Can Atheists get Sober?

In this video I ask whether God and religion are important in addiction recovery

The Addiction and Recovery Podcast Epsiode 48 is the audio from this video

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12 thoughts on “Can Atheists get Sober?

  1. I enjoyed your podcast, Paul. Thank you for addressing this subject. For a time I attended a 12-step program for overeaters, and this issue was my big stumbling block. People said if you didn’t believe in a higher power, you couldn’t be successful in a 12-step program (of any type) because you couldn’t “turn over your worries to a higher power.” Have you ever attended a 12-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous? If so, how did you get around this? Or how did others?

    1. Hi Lynne, I attended an AA every day for 2 years during my mid-twenties. I had a very vague idea of a higher power at the time. I know some members took the ‘power of the group’ as their higher power.

      I know people in 12 Step Groups are well meaning, but it is obviously not the case that we have to believe in one particular thing in order to beat an addiction – or manage our eating habits.

  2. Nice man – keep this up, forget about the straight audio – video is much better and you’ll be connecting with more people. Very nice…

    The subject is a tricky one, and it’s great you addressed it. Seems like you have a well-rounded view of things and a very open mind about it. It’s those that attribute an external force as the reason tehy broke their addiction that usually don’t have that openness to see things from different perspectives. This is a bummer about people in general. Those that are locked into rigid belief systems that can’t see other points of view. I don’t like interacting with those people much, and I don’t seek them out. In fact, I probably either blitz them with the big picture, or just run to get away from them.

    I’m also agnostic. I couldn’t possibly call myself an atheist – it’s as close-minded as a believer in something. There might well be something out there, there might well be just us. I’m fine with whatever’s going on – well, fine in the sense that – there’s nothing I can do about it. Like you said – there’s not a person on the planet that can help you with that question… it’s kind of pointless to dedicated your life to one way or the other, or even to be arguing with people to convert them to agnosticism.

    Anyway, great video – and cheers man! Looking forward to more.

    1. Hi Vern, I think some people in recovery hold rigid beliefs because they feel that it is the only way to stay sober. Escaping an addiction can feel like a miracle and people may be wary about questioning how it is working – they’re just glad it is working. I suspect that these people fear that by questioning the beliefs that helped them get sober, it will put them at risk of relapse. I understand how they feel, but it hasn’t been that way for me.

      1. Exactly. Though I’ve not counseled that many people to help them overcome addiction – I’ve worked on teams that have, and seen the dynamics of recovery.

        What you said about people being wary about questioning how it’s working – is right on. They are just ecstatic that they are in a new place. There is a LOT of support from others when your recovery is attributed to having a religious component… and that too – feels really good and many people go that way because of it. It’s tougher to stay quit on your own.

        My mom quit smoking as she watched a tv evangelist… very glad she did. She considers herself “born again” for the last, I don’t know, 35 years. So, I’ve seen it in action on a personal level as well.

        To each his own…

        1. Thanks Vern, I think that when people get sober they can be left with a huge gap in their life. Religion can work well at filling this empty space. One reason why people become addicted is that they are not satisfied with normal living – they need something bigger.

          I think people differ in how much they need a spiritual component in their life. Maybe some of us are naturally spiritual while others are just born materialist. If that is the case then arguments between believers and non-believers may as fruitless as arguments between heterosexuals and homosexuals.

  3. As John Lennon said, ‘whatever gets you through the night.’ You are looking fit, inspiring. I’m not subscribed to your other website, but I have checked it a few times to see where you are at. Are you going to post some sparring practice on here. Also, it would be nice, and this is just a suggestion, if you were to interview people, maybe like some of the monk teachers you’ve had, or a bit of Thailand, or mindful eating with maybe some foods you eat, or meditation. I think your pod casts are good outside, but watching it made my mind wander. I think these things all count toward your recovery so could help others. Your blog is way more interesting than mine will ever be already. Thanks, Paul.

    1. Hi Paul, you’ve made some great suggestions. I have thought about interviews, but I’ve just never gotten around to it. You blog is extremely honest, and I’m certain that it helps your readers.

  4. I’m a secular existentialist and have over 21 years of recovery my belief system is founded on the convictions that the universe is functioning in a dianamic state, a process of continuous creation, and therefore continuously changing. I personally ascribe to Zen Buddhism I believe that “Truth” is constant, and man, unfortunately, tries to grasp and solve this concept through myopic “Religious” philosophies. I have never had a problem at an AA meeting…I do not believe in a conscious entity governing the cosmos. I focus only on the simple slogans and suggestions found through AA. If you don’t Drink you won’t get Drunk….if you ask for help ask it of another human being…reach out your hand and mind so you are not alone. Give up your resentment, and don’t take another persons inventory….and in the “End” if you live and don’t drink you’ll have a long Sober life, Peace.

  5. Paul, I really like your idea of taking the “power of the group” as a higher power. I never once heard this suggested in America (at least among the groups I tried). That definitely would have worked for me.

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