Dear Surly Amy,
I’m an alcoholic. I don’t believe in AA’s religousness/sprituality. I’m also not sure about total abstinence. Where do I go?
~Desparately Requiring Useful Nonreligious Kinfolk
First of all, TEN bonus points for the excellent pseudonym! Well done!
Second of all, I completely hear where you are coming from. AA in my opinion is total garbage. I had a friend who was involved with AA, who was agnostic and I asked her how she could have possibly dealt with extreme religiosity of it. She said that whenever they said anything that had to with with a god or a higher power, she just substituted Felix the Cat in her mind. Which was a cute idea – give your power over to Felix the Cat, but still doesn’t address a lot of the other problems that I see are inherent with AA.
As usual let me say, that I am not a doctor nor am I a psychiatrist or anything even close to that but I do have some anecdotal experience with addictions. The one thing that really upsets me about AA is that they teach that you have no control over your addiction. I think that you do have some control. Quitting anything addictive is very difficult but you can do it if you really want to.
If you are physically addicted to alcohol you should be under medical supervision when you detox. Alcohol detox can be a very dangerous thing but once you have passed through the physical detox stage then it becomes a challenge of rewiring your brain by breaking bad habits and substituting them for good.
Here is one of my anecdotes, take it as you will:
I was a-pack-a-day-sometimes-more-smoker for over 20 years of my life and quitting was a very difficult process for me. I failed 2 or 3 times before I finally got the quit to stick. It was a battle of myself against myself. I literally had to kill off the part of Amy that was a smoker and create new neural pathways that would overwrite the areas that were a trigger for smoking. I had to reinvent myself as a non-smoker. I had to reevaluate who my friends were. I had to analyze who I really wanted to be. It seems sorta cliché but almost every single aspect of my life was somehow connected to smoking. Everything down to talking on the phone was somehow linked with the need for a cigarette.
To deal with this, I had to face the addiction head on with a whole lot of inner rage. Rationally, I realized that cigarettes were going to kill me and I had to fight the addiction off as if it was a physical enemy in order to survive. Did I mention I have asthma? So one random day I quit cold turkey with an open, almost entirely full pack of cigarettes. I kept that open pack of cigarettes in the freezer for 4 months because I knew that I had to able to deal with the temptation being right in front of me or I would never be able to be rid of my addiction. I battled through the physical withdrawals by hiking and battled the mental withdrawals by finding success stories online and reminding myself that I wanted to live and I wanted to be healthy. I hiked a lot. I took a lot of walks. I cried a lot. I refused to give up. It was a long process that was extremely difficult for me but in the end completely worth it. It got much easier after the one year mark. I used to count the days that I hadn’t smoked like I was adding up rare golden coins. Now, I sometimes tally up the years.
The moral of this is that you can stop drinking or smoking or whatever your addiction is if you really want or really need to. You can do it. You are not helpless or hopeless.
Also? You are not alone.
There is an alternative to AA that may help you a lot.
SOS is the Secular Organizations for Sobriety. Also known as: Save Our Selves.
From their site:
SOS is an alternative recovery method for those alcoholics or drug addicts who are uncomfortable with the spiritual content of widely available 12-Step programs. SOS takes a reasonable, secular approach to recovery and maintains that sobriety is a separate issue from religion or spirituality. SOS credits the individual for achieving and maintaining his or her own sobriety, without reliance on any “Higher Power.
The international headquarters for SOS is housed at CFI West in Los Angeles but they have meetings all around the world and online resources as well. Here is a link to their website for more information. They also recently celebrated 26th year anniversary.
Whether or not you need to quit or gain control is not something that I can not say. Regardless of what path you take just remember that you can overcome.
Got a question you would like some Surly-Skepchick advice on? Send it in! We won’t publish your real name, unless you want us to and creative pseudonyms get bonus points! Just use the contact link on the top left of the page.