OK, so I’ve established that although my life may have been unmanageable, which is of course ambiguous and open to interpretation, I wasn’t powerless over my addiction. Since I wasn’t powerless, maybe my life could be managed after all, once I stopped using drugs. Actually that’s exactly what happened.
So why go on and look at the other steps? As much as I’d prefer to ignore them because they’re all nonsense, I have to go to meetings and keep up the “working recovery” crap, or else it will be used against me. In that case, I may as well criticize. In other words: Why the fuck not? Step two states:
We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
These steps just get crazier and crazier. I’m an atheist, so I do not believe in any god, or any other power that created the universe, or any guiding force (or evil opposing force for that matter), or karma, or anything like that. However, I’m told that this doesn’t matter. I can use anything as my higher power.
Anything? Yes, it’s nice of you to say that, but this just doesn’t add up. If we look at the steps and the spirit in which they were created, they are clearly intended to mean God, as in a deity. You can use anything else, sure, but it’s a cop-out by theists to say that, when they know that anything else really doesn’t gel with the 12 steps. This is much clearer when you look at all the steps together, but I’m not going to do that in this series until the end.
What I did before was just go with the flow… Choose something else as my higher power. Then go on from there. But it still doesn’t add up. Doing so ignores another gargantuan problem with this step; the fact that it asks us to expect this higher power to restore us to sanity.
Excuse me, but I was never insane. Let’s ignore that too. Let’s say I was out of my mind, absolutely fucking cuckoo… I’ll ask my higher power, which in my case is my loved ones and my idealized self, to restore me to sanity. Please, my six year old son, help me be less crazy. Please, perfect me without my faults, help me make better choices. Pretty please. Hopefully the point is made loud and clear – this step is all about God, asking that white-haired magician up in the sky to fix me. It’s all about having faith in the divine, so let’s stop pretending it could ever be interpreted otherwise.
In any case, this step opens another can of worms. Those same people who tell me to “work the steps” also tell me that addiction is a disease. Apparently they don’t see the contradiction, so let me spell it out: This is not how you treat a disease; by appealing to a god, or any other random thing should you choose something else, to make you better. If I were sick, and went to a doctor; then that doctor told me to pray to get better, I’d soon find another doctor!
The facts are undeniable, 12-step treatment programs do not work. The linked research paper applies to AA, but the results are equally applicable to all such programs. To save you the trouble of reading the whole paper, here’s their conclusion:
These results suggest that current psychosocial treatments for alcoholism are not particularly effective. The improvements in drinking appear to be due to selection effects. Alcoholics who decide to enter treatment are likely to reduce drinking. Those who decrease their drinking are more likely to remain in treatment. Widespread acceptance of these results would have a profound influence on alcoholism research and treatment because it would shift focus away from treatment components and toward patient characteristics and beliefs.
To paraphrase, what’s going on is selection bias. That is, people who have succeeded in staying clean happen to stay in treatment, which appears to confirm that treatment works. But the truth is, they only stay in treatment because they are still clean. Treatment is not the reason they stay clean. It goes on to suggest that treatment should instead focus on individual’s characteristics and beliefs. This paper is pretty damning of 12 step programs, and it was published a few years ago, but people continue to believe in such programs anyway.
To conclude, I don’t believe that these steps help me in any way whatsoever. Not only are they counter-productive and a huge waste of time, but the fact that they are accepted by most recovering addicts as the only “correct” way to recover can be harmful to those of us coming into recovery who are atheists, critical thinkers or above average intelligence. They take the focus in recovery away from where it should be – the reason for each individual addict’s problems, and instead force us to distract ourselves from using while seeing our conditions through God-tinted glasses. We do not suffer from a disease. We suffer from a behavioural disorder, and we should learn what it is that leads us to choose using drugs, as well as how to change our lifestyles and resulting behaviour to avoid making those poor choices.