My tips on getting the most out of 12 step meetings as an atheist.

1) Unity. I need other people even if I think they’re all sub-human dick weeds: Realize you’re all doing the same thing. You’re in a group of people that lie compulsively, to themselves and to others. Saying they’re being helped by the creator of the universe cause they’re too broken to believe they’re doing it themselves is not a stretch for most alcys.

2) Cut them and yourself some slack. Realizing it’s them plus some earthly help would make most alcoholics mind explode; They’d drink or have a nervous breakdown or both. Becoming an atheist for normies can be emotionally difficult or even damaging. Asking those big questions while trying to stay sober was brutal, I nearly killed myself a few times. So being an atheist for my first three years involved a LOT of anxiety. Anti anxiety meds made me feel dead inside so I had to find mental exercises to cope. I’m happy for where it brought me but I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone. So I gave them some slack.

3) Share, Don’t mention god, Don’t not mention him/it/(w/e). I’ve found if I talk program and share without mentioning the HP but also not saying “I don’t believe in that shit”. I don’t mention prayer cause I don’t do it, but I don’t speak against it. I let people infer what they want, neither confirm nor deny, and usually people love my sharing. Cause all the bullshit is cut out and I’m just saying what happened, how I dealt with it, and where I am today. It’s pure, it’s simple and it’s the thing the program is based on, in my mind. What Dr. Bob and Bill Wilson discovered all those years ago is that there’s no substitute for two people with the same problem talking about it. It’s the basis of true loving empathy and fellowship. The thought is moving even as I type this.

4) Learn to translate. And this is the hardest one. It’s dependent on how well I’m doing in my own practice, if my bank account is up or down, or what I’ve had to eat that morning. But on the good days I started to notice I could cut through the BS and dig out the truth. I can see a person talking about prayer is talking about feeling powerless or overwhelmed. I can see a person talking about “trusting in what God has in store for them” is afraid of the future and needs comfort. I hear a person says that “God saved them for a purpose” feels guilty that they’ve not done more. Some that feels hurt and powerless over losing someone they love says “they’re in a better place now”. They’re in the fight of their lives and they’re grasping onto whatever they can to get through today. I get what I need, it’s not my place to go to a room where others are trying to get what they need and try to take it from them.

5) Where possible, lead the discussion. Be proactive, share something painful in a raw, honest and secular way. Accept that people will pick up on it or not. It’s not my place to try and dominate the meeting. People might talk about how Jesus saved them from the saloon that fateful afternoon for 20 mins, but that’s not my problem. I’m there to get what I need. I’ve found the best way is positive suggestion. Like the St Francis prayer; try to be part of the solution. Which leads me to my last part.

6) As an atheist, no one is coming to save me. If anything, truth is my HP and ‘hard truths cut both ways.’ This hard truth is the darker side of my program but I’ve realized it’s also very necessary for me to keep my program strong. Last year when I went to a meeting and there were empty chairs, I started thinking about the people that might have been in them. It frightened the shit out of me, I drove drunk and high out of my mind so many times, I had near misses but never hurt myself or someone else. I could have been one of those people and there is no reason I’m not. I talked with my sponsor and couldn’t understand why I was so fixated on this morbid practice. But somehow it felt necessary, I needed to keep doing it until I least understood why I was doing it. And then, months later, it hit me; This is my anchor on reality. What stops me from slipping into the bullshit faerie tails about how “God has a plan for me and I can’t screw it up”. That kind of thinking nearly killed me and it can’t be allowed back into my life. This is on me, I only get the help I ask for. I only make the progress I work for. I remember I’m lucky and this is probably my only chance.

One thought on “My tips on getting the most out of 12 step meetings as an atheist.”

  1. This is a wonderful blog. Thanks for sharing. I grew up an atheist, became an alcoholic, had a wretched rock bottom and finally found God in AA. Then, last year, I quit after 14 summers of grateful sobriety when I reclaimed my naturalistic worldview.

    I’ve blogged about the experience at “Leaving AA, Staying Sober” http://jonsleeper.wordpress.com and would be really grateful for your feedback / opinion. No rush. It’s a long piece.

    For me, as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t stay in the the fellowship – principally because there was more than just “the God thing” going on. So although I have great sympathy for atheists in AA, I also feel the fellowship must change and grow and we need to offer more peer support outside the rooms too.

    Interestingly, here in the UK, everyone’s an atheist, even in AA, and the fellowship is maybe 20 years ahead of AA the USA in that respect. Culturally it’s like the 1960s and The British Invasion pop bands, I feel, with characters like Dawkins, Hitchens, making a huge impact in the media, etc.

    Anyway, enough rambling. Here’s to a safe, sane and sober recovery. Without God.

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