Addiction Recovery for Atheists
The world of addiction recovery for atheists can feel incredibly disconcerting and isolating.
After all, in the world of addiction recovery, you may hear about religious or spiritual frameworks quite often.
Alcoholics Anonymous, for instance, is one of the most popular recovery programmes around. It’s also rooted in a foundation of spiritual principles. Although this programme is helpful for many, it can push many others away.
Fortunately, religion and spirituality are not a requirement for recovery. Plenty of people live full and meaningful lives in recovery who don’t follow a certain religion or spiritual practice. Recovery is possible for everyone, and it is important to know that. If you’re an atheist, you are still wildly capable of exploring and experiencing recovery yourself.
Read on to learn more about what is important for maintaining a healthy recovery from addiction. Additionally, discover treatment and programme options for addiction recovery for atheists.
Religion doesn’t have to be an obstacle to addiction recovery for atheists
If you aren’t religious or spiritual, this doesn’t have to stand in the way of you experiencing a long-lasting, healthy recovery from addiction.
Plenty of people achieve and maintain recovery every single day without believing in a higher power.
For some, having a religious framework offers them guidance. It provides a structure of rules to follow to live a good and meaningful life. However, you don’t need a religion to be able to do this.
You can simply take the time to observe what your beliefs are about yourself and about other people.
Also, you can dive deep into what you want for yourself and who you are.
You can take the time to observe what your values are, whether it’s family, success, goals, creativity, etc.
After uncovering what your values and beliefs are, you can rely on those when making decisions. Observe what your decisions are, and whether they’re in line with the beliefs and values that you’ve deemed important. Conversely, observe if they go against those beliefs and values.
In addition, there’s sometimes an overall misconception of what spirituality really means.
Although for some people it is about maintaining spiritual practices, for others, spirituality is simply about being a good person.
It is about working on yourself to better yourself, and help others along the way.
What the research says
Addiction recovery for atheists is entirely possible, as recovery doesn’t require religion.
Although many people find power and healing in having a religious or spiritual foundation in recovery, research indicates that spiritual or religious-based interventions are not necessarily important factors in regards to evidence-based treatments.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse offers 13 major principles of treatment for recovery, and spirituality or religion do not fall under their list.
This indicates that even if spirituality and religion may help support some people in recovery, it is not necessary or required in order to experience a successful recovery from addiction.
Important attributes for a healthy recovery
There are many important attributes that lay the foundation for a long healthy recovery from addiction that are not necessarily tied to religion or spirituality.
Willingness in recovery spills into many different areas of the recovery journey. It is about being willing to admit that you’re struggling and that you need help. It is about having the willingness to be vulnerable with yourself.
Additionally, it is about the willingness to observe your thoughts and behaviours, and work towards shifting them.
Recovery also relies on the willingness to face difficult emotions, and the willingness to choose recovery every single day. Recovery doesn’t just happen on its own. Rather, it is a conscious choice that is made every day, and is rooted in that willingness.
A major element of recovery is remaining open-minded to new ways of doing things. When you’re in recovery from addiction, you realise that the way you’ve been doing certain things your entire life has simply not worked out for you. This can refer to the mental and emotional processes you’ve perpetuated or coping mechanisms you’ve turned to. In recovery, it’s important to simply be open-minded to new ways of thinking, new ways of being, and new ways of allowing yourself to feel and handle your emotions.
It’s about being open-minded to try out therapy even if it’s something you said you’d never do, or being open-minded to check out a support group, even if you don’t think it’ll help you. The process of recovery is all about growing and trying new things, which is why being open-minded is one of the foundations of recovery.
Honesty is such an important attribute for a healthy recovery. When you were in active addiction, it is safe to say that you were likely less than honest. This could have been not only with people around you, but also with yourself.
Whether it was denial about the extent of your substance abuse, denial of emotions and pain, or denial of things that happened to you in the past, there’s a great deal of dishonesty happening internally while in active addiction.
The nature of active addiction also causes us to lie to the people we love and to the people around us. We get tangled in a web of having to keep our stories straight and it makes us feel even more disconnected with ourselves.
In recovery, honesty allows us to feel more connected to the truth of who we are. It allows us to hold ourselves accountable, and it allows us to improve our relationships with others.
Another important attribute for a healthy recovery from addiction is awareness. Recovery requires a sense of awareness for how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking. It forces you to be aware of if you’re feeling low, or if you’re having negative thoughts. In recovery, we learn not to push down our feelings. We learn not to ignore our thoughts, but rather, observe them. Learning how to become aware of what our thoughts are instead of getting consumed by them is invaluable. It gives us the springboard to understanding how we’re really doing, and then we can take the steps to shift out of negative places in our minds.
Treatment examples for addiction recovery for atheists
Below are some examples of non-religious treatment options and support groups:
Individual treatment methods
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT, is a form of therapy that focuses on observing and shifting thought patterns that aren’t helpful. Shifting the thought patterns allows you to shift the emotions and behaviors, resulting in more supportive and positive thought processes. CBT also involves developing coping skills and understanding triggers in order to prevent relapse.
Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, or DBT, is a form of CBT that centres on teaching people about emotional regulation, mindfulness, and how to face their pain. This form of therapy can help you learn how to manage difficult emotions as well as shift negative, unhelpful thought patterns.
Rational recovery offers a non-religious, cognitive approach in order to help people achieve and maintain sobriety. Alongside not having a base in religion, it also differs from AA in that it is not considered addiction to be a disease. Rational recovery also does not consider individuals to be powerless over their addictions.
Rational recovery teaches people how to separate the addictive voice in their mind, called the beast, with a specific technique called addictive voice recognition technique, or AVRT.
This is a very straightforward, cut-and-dry method to addiction recovery for atheists that involves letting go of substances and sticking to that decision of quitting no matter what.
It views addiction as a conscious daily choice, and therefore views recovery as a conscious daily choice as well. Rational recovery doesn’t host meetings, but rather offers informational resources online.
Below are some options for group programmes that don’t rely on a spiritual or religious framework.
SMART Recovery meetings have risen in popularity over the years. They follow a scientifically-based methodology for recovery. SMART stands for self-management and recovery training, and these are groups run by volunteers who themselves use the program to recover from addiction.
This recovery programme focuses on principles of self-empowerment, positive self-regard, and teaching you skills to overcome substance use and gain long-term sobriety from addiction.
AA for Agnostics
Although AA is widely touted for being based in spiritual principles, there is actually a subdivision of AA for agnostics and atheists. These groups are called AA Agnostic and Secular AA. They offer a religious-free version of the Alcoholics Anonymous framework as an alternative to support addiction recovery for atheists.
Unlike traditional AA meetings, the secular AA groups don’t include prayers within their meetings. They also don’t enforce that a belief in God or higher power is required to achieve and maintain a long-lasting recovery from addiction. These groups also offer a non-religious version of the 12-steps, while maintaining the core principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Secular Organisations for Sobriety
Secular Organizations for Sobriety, or SOS, is a nonprofit series of groups that stray from utilising a religious or spiritual foundation in order to help people achieve and maintain a long-lasting recovery from addiction. These groups encourage healthy skepticism, and welcome diversity.
They rest on the belief that each individual member is responsible for their own recovery, as SOS also stands for save our selves. Meetings are anonymous, and in the group settings members share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. They encourage an open-minded and freethinking space.
LifeRing: Secular Recovery
LifeRing: Secular Recovery is a form of recovery programme that focuses on empowering the “sober self” and diminishing the “addict self.” There is an emphasis on discussing current struggles, producing advice and encouragement rather than focusing on past hurts.
This programme places its members in the driver's seat of their own recovery and doesn’t follow steps or use the concept of sponsors. LifeRing is centred on the “3-S Philosophy,” which includes sobriety, secularity, and self-help. There’s a heavy emphasis on you knowing what’s ultimately best for you.
Why finding the right recovery path is so important
It is so important to find a treatment programme or recovery protocol that you really connect with. It makes a huge difference when the programme aligns with you and your beliefs, especially when it comes to addiction recovery for atheists.
Recovery is all about being true to yourself and being honest with yourself. If you don’t follow religion or spirituality, don’t feel pressured to conform to a programme whose foundations are set in religion or spirituality. It will be harder to connect with programmes like this and will make recovery feel more difficult to attain or maintain.
In individual therapy or counselling, you can have the space to feel seen, heard, and understood, regardless of what your religious beliefs are.
In a group setting specifically for people who are non-religious, you can foster a deeper level of connection with others and with yourself. Additionally, you can create relationships that extend beyond addiction.
Take the time to find the right recovery programme for you. Know that it’s okay to try different options out and see what feels good to you, and what feels like the most authentic fit.
A final note on recovery for atheists
The above-listed treatment options aren’t the only non-religious forms of treatment available.
Many rehabs and treatment centres incorporate faith-based protocol or a 12-step framework, but there are many that don’t utilise religious or spiritual frameworks at all.
When calling a recovery centre or rehab programme, it is perfectly appropriate to inquire about whether their program is based on a spiritual framework or not.
In addition, Recoverlution respects all forms of recovery, whether they’re based in religion or not.
We welcome diversity and understand that recovery looks different for each individual. Your journey of recovery is truly based on your own unique experiences, values, and beliefs.
Feel free to join or create our Recoverlution Community, where you can connect with like-minded people who share the same struggles, joys, and beliefs that you do. You deserve to feel less isolated, fully supported, and guided on your journey through recovery.
Author - Thurga