Non-Religious Alcoholics Anonymous

Atheist_sistine_chapleThere’s an old argument about whether Alcoholics Anonymous is a religion (or cult!) or not. The response to the charges is usually to stress that it’s spiritual instead of religious. The difference being the lack of a worship element.

In any case, there is no denying that the founders had religious principles in mind and that is reflected in the 12 steps and the literature. All well and good. Except that some alcoholics rebel against anything that smacks of religion. They do want help and an escape from alcoholism, they simply don’t believe in the supernatural. This group needs help too.

On the surface, it seems impossible. How do you modify a program based on spirituality, make it non-religious and still accomplish anything useful?

Enter the Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.). This group, based in Los Angeles, focuses on abstinence as a separate issue from other aspects of a person’s life. For them, there is a division between recovery and religion, pretty similar to the separation of church and state in the constitution.

S.O.S. is a humanist organization that seeks to adopt any and all methods that are useful in recovery but bases their meetings on group sharing and help, without the traditional 12 steps of AA. They also do not differentiate much between alcoholism and other forms of addiction. According to their materials, they act as a clearing house for information about all forms of addiction.

While not using the Big Book or the 12 steps, they do offer guidelines to their members. You can read them here.

The bottom line is using what works for any particular addict. Here is a quote from one recovering alcoholic who found sobriety without finding God:

“I’ve been sober in AA for over 8 years and I am an athiest. I haven’t worked any steps. I don’t believe in a god. I don’t have a real higher power except for the fact that I have conceded to my innermost self that I cannot take the first drink without it causing me pain and suffering.

I’m not powerless over alcohol, and never have been. I am not spiritually deformed and in need of higher powers to fix me. I do have a thinking problem which tells me that drinking and smoking crack will somehow make me feel better. I have had to take steps to change my thinking. While I have rejected the 12 steps, I do believe they, and the fellowship, are useful in helping to change a person’s thinking and maintaining long term sobriety.”

If that statement resonates with you, a non-religious alcoholics anonymous may be your best bet.