I am both a recovering alcoholic and recovering adult child of an alcoholic. I’ve made great progress through 12-step programs such as AA and Al-Anon and I am grateful for their existence. However, the underlying “spiritual” nature of the program and the subsequent god talk has always fallen rather flat with me.

Many times I have asked myself exactly what am I doing in a program that can’t seem to bring itself into the 21st century. The program works without needing to believe in any kind of god, higher power or spiritual quasi mystical hoo hoo. I’m an atheist and a secular humanist and I now go to great lengths to share that with my fellow members.

It turns out I am not alone. There are many atheists “in the pew” as it were.  I get thanked all the time by other secular members who seem abashed or fearful to express their lack of belief. It has gotten me to wondering if there are strictly secular approaches that exist. What alternatives to AA or Al-Anon exist that are more up to date with the science and psychological understanding of our present age?

My mantra for has become “I am powerful.”  I’m just not all powerful and it is important I get straight about certain facts of existence so that I can exert my own “power” (not to be construed to be anything but the power of human will and my psychology.

I know that there must be other atheists here who are recovering from addiction or coping with the addiction of a loved one. What alternatives have you found to be useful? Are their secular support groups for people such as us? I’d love to hear from you.

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Hi and well done, not an easy one to go through. You mentioned that you are also the adult child of an alcoholic. Sounds like you are predisposed to adiction by genetics. Have you tried CBT ( Cognitive behavioural therapy) It helps addiction, depression, OCD and other problems. Basicaly it works by finding the negative triggers and responses and turning them into a positive. You work on the thought pattern of the mind that is astablished and change that , which means changing the way you feal about yourself, the way you view others, the meaning you attach to words and actions of others and respond to that. It is to learn how to dictate to your mind and not your mind to you. Taking controle of your automatic thought patern and your automatic respons to that. Their is self help books on this , but therapy works best and why not start your own group where religion does not make out part of the sharing, a group where you will feal at home to be yourself. A group is about sharing, with people that can truly say I do understand what you are going through, that will be able to suport you without any preconcieved ideas or hidden agendas. And mostly where you can find the suport that you need. Stay strong and be proud, I admire the fact that you can talk about this.:)

I went to Al-anon for several years and gave up on it because I couldn't move forward with it...the 12 steps we're something I could do without a higher power that made sense. This was a couple of years before I figured out there is no God. 

The lasting impact in my life from the program came from two concepts:

1) Detachment. A great concept when dealing with jacked up people whose behavior could affect you. However this is not a concept that cannot be found elsewhere. 

2) Surrender. The idea of admitting your life is out of control and that you cannot be well without a higher power--it was suggested to me that I make the group or the program itself a substitute for a higher power.  This is a very dangerous concept because it erodes your sense of self-determination, responsibility and empowerment. It took me as many years as I was in the program to undo that mindfuck!

It frustrates me that I was referred to al-anon by a licensed counselor. I wish there had been an alternative support system for family members/friends of addicts that my counselor respected enough to recommend. 

SMART recovery is secular.

Hi Ezra,

    For some reason the words "Secular Sobriety" popped into my head. So I googled it. Here is the wikipedia page: Secular_Organizations_for_Sobriety

Take a look at the external links and references section and you may find what you are looking for.

Hope you find what you are after.


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