To AA or not to AA

A very close friend of mine is about to go through the traumas of quitting a lifetimes addiction to booze. She is not religious and I have read that AA tends to be fairly Christian. She does not want to be placed in a difficult situation. The whole thing is difficult enough without that thrown in too.



There are atheist AA groups, but a dominant theme in AA remains the higher power thing. Many find it useful for the initial drying out and then leave it behind. Others stay with it for decades, but of those I personally have known (several), all are religious to some degree.

Unitarians sound like an interesting branch to check out if that’s necessary - apparently it’s possible to be an atheistic Unitarian. Or a pantheistic Unitarian.

You describe her as “not religious” which is just fine at most AA meetings. Since the AA program has the best track record I know of in treating this illness, it would be unfortunate to have her avoid it over this issue. The vast majority of newcomers to AA would describe themselves as “not religious”. Most of them either discover a concept of higher power they can live with or disregard this aspect of the program while partaking of the myriad other benefits offered.

If she gives AA a good try and finds she can’t get past the higher power thing, check back here or email me for alternative (but less available and less proven) support groups.

Yeah. Go to AA. They have a good concept; Talk with fellow-boozers.

Never mind the “higher power” . You don’t *need * that nonsense to stay sober.

Wait until you’re good and dry and then decide what you want to believe.

Good Luck.

Never mind the “higher power” . You don’t need that nonsense to stay sober.

You, of course, don’t know what anyone in particular needs to stay sober. The concept of a “higher power” may not have played any role in your sobriety, but it has helped many turn their lives around.

As to the original OP, the steps of AA ask that the person wishing to remain sober acknowledge the role of a higher power “as they understand hiim” in achieving and maintaining their sobriety. It is not a Christian God, it is not a Jewish God, it doesn’t have to be God at all - whatever “higher power” you can recognize to take some of the burden off your shoulders as you start to get sober. I urge your friend to go to an AA meeting. Go back again. If that one doesn’t resonate, go to a completely different one. Sooner or later they will find on that fits.

AA and Al Anon saved my life and I heartily recommend the program to anyone who has had enough.

AA is defintitely not religious.
Yes, there is an emphasis on “spirituality,” but how you define that is entirely up to you.
And the only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
That’s it. Very simple.

The best part about AA is that no one is required to join. One can leave at any time and return if and when they please. Therefore, there is no harm in your friend going to a meeting or two. If she’s too uncomfortable, then she doesn’t have to stay.

And definitely try more than one or two.
AA meetings are like bars. You just feel more comfortable in some than in others.

There are alternative programs for those who disagree with the religious overtones of AA. One I’ve heard people talking up is “Rational Recovery”, I believe. I don’t know much about the details of it, but I think it was created in part to offer a program to people who disagreed with the religious stance of AA.

My father went to AA, for a short time, then stopped. It was enough to get him on the right track to sobriety, but he found he didn’t need it constantly (he was a binge drinker, and decided to quit after a nasty, drunken argument with my mother - I think, as I understand what happened - that the subject and emotions in that argument were more than enough to motivate him to stop drinking). He is not a particularly religious man, but AA helped him recognize how to set about reaching his goals, and he did it. It’s been nearly 10 years (I think), and he hasn’t drank at all (except for 0.5 beer).

Tell your friend to try it out. It can’t do any harm, and it just might do a world of good.

I’m not an alcoholic, but I have had the benefit of friends who were in recovery with AA (this is an open thread, right?) It really is an all-inclusive association.

Like plnnr said, the idea of a higher power is simply that no man is an island. You don’t have to fix every perceived problem all by yourself. I get the impression that most groups avoid attaching any religious dogma to AA.

I strongly recommend Rational Recovery as opposed to AA. The basic principle behind AA that I personally disagree with is not the HP thing… it’s the “I’m forever an alcoholic and should be flogged” attitude. RR teaches skills that are useful outside of meetings- thought stopping, challenging irrational thoughts, etc- that go a longer way to treating the disease than (pardon me for this) sitting around a room once or twice a week discoursing on how horrible you are. AA, too often in my experience, turns in one addiction for another without addressing the thoughts behind the addictive personality.

Good luck to your friend!!!


Bobkilly’s observation about AA doesn’t hold true for all AA meetings, as I’m sure she’ll attest. That being said, you will find folks in AA meetings that carry that extra added weight. Patience and forebearance are other “tools” I picked up at my AA meetings, and sometimes you have to listen to other folk’s “stuff” to figure out how to best address your own.

Plnnr (who, on many occassions, wanted to say “Jesus Christ, will you please shut up about your drinking!” during an AA meeting). Go figure.

Actually, in this state, the courts can require those convicted of alcohol-related offenses to attend AA as a condition of their probation. If you don’t attend the required number of meetings each week, you go back to jail.

Why wouldn’t you choose AA? They give you free maps, and they’re really helpful when your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.

I have to disagree very strongly with this statement. AA does teach that alcoholism is an incurable disease, but not that you should feel ashamed or be punished forever. In fact, the whole idea behind steps 4 through 9 is to get rid of old behaviors and thought patterns in order to form a new way of life. Anyone who is hanging on to guilt and shame isn’t working the program. Simply going to meetings once or twice a week isn’t working the program. The Twelve Steps are the AA program. Meetings are simply to give people a place to support each other in their working of the steps and learning how to live life without drinking.

I’ll echo the sentiment that AA is spiritual but not religious. I don’t consider myself in any way religious, and I’ve been in AA for almost 12 years now. Some people come to meetings and hear people talking about God and assume that it’s some kind of Christian organization, but that really isn’t true. The concept of a “higher power” is central to the steps, but each person is free to come up with their own idea of what that means. If someone is absolutely opposed to the HP concept, then AA would definitely not be for them, but don’t rule it out just because you don’t consider yourself religious.

what geobabe said.

Yeah. What Geobabe said:


Thnx all for valuable comments.



If someone is absolutely opposed to the HP concept, then AA would definitely not be for them

And if someone believes that there is absolutely nothing in the universe more powerful than they are, good luck to them! They’ll need it!