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Can atheists succeed in 12 Step?

Discussion in '12-Step Support Groups' started by Linno, Feb 15, 2015.

  1. Linno

    Linno Member

    I like the idea of a program that involves a structure like the 12 steps, however, as an atheist I find the religious nature off-putting. I don't believe in a god or any other kind of higher power so I don't know how atheists make programs like this work for them? Is it possible just to ignore all the 'god' talk, or is there an alternate way to look at it. I'd also be keen to hear of any other secular recovery programs that people would recommend. Thanks!
  2. jeremy2

    jeremy2 Community Champion

    Do you believe that you can recover from addiction? What is the reason for that belief? I can only urge you to search deep within yourself and whatever reason that you may have for believing in any program, follow it with your heart and am pretty sure it will work for you. All the best.
  3. 4rainydays

    4rainydays Member

    I think you can successfully succeed in the 12 step program. Although there is quite a bit of religion mixed into it, you can ignore those aspects and still succeed. In the end, it's all about how much you want to change. Everyone is just trying to help. Just take the religious comments as their way of encouragement.
  4. JoanMcWench

    JoanMcWench Community Champion

    A higher power doesn't necessarily mean a God or faith based power. Most of the time the higher power suggested for atheists is the group itself. Another interesting fact is how many agnostics or atheists have gone into these programs & walked out WITH a higher power that was faith based. Sometimes the need to survive outweighs preconceived ideas about faith.
  5. Jane

    Jane Active Contributor

    As others said, it's not necessarily about God...but just a higher faith of some sort, even if that's in yourself. You can make it work.

    Also, there are secular groups that might be up your alley instead such as Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) that use similar steps but without the God focus.
  6. Coltodor

    Coltodor Member

    You should be successful no matter your religious views. If you just commit yourself to being abstinent and focus on that then on any religious aspect then you should be good. Having a religious aspect distract you from your goals can hamper your effort to be free of your addiction.
  7. Charli

    Charli Community Champion

    I don't think it would be the best path for an atheist since from what I understand those groups rely heavily on people admitting that they are powerless and should recognize that there is a god that will help them with their problems. It's probably much better to just find another method where you wouldn't be forced to accept a certain belief system just to get well.
  8. medievalmama

    medievalmama Community Listener Community Listener

    While it is true that Bill Wilson developed the 12 steps based on The Oxford Group (a Christian organization), you do not need to have any particular belief, or any belief at all. One of the early members, who was present in the writing/review phase of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, was an atheist. He was responsible for the clause "as you understand him" and insisted on the use of "Higher Power."

    I would have to ask if you are agnostic, or truly atheist? Do you have any belief in the laws of the universe, pulse or flow of life? What is the energy that keeps the electrons whirling around the nucleus? The only "requirement" is being willing to believe that there might possibly be a power greater than yourself. For some, it is G.O.D. (Group Of Drunks). As a group, they would physically be a power greater than yourself. The best advise I could give is to try it. Keep an open mind. You might find something you like.
  9. Kteabc

    Kteabc Member

    You should read "We Agnostics" in the big book. Its a really mind opening chapter. I didn't ever consider myself an athiest, in fact I was raised southern babtist. But once I read that chapter and started finding myself in the sentences I was able to be open an minded enough that things aren't always the way we perceive them. That in turn opened my mind to the rest of the book. BE OPEN MINDED.
    medievalmama likes this.
  10. pineywood

    pineywood Community Champion

    Oh, you threw out some wonderful words of advice and insight into this program I want you to know that your knowledge is going to be far reaching and go beyond this forum. I am going to share the clause, "as you understand him" or more specifically the truth in understanding the power of being surrounded by a G.O.D. (Group Of Drunks). I think this is going to truly resonate with my loved one! She closed the door on this option and now I will be able to give her the opportunity to re-open her mind to participating in this program. So, I sincerely thank you! Also, a big thank you to Kteabc! I am going to ask her to begin with "We Agnostics" in the big book. I think, I will read it, too.
  11. Tremmie

    Tremmie Community Champion

    You can definitely ignore the ''God'' or higher power bit and see if that works for you. But to be honest I have seen this kind of group hasn't helped some atheist people. Someone who comes in my mind is a couple who attended the same EA meetings as my mom, they were both atheists and they are as awful as always. Very anti social people, but I think the outcome depends on your personality in the end. And also depends on the group you are attending...

    I'm not atheist, but the higher power part bothers me a bit, it always has. I just don't agree with it. I believe the power to quit came from within myself... You just can attribute everything to a higher power! We all have the strength to quit inside us... we just need the right motivation.
  12. PLP Rob

    PLP Rob Active Contributor

    As a fellow non-believer, I get this perspective 100%. That said, if you think there's value to be had in a 12-step program, I'd encourage you to give it a try. Personally, as I've gotten older, I've grown far more tolerant of religious people and perspectives. As long as everyone's cordial, we can all believe what we want and it's fine with me. As for the 'higher power', you can easily customize that to your worldview. It's as simple as thinking of the higher power as your higher self, or best self, which has the added benefit of being something you can actually aspire to. Not a perfect invisible god, but a better you. The best you. No superstition or supernatural entities required. :)
  13. Sarasmiles

    Sarasmiles Member

    Yes, I have known atheists and non-religious people like myself who had great success with 12 step meetings. It's just a matter of getting past the first meeting and getting over the worry or preconceptions. It's not a church (some meetings are in churches but it's not a church service). Try to feel the love and support from friends in meetings, to me that's part of the Power greater than myself. Best of luck to you and good wishes!:)
  14. juno

    juno Community Champion

    I think a lot of people confuse 12 step as being a religious program, but it is not. I think atheists can succeed in 12 step just as much as anyone else. You don't have religious activities. Steps of asking for forgiveness can be a part of any human beings life.
  15. JohnBeaulieu

    JohnBeaulieu Community Champion

    The higher power bit is clearly a religious aspect of the program. it may be generalized and not limited to one religious view but there is no denying it. People in the programs have tried to rationalize this away for years but the simple fact is an atheist doesn't believe in a higher power. I don't know if an atheist would succeed or fail in a 12 step program because it depends on the person. The success rate of 12 step programs appears to be fairly low in general so religious preference may not have anything to do with it. that said, I wouldn't discourage anybody from trying a 12 step program because there are some very good core components that help with more issues than just addiction and it may very well work for them.
  16. xTinx

    xTinx Community Champion

    Most rehab programs aren't religion-oriented so anyone, regardless of belief, is welcome. Rehab centers are geared towards helping substance abusers return to society without any untoward consequences. Adding controversial and personal subjects like religion into the mix will hamper the programs' effectivity.
  17. Apollo545

    Apollo545 Active Contributor

    Of course! As a matter of fact, I think that the change of pace may even speed your recovery. You do not have to believe, but even pretending to believe can strengthen your sense of community and you may even discover some principles that you agree with through attending. Nothing is better for the mind than seeing things from a different perspective. I have been involved in many different religious practices and philosophies and I can say that it's a positive experience to add another dimension to your understanding of life, even if you don't believe it, you will have that experience to recount to affirm your own beliefs.
  18. danjon

    danjon Senior Contributor

    I'm fairly sure there was a group here in the UK which aimed solely at atheists, but it's like others have said, the "higher power" concept is quite important in AA and you'd need some way to make this idea fit into your treatment program.

    The best bet is just to give it a go, and if it isn't working, reassess.
  19. MichelleVL

    MichelleVL Senior Contributor

    If you don't believe in any type of higher power, not even the universe, then just believe in yourself. All the talk of faith that you hear in the meetings try to apply to yourself and the prospect of being free. Think that you know with all certainty that your strength will help you get through it. Think that if you falter, you are just going to try again, and again, and that you will try harder next time (because we are humans) until you can master total sobriety. It doesn't matter what religion you practice or if none at all. It's doable.
  20. djdrug

    djdrug Community Champion

    Yes, believe in yourself. Your own ability. Considering that 23% of Americans are now atheists, you are not alone. If you get stuck in the minor details, you won't be able to move forward. Religion has nothing to do with the program, you can simply follow the steps. When you read "God", think "I". In any case a lot of eastern philosophy already does that, so its not that big of a deal. Whatever works for you, do it.