I am a long-time clinician that specializes in the treatment of addictive disorders.  I am looking for input from members in this community about how they might view the 12-steps.  I got sober in AA (close to 32 years ago) but left shortly after I started as the heavy reliance on God was off-putting.  I don't have a 12-step orientation and have met clients who could use a fresh approach/new eyes about a non-believers view of the steps.  

I am not a fan of the program so I don't want to get into the discussion about the merits of program, etc.



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I'm too busy trying to master the 2-step, to even think about adding 10 more --

I love Penn and Teller my favorite Bullshit callers. On this one they justly call bullshit on 12 steps. 

Part one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tPNgHrIkgo

Part two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uwx2P5LJgk&feature=relmfu 

Part three: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PjpOsE3xoY&feature=relmfu 

notice the stats after 2 mins on the third part

I have doubts about the reliability of such programs for persons of no faith. Some say that you can internally replace "higher power" with "will power" and just believe in yourself and your ability to quit and so forth. 

Personally I think an atheist suffering with any sort of drug addiction should look at other alternatives. Maybe consider taking some alcohol substitutes combined with will power and see if that works for you

I went to Al-anon because a family member is an alcoholic.  Even before I became and atheist, when I was just doubting and confused, I had problems with the steps involving God.  I never got past step 3, I believe.  I felt like a failure.  I tried to use the slogans and sharing time--to get as much from it as I could.  After a while, I because frustrated, my problems worsened despite the support group, and I just quit.  Looking back, I think the entire premise of "surrendering my will" to any Higher Power subverted my need for empowerment and self-determination.  It was very unhealthy to embrace that way of thinking, and it took a while to reteach myself how to think.

It bothers me that 12 step programs are so ubiquitous.  There are 12 step groups for things that aren't even true addictions.  Too much.  People in need should have alternatives.

I think 12-step programs with the surrendering to God thing probably work for some believers, but the AA doesn't really have a record to crow about.

This program is secular:


On Amazon there is also a book on sobering up without religion:


I have been an active member of a 12 step program for 20 years, and an atheist all my adult life. In brief, when my addiction brought me to an emotional and physical place of complete desperation, I tried a 12 step program. My feelings and beliefs about the program have of course evolved over the years, but in my early recovery I simply made a mental adjustment regarding the term god and higher power in the steps and literature. My "higher power" is a set of ideals and principles which are important to me. This allowed me to use the steps as tools to clear up the wreckage of my past, (no mean feat) and share a common bond and goal with like-minded people, at least in the sense of wanting to stay off drugs and alcohol, and improve our lives. I'd be happy to talk more, but this is the basic premise of how I've stayed clean for 20 years in an essentially christian based program. 

One of the criticisms of the AA's version of 12 steps is that the notion of admitting that one is helpless to deal with the problem oneself is disempowering and it's better to work on the basis of empowerment.

The 12-step programs do not have the wonderful record of success they may lead one to believe they have. One will never separate how much of that is due to the failures of the program and how much is due to the power of alcohol, but there are alternatives to 12 steps which offer at least as much success. There are even programs commonly used in Europe that lead participants back to a responsible drinking pattern.

One curious thing about 12 step programs is this: how can you fight one addiction while allowing another? What do I mean? I believe 12 steppers are supposed to eschew potentially addictive pain killers BUT they are allowed to continue to smoke tobacco!

@Unseen - I'm betting the thinking here is that it's difficult enough to quit alcohol (or drugs, or whatever), but to expect that AND smoking cessation simultaneously is a recipe for failure - it's just asking too much.

I applaud your courage, Mike --!


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