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.

Tags: Alcoholism

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I have no clue personally, but I know a laugh or two is always good and whenever an atheist mentions AA I show them this bit of Stanhope:


I wish you luck, stay strong.

LMAO! Thanks for sharing

Hey Ezra, way to go! Good for you. I have recovered from alcohlism and have been clean and sober now for about 7 years. Prior to I was out of control and almost died several times due to either alcohol poisoning or a dangerous situation from being wasted. I was introduced to alcohol at an early age. A large portion of my teenage years and early 20's are a blur. Most of what I do remember I wish I had forgotten.

I started going to AA because I was desperate. It works. I think what works about it is it forces you to come to terms with WHY you drink. For me it was to numb reality. To this day I am recovering from the ramifications of all of this and while I am clean and sober without question, I am actually still healing.

I was a theist when I went through AA and it was a driving force behind why I was one. I do not know what it would be like to as an Atheist. Maybe we should start a group called aaa: (atheist alcohilics anonymous) lol.

There are already non religious recovery groups . There is SOS ( Secular Organization for Recovery ) , as well as Rational Recovery . AA does not work . Give yourself credit for your recovery . Not some bullshit religious cult whose only real goal is to convert as many extremely desperate , vulnerable people to their delusional beliefs . Really says it all when religion has to prey on the most vulnerable to gain adherents .

Really says it all when religion has to prey on the most vulnerable to gain adherents .

+1, That's when they get ya..They even come by with the short bus and give you a ride..

 Not some bullshit religious cult whose only real goal is to convert as many extremely desperate , vulnerable people to their delusional beliefs

As an oversimplified general rule, I would wager that the more diseased, illiterate and poor a country is... the more religious it is. Religion needs vulnerability to operate. 

That's a great idea, but pretty sure the automobile people have "AAA" locked up.

Atheism: at least we'll always have comedians on our side. I can live with that.

AA's closely guarded secret is that its success rate is about 5% . The same as someone quitting and abstaining on their own . There is absolutely no peer reviewed evidence that this religious bullshit cult actually helps anyone .

Hey Ray, I'm curious where you got that statistic?

From AA itself . The last time they released a statistic was 1987 . Five percent success rate . They haven't made that mistake again , preferring to make up crap instead . Check out Penn and Teller's "Bullshit" episode on twelve step programs in general and AA in particular . A very illuminating exposé' into the fraudulent , bullshit racket that is AA.
It is an unfortunate and pathetic fact that religion has cornered the market so to speak on alcohol and substance abuse treatment . Quackery such as this has done great harm and ruined innumerable lives that otherwise would have benefitted from scientific , evidence based medical treatment .

I can hardly believe this, but I once wrote a thesis entitled, "The Acquisition of Faith: A Phenomenological Study of Spiritual Crisis, Transcendence, and Recovery from Addiction."  Part of what I was trying to understand was what happened to that 5%.  How do they recover when so many others can't?  

The conclusion I came to was that, whatever the means, there has to be a fundamental and profound shift in thinking.  Something monumental has to happen in the psyche of the addict or alcoholic to facilitate change.  That's a huge, vague understatement, but it's crucial for lasting recovery.  Sometimes AA or NA attendance can help to bring about that change.

I agree, by the way, that AA/NA are very cult-like.  I was actually at a meeting the other night, helping my friend to celebrate 25 years in recovery.  Looking at it as an outsider, it is scary.  I don't think there are sinister intentions behind the 12-step fellowships, but they do seem to trap many people's psyches at a point beyond which they don't grow as individuals.  


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