Twelve Step Programs

Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Smokers Anonymous, Over-eaters Anonymous, are all variations of the 12 Step Program, billed as a "non-denominational rehabilitation program" for people with substance abuse and other psychological, social and physical issues.

Many in the free thinking community consider programs like Alcoholics Anonymous to be a religion.

The "Big Book" is the "scripture" of 12-step programs. And the "commandments" are the twelve steps:

The Twelve Steps

AA's 12 steps:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Problems with Alcoholics Anonymous and all 12-Step Programs

  • Most significantly, the first step, admitting you are powerless in combating your addiction seems to completely undermine the entire rehabilitation process. Addiction is an issue of self control. Overcoming it requires personal will power. Outside/External influences can help and often make the difference but if you don't change, nothing changes. So the first step sets the stage for not taking responsibility for changing ones' addiction.
  • Failure is no longer your fault - Because the first step encourages people to admit they're powerless and subsequent steps demand you ask God to take care of things for you, failure is no longer something you need to accept responsibility for. It's in God's hands.
  • The first step sets the stage for steps 2, 3, 6 and 7, where you in essence, pledge to replace one addiction (i.e. alcoholism) with another (the A.A. program itself or religion & dependence upon God to effect positive change in your life).
  • Even after one successfully overcomes their addiction, the 12-step programs encourage people to still consider themselves "addicted" and thus incapable of exercising any self-control or self-determination outside the limitations of the program's world view which gives all credit to God.
  • 12-Step programs are mandated by law/government/courts in many jurisdictions when these programs are clearly religious in nature and a violation of the Separation of church and state.

Testimonials

by DDR 9/16/08

  • The AA 12 steps ruined my life. I worked all 12, with a sponsor more than once, went to traditional 12 step treatment more than once, lived in sober house more than once and NONE OF IT WORKED! Every time I would go back to a meeting they would give the same canned excuse, “You didn't work your first step” Hmmmm..went to multiple treatment, work all 12, had more than one sponsor, gave up apartments to live in sober housing and on and on..Folks, if you want to waste your time getting sober try AA. The real reason we get high is because the buzz is so awesome! If you want to get some God talk, go to church but if you want to get sober, stop getting high, That's it! If you have any other problems go see a shrink.

by runningclam 12/23/08

  • When I joined AA they said that AA was not a religious program but spiritual. References to god were not meant as a specific deity, but the god of your understanding, or higher power. Yet, once you are introduced to the 12 Steps, it becomes clear that this is not true. In fact, some refer to this as the Big Lie.

First, you must come to believe that your higher power (HP) can heal you. Next, you turn your will and your life over to the HP. Then, you must ask your HP to remove your shortcomings with the full expectation that this will happen. Later, you seek to improve your conscious contact with HP. Last, it is presumed that the first eleven steps will result in a spiritual awakening.

Well then, this HP must be able to run your life, answer prayers, heal and be a conscious entity with whom you can have direct contact. Hardly the higher power of my understanding. In fact, it sounds suspiciously like the Christian god, and a fundamentalist at that. In addition, the whole conscious contact thing may have a gnostic rendering that is a kind of heresy as I recall.

As for the spiritual awakening, every drunk needs an epiphany of some sort, even if it is just to realize the he can't drink any more. Anyone can have an epiphany. AA, the 12 Steps or god has nothing to do with it.

In any event, it is clear that AA isn't a spiritual program as much as a religious one. (google: Buchmanism) I would go so far as to say it is a religion in and of itself. I'm willing to bet that if you replaced word "god" with Allah or Rama, our Christian fellows would be quick to call it a cult. There is a shoe called religion and AA fits comfortably within.

I stayed with AA for three years, even though I was told numerous times by senior members that sobriety was impossible unless I gave myself to god. You see, they accepted atheists as members, but this supposed spiritual program fully expected you to find god at some point. No place for a good old fashioned atheist as myself.

About a year after leaving AA I began trying Rational Emotive Therapy. Twenty years later I'm still sober with no problems in that regard.

In all fairness, I must add that in the past twenty years AA has grown up a bit. There doesn't seem to be the same religiosity to it. There is an openness that didn't exist before. I can't speak for other parts of the country but around here, AA has tempered some. Having said that, as long as they preach the 12 Steps, AA should be treated as religious organization, if not a religion.


See Also

Last updated by Nelson Feb 12, 2009.

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