I'm a recovering alcoholic, an atheist, and AA works. But, it ain't easy.

If you want to talk about it or anything related to recovery, I'm here to do that, in this forum and via private messages if you prefer.

I live in a big metropolitan area in the US, many AA meetings per week across the city, various flavors. And, that works for me because I can't deal with a strict religious AA group who must mention god in every sentence that they speak. However, even on good days I can get distracted by theists who interpret AA literature the same way fundamentalist Christians interpret the Bible.

I live in New York City, and we have lots of non-theists in the rooms. This helps a lot, as you might imagine. I feel badly for those of you who are living where there are fewer meetings and people. Been there, done that. It's tough, and I admire you if you must endure that.

For me, AA is a fellowship, contact with humanity that I would rather not have but realize I need in order to regain my balance after many years of drinking and drugging. I "do" Steps 1, 2 and 12. My program is a practical one, its primary purpose is to help me stay sober.

How about you?

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Had been in AA for 30 yrs...sober the last 25. My sponsor knew Bill Wilson, and several others.

Bill W. was agnostic. Study the other books and you will see. Read the part when Ebby is speaking to him about what he has.....and Bill's reply. I finally quit going to AA. I have several people come to the house now, or wherever they wish. It actually took a couple months of "withdrawal" after not going. I found that i was still seeking to belong, and when I do that, I was not learning to be myself. Still following and "acting" as if....These groups in my town are clicks, cults...You get shunned if you do not "follow the path" (their path)..I did not pray afterwards, I do not pray. No need to. When I skipped this in the group, others actually said "we will pray for you"...what egos there huh? I have never felt free until I left AA. It/they actually brainwash you to think you HAVE to have it, or else...What a crock...Any group that has routines to stay away from alcohol and states without it you will fail is dangerous.

Tom, hang in there amigo, even if you do walk away, don't drink and don't DONT DONT DONT pull the trigger! That is the most important thing. There are fellow atheists in recovery, I am one, message me if you need support. -William
As a member of Nexus for a couple of years, I hear this subject often, but I don't reply because I could do it every single day, and the next day someone else would need to hear it, and to ask the same questions. So last year I started an online atheist-aa group on Google groups, and it's finally beginning to gain members at a fast pace. [Listed under Health > Addictions
Society > Religion and Spirituality >] This group has a representative at the District, is active in the local Central Office/Intergroup, and is listed in the "We don't care who you are, you can join" group called the Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Two years ago I started an atheist/agnostic A.A. group (in the Bible Belt) and the General Service Organization gave it an official group number. I was also part of this year's debate on whether A.A. should include more stories from successfully sober atheists and alcoholics. The General Service Conference has been debating this since 1975!!!!!!! But finally, last month, they decided to "develop" more material for atheists and agnostics.

Nothing in A.A. works quickly, and the preliminary writings won't be available for the Conference to look at until next year. If anything is approved, it won't be printed for another year, but at least the liberals in A.A. are beginning to catch up to the old-timers who think the Abrahamic "God", even "as you understand Him", is acceptable to "we agnostics" and "we atheists".

Good luck to all of you who are non-believers. I've heard some wild stories from people all over the world in my Google group, and I have a few of my own to tell. Hang in there, and do it your own way.

After all, in Tradition Five, Bill W. wrote: "The only thing that is important is that [we] are alcoholics who have a key to sobriety."

He didn't say "the key" as the Big Book thumpers would have you believe. Just "a key". It's your key. Don't let anyone take it from you.

Curtis C
Dr. Kelly, I too am a member of AA and have been for almost 25 years. In the program I found support from many. I also found my husband (20+years). After I had been in various groups for a while (6 months or so). I just told everyone I was an atheist. This, of course, brought the christians out in force. While they failed to convert me, I did convert a few to rational thought. AA's, for the most part, are very accepting of people with different ideas, problems, drug of choice et al. The feeling of community in AA is overwhelming. After a while, I just came to accept that for some, the god problem was part of their recovery. michelle

Hi, I'm also an alcoholic and an atheist and was pleasantly surprised to stumble on this posting. I've just gotten out of treatment a couple of weeks ago and been attending lots and lots of AA meetings here. I've yet to find very many people who will just out and out admit to atheism, especially potential sponsors, but I've got a temporary sponsor that seems like he'll be pretty good. Now, this is the midwest, so... yeah. A lot of God a lot of the time, although they do try to be accommodating to the best of their ability. In treatment, I found them *very* accepting, and got through Step 5 before leaving.

In addition to reading as much freethought literature as I can on top of the piles of recovery literature, I've begun blogging about the experience as well, and will probably continue. If interested, it's at http://anatheistataa.wordpress.com/ . Thanks! Looking forward to more posts here and elsewhere in this group.

I'm probably in the right place here. I've been in A.A. for over 12 years now, and I've never believed in God, nor am I about to start. My higher power is a group of people with a common bond, which, unfortunately, seems to be a "new comer" thought from what other people have said around the tables. I don't tell people I don't believe in God, just that I use the group as a higher power, or that I don't believe in magic, and leave the rest to their imagination. I don't know any other Atheists in A.A. so that leaves me feeling quite alone at times. It's also starting to frustrate me, too. In my opinion, A.A. could be a place to recover among other people in recovery, but it's been my experience that the #1 reason people who admit they're alcoholic but don't go to A.A. is because of "all the God stuff". I agree. I should just quit, but I do like the fellowship of others who understand what it's like being an alcoholic. There's no other place where I live to get that except A.A. I used to block out all the God talk, but it piles up inside, and now it just makes me angry when I hear it. I even walked out during a meeting a few months ago for the first time when the first three people to speak kept talking about God, prayer, Jesus. Arrrghhh! I least I didn't slam the door. Anyway, those are my thoughts today.
Dear AKron, there is no need to "feel quite alone". There are tens of thousands of atheists in A.A. There is an online Group with members from South Africa to Canada to New Zealand and Australia, and dozen more countries. http://groups.google.com/group/atheist-aa A.A.'s General Service Conference is working on a pamphlet about spirituality that would include stories by us, and the Grapevine books called "Spiritual Awakenings" have stories by atheists and agnostics. I'm an atheist, and my District and my Area know it, yet I am the local Central Office manager, and a District Committee Member in Area 34. There are atheist or agnostic meetings all over the country, but maybe not near you. http://www.agnosticaanyc.org/worldwide.html http://seattleaa.org/stories/atheists.html http://sites.google.com/site/theatheistaa/ or Google AA atheist.


  I know exactly how you feel, after almost 3 years of no drinking, daily attendance of AA meetings and no belief in any Higher Power I got fed up and simply stopped attending AA.  I was nervous about this because in AA all I ever heard was that if you left you would drink again. I also was scared to leave my circle of friends there, I was scared to be alone. Despite this I could no longer reconcile my lack of belief with the basic premise of AA which is that some sort of Higher Power would keep me from drinking, I felt no urge to drink and was sick and tired of hearing everyone, chronic relapser or long time sober blather on about God God God ad infinitum.  I knew that I was no longer attending AA to keep myself sober, but attending it because I had incorporated it into my daily life.  I knew that if I was never going to drink again it was ultimately up to ME, not any one else (either another AA member or an invisible man in the sky).  So I left! 

in 4 days I will have not had a drop to drink for 4 years, and will not have set foot inside an AA room for 1 year.  I found a new group of "normal" people to hang out with who are aware that I don't drink and why, and are cool with it.  I also found a girlfriend (normal) and graduated from college, got a promotion at work, and moved into a nicer house.  I cannot say that all of these things wouldn't have happened if I stayed in AA but I don't think they would have. AA became a place where I stagnated and stopped growing.  I saw people there who had been stuck in the same position for over 30 years, regardless of staying sober. I didn't want to be "that guy" in 30 years, the so called "elder statesman" who everyone looks up to simply for the fact that they managed to not drink for a long period of time, regardless of the fact that they haven't grown in any way since they finished their first set of 12 step work.  Not for me!  AA helped me stop drinking and was what I needed at the time.  Now I consider myself a former alcoholic, I don't need AA anymore. as an analogy if I got sick and needed medicine to get better, once I was cured I wouldn't need the medicine anymore.  AA was the same way. 

  I can't tell you to not go to AA anymore, but I will tell you that I think AA is a strictly religious organization and I am a living testament to the fact that once you have gotten over the compulsion to drink you no longer need to go to AA.  I am an atheist and as the AA coin sez "To Thine Own Self Be True" for me that was no longer going...  -William G in San Antonio TX

Ditto William......

@ Curtis @ William, Thank you for your different perspectives on A.A. I too, have seen people become the "elder statesman" with basically nothing else to show for their sobriety except being sober. While I have done service work for A.A., including District Chair member, it's not really for me. I do want to help others who are still suffering though, so I think I'll stick around for awhile more. In the meantime I've also begun to expand out more. I volunteer at a homeless shelter now, the local cable access channel, and I'm on an advisory committee for the city council, among other things. I'm working to expand my circle of friends to include more than members of A.A. Also, I've started contributing to Atheist Nexis! Hmmm.. I just got an email saying I'm now a member of the Google group "Evolution Education Update email list". I've forgotten what that is exactly, I'm going too fast! Curtis, I'll check out the Google group you mentioned, too. I think I joined a Yahoo group, but then it said it was more of an anti-12 step group, so I really haven't gone back there. The messages didn't apply to anything anyway.

Thanks again!



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