The Secular 12 Steps
For those Agnostics & Atheists who would like to work the 12 steps but are unable to because of the references to the supenatural / God etc - please find below a secular alternative to the 12 steps with amended language to encompass those who have a non-belief in a Deity. This version of the steps has been used with much success throughout the world for more than 25 years.
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol- that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe and to accept that we needed strengths beyond our awareness and resources to restore us to sanity.
(Original: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.)
3. Made a decision to entrust our will and our lives to the care of the collective wisdom and resources of those who have searched before us.
(Original: Made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.)
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to ourselves without reservation and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
(Original: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.)
6. Were ready to accept help in letting go of all our defects of character.
(Original: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.)
7. With humility and openness sought to eliminate our shortcomings.
(Original: Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.)
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through meditation to improve our spiritual awareness, make recovery a priority and to discover the power to carry out that way of life.
(Original: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.)
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
And to those who object to the rewrite on the grounds that we are somehow meddling with scripture, a reminder: not a single one of those who had achieved sobriety at the time the Big Book was written had heard of the Twelve Steps before Bill wrote How It Works, and at least one of the “Holy Hundred” managed to get sober despite being an atheist. Try to keep an open mind, and try not to engage in contempt prior to investigation. None of us has the right to let another die of our own dogmatism.
It would be disengenuous to say that the decision to change the wording of some of the steps was a hard one to make. Hardly an alcoholic (other than Bill W.) has not expressed a desire to rewrite the program’s core literature to suit his or her own tastes at some point. We have among us, though, enough sober thought to have come to the realisation that the steps are the core of the program, and that it is crucial that they remain unchanged in their essense if they are to remain effective. There are many “godless” versions of the steps floating around, and the majority of them are poor paraphrases at best, and weakened to the point of meaninglessness at worst. Our group conscience tells us that the steps need to be made more accessible to everyone who needs them, but that the wording and character of the steps must remain as close to the original as possible. Six of the steps—those that make no reference to a deity—remain untouched in our version. We sincerely hope that we have managed to find an accurate spiritual and psychological mapping between our version of the remaining six steps and the original versions of those steps. Some of these are still in flux; we have a “close enough for now” version, but feel we haven’t quite hit the nail quite squarely on the head yet.
And for anyone who is interested, steps three, seven and eleven — particularly eleven — were (and are) the really sticky bits. Each can be restated in a manner that is not in conflict with anyone’s spiritual beliefs, but it is difficult to do so elegantly and without losing the essential nature of the required action. Step eleven, for example, easily tosses the word “prayer” at us, and that little gem of a word is the poster child for semiotic entanglements. Writing the eleventh step as a medium length article for a magazine is easy; writing it so that it can be read at the opening of a meeting and still leave time for discussion is somewhat less so. Still we try, since if we knowingly leave a barrier between the suffering alcoholic and the ability to perform any one of these steps, we are failing to perform the twelfth step ourselves.
What's an Agnostic?
The word Agnostic literally means one who rejects Gnosis, which is the claim that spiritual or mystical knowledge exists. It's a convenient word to encompass the variety of beliefs and non-beliefs held by our individual members. Recovering alcoholics who attend the Agnostic A.A. groups come together knowing that sobriety can be attained by anyone with the help of A.A. fellowship and principles, without relying on a Higher Power. Some of us are Agnostic, some Secular Humanists, some Atheists - (and some of us hate labels!) The only thing that binds us is a desire to stop drinking.