions to confront mental and psychological issues. That was 17 years ago, and I have never had nor wanted a drink since. I would never recommend AA to an atheist; it is enough to deal with alcohol addiction without having to struggle through a morass of bullshit at the same time.

      I agree that AA isn’t for everyone. But I don’t agree that the higher power thing is nothing but a “morass of bullshit” here is what Wikipedia says about the definition of the AA higher power concept:

      “In current twelve-step program usage a higher power can be anything at all that the member believes is adequate. Reported examples include their twelve-step group, Nature, consciousness, existential freedom, God, science, Buddha. It is frequently stipulated that as long as a higher power is “greater” than the individual, then the only condition is that it should also be loving and caring”

      And in my experience AA and NA people are very open minded about it (of course my experience is with AA people in Chicago and San Francisco so I’m sure its different in places like say Mississippi) Even a cynical realist like me who doesn’t believe in anything supernatural can still believe in things like love, beauty, truth and can admit a sense of awe and wonder about the universe.

      • In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #7 by Ian Irving:

        “In current twelve-step program usage a higher power can be anything at all that the member believes is adequate. Reported examples include their twelve-step group, Nature, consciousness, existential freedom, God, science, Buddha. It is frequently stipulated that as long as a higher power is “greater” than the individual, then the only condition is that it should also be loving and caring”

        if god is so loving and caring, why does he allow this disease (it is classed as a disease and therefor not free will..) of alcoholism (as for any disease for that matter)?..

  4. I had a brief encounter with AA and gagged on the “higher power” thing. It seemed they had traded an addiction to drinking for an addiction to talking about drinking … and smoking.

    Have you looked at “SMART Recovery”? It’s a secular program; they have on-line meetings. If you had a zen center near you, that could be helpful; if you are into practicing meditation and clear mind, alcohol or drugs are antithetical and counterproductive to that goal.

  5. Hey man, I wish you the best.

    My advice is direct and stark. Stop. It is as simple as that (I know it is not)… But, you can do it. You can. All by yourself. If you can get clean with AA, you can get clean without it.

    Here is the deal; show them that they are NOT the ultimate answer through spite. Be strong and win. Your desire to get clean is the first and most important step to getting there.

    I realize I am over simplifying, but, you can get there from here.

  6. I was trained as a facilitator for a 12 step program , I had the same problems that you had. I found the ring of prayer eerie and uncomfortable. I feel for you man. You obviously had a problem , many get over it by a mind construct called God. It is a success for them as they have formed a view of the world that can help them get clean. You don’t have that ability as you probably question irrational things such as religion. Don’t beat yourself about that , that’s the brain you have and in all likely hood will never change. You’ll just have to find another way.
    Good Luck!

  7. SimplyMark,

    The favorite pleading of a fanatic is, “YOU’RE closed-minded”, especially when you disagree with the rantings and ravings of a brainwashed minion. Where do you get off you petty closed-minded atheist discriminating against a faith-based brainwashing program? Doesn’t every tired, filthy, hungry and strung out addict want to hear some preach’n before dinner?. What’s the problem? Why don’t you want addicts to become fanatics, a mutual admiration society, since, there is really nothing like turning kaleidoscopic giggles into a spiritual experience, painful yes, but a psychotherapeutic journey mixed with religion can be transforming. No? I’m sure that spirituality on drugs can leave one feeling so weird that they freak out cold sober. I’m so happy to hear about this great opportunity to brow beat people with religion because they are desperate for help. I’m sure that’s about all it would take to drive them officially bat shit insane.
    Well, that’s all from me –

    Just put this title in google search:

    “The Funny Spirituality of Bill Wilson and A.A.”
    by A. Orange

    It starts with this quote: Keeping an open mind is a virtue, but not so open that your brains fall out. — James Oberg

  8. I don’t have substances abuse or addiction problems and I’m not that well informed , but I did find this once when I was curious: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/aa-is-faith-based-not-evidence-based/ which may be of interest. I’m not qualified to give medical advice though, perhaps you should ask the advice of a regular GP?

    Incidentally I tried to discuss this once elsewhere under the title “Is AA full of shit?” (It was meant as a joke since one of the posters was known as AA). A lot of people who had been through AA replied and seemed doubtful of the case presented there, though no one really presented evidence of it’s efficacy. It is possible that question misses the point though and you should view it as a support group rather than a treatment. Also regarding the higher power thing, I think you can pick something absurd like a cat or an inanimate object, no?

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