Context of the question: I am a nursing student that was given a case study of alcoholism. The subject of the study claims to be atheist.


Question: What are some therapeutic options for alcoholism (including physical dependance) that would be acceptable to an atheist? (Side question, should atheist be capitalized like Deaf person is?)


I can defend my reasoning why the client should not be required to attend AA. I need other treatment options that would be acceptable that do not include the 12 steps.


Thank you.

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In grammar, you would be absolutely correct. In the context of Deaf culture, it is supposed to be capitalized. I personally think it is rather conceited for Deaf persons to insist on the capitalization, but that is their culture and the way they do it. Thank you for the input. The cat is safely killed on this side subject  :-)  - Might be a useful starting place for finding a secular program.

as an atheist in early recovery (5 months), i can say that it is rough in aa.  its not that its not helpful, it often is, but their culture is an "all or nothing" approach to recovery.  i was told numerous times that i needed to find that higher power, or i'd likely fail.  (not a good thing to tell someone in their first few weeks.  it tends to freak us out.)


as nelson said, smartrecovery is an option, and a good one.  the trouble is how small they are.  in my area, there is only one meeting a week within a two hour drive.  so i find myself going to aa to fill in the gaps.  i find that aa is better than nothing, as there seems to be no real replacement for a supportive community of recovering addicts.  but if its at all feasible, using smartrecovery (or some secular equivalent) as the basis of that community is definitely preferable.

I have been sober for 11 years with AA, being an open atheist since 4 years. I have found very difficult to continue the game of the "high power" to be happy and aware about what is going on with the alcohol's problems, but my recovery under this new perspective has taken a very long way for a couple years specially in relation with the opposition from some AA's members, but eventhough I dont care what they say today, I dont recommend to anybody who is trying the very first time to quit the drinking stay away from AA if there is not another options around his area.

I came out at my NA home group around three years clean. Kind of a mixed response. Most have been supportive. I tried to capital B Believe for years. Guess I ask too many of the wrong sort of questions. I'm in a small community and I definitely appreciate the support group and 'holding each other accountable' aspects of the program. I still go, mostly in case any other 'outcasts among outcasts' come through the door they aren't shamed back out by the Old-Timers.

My doctor in the u.k said to me when I had a really heavy drink problem about going to the A.A for help,but as soon as he  mentioned it I said no- way as I knew what they were about,I don't know about the U.S but in the U.K we have Community Drug and Alcohol Team (C.D.A.T)who after an initial chat will take you on as long as it's you who wants to give up,not because someones told you too.I had to bring my drinking down on my own to about 50 units per week then I could do their 5 day detox(no alcohol,was just given valium whenever I got the shakes and sweats)but over that week had to start to take a medication called campral to help reduce cravings and antibuse(Disulfiram) which is a big deterrent ,which you have to sign for as it could kill you if you had a drink while on it,any type of alcohol could make you feel ill even if you used aftershave!if and you didn't check it was alcohol free  it would react with the antibuse and in 5mins you would have a banging headache so imagine actually having a drink,I did once,I had half a can and by the time I had slowly drank the half I was violently ill(and i really mean violently),never did again.I stayed on the antibuse(by choice)for 2 years,that was 6years ago.I know some people then abstain for life but I go out with my friends now once a month to catch up and I'm able to have a couple of beers but that's all ! As I know that if i got drunk it could all start again,and I know that it's just not worth it.

Humanist Steps

Below is another version of secularized steps created by the renowned behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner and first published in "The Humanist".

1. We accept the fact that all our efforts to stop drinking have failed.

2. We believe that we must turn elsewhere for help.

3. We turn to our fellow men and women, particularly those who have struggled with the same problem.

4. We have made a list of the situations in which we are most likely to drink.

5. We ask our friends to help us avoid those situations.

6. We are ready to accept the help they give us.

7. We honestly hope they will help.

8. We have made a list of the persons we have harmed and to whom we hope to make amends.

9. We shall do all we can to make amends, in any way that will not cause further harm.

10. We will continue to make such lists and revise them as needed.

11. We appreciate what our friends have done and are doing to help us.

12. We, in turn, are ready to help others who may come to us in the same way.


First step in AA is "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol."  I kept asking, "If I'm powerless over alcohol, how come I'm voluntarily in rehab?"

I agree completely with Holland's statement, "contact with previous friends will lead to relapse. even the ones who are not abusers will lead to contact of old bad habits. it is the whole old familiar environment that will lead to relapse."  It is vital to remove yourself completely from the previous environment of social and not-so-social drinking.  At my AA group I came out as atheist and gay and I ignored the "Higher Power" nonsense.  It was the compassion of the group and the commonality of our lives that helped me quit.  Any kind of god was simply unnecessary.  That was a dozen years ago and still the smartest decision I have ever made.

This and other papers seem to show rather clearly that no one should go to AA.  While it may not be directly detrimental, it entails a great deal of effort for no apparent benefit.



They continually imply/state at the close of every single NA meeting that people who do not follow their particular religious abstinence program will end up in "jails, institutions, or death."

It is not the "take what you like, leave the rest!" program it pretends to be. It is a giant deceptive bait-and-switch with ridiculously high rates of rape (frequently aka "13th stepping" but that can also just mean in group dating, which says a lot about the group right there.)

As a former addict my opinion is that addiction is not an illness, it's a compulsion based on fear of being without a crutch. Remove the fear and you remove the desire for the drug. It needs a subtle psychological shift from 'How will I survive without it?' to 'Life is going to improve beyond recognition without it and I can't wait to get free". To do this you need to examine all the reasons/myths you imbibe and explode them one by one. The panic addicts feel is akin to hunger. To get a clearer understanding I suggest you take a look at Allen Carr's "The Easy Way To Stop Smoking" and substitute "smoking" for "alcohol". It's how I freed myself and in my opinion it's the way forward in treatment of all addictions. Hope this helps! 


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