AA - Atheists and Alcoholism
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16-03-2013, 07:03 PM
AA - Atheists and Alcoholism
Hi everyone!

I've looked through the TTA forums and haven't seen any sections dedicated to alcoholism, alcoholics anonymous, or recovery from alcoholism. Or to any other substances, for that matter.

General summary of why I am starting this thread:
As I type this, I'm envisioning a little section of the TTA forums where people can connect with other atheists who have had similar problems. I hope that I can find some people to share stories with, as well as offer/receive advice and encouragement. I doubt I'm the only atheist with substance problems that is tired of religion being present no matter where you turn for help. I'd also like to hear people's thoughts on how religious people and institutions are affecting the treatment programs available to addicts.

I am a total newbie to online forums, but as far as I can tell a good first poster for a thread will include some compelling seed material. So I am throwing myself out there in the hopes that you will find something of value, and perhaps want to respond or contribute yourself. I've got two stories to tell, both of which are fairly long. Here are the summaries of each so that you can decide whether or not you want to read them.

1. My first story is of my own problems regarding addiction. I feel that other issues in my life that are not directly related to addiction help place my alcoholism in proper perspective, so I've included them as well. Many people with drug/alcohol problems find the stories of other addicts to be helpful in their own recovery efforts, so here is my own for what it's worth.

2. My second story is about my involvement with a local, state funded recovery clinic. They are good people who want to help, and they do help. But their program reeks of religion, and they do their best to push woo-woo, spirituality, AA and religion on their patients. And if you're like me, this will make you pretty damn mad.

STORY 1: A somewhat brief summary of own story, in case you are interested
My story involves much more than just alcohol. I have dealt with problems including anxiety, depression, panic attacks and insomnia my entire life. I even spiraled down to suicidal thoughts over the past two years. Absolute rock bottom occurred when I found myself driving to the store to buy a shotgun. I had determined that my life was not worth continuing and that a high powered round to the head was the best way to exit this world. There is no heaven or hell. No gods, no spirits, no reincarnation. As many atheists have pointed out before, I wasn't suffering before I was born, so I wouldn't be suffering after death. A firearm would make ending my life like flicking a light switch, avoiding the physical and psychological agony of other options I had considered, such as using my combat knife to slice my neck, jumping into a local gorge, or hanging. Fortunately for me I didn't know that firearms are much harder to come by here in NY, unlike in my native state of TX, so this never came to pass.

This is off-topic, but I think it is interesting to note the initial reasons I found to cling to life. These included obvious things like forcing myself to think about how my death would affect my family, friends, and the kind-hearted mental health professionals that I had been seeing. But on top of this, atheism and atheists helped save me. This is because I was going to school at Cornell University, which made the news in recent years for a rash of suicides. I realized that if I kill myself there is a small, but nonetheless real, possibility that my suicide would enter the news. This would be problematic because I am VERY out of the closet about my atheism. I forced myself to imagine the worst case scenario: news of my suicide being paraded around by the bigots on Fox News, or even local TV stations. "Look, LOOK! SEE? This is what atheism leads to! These people are obviously in need help! Praise Jeebus! etc etc." I didn't want my actions to make life any harder on the vast majority of atheists who are just normal people without serious issues. Even if the media didn't get involved, news of my death would definitely spread by word of mouth and I can guarantee that a large number of folks who know me would attribute my suicide to being an atheist. I have since found other reasons to live, but hey, this is an atheistic forum. I think this was interesting.

Alcohol was a minor problem for me for about 2 to 3 years, during my suicidal phase. The primary effect it had was on my productivity as a graduate student. Even though I was using only a little bit every day, it only takes a little bit to majorly disrupt your sleep cycle, which made me sluggish and less capable of tackling my research. Then, in the fall of 2012, I dropped out of my PhD program. Alcohol no doubt contributed to my downfall, but up until that point it was primarily my psychological problems and my complete lack of compatibility with my PhD advisor that were bringing me down. However, within a few weeks of leaving the program I began hitting the booze pretty hard until I was beyond a shadow of a doubt a real alcoholic. This continued to happen, and get worse, as the months wore on. I was so depressed and felt so hopeless that alcohol was the one and only way for me to feel good at all, even a little bit.

Then, In mid January of this year I had had enough. I was at rock bottom and couldn't kick my drinking habit. I could barely even take care of myself and I was running out of savings to live on. I needed to take action to get back on my feet before I ended up bankrupt and maybe even homeless. So I renewed my exercises to get back in shape, began seriously hunting for jobs, and began my first pathetic attempts to return to sober normalcy. I had some success kicking the booze on my own, but it just wasn't working. So, in desperation, I tried attending some AA meetings. Those meetings, which I will describe in another part of this post, did not help. They tried way too hard to make me feel like a hopeless wretch who could only recover with the help of.... guess who? Why, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ of course! So that was a bust. Luckily I found a local, more clinical program to help me out. This clinic is FAR from perfect, but was effective enough to get me on my feet. I've been totally free of any alcohol ever since and my life is steadily improving.

STORY 2: Religion poisons everything. This includes recovery programs for addicts
Now I'll get on to why I'm disappointed and angry with the recovery services available to alcoholics. I feel this way because of my experiences with alcoholics anonymous (AA) and a local addiction recovery service. I'm an engineer/scientist, not a lawyer, so just to be careful I won't mention the local recovery service by name. I'll simply refer to it as Local Addiction Recovery Service that has been Corrupted by Religion (LARS-CR).

My experience at AA was what you'd expect. They pretend that it's not religious in nature, when it really is. To their credit they never directly told me to go find Jesus. Just a "higher power". But boy oh boy were they eager and looking for any opportunity to convince me that Jesus is the best higher power to choose. Again, to their credit, they tell all newcomers that even atheists are welcome. And just for emphasis, I'll say it again:
Atheists really do seem to be welcome at AA meetings!
But they still tell you that you have to have a higher power. Atheists are still strongly pressured to find Jesus or some god-like substitute for Jesus. Even if you stripped away the blatantly religious aspects of AA and their beloved 12 steps, you're still left with something that's essentially a religion.

How, you might ask? Because AA members and their 12 steps tell you that:
1. You are a miserable, pathetic wretch who has absolutely no control over your life
2. In order to be happy again and regain control you must accept your own impotence and worthlessness
3. You must tap into an outside source to get the power necessary for recovery
4. You must come to THIS organization for the rest of your life if you want to make use of this power source. Seriously. We expect you to devote large chunks of time to AA
for the entirety of your remaining years on planet Earth.
5. So here, drink this Kool-Aid! Join us! IT'S BLIIIIISSSSSSSSS......
Sound familiar?

But I already knew I'd see that type of nonsense in AA. I simply gave it a try to see if I could overlook the religion and superstition. What I'm REALLY ticked off about is the way LARS-CR goes about business. They present themselves as a medical treatment facility, and in many ways they really are. With only one exception, all of the staff members are genuinely kind people who want to help you get back on your feet. I have been exposed to rational, concrete tools and mental techniques that will help me never revert to alcoholism again. Their program worked, and they are equipping me with tools to make sure I never relapse. For this, I am incredibly grateful.

However.... one problem with this so-called science based institution is that they are doing their best to convince me that my own problem with alcohol is an all-encompassing, crippling, incurable disease that will haunt me every waking hour for the rest of my life. And if I'm not super-duper diligent about prayer, spirituality and excessive time-wasting on things like AA meetings, alcoholism will jump out of nowhere like the fucking boogeyman and ruin my life all over again. They ignore the fact that I haven't wanted any alcohol since my 3rd week in the program. It doesn't matter that I can live in a house with lots of liquor handy, go out to bars and parties, or hang out around drinking friends without wanting to drink myself. That is not what their rigidly prescribed program says is supposed to happen, so obviously I am a liar, or I am in denial. Kicking the habit for good is not an option. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. Much like a religion might do, they are trying to yoke me an incurable disease.

The problem with LARS-CR that bugs me the most is how they will NOT shut up about religion, spirituality, and AA. Several times a week we are bombarded with the message that involvement with AA is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, the only effective way to prevent relapse. Using what can only be described as apologist acrobatics, they have even lectured us on how AA is not a religious institution. They have given us quizzes on "spiritual health." I didn't do too well on those for some strange reason. And guess what!? That's right, I need more magical powers in my life! They will not stop trying to get me to find a higher power! But what's the harm in all this, you might ask? I have, after all, benefited greatly from the non-religious parts of the program. Well, the problem is that religion is being pushed on me by an institution that receives public funding.
LARS-CR pushes AA, spirituality and religion on its patients
LARS-CR receives public funding from the state of NY
No wonder they do such impressive mental gymnastics to make believe AA is not a religious institution!

Here is another reason why I'm upset: my skills as an engineer/scientist could very likely land me a job where I need to get a security clearance. In fact, some of the coolest jobs for people in my profession require clearances. I am worried that they will give me a poor recommendation to clearance investigators because I have made it transparently obvious that I find no value in AA. Will they ding me because I don't have any gods, woo-woo or higher powers in my life? Will the clearance investigators make receipt of a clearance contingent upon attendance at AA meetings? If so, would I have the time, patience and money to file suit against this bullshit? Will the ACLU or FFRF have the resources to back up an atheist that is devalued for their lack of belief and forced to attend religious meetings? I mention this because even if my worst fears come to pass, there would no doubt be many, many other nonbelievers out there who are suffering much more severe consequences than I at the hands of theists. I mean sure, I could lose out on a dream job. But it's not like they can stop me from finding a normal job with no clearance requirements.

Lastly, I'll say that I can't stop kicking myself for not lying to the LARS-CR people about my lack of belief. I was in a very, very tough spot in life, so my judgment lapsed. This should have been obvious to me, but no, I didn't think of this and as a result I've been quite vocal about my atheism and my distaste for religion/AA. I wish I could go back in time and present myself as a good little Christian. There are times and places to take a stand (like at the reason rally where I wore one of Seth's kick-ass shirts), but this wasn't one of them.

THE END!!!!!
There you have it. My stories. What did you think? Am I crazy? Am I being too hard on those poor LARS-CR people? Do you think I'm just feeling sorry for myself? Or perhaps you think I'm right and LARS-CR should stop this religious crap? I'd love to hear what you have to say!
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16-03-2013, 08:36 PM
RE: AA - Atheists and Alcoholism
Welcome QL Smile

I suppose it comes down to asking yourself two questions:-
1. Do I stay true to myself about my beliefs and deal with the consequences this brings? OR
2. Lie about your beliefs to have a more 'comfortable' lifestyle?

You are the only person that can weigh up the pros and cons and make that decision.

I don't envy the choices you have and as I don't live in the US I find it somewhat difficult to relate to them.

I'm sure many on this site will be able to offer you more.

Humankind Dodgy (a total misnomer)
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[+] 1 user Likes aurora's post
16-03-2013, 10:22 PM
RE: AA - Atheists and Alcoholism
(16-03-2013 08:36 PM)aurora Wrote:  Welcome QL Smile

I suppose it comes down to asking yourself two questions:-
1. Do I stay true to myself about my beliefs and deal with the consequences this brings? OR
2. Lie about your beliefs to have a more 'comfortable' lifestyle?

You are the only person that can weigh up the pros and cons and make that decision.

I don't envy the choices you have and as I don't live in the US I find it somewhat difficult to relate to them.

I'm sure many on this site will be able to offer you more.
Hello.
I know nothing about LARS CR but a little about A.A., having attended a little, several years ago.

Despite the Higher Power equivocation I see them as being quite religiously dangerous.

Tell all to your sponsor (priest) I heard of one girl who did ,only to have her name slandered all over town.
Crushing any ego you have left by publicly debasing yourself ad nauseum.
Choke on cigarette smoke and drown your tears in coffee.
Listen to loud mouthed (ever so proud) bigots
'Hi I'm Woof and I'm an alcoholic'.

I am not even sure that all so called alcoholics meet that criterion, whatever it is.
For the last two decades my drinking had been reasonably normal,99% of the time, at round 4 or 5 std drinks a day;it is currently one or two a day which is said to be heart healthy Not much of a buzz though!

It makes a lot of sense to control one's drinking;as for becoming an absolute martyr to total abstinence,well that's another story. Cool

Sticks and stones may break my bones
but names will never hurt me~~~~~
Cooyon WillieLaughat
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16-03-2013, 10:49 PM
RE: AA - Atheists and Alcoholism
Atheists really do seem to be welcome at AA meetings!

Don't give a shit. Ain't gonna ever admit a power greater than myself unless you call it pharmacology. Baclofen and Naltrexone, I'll admit them for this purpose.

I am us and we is me. ... bitches.
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16-03-2013, 11:52 PM
RE: AA - Atheists and Alcoholism
Couldn't agree more, Woof. I can't stand how they make you belittle
yourself at every meeting. And the mention of cigarette smoke and coffee
made me smile... I wonder if that's universal at AA meetings
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16-03-2013, 11:57 PM
RE: AA - Atheists and Alcoholism
(16-03-2013 08:36 PM)aurora Wrote:  Welcome QL Smile

I suppose it comes down to asking yourself two questions:-
1. Do I stay true to myself about my beliefs and deal with the consequences this brings? OR
2. Lie about your beliefs to have a more 'comfortable' lifestyle?

You are the only person that can weigh up the pros and cons and make that decision.

I don't envy the choices you have and as I don't live in the US I find it somewhat difficult to relate to them.

I'm sure many on this site will be able to offer you more.
Thank you : ) However, what I was saying is that I wish I'd thought about staying true to my beliefs vs. lying ahead of time, in this case. I'm usually pretty loud about my (lack of) beliefs. Just not sure that was wise in this particular instance
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17-03-2013, 12:06 AM
RE: AA - Atheists and Alcoholism
(16-03-2013 11:57 PM)Quadd_Lazer! Wrote:  
(16-03-2013 08:36 PM)aurora Wrote:  Welcome QL Smile

I suppose it comes down to asking yourself two questions:-
1. Do I stay true to myself about my beliefs and deal with the consequences this brings? OR
2. Lie about your beliefs to have a more 'comfortable' lifestyle?

You are the only person that can weigh up the pros and cons and make that decision.

I don't envy the choices you have and as I don't live in the US I find it somewhat difficult to relate to them.

I'm sure many on this site will be able to offer you more.
Thank you : ) However, what I was saying is that I wish I'd thought about staying true to my beliefs vs. lying ahead of time, in this case. I'm usually pretty loud about my (lack of) beliefs. Just not sure that was wise in this particular instance
Yes, I understood that (maybe I wasn't clear). I meant, going forward, you could lie and say you'd recanted your atheism and had, again, found God. Not that I'm advocating that Smile but even if just to smooth things over and to make it easier on yourself, career wise.
I hope I'm being clear enough - I've been reading/studying a lot lately and I think I just may be a little wackadoodle!

Humankind Dodgy (a total misnomer)
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17-03-2013, 12:28 AM
RE: AA - Atheists and Alcoholism
(17-03-2013 12:06 AM)aurora Wrote:  
(16-03-2013 11:57 PM)Quadd_Lazer! Wrote:  Thank you : ) However, what I was saying is that I wish I'd thought about staying true to my beliefs vs. lying ahead of time, in this case. I'm usually pretty loud about my (lack of) beliefs. Just not sure that was wise in this particular instance
Yes, I understood that (maybe I wasn't clear). I meant, going forward, you could lie and say you'd recanted your atheism and had, again, found God. Not that I'm advocating that Smile but even if just to smooth things over and to make it easier on yourself, career wise.
I hope I'm being clear enough - I've been reading/studying a lot lately and I think I just may be a little wackadoodle!
Ahhh, I gotcha now. As for me 'recanting'... bahahaha! I have NO guile and the world's worst poker face. Plus I probably couldn't profess belief in Jesus to those people without starting to smirk and giggle anyway : D I'll just stick it out and see how it goes.
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17-03-2013, 12:37 PM
RE: AA - Atheists and Alcoholism
A person on a blog a white back, while he was attending AA said it was like a cult. He is a nonbeliever and hated all the higher power talk, until he just started saying he was his own higher power.

Wind's in the east, a mist coming in
Like something is brewing and about to begin
Can't put my finger on what lies in store
but I feel what's to happen has happened before...


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18-03-2013, 10:37 PM
RE: AA - Atheists and Alcoholism
This thread didn't get many responses, so I'll probably stop checking it much. Just in case you are reading this and are currently hurting from alcohol (or other substance) addiction, I'll just throw out a few more things.

(1) I got a PM from another TTA forum user. Unlike my own experience, he actually found success (as an atheist) with AA. I guess the moral of the story is that if you're in a tough enough spot, you might has well give AA a try. Who knows? Maybe you'll get lucky and find some kindred spirits who can help you recover, without all the spirituality crap.

(2) You can always PM me. I am not a counselor, but at the very least I can lend a sympathetic ear and/or offer you some advice that worked for me.

(3) As a former smoker/chewer, I've noticed that advice for kicking nicotine is applicable to kicking alcohol as well. Perhaps you could read up on how to quit smoking and see if you can draw some useful parallels for yourself.

Best of luck to anyone with these problems!
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