Like most people I wear many hats and I tend to wear mine proudly. I’m an atheist, a lesbian, a liberal, a humanist and a history nerd. I’m also a recovering alcoholic. And since I put my entire life on display, my sobriety is just another topic I openly discuss. I tried a lot of different ways to get sober. A lot. Finally AA worked for me. I don’t speak for AA, no one does. I only speak for myself. And I also suggest that people use whatever program or avenue works for them. But since I mostly use AA, I talk about that in my recovery posts.
This week has been interesting for me. I wrestle a lot with the way god is constantly shoved down our throat. And I hate the fact that when I say I’m an atheist, someone always pulls me aside afterwards and explains that god will come if I ask. Lately I’ve felt this even more keenly. It’s definitely fostered a resentment and disenchantment with the program; and while I’ve had no thoughts of relapse, I have wondered how important it is to have a recovery group. Then the other day at a meeting I heard a man adamantly insist he does not believe in a god and then go on a bit of a tirade about the subject. Most people were visibly uncomfortable, but I was alive. I always identify with people but still often feel alone. In that moment though I felt that I had a real friend in AA. Not simply someone being patient so they could change me, but a person who recognized that I could be good and sober without a god. Sometimes I wonder. I must admit that despite the evidence of countless atheists who have stayed sober without a “god of their own understanding” I’ve wondered if my lack of faith will hinder me. In some ways I’m sure it does. A constant skeptical mind is often a hindrance and not an asset.
But then in addition to being reminded that I’m not a lone, I was also reminded of the true loneliness of alcoholism and lack of a program. Another man shared his story a few days later. He had been sober for 4 years and the night of his fourth anniversary he picked up a drink. I realize non-alcoholics/addicts cannot understand this behavior. But every person in that meeting got it, trust me. For the last year and a half he’s struggled with getting sober again and as of today he had 12 days alcohol free. He tried many different methods to regain his sobriety but finally went back to AA because that’s what had worked the first time. Again, whatever works for a person, do it. His story shook me though. He spoke of his resentment and how it drove him from AA and I thought of my own resentment. I cannot afford to go out again. My life was a living hell and I prayed that if there were a god, may he simply let me die.
But there was no heavenly help for me. I had to do the work. I had to get up every day and go to a meeting. Many days I went twice, occasionally I went three times. I had to reach out and ask for help when I just wanted to isolate. I had to get into a meditation habit and a journaling habit. I had to be honest with myself and adress my character defects. And today I have to continue doing the work. I don’t have to do it alone though, I’ve chosen a method that gives me a support group. And though I don’t agree with everyone, and on some days want to walk out because of religious nonsense, the truth is I need to be sober. The truth is my life is shit without recovery. And the truth is this program works for me most days so why am I letting my personal feelings drive me away? I don’t have to believe in a god to be sober. And I don’t have to believe in a god to have a god centered program help me. Some would disagree. To each their own. This is the recovery that has worked for me and the only thing that’s worked so far. I tried rehab, spiritualism, therapy, online forums, books, family pressure and more. But a 12 step program with too much god and shitty coffee is what has worked for this proud atheist-alcoholic.
If you’re struggling in AA as an atheist, I encourage you to remain strong and remember you can do this and it’s worth it. And I promise you’re not alone. And if you’re in recovery and believe in a god, I challenge you to allow others to have their own recovery and beliefs. Don’t tell them how they’re doing it wrong, none of us have the answers. We wear our hats and not only do they help define us but they allow others to recognize our differences. Most importantly they allow us to gain a wider perspective on life and that perspective is invaluable if we use it. Stay strong my friends.