Currently the most well known treatment options for addiction involve spiritual practices. 12 Step groups have dominated the world of recovery for the last few decades, and these programs emphasize reliance on a higher power. These days there are a growing number of individuals who feel uncomfortable with any talk of things that could be considered supernatural. One such group of people describe themselves to be humanists. Many of these people would prefer a different approach to recovery that does not involve any type of spiritual beliefs.
Humanism can be described as a worldview or philosophy where the emphasis is on human values and concerns. Humanists tend to ignore anything that would be considered supernatural or outside the explanation of naturalistic science; although not all humanists would describe themselves as holding a purely naturalistic worldview. The majority of humanists do tend to be agnostic or atheists but there are also:
* Buddhist Humanists
* Secular humanist
* Integral humanism – this places less emphasis on naturalistic/ materialistic worldviews.
* Christian humanism
* Religious humanism
* Jewish humanism
* Muslim humanists
* Science humanists
* Cultural humanism
* Progressive humanism
* New humanism
* Ethical humanism
This worldview is based on a number of principles including:
* A humanist puts high value on having evidence to support any beliefs they hold. This means that they should avoid believing anything just because it is supported by an authoritative figure or is popular – it is also not reasonable for people to hold beliefs just because it makes them feel good.
* Humanists put a high value on discovering what is right and what is wrong.
* It is vital that people find reliable facts before forming strong opinions about anything.
* Humanists believe that there is very little evidence for supernatural claims so the emphasis should be on human beings and their experience.
* They believe that there is no single authoritative source of truth.
* Humanists are interested in social issues and base their arguments on reason and not traditional religious or other beliefs.
* Human values should be based primarily on the inherent worth and dignity of the person.
* They are always open to new ideas.
* Most humanists will express tolerance for people who do believe in supernatural entities.
* Humanists do not rely on God or gods to help them, but instead they consider themselves to be self reliant.
Humanists tend to share a number of things that they do not believe including:
* Humanists do not believe in a god.
* They do not believe in any type of afterlife. When people die that is the end of the story for them.
* They do not feel that it is reasonable for people to believe in the supernatural just because it makes them feel good.
* They do not believe that there is any invisible supernatural entity that can help them in life.
Humanists have concerns about the current state of addiction treatment in the west. There many bone of contention is that religious programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous are so heavily promoted as the only solution. These worries are only increased by the ability of the legal system in some parts of the world to sentence people to forced attendance at these groups. An atheist took this matter to the US Federal Court, and it was ruled that forced attendance at deeply religious groups was illegal.
There are many humanists who feel that groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are not a good option for nonbelievers. They object to the focus on higher powers and the pressure to adopt religious worldviews. Those humanists who have tried to create groups within in AA, where the emphasis has not been on religious ideas, have been kicked out of the fellowship. This has led to the development of new groups where the supernatural elements have been completely removed. These new groups also tend to be more welcoming of any new developments in recovery research that may be of value.
One of the alternatives to the 12 Steps that may be more appealing to humanist is Self Management and Recovery Training (SMART). This is a program where the emphasis is on scientific knowledge rather than religious or supernatural beliefs. SMART tried to use techniques from motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, and rational emotive behavioral therapy. The program offers meetings that members can attend where the focus is on sharing information and offering support. The overall aim is to empower the individual and give them the tools they need to build a successful recovery.
Rational Recovery was developed by Jack Trimpey and it is sometimes described as the antithesis of Alcoholics Anonymous. In fact members argue that 12 Step groups could be making the situation worse by reinforcing the addict personality. Rational Recovery is based on the following ideas:
* Addiction is not a disease.
* There is no need for people to attend recovery groups.
* Rational Recovery is not a spiritual program.
* Recovery is an event. Once the individual gives up alcohol or drugs they need no longer consider themselves to be an addict – in other words they are recovered and not recovering.
* Once the individual is able to ignore the addictive voice their problems are over.
* Rational Recovery is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous in that it recommends lifelong abstinence.
When Rational Recovery first came into existence it did offer support group type meetings. It was later decided that such practices weren’t actually necessary and may even hold the individual back.
Some humanists who are recovering from an addiction agree that there is a great deal of wisdom in the 12 Steps, but they feel uncomfortable with the use of the words ‘higher power’ or ‘God’. In order to overcome this objection B.F. Skinner created a humanist version of the program which offers an alternative 12 Steps:
* Step 1 – We accept the fact that all our efforts to stop drinking have failed.
* Step 2– We believe that we must turn elsewhere for help.
* Step 3– We turn to our fellow men and women, particularly those who have struggled with the same problem.
* Step 4– We have made a list of the situations in which we are most likely to drink.
* Step 5– We ask our friends to help us avoid these situations.
* Step 6 – We are ready to accept the help they give us.
* Step 7– We earnestly hope that they will help.
* Step 8 – We have made a list of the persons we have harmed and to whom we hope to make amends.
* Step 9– We shall do all we can to make amends, in any way that will not cause further harm.
* Step 10 – We will continue to make such lists and revise them as needed.
* Step 11 – We appreciate what our friends have done and are doing to help us.
* Step 12 – We, in turn, are ready to help others who may come to us in the same way.