An Atheist can take the Steps

Giving Step Two a Chance

Step 2 – Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

As my home-group’s website is viewed by a lot of visitors it got me thinking about how a visitor to this website, who doesn’t believe in God, would feel if they found out that they have to take the Twelve Step program to recover from alcoholism, and then see the word God four times in the Twelve Steps.  That could literally put them off AA for life as they don’t believe in God.  Is then the atheist alcoholic a lost cause destined to a life of alcoholic mayhem and death?  From what I have seen in AA the answer to that question is a definite no.  I have seen atheists that were chronic alcoholics that have had the obsession to drink completely removed from them.. If you are reading this and you don’t believe in God and you  haven’t done the Twelve Steps then maybe I can offer you some helpful experience that I have had within AA to hopefully help you to give Step Two a chance.  For me personally I have always believed in God but I have decided to write this article to offer some help to those that don’t believe in God.  Don’t worry as all is not lost if you feel that you can’t do the Steps because of your beliefs.

An alcoholic friend of mine refuses to give AA a chance because he doesn't believe in God.  I invited him to a meeting to meet other alcoholics that were atheists when they joined AA and who have had the obsession to drink removed from them.  He turned down the invitation.  I tried to explain to him that he doesn't need to believe in God to do the Twelve Steps to miraculously recover from the disease of alcoholism, and he just got  angry.  I kept on at him, explaining that he just needs to be willing to believe in a Power greater than himself to help restore him to sanity and remove the obsession to drink from him.  He wouldn’t say another word on the subject and continued to drink.

I can understand my friend’s viewpoint though as I once listened to a very interesting radio show whilst driving that was devoted to the subject of God and they held a phone poll on the existence of God.  There was a lot of heated discussion from the guests and callers.  At the end of the show the statistics were that 40% of caller’s believed that there isn't a God that created all that exists.  The main complaint from these people was that if there is such an all powerful God that is supposed to be a God of love and compassion, then how come there is so much pain and suffering in the world when an almighty God could wipe out everyones' suffering instantly?  A winning argument you might say but interestingly the Hindu and Buddhist guests had  excellent counter-arguments on this point. But at the end of the day, regardless of our personal beliefs, the book ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ is quite clear on the subject that we must turn to a Higher Power to recover from alcoholism.  As it says on page 43:

‘The alcoholic at certain times has no effective defense against the first drink.  Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense.  His defense must come from a Higher Power.’

But we alcoholics in AA don’t necessarily have to believe in God, we just have to be willing to believe in a Power greater than ourselves to keep us sober.  Some examples could be the sun, the power of an AA home-group, nature – it’s totally down to the individual.  But to the atheist this is just as incomprehensible as believing in God.  Accepting that there is a power greater than ourselves is easy.  But believing that there is a miraculous unseen, esoteric force from this Higher Power that can keep us sober is a completely different matter for the atheist.

So how does the atheist manage to miraculously recover from the disease of alcoholism if they can’t believe in God or a Power greater than themselves?  I am a member of a large AA home-group and I have seen atheists that would cringe at the mention of the word God when they first arrived, but they recovered quickly and miraculously from the disease of alcoholism.   They couldn’t stay sober on their own will power.  Doctors, counselors and psychiatrists couldn’t help them. 

The answer to their recovery was simple.  Action, action, and more action.  They got themselves a sponsor to take them through the Twelve Steps.  For anyone that doesn’t know what a sponsor is they are just another alcoholic that have done the Twelve Steps themselves and have usually been sober for a long time.  Getting a sponsor is important if you want to do the Twelve Steps.  Just as you would get a driving instructor to learn how to drive it’s the same with doing the Twelve Steps; you need to be shown how to do them.   These people were then given a simple plan of action to do on a daily basis which included getting on their knees in the morning and praying to a Power greater than themselves to keep them  sober.  I can understand that this could be very difficult for the atheist to do this.  Let’s say you have chosen the AA meeting as being a Power greater than yourself.  No matter how silly or stupid you feel because of your beliefs just get on your knees in the morning and ask your AA group to keep you sober for the day.  It may sound like complete nonsense but I know several people that have found that within a week or two the desire to drink was being lifted from them.  It really does work, it has worked for many thousands of other alcoholics and it will work for you too.  Remember, forget about your disbelief in God and put in the simple action of praying to a Power greater than yourself to keep you sober for the rest of the day, and you will have begun to take Step Two.  You will be on the road to recovery and don’t  forget to give thanks at the end of the day by getting on your knees and saying thanks to your Higher Power.

Jan 2012