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12 Steps for Atheists

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In 12-Step meetings across the country and around the world, a heavy emphasis is placed on a higher power. In contrast to the powerlessness over addiction admitted to in the first step, this “higher power” is defined as greater than ourselves in the second step and strong enough to restore us to sanity. The implication is that we cannot get sane or manage our character defects and flaws ourselves but must trust in the call and guidance of God in whatever form we see him/her to help us do so in order to remain clean and sober.

For many, this is a freeing concept. According to the 12-Step philosophy, no one is responsible for beating addiction alone; all anyone has to do is trust in God and follow the steps day by day into sobriety.

For atheists, however, the concept of a higher power can be extremely troubling. It can stand as a barrier between them and recovery. Some feel as if they have to fake a belief in a higher power in order to get the benefits of the 12-Step program, and many end up dropping out – or relapsing – as a result.

Is it possible to utilize the 12-Step program without converting or betraying one’s religious and spiritual beliefs?

Alternative 12-Step Options

There are a few different organizations that provide the 12-Step experience without any reference to God or a higher power. These atheistic groups include Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) and AA Agnostica. The other main parts of the 12-Step philosophy – honesty, making amends for harm done, asking for help, positive support, giving back to the community – are incorporated into a rewritten 12-Step plan that focuses on self-reliance rather than faith in God.

Reality as a Higher Power

Rather than opening oneself to an otherworldly experience, atheist 12-Step groups and other support groups focus instead on taking a rigorously honest view of the world around them. Exploring one’s own strengths and limitations as well as creating actionable plans to deal with the temptation to drink and get high is the focus instead.

For example, accepting the fact that there is no ability to drink or get high in moderation is essential. After that, the focus is on cutting out the things in life that create triggers for substance abuse and improving strength in sobriety by helping others when possible. Though spiritual activities like meditation or prayer may be helpful to some, they are not required to remain sober. For those who are uncomfortable doing these things, it is far better for them to:

  • Connect with likeminded people in recovery
  • Stay away from drugs and alcohol and those who use them
  • Have someone to reach out to when they feel like they want to relapse
  • Focus on improving their lives, reaching goals and prioritizing health and wellness in every decision

What Will Work Best for You?

Though the 12 Steps are the foundation for a number of traditional recovery programs, they are not vital to recovery. It is not necessary to subscribe to any version of the 12 Steps, including an atheist version, in order to successfully beat drug and alcohol dependence. Your path and journey into recovery should be as unique as your experience in addiction and speak to your particular needs as well as your personal goals for the future.

Contact us today at 760.548.4032 to discuss how we can help you create a treatment plan that will help you find your way to your new life in recovery.