One topic that has interested me since becoming an atheist is how to stay sober without the 12 Steps. I was in AA when I became an atheist and have found that I don’t feel I belong there anymore. Todd B, whose twitter handle is @addictionguy shares his experience with secular recovery:

Sobriety is an interesting thing, especially as most people initially attempt to find recovery under the banner of religion at a 12-step meeting. If you follow me on Twitter you know that I am not a fan of the 12-step program. The focus of this post is to discuss a different way of staying sober that is outside the confines of a traditional approach and totally unrelated to any religious doctrine.

I used alcohol and drugs for a period of 10 years.  After significant social and health problems I was faced with a decision after being in a coma for nearly a month. My experience as a clinician is that everybody who makes a decision to quit using needs to find their own motivation to quit and remain chemical-free.  My motivation came from my grandmother when she said “I was very concerned that you wouldn’t make it”.  This is significant to me because both of my grandparents survived Auschwitz.  They spent every day not knowing if they would be alive for the next 24 hours. My grandmother is my moral compass and I remember thinking that if she was able to find a way to stay alive for four years in horrific conditions, I could find a way to stay sober.

When I got sober my grandparents asked me to try 12-step meetings.  I attended for some time but as an Atheist I disliked the reliance on god.  I found that many people essentially traded religion for their chemical use.  I also found that the “program” essentially reinforces helplessness and powerlessness and fosters a reliance on the program. I continue to hear about the success of the program, but my experience is that many people often confuse most successful with most popular.

I think about my recovery in the following ways:

I attach a tremendous amount of emotional pain to the idea or thought of using and a tremendous amount of pleasure to the thought of remaining chemical free. Not only do I stay sober because I made a commitment to my grandmother (pleasure) I don’t use chemicals because it creates more problems than it solves (pain).

I was able to quit as the people I knew who used alcohol and drugs had different goals than did.  I wanted more from my life than I was currently getting. I no longer saw drug use as fun, and everything I wanted in my life conflicted with using chemicals.

I didn’t want to be asleep on my life.  It seems to me that running around being checked out all of the time because I was loaded or drunk meant that I was missing out on what I wanted to do. I have been able to maintain recovery because the things I want to do in my life and the relationships I have created are vastly more important than any chemicals I’ve used.

There are many paths to sobriety that do not require god or a need to attend meetings.  I’d like to offer five ideas to enhance your recovery:

-    If you want to build accountability in your recovery you can create an accountability contract. This is essentially a written document where you give permission for people to help you in certain ways if your recovery is in trouble. This also requires honesty on your part to outline what a recovery emergency looks like for you.
-    I would invite you to talk to a mental health professional to get a temperature check’ on any manifestations which may be distressing to you. The National Institute of Drug Abuse suggests that at least 50% of people who get sober have a co-occurring disorder. The most prominent mental health issue is depression.
-    Consider revisiting your diet and try to incorporate exercise into your life.
-    I have been a fan of the martial arts long before I got sober.   I am not sure I can separate where my recovery ends and where my practice of the martial arts begins.
-    My entire life is focused on contribution.  I can’t imagine not giving back in some way.  I don’t think it matters what you do to volunteer as long as you do something. This ‘something’ could be animal rescue efforts, starting a blog, online volunteering, adopting a street where you take responsibility to pick up trash, or you find comfort working with older adults. Point your browser to or for a place to start.
-    Get your butt to a doctor. I’ve lost count of how many people told me they never got sick when they were using nor did they ever break a bone. The reality is that chemical use masks all kinds of physical health problems, and it tends to create problems you’re likely to dismiss. Having a physical and getting regular blood work can be a great way to begin to feel better.

Whatever you begin to do to work towards your recovery, I hope you begin today.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @addictionguy or checkout my blog:

Good luck on your path.

Just after writing my last post on the FFRF billboards going up around Sacramento, I saw this post on the SacFAN facebook.

In the face of 55 billboards that simply convey to other atheists that we are here and not alone, these believers are terrified into an angry frenzy and calling for vandalism. How very Christ-like!

My friends Gary Alexander, a great organizer and a great thinker, and Matt and Kim Martin, funny and fun freethinkers, were featured in the Our Region section of the Sacramento Bee. The Freedom From Religion Foundation Sacramento chapter, headed by the incredible Judy Saint, is sponsoring a 55 billboard campaign in the Sacramento area where my friends will be featured.

I’m so excited for my friends to be part of this! I almost signed up, but wasn’t sure I wanted my face smiling on a billboard during my bereavement leave, which ends in January. Maybe next time!

This is one of the largest atheist billboard campaigns to date. SacFAN, the meetup group under whose umbrella I hold my own little Davis get-together, has 1300 members! During the holiday season when religion is front and center, I hope that atheists who haven’t joined or are scared to come out will see the billboards and know they aren’t alone.

I saw this online and I wish I knew where it was from so I could give the artist credit! It was just an image without any link. If you know who it belongs to, please let me know!

From Around the Web

Has anyone else experienced something similar? Certain members of my own family were only okay as long as I still said I believe in “something.” I used The Force and Karma for awhile, but venturing on the word atheist was too frightening for a long time.

Also, extra points if you understand the reference on the shirt!

Prop 8 taught us many lessons. The amount of time we had for the equal rights movement to gather steam was only a few months. We didn’t get the message out soon enough. Many of us couldn’t imagine our state had enough hateful people in it that we’d see something like it pass. Early polls in support of equal marriage gave us hope it would fail at the voting booth. Prop 8 passed with 52% of the vote. The law was overturned two years later, but it took another three years for marriage equality to resume in California.

California, we’re facing another fight. A conservative group has gathered enough signatures to put an initiative on the ballot next November to overturn a landmark law protecting trans rights in California. Jerry Brown recently passed AB 1266, which allows for any student to join any sport team, elective or club of their choice regardless of sex and protect them from discrimination by school officials. Conservatives are saying it “violates the privacy rights of the non-transgendered.” It violates their rights that schools can no longer discriminate based on what’s between people’s legs? Wrap your head around that one.

Unfortunately, the conservative group gathered 620,000 signatures so far. That’s 620,000 people in your state who want Californians to decide on the ballot whether or not transfolk have a right to be protected.

If you think something like that should be up for a vote, I’d like you to consider the following video. It’s from 2011, but  was making its round on the internet recently, and I have to warn you, it is brutal. It shows footage of a transwoman being beaten up by two girls in a McDonald’s while an employee stands and videotapes it.

Light The NightOctober 26th, 2013


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