Yesterday I learned of local secular AA meetings, and wondered how they can work when the very foundation of AA (and NA) is built on shaky ground. Today I’ll elaborate a little on that. There will be some repetition from previous posts… Sorry about that.
I don’t know if their secular AA still uses a 12 step program, but this is what I would say if it did… Consider step one. I admitted that I was powerless over my addiction; that my life had become unmanageable. Well, what if I don’t admit that? What if I admit the exact opposite of that? Let’s think about how much effort it took for me to continue using meth. I had to make a plan to get meth. That meant setting money aside for it and calling a dealer. I had to meet him to get my drug. Sometimes I’d wait for him for up to two hours, sitting in my car, parked in some horrible place. I didn’t always have a meth pipe, so I had to make one. That meant buying a 12V light bulb, and a plastic pen, then carefully removing the filament from the globe without breaking it, and cutting off the tapered end of the pen. I had to do this while somebody else was in the house, somehow without them noticing. I had to find the opportunity to use without arousing suspicion. That’s just a few of the tasks I had to perform in order to continue using meth. There is no way I could possibly do all that on autopilot. At every step of the way, there was an opportunity to change my mind. For example, in those two hours waiting for the dealer, that’s a lot of minutes and seconds when I could choose to drive home instead. There were choices like that I made every day, and it is no exaggeration to say that I had thousands of opportunities to change my mind. (I mean this literally.) Yet I chose to use. I considered the risks, I considered the consequences, and I chose to use meth. There was no loss of control, no powerlessness. I was responsible for all that happened to me, and those who my choices affected.
The rest of the steps are even worse, what with asking god to fix character flaws and praying to god for help. Thus I reject the twelve steps out of hand. They are absolute nonsense.
But there’s a fundamental flaw, in any case, if you thank your god for your recovery. Consider people who thank god for their lives being spared in a natural disaster. Why don’t they also thank him that other people were killed? It works both ways. If god is to take credit for the good things, he should also take credit for the bad things. If god exists and you have a disease of addiction, then he is responsible for it, not you. And I don’t buy that. When god is removed from the equation, two things happen: Firstly, you don’t get to blame him or anyone else for your misfortune. Secondly, you don’t get to ask him for help, or thank him for your sobriety. It’s all on you, and that’s more difficult than failing to take personal accountability, as twelve step believers do whether they know it or not. But for me, it is the right way to do recovery. The only way.
With this mindset, my three years and eight months clean so far have been easy, and will continue to be so. I am living proof that you can do recovery without twelve steps, without a higher power, without a sponsor, or meetings, or step-work, or “just for today” because this is for life. Heck, I don’t even accept that addiction is a disease. All of the effects on our brains and our behaviour when we use drugs or alcohol fall into the expected neuroscientific consequences of using those substances. Even the neural pathways formed by our use are to be expected. Hence there is no disease. If you can make all those choices to use, you can just as well make other choices not to use, and after a while, new neural pathways will form, and you won’t crave those substances any more. I have not craved meth since my first few weeks clean, in September 2013. We’re all different of course. But my point stands. I don’t crave and haven’t for a long time. I have no interest in ever using meth again, and call myself a former addict because I don’t accept that addiction is a disease that (can’t be cured but) needs lifelong treatment. It’s a behavioural disorder that can be overcome.
I may still go to that meeting next Wednesday to hear how other atheists here approach recovery. But I’ll do so not for me in this case… Maybe my words can help someone else.