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.”