Recovery for Atheists: Deep Survival


Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales is one of my atheist recovery books. It’s a major part of my program literature.

I have a lot of program literature from a lot of programs. I’ve read the Big Book of AA, the White Book of SA, the Green Book of SAA, the Basic Text of SLAA, several times each. I don’t own the Basic Text of NA but I few years ago I borrowed a friend’s copy and read it too.

I also have a shelf full of other recovery books too, as you can see by the picture. There’s nearly everything Patrick Carnes has ever written – the workbooks are on another shelf. My copy of A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Steps is in the car along with my White Book and Green Book so I have them if I go to a meeting.

Recovery literature is meant to be read over and over again so you can glean deeper truths. As you change in recovery, how you understand what you’re reading will also change. That’s how I read this book, Deep Survival. I’ve read it so many times now, but each time I gain new insight into myself and my recovery.

Here’s what I read last night about hope and humility, which are step 1 and step 2 in the twelve steps.

“Callahan knew that few castaways made it past a month; but significantly, he knew that it was possible. He knew something every survivor must bind to his heart with hoops of steel: Anything is possible. Callahan began solidifying his resolve. ‘I’ve got to do the best I can,’ he told himself. ‘The very best. I cannot shirk or procrastinate. I cannot withdraw . . . I have sometimes fooled other people. But nature is not such a dolt.’ He had adopted the attitude of humility so important to survival.”

And here’s something about prayer, one of the biggest problems atheists have with meetings and working the steps.

“Struggling to achieve that essential state of grace and poise, she began praying to keep herself focused. Survival psychologists have long observed that successful survivors pray, even when they don’t believe in a god.”

Being a sex addict is bad enough. It’s scary to go to a therapist and reveal what you’ve been doing, even if you’ve been caught and your secret is out. The thought of going to meetings is scary too. All those perverts sitting together in a room – is that really the club you belong in? And if you’re a woman it’s even more surreal. Is this recovery or my favorite fantasy come to life? Will they be dangerous? Sexy? Disgusting? I’ve been there, done that. No t-shirt, but I do have the chips and medallions to prove it! If you’re an atheist it’s beyond surreal. There’s all the Higher Power stuff and somebody’s sure to say that’s NOT a euphemism for God (yeah, right) and there’s the praying and I don’t care how many people reassure you that it’s not a religious program, it’s a “spiritual” one, it’s creepy. Their hearts are in the right place but it still comes across as a strange sort of culty political correctness.

For an atheist walking into the rooms there’s a very real feeling that you’re between a rock and a hard place. Either you’re going to drink the kool-aid or you’re going to stay sick. But it’s not true. You can be an atheist in recovery. You do not have to believe in God for the steps to work. Becoming spiritual does not mean you will lose your atheism or your ability to think logically and coherently, that’s the very essence of sobriety!

Regardless of your belief system, Deep Survival is an excellent book that will deepen your understanding of what works in life. “Successful survivors pray, even when they don’t believe in a god.”


One comment

  1. great great site.
    great post.
    i will look up this book for sure.

    i used to struggle with the “higher power” and ‘god’ issue for a long time in recovery, to the point i had to re-write the 12-steps for my own personal use, by subtracting the belief in a deity for a strong belief in reality.

    12 Steps of Realistic Recovery

    1. I can no longer deny I have an addiction, and admit my addiction can make me feel powerless, and that my choices and decisions while unaware or in denial of my addiction were destructive.
    2. I came to believe that realistic and rational thinking could restore me from the insanity of addictive thinking that was neither realistic nor rational.
    3. I will let myself be helped by myself and others by using realistic and rational thinking and will never again turn my will and life over to addictive thinking that is neither realistic nor rational.
    4. I will make a realistic and rational evaluation or “inventory” of my thoughts, feelings and behaviors, both positive and negative. This is not to induce guilt and shame, but to evaluate where my attitudes, actions and decisions were not realistic or rational.
    5. I will now admit to myself, the exact nature of my thoughts, feelings and behaviors, both positive and negative. I will share and review this evaluation with another willing person if I choose, unless where to do so would put myself or others at risk.
    6. I am entirely ready to allow realistic and rational thinking to reveal my destructive patterns of addictive thinking.
    7. I will apply realistic and rational thinking to replace my addictive thinking.
    8. I will make a list of all person’s I have harmed, or been harmed by, in a way that might have enabled my addictive thinking.
    9. I will take the responsibility of making amends and give the opportunity of receiving amends, except when to do so would put myself or others at risk.
    10. I will continue to evaluate my life, and when my thoughts, feelings and behaviors are not realistic or rational, I will promptly admit it.
    11. I will seek to improve my conscious awareness of reality, striving for the knowledge of what is real and rational and for the ability and determination to stop my addictive thinking.
    12. Having had progress towards a realistic and rational self-awareness away from addictive thinking as a result of what I have accomplished with these principles, I shall practice these principles in all areas of my life, and will be willing to share these principles with others who think they might gain from them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s