Recovery without God

Drug addiction is a disease that plagues individuals the world over. Despite efforts to crack down on drug crimes and to criminalize drug users, recreational drug use rates continue to rise in the United States. Furthermore, the stigma that is attached to drug addiction leaves many stranded in their disease, feeling hopeless and ashamed.

It’s easy to stereotype and blame “bad people” or criminals for the circulation of illegal substances, but not all addiction is fed from the streets and not all addicts are losers. A new kind of drug dealer can be found in doctor’s offices and pharmacies. Rising rates of prescription barbiturates, benzosdiazepine, opioids, stimulants, and many other highly addictive drugs can be easily administered and unregulated from a careless doctor. Most of these drugs, which can be taken orally, snorted, or injected also have high street value, which leads to another problem. It is common for opiate or opioid addicts to turn to heroin when in a pinch or their funds dwindle. The drug can be found almost anywhere and is much cheaper for the budgeting addict.

So why hasn’t drug criminalization led to a decline in drug use? To most, the thought of prison, homelessness, or, worse, death would be enough to deter them from continuing such a dangerous habit. But because of the dominating monster addiction really is, it cannot be remedied by punishment, and it can never be cured. In truth, most addicts use consistently to simply avoid withdrawal, unable to achieve a regular high.

There are programs everywhere for addicts: inpatient, outpatient, rehab centers, and clinics. You could find a Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous meeting every night in almost any location. There are even support meetings for loved ones affected by addicts’ behavior. These meetings are important and vital to those suffering but there’s one big catch. Many recovery programs and meetings are centered around religion, calling on the addict to rely on a “higher power.”

While this method may work for many, how does the nonbeliever complete recovery programs based around a system that is not present in his or her life? How does an atheist work a step program that encourages prayer and God in order to properly arrest their disease? Having witnessed this scenario, I can verify that it’s not easy. It leaves the godless addict feeling disconnected from their recovery and causes a feeling of incompleteness of the program. It causes the addict to focus on spirituality and biblical readings rather than understanding emotional and cognitive dysfunction. Addicts begin to use God as an excuse in these programs, defining a relapse or crime as just another lesson God wanted them to learn. Many of these programs don’t teach the addict about changes to their brain chemistry, nor do they address mental problems, or even approach the disease with more than an elementary level reason.

Fortunately, there are several recovery and rehabilitation centers that are not religion-based, although they may be inaccessible to some or too expensive for others. One group that’s increasing its presence across the country is called SMART Recovery (Self Management for Addiction Recovery). This program provides a friendly place for addicts to group together and combat their addiction, similar to that of a traditional step program. This group is free to join, accepting only donations used to run the meeting, and bills itself as “the leading self-empowering addiction recovery support group.” Participants learn tools for addiction recovery based on scientific research and use a four-point program that includes: building and maintaining motivation, coping with urges, managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and living a balanced life.

It’s important for addicts to get involved in a recovery program they can identify with. Belonging to a group with a sense of camaraderie backed by knowledge is essential during the process. An addict can’t and shouldn’t feel alone or separated from their group on strict ideological lines, as that only perpetuates emotional issues that bring many of us down. There comes a time in traditional step programs when nonbelievers can no longer progress because, although such programs welcome nonbelievers, they rely too strongly on God for the nonbeliever to become fully dedicated.

It’s important to know that free programs are available, religious or otherwise. Secular and science-based programs are popping up in more and more places, giving hope to those addicts without god who have already abandoned the one person they can truly rely on: themselves.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, help is available! Please visit the Addiction Recovery Guide online for information about addiction and facilities or programs to help you heel. A better life is possible for anyone.

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