(article links to this: http://voices.yahoo.com/addiction-atheist-stay-sober-without-7878634.html)
Addiction and the Atheist: How I Stay Sober Without God on the 12-Step Program
I am told and have heard many times that addiction is a disease; and often in a tone that indicates pity. That doesn’t really sit well with me. Simply concluding that addiction is a disease without at least going into depth about the reasons and circumstances, in my mind, allows for addicts to generalize themselves as being sick instead of wrong. I can rationalize the concept of it being a disease by way of causing anomalies to occur on a biological level due to toxicity as well as producing a harmful and sometimes depraved state of mind.
Addiction, however, starts with a choice. I am aware that there are those that had the misfortune of being forced into drugs; but I am not talking to the infinitesimal fraction of people out there who have been victimized. Face the facts: almost all of us started because we wanted to. We can get all the help in the world fighting our addiction, but that will not amount to anything unless we first respect and understand that we must chose to stop before we can benefit from that help. I feel that once you recognize you have a problem, you are no longer able to hide behind the excuse of “being poisoned.” Besides, we all know deep down inside, “the drugs made me do it” is a cop out and the real truth is we are ashamed we let ourselves get that far.
12 Step Program
I have always had a problem with the 12 step program. I am not saying its bad. What I am saying is that it doesn’t work for everyone. Granted, if someone asked me if they should try the 12 step program, I would most definitely say “Yes.” If they come back after giving it the ‘ol’ college try’ and tell me it’s not working, my response would then be “I know.”
It is not a matter of the program not curing addiction. It is a matter of everyone not being the same. I have heard countless cases of addicts not being able to follow the program because it was tailor for and by those faithful in God. I have had this argument with many addicts that do find comfort in the 12 step program and they all stand by it without hesitation. I don’t blame them, because I also stand by the 12 step program for anyone trying to find a solution.
For me, the problem occurs with the basic structure of the steps. Because I do not believe in God, that rules out a vast chunk of the process. I am constantly told that in that, I should take on a higher power of my own choosing. For some addicts, this will work. Yet I am still unable to sit well with or submit myself to this program. Why is that?
The answer came to me after talking with a fellow Atheist. We were comparing personal experiences and thoughts on our lack of religion; completely unrelated to drug abuse. It was after the conversation that I realized that there are certain principles that some of us do not or no longer accept or acknowledge as plausible. Someone of faith holds on to processes that an Atheist cannot and will not take part in. You cannot convince a most Atheists that their world will not work unless they have faith. I struggled for months trying to invent a God I could respect and believe in. It will not happen short of God literally making an appearance before me. You would have better luck convincing me that I’m bullet proof.
There are qualities in the 12 step program that should be observed none the less. As follows, I will endeavor to not just criticize; but also credit what I fell is good and bad about the 12 step program:
Step 1: “Admitting I am powerless and my life has become unmanageable.”
I will admit life does tend to get quite unmanageable when on drugs. The admission to being powerless over addiction on the other hand suggest that I am defeated and will not get better even if I want to get better. I believe that someone should receive help if they want it and that works great for someone with a support group. I don’t have a support group and even live around drug use constantly. Because of that, I must accept that I will be able to do this alone.
“I admit that I am humiliated that my life had become unmanageable.”
That is both honest and motivating. I am ashamed that I am an addict. I recognize that change must occur. I will not make excuses to continue my addiction. I will accept help when offered in staying sober but I will not believe I can not be sober if I do not get help.
Step 2: “Believe a power greater than myself will restore myself to sanity.”
This is wonderful if you believe in such things. I do not. I am sure everyone can see where this is going so I will skip ahead to my response to those who believe I should have faith in something if I really want to be sober: Impossible. If you tell a Christian that believing in Lucifer would grant them sobriety, they would have the same difficulties I have: it contradicts what I know deep down to be correct. Ask yourself this: “Is it more important that I accept dogma or at least the structure that was built by dogma, or is it more important that I stop using drugs and fight my addiction?”
“I believe that I can be more powerful than my addiction.”
I am not the sum of a drug. My addiction is not necessary for me to live my life. I will believe that I can stop my addiction.
Step 3: “Turn my will and my life over to God as I understand God.”
If there was a chance I could manage to accomplish the unedited version of step 2, there is no way I could come close to step 3. The problem I kept running into with inventing my own God for the sake of sobriety was that no matter what, I knew it was fictional. So turning my life over to a figment of my imagination in hopes that it would make my life work better is simply reckless and irresponsible. Even if I pretended that it was possible, I would be taking principles from myself under a different persona. I really can’t imagine forming a split personality being a healthy choice.
“I will take control of my life and understand that my addiction is no longer an option under any condition.”
I will understand that my need to do drugs is not my will, but the will of my addiction. I will accept that I have allowed my addiction control and I must take it back. I will realize that addiction has stricken sanity and the choices I made to support my addiction are no longer options.
Step 4: “Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself.”
This is an excellent idea. I will take the time to go over everything in my life and take note of everything related to and involving drugs and addiction. I will consider all of the people who accept and insist on me as an addict. I will become aware of everyone and everything that approves of my addiction, or who will not condemn it. I will assess everything that I do that inspires me to want to do drugs.
Step 5: “Admit to God, myself, and another person the nature of my wrongs.”
I have beaten the reason God is not a solution for me into the ground. Moving forward, I believe the rest of this step is integral to the state of moving past addiction. It is a good precautionary measure in sobriety. If I am telling someone this, then they will likely hold me to it in one fashion or another. Further humiliation becomes a tool in fortifying me. I have a few friends that check on me regularly that I have sworn myself to never lie to regarding drug use in my life. I have even gone into the very personal details of what I do and why I behave the way I do in the pursuit of and while on drugs.
“I will admit to myself and to others the nature of my addiction being wrong.”
I will express the nature of my addiction and my method of submitting to my addiction. I will explain the behaviors, lies, and deceptions that I employ to indulge my addiction. I will educate myself and others on the details of pursuing my addiction.
Step 6: “Be ready to have God remove my character defects.”
I believe the point here is to prepare to eliminate factors that you have acknowledges in step 4. At first, it may seem step 6 and 7 are close to the same. I feel the separation is necessary because once I had pursued addiction long enough, life and addiction becomes synonymous. This is the quite before the storm.
“Prepare to remove and withdraw from factors that are connected to my addiction.”
I will observe the base factors of my addiction and it’s involvement in my life and find alternatives that will not facilitate my addiction. I will seek out new methods and new factors that are not inspiring to my addiction and prepare to replace replace the ones that do.
Step 7: “Humbly ask God to remove these shortcomings.”
This is one of the most difficult steps in my opinion: removing myself from what I have been accepting as ‘myself’. There are a lot of factors that become who you are under the influence of addiction that are not there under normal conditions. These factors become a part of your life on a daily basis in a way that is necessary to live. Because I want to accommodate my addiction, I would make additions and even replace anything that would slow or prevent my chances to submit to my addiction.
“Remove and replace any factors and behaviors that allow my addiction to continue.”
I must change my habits that are allowing me to pursue addiction to habits that prevent me from pursuing addiction. I must replace elements in my life that accommodates addiction with elements that do not. I must remove contact with elements in my life that contribute to addiction and accept their loss for the sake of my sobriety and sanity. I will discontinue relationships with people involved with continuing my addiction.
Step 8: ” Made a list of all persons I had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
To genuinely want to be better and without addiction is actually what makes this step less difficult for me. Adversely, I could imagine that for a person that is ashamed of their addiction but have no intention of stopping; this is almost impossible. The factor responsible is “become willing.” At this point, I actually feel no shame of apologizing. No one should ever feel shame in apologizing unless that apology is insincere.
Step 9: ” Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
This has two benefits: I can put my mind to rest that, though I have messed up; I am rectifying that mistake. Second, in terms of having established that through addiction, I have replaced people that would slow or prevent my indulging addiction; I may have a chance to bring them back into my life. It is my wish to be understood as becoming a better person, and reconnecting with those that I have pushed away through my addiction; however, it is not my goal to be forgiven. In my opinion, to forgive me is to not hold me to what wrong I have done. My goal is actually to be understood as having changed my ways. If this results in acceptance for who I am becoming for the better, then I am all the more pleased. Just don’t forgive me. Hold me accountable and respect when that account has been balanced.
Step 10: “Continued to take personal inventory and when I was wrong promptly admitted it.”
At first, this step seems redundant. Taking a closer look, I realize it is redundant; and for good reason: to stay vigilant in sobriety. Being an addict never actually ends. I will always be an addict, and not every arrangement or problem I have caused through my addiction will be apparent right away. Some of them may not surface right away. The only way to catch them is to always look out for them.
Step 11: ” Seek through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God as I understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for me and the power to carry that out.”
In regards of a higher power, not just God, this step is awkward and imposing to a non-believer as much as it may be for someone with a higher power. If you have taken on an unconventional example of a higher power, your material to reference becomes even more difficult to gather.
“Seek through education and meditation a better understanding of my addiction and how to control it.”
I will seek out knowledge of addiction and how it can change me both consciously and subconsciously. I will look for new and more effective ways to secure my sanity against addiction while employing tried and tested methods. I will learn how to be better than my addiction in every way possible.
Step 12: ” Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, I try to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all my affairs.”
Again, I do not have a concept of higher powers and thus, not spirits. Restating this is merely a formality at this point.
“Having gained a higher enlightenment and understanding of my addiction, I will carry my success and failure to other addicts to learn from; and in turn observe and learn from their success and failures.”
Thus, we come to the point of this article: this article is my 12th Step.
I have read a lot of bad press for the 12 step program in the course of researching details for my statement. First and foremost, I see a lot of ridicule from my faithless peers. I can, and to some extent do take their side on the matter of the 12 steps being deeply religious and constructed to require a sense of a higher power. Instead of condemning the 12 steps for not including the faithless, I have instead chosen to understand how the faithless could find help in them. It is not my concern what your paradigm is; it is my concern that your sobriety can be intact regardless of what you believe. Our common ground is not what we believe but what we do in maintaining our sanity.
First Step to Waking Up: Sobriety
I didn’t take this as seriously as perhaps I should have the first few times. Let me specifically confirm this: you must wake up sober. You must tell yourself you will be sober as your first act of the day. In step 10, I mentioned the occasions when the unaccounted factors make themselves known. Chances are, they have been all along, but you won’t realize it until that moment of weakness.
Fighting addiction is not unlike using anti-psychotic medication for mental issues: as long as you are fortifying your self with your daily regiment, you will generally have no problems. It may even seem as though you are no longer an addict. However, the moment you stop holding to this regiment, you subject yourself to every weakness you have to addiction. So long as you take every day as seriously as your first day sober, I genuinely believe you will stay sober. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Don’t worry about what you once were. Just make your first act of the day to wake up sober and remain sober for that day.