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How Does An Atheist Stay Sober?


therunner
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I've been sober for a little over five years and have been taught the "rules" of AA since coming in. I've believed, not believed and then believed again solely out of fear that if I didn't believe in a higher power/God I would drink again. I feel now that the AA circle has brain washed me intot he higher power/god thing too. Although it's not so bad of a brainwashing as compared to where I was at.

Here's the list in order...

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.

 

 

I ask this question because it say in the big book that, "there is one who has all power, that one is god may you find him now!"

 

Well, I've honestly lost faith in god. I've got just over five years sober. Have worked the steps with a sponsor, have two sponsees and attend meetings on very regular basis. However, the belief in an all powerful god the book describes that I must find, I assume in order to stay sober, I don't have. I did have it at one point but about six months ago I gave up on the belief of a higher power, a god or any other fictional being that I devoted my life too. I now consider myself an atheist, a non-believer or whatever you want to call it. The religious aspects and tone of AA has always made me a a bit weary of the program. And lets face it people, it's a religious program. Believing in a god is the main concept of many religious doctrines - and virtually all western religions that I have been raised around have a god.

 

By using my own conception of god - or God as I understand him as step 3 relates - still leaves me an atheist because I can't understand the conceptualization of any god. Especially the all powerful one the book talks about. About the closest thing I can wrap my head around for being a god of all magnitude, omnipresent being is GRAVITY! And gravity doesn't answer prayers so there is no need to do step 11. And it's hard to turn my life over to gravity as gravity already has my life. And I don't think gravity can restore me to sanity - so there goes number 3.

 

I used to want to believe. No I don't. I have no desire to believe in a god, same as I have no desire to drink. And with all the many different gods out there. If I start making up Gods, like the "own conception of God" thing suggests, I might piss off some other gods and then they make it their duty to get me drunk. I feel I'm doing best by not picking sides against any of them and saying I would rather tune out and have no opinion on the issue.

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I used to want to believe. No I don't. I have no desire to believe in a god, same as I have no desire to drink. And with all the many different gods out there. If I start making up Gods, like the "own conception of God" thing suggests, I might piss off some other gods and then they make it their duty to get me drunk. I feel I'm doing best by not picking sides against any of them and saying I would rather tune out and have no opinion on the issue.

 

Honestly, I think that's a great attitude (no desire to believe in a god). I do the same thing. Some days I'm an atheist, some days agnostic, some days pagan, some days mystic, but for MOST days...I simply don't give a shit if a god, THE God, or a thousand gods actually exist. I'm "god" of my life. I control it and nobody can tell me what the fuck to do with it. I control myself, I ask people for advice, and I just LIVE.

 

Plus, I'm a firm believe that all addictions are just symptoms of deeper issues. I'm no expert, but when I got rid of my deeper issues my addictive behaviors just weren't an issue anymore. I controlled them, they didn't control me.

 

Of course, I could just be talking out of my ass there, so take it with a grain of salt.

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I'm not an alcoholic nor have I ever been one, so my thoughts really aren't that valid. You are just dooming yourself to relapse if you take the mindset that you are completely powerless over alcohol--alcoholism isn't a disease, it's an addiction (you don't call a meth addiction a disease). People seek substances to help alleviate some kind of problem, so you will need to get to the crux of the matter and go to a psychologist.

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I've never abused alcohol, past or present, so I have nothing first hand to offer, but maybe better, I did remember the topic having come up in the past on this board, along with discussion of several secular alternatives to AA. To me, AA seems a lot like Microsoft: it dominates the market, but is not the only game in town.

 

I compiled a short list of additional discussions and resources to supplement whatever discussion ensues in this thread, since most of the other threads pretty old, and not all the posters are still regulars on ex-c. It does appear that there are several recovering alcoholics on this board who have remained sober for many years AND have dropped their belief in any gods, and many of the old timers seemed knowledgeable with a lot of information to offer.

 

So check out these threads:

 

Addictions And Godlessness, How to overcome addictions when 12 step programs are the "best"

Struggling With Alcohol, Started drinking beer again after I got deconverted

Atheists In Aa, What higher power do we use now?

Fishing For Atheists On Recovery Message Board

 

And these recovery resources:

 

SMART Recovery

SOS

LifeRing

Rational Recovery

Sober Recovery

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My cousin isn't very religious and I think she went through both NA and AA. She says the people around her are "her higher power". Maybe God could just be a vague name for what you decide to focus in on. If conquering the addiction is your focus, maybe that is ultimately God.

 

I am not a veteran of any of these programs either, so my thoughts might not count here.

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Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.

I foundered around AA for years, and like religion I wondered if it wasn't working because I wasn't doing it right.

I've been dry several years now and there was no higher power involved, just me and my stubborn nature. AA is just a placebo. You know full well gawd doesn't do shit, it's the drinker who has to quit.

I also gave up cigarettes in the same year cold turkey. The human brain is a powerfull machine when used properly.

Give up old habits and places, don't put yourself in a position to drink. Sub out something you enjoy. Once I was comfortable without alcohol, I now allow myself a beer or two on occaision, just to prove I'm still in command. :P:

Best of luck, and PM me if I can help in any way.

 

--Larry

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I knew a guy, who knew a guy who's higher power in AA was a foot stool. In the movie You Kill Me, Ben Kingsley's character chose the Golden Gate Bridge as his higher power. It's kind of like Dumbo's magic feather, it's a focal point. It works for some and not for others.

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I think the thing to realize is that as atheists we don't believe in a higher power... therefore, everyone who ever succeeded with AA or any other method of addiction recovery did it without God's help! They may have believed with all their hearts that they were being helped by a higher power, but there IS NONE... therefore all the help they got, they got from within and from the people around them who gave them strength.

 

Best of luck to you on this journey.

 

Heather

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As a Christian I helped head up an Christian addictions program for our local church called Reformers Unanimous. Unlike most 12 step programs, they did not teach that the addict had no control over their addiction, but that they could be fully "set free." Of course, their concept of freedom was found ONLY in Jesus. But I think I learned something while working in this program. First of all, it seemed healthy to believe that the addict could be freed and that they were not under the power of something for ever and ever. I think this gave the addicts that came hope. There was, for them, light at the end of the tunnel and not this shadow always overhanging their heads. Secondly, they needed something to believe in ... something other than their addiction ... something BIGGER than their addiction. Something in their lives had taught them that they were small and powerless and so it made sense that their addiction would overpower them. Believing in a higher power gave them something to focus on ... something that they could more easily believe was more powerful than they were since they had always been beaten back by their addiction.

 

Now that I realize that there is no Christ-god ... I still think the principle is the same. I think that it is healthy to come to realize that the addiction does not have to control you forever. Perhaps I am wrong in this, but I have seen addicts just up and quit and spend years in freedom from it. Perhaps there is an inner strength received from believing there is light at the end of the tunnel, sort of like the exhausted runner that suddenly sees the finish line up ahead and finds a hidden reserve of strength! Also, it seems that we have to believe in something. For those of us that do not believe in a god, then perhaps coming to the place where we suddenly realize that we, as humans, are wonderful and amazing and that we have the ability to overcome ... perhaps that can give the addict the strength they need to start the journey toward freedom.

 

Like upstarter said:

 

They may have believed with all their hearts that they were being helped by a higher power, but there IS NONE... therefore all the help they got, they got from within and from the people around them who gave them strength.
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You've received some good advice. I especially liked upstarters and par4dcourse's thoughts. I was a homebrewer for over a decade. I'm not sure if I really had a drinking problem, but I was drinking enough that I wondered if it was a problem. Then I ran out and my next batch wouldn't be ready for a week so I decided to just wait it out. Well I made it but I was very thirsty that week. That sent up some red flags so when that next batch ran out I resolved to quit for a month. Here's what I found after a month of not drinking. I slept better, my head was clearer and I didn't really miss beer. I really felt better not drinking and can't imagine having more than 1 or at most 2 drinks in an evening. I do on occasion have a drink, but my current drinking is about a six pack per month (except maybe in December).

 

In your case I'd ask you if you also noticed improvements in your life as a result of bring sober. If the answer is yes, then resolving to be smarter about how you live you life should make not drinking relatively easy. I ever had any great compulsion about alcohol so your situation may be a bit different. I did have a pretty good compulsion about smoking in my youth and managed to quit that pack a day habit too (at the tender age of 18). In that case the issue was mostly financial. You do what you have to do to be the person you choose to be. Good luck and I hope you choose to remain sober.

 

Steve

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The Flying Spaghetti Monster, of course.

 

Seriously though, recently I've been stuck in some group prayers and actually imagining it's to FSM had a good effect.

 

^I actually like the idea of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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I knew a guy, who knew a guy who's higher power in AA was a foot stool. In the movie You Kill Me, Ben Kingsley's character chose the Golden Gate Bridge as his higher power. It's kind of like Dumbo's magic feather, it's a focal point. It works for some and not for others.

BTW, AA's success rate is about even with that of no system at all: around 25% either way.

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Guest DeCloah

This is my first time posting after lurking for a while. I've also been sober for 2 years. Speaking only for me, I find the most important aspects of AA are the parts about being honest with myself. When you take out the stuff about submission and the stuff about higher powers, you're left with some really good tips about how to live an honest life. Inventories of the people you've wronged (Step 4) and seeking forgiveness (8), making direct amends (9), continuing to review yourself (10). Basically these steps are about recognizing the excuses and rationalizations we make to drink or smoke or use. So often, the language we use to describe relapses betray a lack of awareness of what actually happens, or at best, a being in denial knowing full well whats going on. How many times do you hear people say "Next thing I knew" or "One thing led to another". We know better than that... we don't suddenly become drunk. There are lots of events that happen in between. But when we're dishonest with ourselves and aren't aware of what happens, we keep making the same mistakes. Its akin to a religious person attributing negative events to satan when it really was their own actions that caused the bad situation. The error is very similar.

 

Being honest and accountable to is key and if anything, I think the higher power bit is there so we can be honest and accountable to someone, anyone. But you may only need to be honest with yourself. Indeed, with both addictions and religion, the first person you lie to is yourself. Focus on the strengths you have that led you to reject religion and you may find that the same qualities will aid you in your sobriety. Thank you for reading!

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BTW, AA's success rate is about even with that of no system at all: around 25% either way.

 

Yep, like any addiction, you have to want to quit or it's not going to work. That's one reason that court appointed counseling, while pushing someone in the right direction, doesn't mean they won't be back in the courtroom again and again.

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For the last few years, I could have just about drank beer through an Arab's underpants. I used to knock back six tallies (750ml bottles) of mid-strength beer a night. I ended up in hospital and, to cut a long story short, decided I had better quit it. (Well, except for maybe Christmas, me birthday and the Prime Minister's funeral). I just quit and that was that. I didn't go to AA and I wouldn't.

 

One great trick I found was to develop an attitude like: "Well, hell, I'd have a beer if I didn't want one so damn much", then substituting water or a soft drink. You can do this with whisky, rum, or whatever your poison. Y'see, we all want certain things, and we all need certain things. However, human nature being what it is, we don't always know the difference between what we merely want, and what we really need. And that, in a nutshell, is what any addiction is; convincing oneself that one needs something when the fact is one doesn't. In this way I even managed to have a few drinks over Xmas and half a bottle of whisky at New Year's and haven't touched a drop since. I haven't quit smoking, but then we all have to die of something, don't we?

 

It's a good thing, I think, to realise that (in general) the more you want something, the less you need it. AA doesn't tell you that. Instead, it substitutes submission to a group for drinking, which is not surprising seeing it was based on a christian heresy known as Buchmanism, or The Oxford Movement. This was named after the apostate Lutheran minister who founded it, Frank Buchman. Seems Big Bill Wilson (the founder of AA) had some sort of vision whilst he was being dried out way back in the day. Big Bill Wilson, by the way, was not a stockbroker or big businessman; he was a small time stock jobber and perhaps a bucket shop proprietor. In other words, he was a lying wannabe, and, as you'll see if you research him properly, he had all of the more unpleasant defects of character associated with such gentlemen.

 

Wilson attached himself and a few other drunks to Buchman's group, then split from it and formed his own, primarily because the other Buchmanites didn't care to be associated with habitual drunkards. The only principal difference between AA and The Oxford Movement is that AA tends more towards a Universalist attitude when it comes to christianity; that's why they use the phrase "a Higher Power" rather than the word "God". It's very much the same thing you would see if you became a Freemason, not that AA tells you that, either.

 

The fact is, all AA members quit drinking by themselves in one way or another before they joined AA, just as I did. Their problem wasn't quitting drinking, their problem was keeping themselves from taking another drink, and that, as I've said, comes down to realising the difference between what you want and what you need. They substitute reliance on a group for this realisation, and that's why their failure rate is so high. Just some thoughts.

Casey

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Nonbeliever all my life. Never had any drug problems.

 

An atheist stays sober the same way anyone else does: by obtaining enough self confidence and control to do so. Whether that inspiration comes from the friends around you or an imaginary sky daddy doesn't matter as far as human psychology is concerned.

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I'm skeptical about the entire premise of AA. Irregardless of the higher power nonsense, walking through life telling everyone you are an alcoholic is self defeating. You are what you think you are and if that's the label you choose to give yourself you simply give yourself a handicap and you reinforce your own weakness in this area.

 

Stats would seem to prove as much since AA recovery rates are equal to rates of those who quit on their own.

 

Unless you have reached the point where you actually have a physical addiction I think you do yourself a great disservice if you are telling yourself you are simply one drink away from the edge of a binge. You can choose to abuse the stuff or not, it's your decision not some trumped up disease that is controlling you.

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I've had alcohol and drug addictions in the past, and hell, I'm not an addict anymore, but there are some times when I'm stressed and crave the damn things but make the choice of not drinking or calling a connect.

Not sure if anyone brought this up yet, but there is a possibility that addictions can be genetic. They ran through my family. Everyone else I know who had an addiction problem ALSO had family members (parents, grandparents, blah blah blah) who were druggies or drunks. Then I learned it in a health class... but that's besides the point... I've never really liked the idea of AA because it seemed like people were using the "God" concept as a crutch for not taking personal responsibility for their actions.

"Oh, I slipped up, God, help me. It wasn't my fault, everyone makes mistakes, God, help me. The temptation was too strong, I'm giving up my will to you because I'm oh so powerless over this..." What a crock of shit.

 

Regardless of addiction, family history, and all that other crap, it all comes down to personal choice -- you can choose to drink, or you can choose not to drink, whether you have the strong feeling to or not.

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Thanks for all the input from everyone.

 

So of the tenets of AA i understand and embrace. Some of the slogans have helped me stay sober. Just for today, easy does it and keep it simple and some motto's that I think we could all live with. But the total deflation of self will and power to be able to make choices is beyond what I'm willing to believe in anymore. I think AA is good for some. I think it's great for others and absolutely useless for a large majority and I think like most things in life - I got my fair share of use out of AA before I got to ruined and now time to let someone else have it.

 

I think what pushed me away from AA, more than the Christian overtones during the meetings, were the who's screwing who high school gibberish and rumors and gossip that went on constantly.

I'm not saying that i'm out for good, but I'm not going to be attending as many meetings as I have in the past. I wish I could find something else in the area that was a sober type society that didn't include starting out with a prayer.

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I'm not saying that i'm out for good, but I'm not going to be attending as many meetings as I have in the past. I wish I could find something else in the area that was a sober type society that didn't include starting out with a prayer.

 

Why not start one of your own?

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I'm not saying that i'm out for good, but I'm not going to be attending as many meetings as I have in the past. I wish I could find something else in the area that was a sober type society that didn't include starting out with a prayer.

 

Why not start one of your own?

 

 

Funny you should mention that - only thing is - I'm really lazy. I need to take things in stride right now. I'm just now trying to find some people that have similar "godless" beliefs as me in the area so I don't feel so alone. Trying to find godless alcoholics in a room of AA is almost like walking into church and saying - "all you who think this is horse shit come with me" Some will follow, because they are sheep. Some will stay because they are sheep.

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I actually got my undergrad in psychology with an emphasis on substance abuse and worked as a chemical dependency tech in a teen in-patient rehab for about a year, which was somewhat loosely modeled on the 12-step programs. If I were you, I would either choose something non-spiritual as your "higher power" or even call it your "higher purpose" and focus on that. One guy that was on staff and in recovery there used his family as his higher power, more as a motivation to remember what the true importance of life was. Maybe reason could be your higher power, or your stubbornness, or whatever you care about more than your addiction.

 

Honestly, there is a lot of good stuff in the big book and the 12-steps that could be adapted for a non-religious person. For example, the daily inventory is actually a pretty useful tool, and you could just sanitize any spiritual overtones and replace them with something more helpful for you. AA is more about developing a social support community than anything, and if you can do that at a UU church or something then you really don't need the meetings. As long as you really desire an escape from those downward cycles, you can sort of hodge-podge your own things. Just stay committed and focused and you can kick it! Good luck!

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