A 12-Step Approach to Atheism in Recovery

12-Step recovery programs focus on spirituality as a tool to achieving sobriety. Newcomers to 12-Step recovery programs often see the word “God” and assume that the program must be religious in nature. While spirituality and a belief in a higher power are necessary to the program, there is a strong distinction between “spiritual” and “religious”.
12-Step recovery is deeply rooted in the concept of a “spiritual awakening”. This is not derived from religious belief, rather it sprang from the experience of notable psychologist Carl Jung. Rowland Hazard, one of the key characters in the formation of A.A., met with Carl Jung after trying and failing to maintain sobriety. Jung informed Hazard that he was beyond help for his alcoholism, with one exception. Jung explained, “Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have what are called vital spiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding force of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.” Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, incorporated this concept into the program with great success. However, the idea of a spiritual experience is alternately referred to as a “psychic change”, and can be seen from either a metaphysical “spiritual” perspective or a psychological perspective.
Atheists coming into the program may find solace in the fact that their beliefs about religion were even shared by Wilson. Wilson explains in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that “we looked upon this world of warring individuals, warring theological systems, and inexplicable calamity, with deep skepticism. We looked askance at many individuals who claimed to be godly. How could a Supreme Being have anything to do with it all? And who could comprehend a Supreme Being anyhow?” Fortunately, “God” or a “Supreme Being” are not necessary to the program. What is necessary, however, is a belief in some conception of a higher power. All we need to believe is that there is something greater than ourselves at play in our lives. This could be a religious conception, a spiritual conception, or even a social conception. In fact, some A.A. member use the word “God” as an acronym for “Group of Drunks”, meaning they rely on other A.A. members as their conception of a higher power. In a room of one hundred A.A. members, there are usually a hundred different ideas and conceptions of a higher power. We don’t let our prejudices of terms like “God” keep us from fully engaging in a program that has helped so many people recover from alcoholism and addiction.

Your story can be one of hope, faith, and courage. You have the power to begin building a better life by seeking treatment now. Oceanfront Recovery, a men’s treatment center in beautiful Laguna Beach, offers residential treatment that incorporates inside and outside 12-Step meetings, nutritious meals, therapy, exercise, and many other options to aid you in your journey of recovery. For more information about treatment options, please call today: (877) 279-1777