A collection of essays in three parts explaining the 12 Step Philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous by member Steve K. Written from an agnostic perspective offering a liberal interpretation of what is commonly described by its members as a “spiritual program of recovery.”
There is also an appendix offering a scientific understanding of addiction by Professor David Nutt. This 3rd edition includes the author’s recovery story as a preface to the interpretations.
Full book review article and podcast interview here.
The following review of my book is by Joe C of Rebellion Dogs Publishingand the author of the first daily meditations reading book for agnostics in recovery, ‘Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life’. His book is really thought provoking and very diverse in terms of its influences.
“I really recommend Steve K’s book. Economy of words keeps the simple ideas simple but puts Steve’s own take on AA-style recovery.
Steve, your story reminds me of Jim B in that you never betrayed your core-beliefs; you simply stopped fighting anyone or anything and found a unique place for yourself in your local AA life.
In your book you have an eloquent explanation of an expression in the rooms, “We don’t think our way into right acting; we act our way into right thinking.” You got a step further and suggest that our behaviors (or behaviours to respect the King’s English) change who we are. While that might sound like smoke-and-mirrors, we see that you draw from your own experience – not some intellectual process.”
Virtue ethics … focus is upon the character of the person (‘Agent Centered’), rather than any particularly act in deciding ethical behaviour (‘Act Centered’). … Simply put, ‘virtue ethics’ suggests that practicing virtues such as courage, temperance, wisdom and justice – the so called ‘cardinal virtues’ – leads one to live a good … life. By practicing virtue one becomes virtuous. The way one ‘is’ or one’s ‘being’ is what’s important, not necessarily what one does. (“Practising Virtue and 12 Step Recovery” The 12 Step Philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous)
Finally, a daily reflection book for everyone from Rebellion Dogs Publishing. Beyond Belief is the first secular daily reflection book written in a contemporary language for today’s addicts and alcoholics in recovery. From the Foreword by Dr. Ernie Kurtz (author of Not God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous & The Spirituality of Imperfection): “The book is aimed at a general 12-Step readership, but it is mindful that there heretofore exist no such aids for unbelievers, freethinkers, and the unconventionally spiritual. Given that the latest Pew Research survey found that twenty percent of the American people list their religious affiliation as ‘None,’ it is certainly time that the Recovery world took into consideration this population’s needs. Beyond Belief addresses that need in a confident, non-aggressive way. I doubt that any believer will find anything objectionable in its pages. This believer, for one, finds much that is spiritually helpful.”
In The Alternative 12 Steps: A Secular Guide to Recovery, Martha Cleveland and Arlys G, show how the 12-Step program can be interpreted and worked by those who simply do not believe in an interventionist deity. At the same time the authors conscientiously maintain the intention and integrity of the program – its values, scope and depth. A chapter is devoted to each Step. The language is clear, engaging and personal.
The Foreword to this Second Edition of the book begins with a striking quote from Chapter Three which captures the essence of both the book and the 12 Steps: “We can learn the universal, generic pattern of life’s dance from the 12 Steps. But in our individual dance of life, we choose our own music and dance our own dance.”
This is a unique, inspiring and helpful book for anyone – regardless of belief or lack of belief – who would like to work the 12 Step program.
The next book I would like to recommend is Ernest Kurtz’sdetailed history and examination of AA, ‘NOT-GOD: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous.’ The title has nothing to do with not believing in God, rather it symbolizes the first 3 steps; by acknowledging one’s limitations/lack of control and surrendering one’s will, connection is made with a power greater than oneself. This book really helped me to understand the underlying philosophy of AA, in particular Bill Wilson’s anti-dogmatic attitude. Kurtz is considered to be one of the leading authorities of the so called ‘second generation’ of AA intellectual writers which took over from Bill W and others.
Available from Amazon as a paperback and Kindle edition. Not-God.
While there are many books about A.A. history, most rely on anecdotal stories told well after the fact by Bill Wilson and other early members―accounts that have proved to be woefully inaccurate at times. Writing the Big Bookbrings exhaustive research, academic discipline, and informed insight to the subject not seen since Ernest Kurtz’s Not-God, published forty years ago.
Focusing primarily on the eighteen months from October 1937, when a book was first proposed, and April 1939 when Alcoholics Anonymous was published, Schaberg’s history is based on eleven years of research into the wealth of 1930s documents currently preserved in several A.A. archives. Woven together into an exciting narrative, these real-time documents tell an almost week-by-week story of how the book was created, providing more than a few unexpected turns and surprising departures from the hallowed stories that have been so widely circulated about early A.A. history.
Fast-paced, engaging, and contrary, Writing the Big Book presents a vivid picture of how early A.A. operated and grew and reveals many previously unreported details about the colorful cast of characters who were responsible for making that group so successful.
To help to understand the spirituality of Alcoholics Anonymous, I would also like to recommend another of Kurtz’s classic writings in collaboration with Katherine Ketcham, entitled; ‘The Spirituality of Imperfection.’ I found this book a meditative experience and profound.
A book for those who feel disconnected from the ideas of God presented in organised religion, or are simply struggling to determine their own spiritual path, bestselling author Marya Hornbacher offers a down-to-earth exploration of the concept of faith. In the book Hornbacher uses her own recovery journey from alcoholism, to offer a fresh approach to cultivating a spiritual life.
Originally developed by Alcoholics Anonymous, the Twelve Step program now provides life direction for the millions of people worldwide who are recovering from addiction and undergoing profound personal transformation. Yet thus far it has received surprisingly little attention from philosophers, despite the fact that, like philosophy, the program addresses all-important questions regarding how we ought to live. InSobering Wisdom,Jerome A. Miller and Nicholas Plants offer a unique approach to the Twelve Step program by exploring its spirituality from a philosophical point of view.
Shame & Guilt explores the differences between these two painful but inevitable experiences. Both guilt and shame involve feeling “bad”-feeling bad about one’s actions (or omissions) in the case of guilt; feeling bad about one’s self in shame. The deep meaning of the word bad is “unable to fit”: unable to fit into some external context in the case of guilt, unable to fit into one’s own being in the case of shame.
Gain a clear understanding of the science and latest research behind the success of the Twelve Steps, a critical programme used by millions of people around the world to stay sober and one of the greatest social movements of our time. Since the publication of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939, the Twelve Steps have been central to staying sober for millions of people around the world. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and countless other recovery organizations and treatment programmes have adopted the Steps as their programme for abstaining from substance use and compulsive behaviors.
A timely and original book that explores the fundamental nature of human addiction and the current epidemic of different types of addictions with society. Starting with a dramatically close view of Mate’s drug addicted patients, he skilfully weaves in stories of real people while providing a bold synthesis of clinical experience, insight and up-to-date findings. This became a bestselling book upon publication in Canada and comes highly recommended by casual readers, experts and reviewers alike.
Through the vivid, true stories of five people who journeyed into and out of addiction, a renowned neuroscientist explains why the “disease model” of addiction is wrong and illuminates the path to recovery. The psychiatric establishment and rehab industry in the Western world have branded addiction a brain disease, based on evidence that brains change with drug use. But in The Biology of Desire, cognitive neuroscientist and former addict Marc Lewis makes a convincing case that addiction is not a disease, and shows why the disease model has become an obstacle to healing.
Challenging both the idea of the addict’s “broken brain” and the notion of a simple “addictive personality,” Unbroken Brainoffers a radical and groundbreaking new perspective, arguing that addictions are learning disorders and shows how seeing the condition this way can untangle our current debates over treatment, prevention and policy. Like autistic traits, addictive behaviors fall on a spectrum — and they can be a normal response to an extreme situation. By illustrating what addiction is, and is not, the book illustrates how timing, history, family, peers, culture and chemicals come together to create both illness and recovery- and why there is no “addictive personality” or single treatment that works for all.
Combining Maia Szalavitz’s personal story with a distillation of more than 25 years of science and research, Unbroken Brain provides a paradigm-shifting approach to thinking about addiction.
Recovery Risingis the professional memoir of William White, who, over the span of five decades, evolved through several diverse roles to emerge as the addiction field’s preeminent historian and one of its most visionary voices and prolific writers. Recovery Rising contains the stories, reflections, and lessons learned within one man’s personal and professional journey. Recounted here are many of the ideas, methods, people, and organizations that shaped the modern history of addiction treatment and recovery. These engaging stories are at times poignant and at times humorous, but always revealing, informative, and inspiring. William White’s peers will find their life’s work affirmed in these pages and a younger generation of addiction professionals and recovery advocates will feel the passing of a torch.
This book contains thirty stories – an equal number by women and men – by atheists and agnostics who tell us “what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now” as they made their way to a life of long-term sobriety within the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. Storytelling is the essence of AA. It is in sharing our “experience, strength and hope” in recovery that we are able to help others within our Fellowship. The diversity and richness of the stories contained in Do Tell! will no doubt be an inspiration and provide important support to nonbelievers within the often overly-religious fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.
In this revised and updated version ofFacing Love Addiction, bestselling author ofFacing Codependenceand internationally recognized dependence and addiction authority Pia Mellody unravels the intricate dynamics of unhealthy love relationships and shows us how to let go of toxic love. Through twelve-step work, exercises, and journal-keeping,Facing Love Addiction compassionately and realistically outlines the recovery process for Love Addicts, and Mellody’s fresh perspective and clear methods work to comfort and motivate all those looking to establish and maintain healthy, happy relationships.
This is a groundbreaking book. Throughout his infancy and childhood, the author suffered severe physical and emotional abuse. He shares his personal journey and the disciplines, treatments and practices that enabled him to overcome the effects of severe maltreatment.
Healing the Wounds of Childhood tells the reader where to look if she wants to grow into her full potential for good health and beautiful intimate relationships. Most self-help books focus on one area such as the brain, or communication skills. Healing the Wounds of Childhood provides the big picture.
This alone would make this a unique book. However, the book is sprinkled with autobiographical material, lending a very human story to this holistic presentation.
Many assume that enlightenment is the result of arduous effort and self-denial such as fasting, travel to far-flung places, and encounters with teachers thought to be enlightened themselves. But here, Steve Taylor shows that ordinary people from all walks of life and every age and place can and do regularly experience the kind of life-changing moments many of us seek. Taylor seeks out the common features of these diverse experiences. His resulting cross-cultural investigation of spirituality, belief, and human psychology shows how spiritual awakening is a shift into a more expansive and harmonious state of being and can be both recognized and cultivated. How is it triggered and experienced? How do people feel in the midst? How are their relationships and goals affected? Because the experiences Taylor describes are at once unique to those who experience them and obviously available to one and all, this is a rare work that both describes and inspires.
Addiction and recovery are, at their core, about the meaning of life. LifeontheRocksis the first book to address addiction and recovery from a Western philosophical perspective, offering a powerful set of tools sharpened over millennia. It introduces some of the core concepts and vexing questions of philosophy to help addicts and those affected by their addiction examine and perhaps transform the meaning they make of their lives.
Without assuming any familiarity with philosophy, Dr. O’Connor illuminates issues all addicts and their loved ones face: self-identity, moral responsibility, self-knowledge and self-deception, free will and determinism, fatalism, the nature of God, and their relations to others. Life on the Rocks is an indispensable guide to the deeply philosophical concerns at the heart of every addict’s struggle.
Guides those in recovery in developing the awareness and skills to deal with life’s issues by practicing authentic spirituality and emotional sobriety.
Spirituality is a critical aspect of the Twelve Steps and other recovery programs. Yet, for those of us disposed to addiction, it can be easy to get so caught up in the idea of our Higher Power and the abundant joys of a spiritual life that we experience “spiritual bypass”–the use of spirituality to avoid dealing with ourselves, our emotions, and our unfinished business.In Recovering Spirituality, researcher and clinical psychologist Ingrid Mathieu uses personal stories and practical advice to teach us how to grow up emotionally and take responsibility for ourselves. Without turning away from the true benefits of an active spiritual program, she shows us how to work through life’s challenges and periods of pain while evolving and maintaining an authentic relationship with our Higher Power.
Allen Berger, PhD, draws on the teachings of Bill W. and psychotherapy pioneers to offer twelve hallmarks of emotional sobriety that, when practiced, give people the confidence to be accountable for their behavior, ask for what they want and need, and grow and develop a deeper trust in the process of life. These smart things include: understanding who you are and what’s important to you; learning not to take others’ reactions personally; trusting your inner compass; and taking responsibility for your reactions to problematic situations.
It is in these practices that we find release from what Bill W. described as an “absolute dependency” on people or circumstances, and develop the tools to find prestige, security, and belonging within.
The Tao of Sobrietyshows how to apply eastern philosophy to enhance recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. With a few simple mental exercises, readers can learn how to quiet “The Committee,” those nasty mental voices that undermine serenity and self-esteem. With leaders of the recovery movement enthusiastically endorsing this uniquely helpful book, The Tao of Sobriety is an invaluable addition to the recovery bookshelf.
A space for agnostics, atheists and freethinkers in AA. This website is continuing and evolving the work of AA Agnostica and includes a podcast section. Original articles are posted every Sunday on the website.
This website is aimed at AA members who consider themselves to be agnostic, atheists, freethinkers, humanists or just spiritual but not religious. As someone who is a member of AA and agnostic I’ve found this site invaluable. The site has helped me to connect with other like minded people in AA and accept my right to be a member of the fellowship.
This is a recovery website run by Joe C, who’s been clean and sober since 1976. He’s super bright and also produces podcasts about recovery issues onRebellion Dogs Radio. He’s agnostic, really knowledgeable and advocates for a liberal approach to recovery.
The Fix. Addiction and recovery website. Diverse articles and opinion.
SMART Recovery (UK) website. Alternative to 12 Step groups, based upon CBT principles that emphasize self-empowerment in recovery. SMART groups are led by trained facilitators and help with most addictions. Group members are free to attend 12 Step meetings as well as SMART.
Website providing the latest information about the disease and its treatment. The national UK charity also operates a confidential helpline which provides information and support to callers and is staffed by volunteers, who either have the virus or have cleared it due to treatment.