The following is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Twelve Secular Steps: An Addiction Recovery Guide by Bill W., ISBN-10: 0999643509.
Let’s look at two theoretical people in early recovery. Our first, “John,” uses suggested recovery tools, works the traditional Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and in a year or so declares that by “the grace of God” he has become sober and clean through a “spiritual awakening.” It sounds grand, and his words echo the traditional literature and sayings.
Well, perhaps “Jane” does pretty much the same work, yet after a year or so, in a moment of self-appraisal, she realizes that at forty-something years of age she is finally “growing up.” No spiritual awakening. No Saint Jane of the Miraculous Recovery. Just Jane, plainly growing up after some delay. A humbling, yet honest assessment. She makes better decisions now.
Almost universally, while in active addiction, we addicts behave very selfishly. We act immaturely, and we make impulsive decisions (Bill Wilson nailed these descriptions in AA’s Big Book). A process resembling “growing up” is part of recovery for many addicts. Through this process we either develop, or restore, important skills such as taking responsibility, using healthy coping and interpersonal strategies, and making good choices. Developing these skills is a sufficient goal of recovery. It is recovery.
It seems that the process, the essential work, for both John and Jane is the same, despite the superficial differences reflected in their words and religious perspectives. John declares that it is his faith and the grace of God that created recovery; Jane believed in a plan. The fact is they both worked a reasonable program because they were motivated by, and driven away from, the pain and crisis that active addiction brought into their lives. Both discovered the initiating truth embedded in the first Step: the honest admission that there is a serious problem, and that it’s out of control. Why should one seek to hinder the Twelve Step recovery of the other because of cosmological views?
John believes there were no coincidences; every Step went according to a divine plan and the actions of God. AA’s Big Book and other official Twelve Step writings will validate his view. From Jane’s standpoint, this is all a journey created by the combination of circumstances and the choices we make when faced with them. And choices have their consequences, same as fate. Jane looks both ways before she crosses a street because it is prudent to do so. In the end, Jane is empowered by the recovered skill of making good choices. Through these choices she brings both recovery and contentment into her life, one day at a time.
John fully agrees with the importance of living this way as well. Out there in the AA and NA meetings, the Johns and Janes can, and do, help each other to recover and to live better lives. Secular 12 Step guides support the diversity that is already present in 12 Step groups and expands the usefulness of these programs.