The Twelve Step Fallacy

For many people, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and the sister organization Narcotics Anonymous (NA) have been “life savers.” And viewed through the narrowest scope of “did the individual stop using”, it appears to be just that in many cases.  However, there is a very dark, dangerous underbelly to these organizations that society chooses to ignore.

As an atheist, I have often wondered how fellow Atheists deal with the religious dogma attached to both organizations. Most people have heard of the the Twelve Step program. In case you need a refresher, the twelve steps in AA include that the addict:

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

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

People claim that it isn’t necessary to hold to a Christian belief to get sober through AA, but the above are SEVEN of the TWELVE steps, and they all pertain to God. Seems a little Christian to me.

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Okay, so why is this so dangerous? Because addiction is more than just a drink too many, a pill too far, or a toke too deep. Addiction is part of many a person’s being. It can be transferred from alcohol to cocaine, or cocaine to crystal meth. It can also be transferred from alcohol/drugs to religion. And more frequently than not, that is exactly what happens when addicts begin the journey into AA and the Twelve Steps.

Many people argue that finding “peace” in Jesus has stopped the self destructive behavior. And on the surface, it can appear to be so. But you needn’t scrape the surface much to realize the addiction is alive, well, and thriving. It just craves Jesus rather than vodka.

Why does this even matter? I mean, how can a “Jesus addiction” be a bad thing? Addiction, by its nature, needs more and more stimulation to reach the same level of satisfaction. Maybe going to church seven days a week looks, let’s say, devout, rather than crazy. But someday, even that won’t be enough. Even the danger of falling so hard and fast into any delusion aside, this can be unbelievably damaging. In the end, you will still feel unfulfilled, lonely, and depressed. So, what do you do then? Go back to drugs and alcohol? Maybe. Or maybe you delve even deeper into religion until you become Carrie’s mother with a closet full of crucifixes with which to torture... I mean, discipline, your children. You know, so they won’t fall into the same traps you did. And in case you don’t remember, things didn’t end well for her.

Either way, your brain is still looking for that feeling of euphoria. You are still searching something that will fill that void in your psyche. In the end, Jesus didn’t ‘heal’ your addiction. He became your addiction. And the problem is widespread enough that there are programs designed to heal your religious addiction. Seriously. It’s a thing.

Perhaps the worst part is that much of society will praise the hard work you put into your sobriety and applaud the fact that you are using your new found faith to “heal” others struggling with addiction. It feels like a victory.

Addiction is not a demon that can be exorcised. It is a problem, usually with very deep roots, that needs serious, medically and psychologically trained professionals to solve. Some can beat addiction alone, but for those who can’t, don’t look for the easy fix of just transferring your drug/alcohol addiction to another addiction that is more socially acceptable.  Get REAL help in cutting your way out of the alluring web that is consuming you.

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