Monday, June 12, 2006

The Danger of Religious Thinking: American "Treatment" of Addiction

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." 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." (Source.)

I've previously written positive things about some aspects of twelve-step programs. However, despite some things they do right, twelve-step programs in America may serve as the prime example of the danger involved with religion and religious thinking.

What separates religious thinking from scientific thinking?

1) The reliance on faith.
2) The trusting of authority.
3) The reliance on anecdotal data.

For example, Christianity places great emphasis on faith, while Catholicism maintains that the Pope is infallible, and Orthodox Judaism maintains that the great sages of previous generations were closer to the truth than we can be today. Anecdotal data is used quite often in support of religion, describing personal visions, near-death experiences, unlikely coincidences, faith healings, and alleged conversations with God Himself.

Scientific thinking recognizes none of these methods of argument. With regard to faith, science doesn't ask us to believe anything because it "feels" a certain way. (The closest thing is the assumption that empiricism is rational, but even that is somewhat self-evident.) Regarding authority, no-one is infallible, nor is anyone trusted on their word alone. Although Einstein was a luminary, he was wrong about quantum mechanics, and science moved on without him. Although Newton was a scientific giant, he also believed in all sorts of bizarre alchemy, which science has since rejected. Finally, science completely rejects anecdotal data, which is why most scientific thinkers still disbelieve in UFO abductions, telekinesis, and faith healings.

Instead of faith, authority, and anecdote, science relies on testable, repeatable experimentation. It is this experimentation which has led us to discover many of the secrets of gravity, relativity, intertia, medicine, and astronomy. Science's record of success is unparalleled by any other system of thought or investigation.

As Carl Sagan asked,

Think of how many religions attempt to validate themselves with prophecy... Yet has there ever been a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science?

So how does this all tie in with Twelve-Step Programs (TSPs?)

Well, I argue that the phenomenal popularity of TSPs despite evidence that they are ineffective is due to the prevalence of religious, rather than scientific, thinking.

First, the evidence against TSPs' efficacy. Here are a few sources:

The National Longitudinal Alcoholism Epidemiological Survey was de­signed and sponsored by the NIAAA and was conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. It was notable both for its size (4,585 subjects) and its study period (20 years). Its subjects were divided into a treated group and an untreated group. All of the study’s subjects “had to have satisfied the criteria for prior-to-past year DSM-IV alcohol dependence by meeting at least 3 of the 7 DSM-IV criteria for dependence: tolerance; withdrawal (including relief or avoidance of withdrawal); persistent desire or unsuccessful attempts to cut down on or stop drinking; much time spent drinking, obtaining alcohol or recovering from its effects; reduction or cessation of important activities in favor of drinking; impaired control over drinking; and continued use despite physical or psychological problems caused by drinking.”xxxiv

The study’s findings were surprising: At 20 years after onset of symptoms, 80% of those who had undergone treatment were either abstinent or “drink­ing without abuse or dependence.” But those who had never undergone treatment were doing even better: 90% of them were either abstinent or drinking nonproblematically. That is, 10% of those who had never been treated were still drinking abusively 20 years after the onset of symptoms, as were 20% of those who had been treated. In other words, twice as many of those who had undergone treatment were drinking abusively as those who had never been treated. (Source.)

There have been at least three randomized clinical trials that studied the effectiveness of AA. Specifically: Ditman et al. 1967; Brandsma et al. 1980; Walsh et al. 1991.

* Dr. Ditman found that participation in A.A. increased the alcoholics' rate of rearrest for public drunkenness.[1]
* Dr. Brandsma found that A.A. increased the rate of binge drinking. After several months of indoctrination with A.A. 12-Step dogma, the alcoholics in A.A. were doing five times as much binge drinking as a control group that got no treatment at all, and nine times as much binge drinking as another group that got Rational Behavior Therapy. Brandsma alleges that teaching people that they are alcoholics who are powerless over alcohol yields very bad results and that it becomes a self-fulfilling prediction -- they relapse and binge drink as if they really were powerless over alcohol.[2]
* And Dr. Walsh found that the so-called "free" A.A. program was actually very expensive -- it messed up patients so that they required longer periods of costly hospitalization later on.[3]

While AA acknowledged in the foreword to the second edition of the Big Book that "we surely have no monopoly", one of the stories following the main text of the book still claims that AA is "the only remedy" to alcohol abuse (BB, pg. 259. Emphasis added.), despite some current research which shows that high percentages of alcohol abusers recover without medical treatment (Treatment of Drug Abuse and Addiction -- Part III, The Harvard Mental Health Letter, Volume 12, Number 4, October 1995, page 3.). Another study suggests that AA may be "no better than the natural history of the disease" in keeping people alive and sober (The Natural History of Alcoholism: Causes, Patterns, and Paths to Recovery, George E. Vaillant, pgs. 283-286.)(Source.)

So why is AA so popular? Because most Americans put their trust in faith ("Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity," "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him") authority (the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous is treated as a Bible,) and anecdotal data ("but these people are sober and they've done it through AA!")

I wonder how many lives we could save, of alcoholics, of victims of drunk drivers, of victims of the War on Drugs, if we were more scientific than religious.

Some theists fear an atheistic world without meaning. I fear a theistic one without knowledge.


Laura said...

These programs have some redeeming qualities, however, unlike many other types of treatment, it's their one-sided, heavy-handed nature that is their downfall. For instance, a heroin addict is by far more likely to succeed in rehab that involves methodone treatment than group hugs.

The group mentality of it is a good thing - people recovering need a support network of others who understand what they're going through. However, rather than treat as a failure, someone who has a drink, they should support the alternate views that some people do not need to be abstinent to recover and that their way isn't the ONLY way.

There's a 12-step halfway house by our apartment and I think it's a good thing to have places like that. WHere they fail, however, is in their monolithic, one-solution-for-all prescribed notions of "recovery"

The Jewish Freak said...

It is counter-intuitive for people to recover in better numbers with no treatment.

Jewish Atheist said...

the jewish freak:

Even when you think about the fact that those who go through TSPs have it pounded into them over and over again that they are "powerless over alcohol" and that if they take a single drink, they're doomed to binge drink?

The Jewish Freak said...

JA: Good point.

asher said...


What do you propose as an alternative to the 12 step program? Just let them be?

Jewish Atheist said...


I'd be happy with any of the "number of treatment methods [that] were consistently supported by controlled scientific research." It's not clear that there's a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone, and I'm not sure that AA doesn't have its place for some. However, something like 90% of Americans who seek treatment for alcoholism are sent to AA, with very poor results. We can do better (says the data.)

Anonymous said...

I used to be a 12 stepper. In the begining the program taught me that I have a right to be me, they gave me lots of support, I got my self esteem back, but after 2 years the god thing didn't work anymore. I had or don't have now a clear concept of who god is or any power out there. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by all the great things that are happening in my life now, I dunno who to thank, I just say thank you to whoever is responsible for all this. But It was a great start for me, who was high on addiction, but in the end you goota experiment and see what works best for you. lp

stc said...

I think it's unfair to connect the opening part of your post to the later part, where you set out to debunk twelve step programs.

How many atheists, when they have a mental health issue, go to a psychologist for help? And how many of them keep going even if they fail to find real help? Lots, I would say.

(Though I'm relying on anecdotal data here. So do we all, most of the time! We make decisions based on what we hear from people in our social circle. That's human nature, not a religious failing.)

Theists and atheists in need behave just the same. They look up a psychologist in the yellow pages, or they join a twelve step program because that's the help that's familiar to them.

It's unfair to use that as an argument against religion.

Jewish Atheist said...


Don't you think religion is complicit in encouraging the sort of thinking that causes people to make bad decisions? People are encouraged by their religious leaders to "have faith," discouraged from asking certain questions, and taught to distrust the scientific community. And the fact that religion is so enmeshed in AA is no coincidence.

Jewish Atheist said...

anonymous, thanks for your story.

stc said...

Don't you think religion is complicit in encouraging the sort of thinking that causes people to make bad decisions.?

Yes, I have to admit that often it's so. You know that I'm just as critical of some forms of religion as you are.

People are encouraged by their religious leaders to "have faith," discouraged from asking certain questions, and taught to distrust the scientific community.

I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with being encouraged to have faith. If it means, "Don't see a doctor; don't lift a finger to help yourself; just let go and let God" — I'm as opposed to that kind of religion as you are.

But "have faith" can also mean, "Do everything in your power to help yourself, but take comfort in the fact that it doesn't all rely on you." Sometimes that kind of encouragement can be very beneficial — whether because God really works with people of faith, or because of merely psychological benefits, I won't presume to tell you.

And the fact that religion is so enmeshed in AA is no coincidence.

It's not a coincidence, but why put a cynical spin on it? If an alcoholic came to me for assistance, I would encourage him to utilize every resource at his disposal, including God (if he was able to accept it).

I really can't comment on twelve step programs, because my knowledge of it is cursory. I only wanted to point out, people are people. At intervals, you blame religion for unhelpful behaviours that are just as commonplace outside of the church.

Jewish Atheist said...

I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with being encouraged to have faith. If it means, "Don't see a doctor; don't lift a finger to help yourself; just let go and let God" — I'm as opposed to that kind of religion as you are.

Actually, I'm talking more about faith as reason for belief. Not "faith in God" as in "trusting God," but "faith in God" as "believe in God despite the lack of evidence."

If an alcoholic came to me for assistance, I would encourage him to utilize every resource at his disposal, including God (if he was able to accept it).

As would I. BUT, I would encourage him to focus on the resources which have been shown to help the most and stay away from those which harm.

At intervals, you blame religion for unhelpful behaviours that are just as commonplace outside of the church.

I agree that many of the behaviors are simply human nature. However, the church has consistently fought the techniques that humanity has discovered to compensate for our inborn flaws -- chiefly skepticism and empiricism. Moreover, rather than help its followers outgrow irrational thought patterns, it cynically takes advantage of them.

Q, I know that not all religion is guilty of this, but so much of it is that I don't think it's unfair to blame religion as a whole.

JDHURF said...

Actually this topic hits very close to home for me, not only have I worked at a "12 step program" and then attended various AA and NA meetings but I had started writing an essay on the disaster that is the 12 step program and this post has inspired me to finish it. It is simply a matter of reality that the program is an abysmal failure, this is indisputable, sure it works for some people but some people will latch onto anything in order to recover and simply because an extremely minor percentage of people benefit from, say, EST doesn't mean that it is beneficial to everyone and should be encouraged as the only route to recovery. I am also entirely sick of hearing people claim that addiction is a "disease", NO it is NOT!! It is defined in the DSM IV under a clinical syndrome and is no where to be found under the In the 12 step program you are taught that you are "powerless" - step one - that you are "an addict for life" and that you must "take it one day at a time" these are some pretty bleak messages coming from a program that is supposed to help some of the most run down individuals out there.

Anonymous said...

JA I have a question? If a student doesn't do their work do they fail the course? Did it ever occur to you that maybe many people who attend 12 step meetings aren't doing the actual 12 steps. Not to mention there are atheists who remain atheists in AA so I don't know what your problem is. Also the Big Book says rather clearly that ts not the authority and that if somone else has a way that works for them then fine. There is no presumed dogma in the program itself they are suggestions. In all seriousness how much do you know about this. You read some articles that critique it, which is fine but investigating both sides is what scientists or at least good scientists do, they observe ALL the evidence and then draw a conclusion. Unless of course your into M-theory then we just math it out and speculate.

JDHURF said...

Anonymous you are absolutely wrong. I have worked at two twelve step program treatment facilities, Valley Hope and 12&12, and have attended over a hundred AA and NA meetings combined.
Furthermore I have a question for you: if the AA book, which necessarily constitutes the 12 steps, is actually not the authority and an individual can use another way in order to help themselves, then is it not a case of the 12 step program *not* being implemented at all?
There actually is a presumed dogma in the 12 step program and to argue otherwise illustrates, rather well, your absolute ignorance of it. It also says no where within an AA book or an NA book that the 12 steps and the books themselves are merely suggestions, I have both books in my possession by the way.

Here is a rather large contradiction within the 12 step program:

“We are not a religious organization. Our program is a set of *spiritual* principles through which we are recovering from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. Throughout the compiling of this work, we have prayed: GOD, grant us the knowledge that we may write according to Your Divine precepts. Instill in us a sense of Your purpose. Make us servants of Your will and grant us a bond of selflessness, that this may truly be Your work, not ours – in order than no addict, anywhere, need die from the horrors of addiction.”

Now is it not absolutely and embarrassingly contradictory to, with the same paragraph, claim that the organization is not religious and then pray to an all capitalized god?

Here is some 12 step dogma:

1. Addiction is a disease.
2. Only through the power of an Islamic-Judeo-Christian monotheistic god (mainly Christian) can one be “saved” from addiction. Evidence, Step 2 – We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. Step 3 – We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
3. Addicts are essentially helpless, powerless and can only abstain from using drugs on a day to day basis through belief and prayer in god and the 12 step group collective.

I have to say anonymous it seems to me that it is you that doesn’t have the slightest inclination as to what your talking about, I have garnered quite a bit of experience and knowledge pertaining to the 12 step program and its abysmal failure and I claim, and am going to finish an essay about this very subject, that this is due mostly to the religiosity of the program.
just math it out and speculate.

Jewish Atheist said...

Did it ever occur to you that maybe many people who attend 12 step meetings aren't doing the actual 12 steps.

Sure. But regardless of the reason, 12 step programs simply aren't as effective as other treatments. It's not really relevant *why* they aren't effective.

Not to mention there are atheists who remain atheists in AA so I don't know what your problem is.

I know that. My problem is that AA is treated as the single best solution to alcoholism, when the data show that it's not in reality nearly the best.

Anonymous said...

AA doesn't advocate that. AA says we are here if you want us, and if something else works for you then do that, I don't understand your upset because AA is more well known then lets say rational recovery? AA is 71 years old it has been around a while and it does work for many. Also not everyone who abuses alchohol is necessarily alchohlic. Also JA what other treatments are you reffering to?

Jdhurf I'm very proud that you work at atreatment faciltiy and have attended over 100 aa/na meetings. I've attended at least 10 times that if not more, so I do know what I'm talking about. 2)You were quoting NA's basic Text not the AA Book the origion of the 12 steps is AA not NA. Thridly the reason as I said is that it is failing is because people aren't taking the course of action suggested as a program of recovery. Its like saying I went to the doctor and took half of the dosage why am I still sick. If you want something to work you have to do it properly. By The Way read Alcholhilcs Anonymous page 59 third sentence "Here are the Steps we took which are suggested as a program of recovery" you can look it up fpr yourself. Also JA acknowledges that there are atheists in AA as well, and NO ONE forces anyone to do anything involving G-d. What you think because you work in a treatment center that you know AA. Have you ever actually done the work yourself?Also see AA page 164 second Paragraph first sentence "Our Book is meant to be suggestive ONLY". Jd thank you for calling me ignorant but it appears that you are the one who is. So the book says its suggestive, it claims follow the suggestions and you will live your life sober and happy because thats what worked for us, then you in your treatment center see people who mostly are there to clean up and recoup so they don't die, or because they were mandated there by court, most of them don't want to stop so 12 step programs don't work because you say they don't. Meanwhile most people in the treatment business facility are rushed along anyway $ are more important than people and its AA/NA's fault because people who didn't want to stop should. People who don't want to stop won't follow the suggestion. People who take the suggestions and practice them as principles for use in their life do live sober and sane lives and there are Atheist,Christians,Muslims,Jews,Hindus,
Non-Denominational belivers and people from all ethnicites and walks of life.So how can you say what your saying is valid. Also your "12 step facilites" are not AA affiliated or endorsed by AA world Services, its a private ORg that chose the 12 steps as its preffered method of treatment. Also About your 3 dogmas 1)Actually it claims that it is an Allergy foloowed by a mental obsession (see the doctor's opinion in AA), many elect to call it a disease and there are those in medicine who understand it that waythere are others who understand it diffferently, either way it seems everyone agrees something is screwed up.
2)Believing in a power greater than yourself simply means acknowledging that you as an individual are not the alpha and omega. The third step actually contradicts what you claim is dogma because it says as we understood Him. Furthermore AA says "when we speak to you of God we mean your own conception of God" page 47 top line.
3) People suffering from addiction generally are powerless to stop. Try this give booze to a drunk and heroine to a dopehead and have them drink one shot or do one bag. Tell them they can do one a day forever and see how long that lasts. If they can they are not by definition alchoholic/addict. Being powerless means loss of control over ones ability to maintain their consumption of the substance not what your obviously derisive tone implies. BTW most people in life are powerless, go stop the war in Iraq tomorrow or maybe try to control the orbit of mars, believe it or not, not everything is in the scope of human control (I know this is schocking to many of you but when you find a way to cheat death which is of course thermodynamics(Law of Entropy) doing its thing let me know).
What AA claims is that some kind of spiritual experience is required to recover from Alchoholism. However the particulars are explained in Chapter four "We Agnostics" and it is also explained in the Second Appendix.Also the thrid Appendix might interest you. My penultimate note: owning a book dosn't mean you have read it and Jdurhf you certainly haven't very well.Oh And yes I do Believe in God very much but guess what blaming religion and religiosity because humans are effectivly stupid and childish proves again my favorite Axiom: Man will consistently blame every external factor as long as he remains blameless as it is the nature of the human animal to have no responsibility even for his own actions. rather he must lay blameless for his crimes and sins and blame it on God,religion,Politics,Society,philosophy,the Moon or whatever else consoles his self-centered mind and egoistic soul (or psyche if you prefer). As long as he is not at fault all is well.Think about this one does it apply?

Shlomo Leib Aronovitz said...

When religious idiots talk about how Jesus saves peopkle from all kinds of addictions, I ask them "Which addiction or character flaw was Jesus most concerned with?"

Answer: GREED

And I have yet to see any church sponsor a 12 step to cure it!

Jewish Atheist said...


Perhaps AA is not at fault. I know they are well-meaning and I've posted before about how they do some great things to avoid some of the dogma.

What upsets me is that AA is presented as THE cure (or at least the best) for alcoholism by much of America when the data show that various psychological treatments or even do-it-yourself stuff work better. If AA helps you, great. But how many people are there who could be helped by some other modality but are funnelled into AA by the courts or well-meaning but misguided friends or doctors?

Anonymous said...

JA I understand what your saying but AA doesn't promote itself it exists and says we will gain by attraction not promotion (one of the traditions BTW). So if you dislike the fact that AA is being pushed as number one thats fine but realize that its number one because people who actually use it do live well and healthy and sober and sane. Most court mandated people don't want to stop, they aren't in AA because they want to be there. They are there because if they don't bring a sheet of paaper in signed by the chairpeopel of the meetings they'll go to jail. Jail or an AA meeting for 3 months. They'll choose AA any day. The reason it is number one is because it does work for those who want it to. But one can't make the horse drink at the water. Believe me send them to Rational recovery or whatever and if they really don't want to stop they won't regardless of the Rehabs and doctors. I knew a guy may he rest in peace who just couldn't get it. You know why he would come back to AA, because in AA at least people would be nice to him try to help and give him a place to stay for a bit (in the winter). He never got it though and he drank himself to death at 54. He looked like he was 80. He had a friend who was sober 27 years in AA by the time of his death. It worked for one and not the other. Why? As far as it seems to me one was willing enough to give the 12 step work a shot and the other didn't want to. One was honset with himself anf the other wasn't. Listen I've seen people I know go out thinking they could control it, the lucky ones die and the unlucky slowly rot away in a nut house or miserable until they die. Its really no joke. Like anything else in life, and as an Atheist you will understand this, if you don't act nothing gets done. The problem is in people not working. Is representative democracy a failure because our system is filled with greedy pols or is it simply that we let it fall apart because we give them power. The same applies across the board.

A much wiser man than I used to say: Pray as if there is a G0d and act as if there isn't. Thereby you have done everything you can, and have been honest with yourself. As you know I do believe in G0d but I don't force Him down others throats, and I also don't believe that G0d wants to tie my shoes for me and that he expects me to work a little bit and not expect Him to just do for me, He will help me indeed but I have to put in the effort. Thats my belief.

Sl Aronovitz just so you know corruption in the Church has nothing to do with the religion. I'm not a christian by the way so I'm not saying that the church isn't corrupt or that christianity doesn't make some wild and to me absurd claims, but that doesn't mean every christian is greedy or insincere.If they are sincere in their belief and don't harm others they are probably positive productive people. Lets face it religion can be a business but then again so is politics and fast food, don't you think fast food and tobacco are more likely to destory this country than Religion? Granted religion can be used for evil but so can anything else. The fact that people use cars to kill people dosn't mean a car is a bad thing it simply means that the person has used it for bad. Please stop blaming externals for the faults of humanity its getting really old reading that kind of nonsense. Excuse after excuse its all garbage.

Shlomo Leib Aronovitz said...


If a religious group espouses ideas that are either patently false, hypocritical, or self serving under the banner of an allleged divine authority, then it follows that the religion IS to blame for the faults of its followers.

People of religion that are good citizens and persons of high ethical character are not good people because religion made them that way; they were likely to be good people anyhow and remain good inspite of what their religion teaches.

This, however, has nothing to do with my original comment. The fact is that Christian Churches sponsor all sorts of 12 Step and recovery groups yet, in their zealotry, forget or avoid the one form of addiction that Jesus himself mentioned no less that 10 times; that being the sin of GREED.

One is left to wonder if the Churches really follow Jesus or if they are afraid to offend the ones who pay their salaries.

JDHURF said...

Anonymous, I concede that the AA book does in fact claim that the principles they lay out are merely “suggestions” but to me this makes little difference. I was quoting the NA book but the AA and NA books are virtually the same book, I have read them both. Granted it has been a few years because I quit the 12 step nonsense after I simply couldn’t stomach the religiosity, I mean every meeting there is a prayer and there is nonstop talk about “god as you understand him.” So my memory is not as clear when it comes to every claim the books make, they are similar to the bible in that they do contradict themselves often which is cause for some confusion.

You claim over and over again that no one in the 12 step program forces you to do anything, which I agree with, but you claim that one can *theoretically* engage the steps as an atheist yet you also claim that when the program doesn’t work it is because the individual is not actually “working the steps.” Now keeping in mind that atheists *do not* believe in god whatsoever, also keeping in mind that you claim atheists can work the program effectively and that the reason why the program fails is because one is not actually working the steps then how in the world do you surmount this inescapable fact? Step 3: “we made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him” Well how can an atheist work the program as it “suggests” if one of the steps is explicitly asking for them to do something which is simply not possible? Atheists do not believe in god mind you. This seems contradictory to your claims.

As for calling you ignorant I apologize, that was unnecessary.

It is also true that many people that fail to recover are failing because they simply are not putting forth the required effort to reform themselves or have absolutely no intention of reforming their addiction in the first place. I disagree not BUT the fact remains that the 12 step programs recovery rate is exceedingly lower than other treatment facilities, such as Narconon, which oddly enough has ties to Scientology.

Also I believe one problem that JA has with AA is one that I share, AA is the program that the majority, if not all, of the states mandate for individuals to go to when they are either in legal or psychiatric trouble. We had innumerous individuals come to the treatment facilities because a judge had ordered them to either because they were in trouble with the legal system or because they were being transferred from, say, a psych ward after attempted suicide. The 12 step program is the average state sponsored recovery system and this is what JA and I both take issue with and if for no other reason than abysmal success rates but I would go further than JA and take issue with the heavy religiosity of a state sponsored or mandated program, this is unconstitutional.

Anonymous said...

While this discussion is interesting, it's not helpful to me. I am going through a change in thinking about the existence of God. I also have been clean for 5 years in the NA program. I don't care to dispute whether or not NA works. Simply put, it works for me when no other method could. I was first introduced to the program in 1991, have relapsed after being clean for nearly 4 years, almost lost my life and freedom once again to my addiction, found my way back in for two years, went back out with the same results, came back in and have a strong recovery program today. I don't care what anyone thinks about NA or any 12 step program. I am interested in the personal results in my own life.

I was raised christian and upon entering NA the first time up until recently abandoned that road and called it spirituality instead. Recently my personal beliefs have changed and I do not believe in any supernatural God, which includes self-defined spirituality. I believe after you die you simply cease to exist.

I find the best thing in NA that helps me is the close identification I find with other people who are addicts and have formed a close support group for individuals who also self diagnose themselves as addicts. We help each other stay clean. We do not hang out with people who use but with each other. We socialize together. We celebrate holidays and support each other in many other ways than the primary symptom of addiction. We help each other through life and life's problems.

I may be losing my faith in religion and God, but am not losing my faith in my program or the way it has changed and continues to change my life.

I am interested in NA members or other 12 step members who are able to work within the fellowship and are also atheists.

Read the last personal story in the NA basic text. It was wrote by an atheist. It is possible to be a member and be an atheist at the same time. I am not alone, but am a minority within the group. I hole my tongue a lot in meetings but that's OK. I am mature enough to take what I can use and leave the rest behind.

That's enough for now. Anyone else have any experience as FIRST being a 12 step member in recovery who happens to be an atheist as well? How do you personally deal with the spirituality part of the steps and the program? Any links?

Anonymous said...

Show me some of the evidence that TSP's are "an abysmal failure"...
I really think you need to stop reading peoples phony internet rhetoric and get involved yourself...
Why does this concern you anyway?
I think this blog or whatever it is, is just about God bashing...

Wayne said...

I stumbled upon this site from LaShawn's blog and am glad I found it. Excellent! I'm someone that got sober in spite of AA and had negative experience after negative experience in AA. only after I got out of it could i really get my head on straight. Quit drinking a while ago and won't be drinking again until after I die - at which point my corpse is going to do a shot of whiskey for old times sake. AA works for some people but it was suffocating me and no doubt suffocates many. There are many ways to stop drinking and as long as it works and you're happy with it, no one should have a word to say about it (of course that assumes you aren't hurting anyone else but that goes without saying).

Clive said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
starman714 said...

Here we are three years later and I'm still waiting for a post that provides any real data to prove TSP's "an abysmal failure"