Is it possible to get sober without religion?
For people who are struggling with alcohol addiction, the main treatment in alcohol rehabilitation uses the 12 Step Method. Because the 12 Steps were adapted from the traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, there is a faith or religious component.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the biggest mutual support group that helps people overcome their alcohol addiction.
During the beginning of a session, in the Serenity Prayer, and during meeting where the twelve steps are discussed, God is constantly mentioned. In fact, in the updated version of the 12 Steps, “God” is used four times, the word “Him” is mentioned three times, and the word “prayer” is mentioned in step 11.
One of the biggest reasons why people are hesitant to join AA is because of the faith issue. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, 2% of the world’s population are self-identified atheists.
In America alone, atheist account for 10% of the population. For many atheist and agnostics out there who want to start quitting alcohol, the options seem limited.
People who want to get started on their journey to sobriety want to join AA, but cannot come to terms with AA’s religious scene. It is the same situation when they enter alcohol rehabilitation clinics—the 12 Steps dominate.
Here is a guide to systems that lead to sobriety, without religion, without God.
But first of all, I have a personal stake in writing about this: I am an atheist.
So far, these are what I have discovered about Alcohol Treatment without religion:
Non-religious alcohol addiction treatments include:
• Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
• Community Reinforcement Approach
• Behavioral Couples Therapy
• Motivational Enhancement Therapy
• Neurofeedback Therapy
• Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
• Brief one-on-one or group interventions
In alcohol rehab clinics, medication is used together with therapy increase the possibility of alcohol recovery. When this is utilized, the emphasis is on alcoholism as a brain disease. This mindset helps people to think, “I will make myself better, because I am sick. There is a cure and I will use it.”
In addition to therapy in rehab clinics, non-religious mutual support groups exist. Always remember that mutual support groups must not also be confused with treatment. Support groups are organizations that help enhance the efficacy of treatment, but joining a group is not treatment in itself.
Here are the non-religious mutual support groups I found that use the abstinence model:
• Sober Grid, founded by Beau Mann
Sober Grid is a smartphone app created by Beau Mann. He described his realization that sober warriors do not have a social network like gay men have Grindr and runners have Runkeeper.
Having a digital community of like-minded people prevents relapses. Recently, there is news that the app can predict when relapses will occur. Best of all, Sober Grid is completely free, downloadable in Apple and Android App stores.
If you check out Sober Grid’s Youtube channel, he as a video of the 12 Steps interpreted as principles, with no hint of God whatsoever.
• Smart Recovery
Without using the labels “addict” and “alcoholic”, SMART recovery describes itself as present and future oriented. It aims to help people develop coping skills to deal with life’s ordinary and extraordinary upsets. SMART recovery’s four points are:
o Point 1: Building and Maintaining Motivation
o Point 2: Coping with Urges
o Point 3: Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors
o Point 4: Living a Balanced Life
SMART recovery meetings are free. Like AA, it is non-profit organization.
• Secular AA
This group also belongs to AA. It uses a version of the twelve steps. They insist that they are “not taking God out of AA”, but are conducting meetings that hold fast to the third tradition of AA, that a belief in God is not a requirement for sobriety.
• AA Agnostica
Members of AA Agnostica are AA members. The group does not endorse any religion or atheist group. They have their own version of the 12 Steps, which they follow. This group pretty much runs like AA, without the faith component.
• Life Ring
Life Ring uses a 3-S approach to combat alcohol addiction. It is based in USA. In its website introduction, “Day One”, it describes seeing alcohol addiction not as a sin. In addition, it reminds people that, “It does no good to punish or psychoanalyze yourself, [our] recovery meetings exist not to judge you or shame you or guilt you for your drugged/drunken past, but to support you in building your sober present and future.”
• Women for Sobriety (WFS)
WFS uses thirteen principles called “Acceptance Statements”. The organization is exclusive to women only. WFS promotes self-help, self-acceptance, and women empowerment. Their new member packet guide also describes six levels of recovery, which members are expected to go through in a fluid way. (WFS explains that sometimes people need to revisit a level during trying times, when recovery slows down).
As for the Harm Reduction or Moderation model, I found the following mutual support groups:
Moderation Management (moderation.org)
MM has holds face-to-face group meetings with its members.
If you prefer to intereact online at first, there are chat rooms available. MM has affiliated therapists who support moderate drinking. In terms of method used, MM advocates keeping a Drinking Diary, comparing your drinking to a guide, and following the program’s “steps to change”.
The first part uses “Your 30”. This is a thirty-day period of abstinence. MM does not mention God in any part of its program.
Moderation Drinking (MD)
MD is the digital arm of SMART recovery. Its new name is “Check Up and Choices”. MD claims that using the app has been clinically proven by the US National Institute of Health to help people drink less alcohol. The app is personalized, interactive and confidential.
Check Up and Choices is an online program that has a monthly fee.
This list that I have compiled in not exhaustive.
There are new mutual support groups and therapeutic processes that are being developed as I write.
Alcohol addiction complex disorder, many factors are involved.
We cannot change our genetic make-up, we cannot change what happened in the past, neither can we change who we are at the core (spiritual or philosophical beliefs included).
But what we can change is our addiction to alcohol.