The twelve steps, created by the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, can work for anyone. In the main text for AA, Alcoholics Anonymous, there is an entire chapter devoted to atheists and agnostics. An atheist is defined as “a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.” This is not a requirement of the steps. The steps simply ask you to identify a power greater than yourself.
The power greater than you can be the group. It can be the ocean. It can be weather. It can be nature. It can be the reality that you can’t drink or use without consequences. It’s not necessary that it be a supreme being. You get to define your higher power in the 12 steps. If you need help finding a power greater than yourself, there are many atheists who can guide you in the program.
The book Alcoholics Anonymous states, “Many times we talk to a new man and watch his hope rise as we discuss his alcoholic problems and explain our fellowship. But his face falls when we speak of spiritual matters, especially when we mention God, for we have re-opened a subject which our man thought he had neatly evaded or entirely ignored.”
“We found that as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, we commenced to get results, even though it was impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that Power, which is God… Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?’ As soon as a man can say that he does believe, or is willing to believe, we emphatically assure him that he is on his way. It has been repeatedly proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone a wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built.”
You will find other atheists in the rooms of 12 step programs, but they will not be the majority. If hearing the word God in meetings or in literature doesn’t land right for you, replace it in your mind with a term that works. You can use power greater than myself, love, the ocean, or any term that resonates with you. The 12 steps can save your life. Let them.
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