Proactive Twelve Steps without God: A mindful program for lasting change
The Proactive 12 Steps are inspired by the traditional Twelve Steps. They describe a mindful program for people in recovery as well as all the people who feel stuck in life. This approach makes sense to secular agnostics and atheists as well as religious people.
The original Twelve Steps of AA were built around a powerful idea: When faced with a seemingly intractable problem, you have to give up trying to force change through willpower. This much is very clear about the way the Steps work: To solve the intractable problem, you have to change the structure of your life.
What is considerably less clear is how the Twelve Steps are able to foster this major transformation. In the original Steps, a very big role is ascribed to God, or to some kind of Higher Power that eventually removes your shortcomings:
- This would make it a religious program that works in mysterious ways, unknowable to mere mortals.
- On the other hand, it is not just a religious program because it does not just work through prayer or ritual. It involves making conscious changes in the way you live and relate to people.
So what is it that fosters change? And how can we describe it in down-to-earth terms that make it easier to follow it?
A growing number of researchers and clinicians who work in the field of addiction embrace the theory that addiction is not just attributable to the addictive powers of a given substance. Addiction has a lot to do with stress and trauma, and how people develop coping mechanisms that are problematic.
From this perspective, it is easier to understand how a Twelve Step program helps people deal with addiction: It helps to the extent that it deals with the underlying conditions, stress and trauma.
This also explains why Twelve Steps programs are not just for people who are addicted to substances: The Steps are not narrowly focused on addiction to substance, they deal with the effects of stress and trauma.
What is missing in the original Twelve Steps is a clear description of how the process helps people restructure their life in order to better deal with stress and trauma.
In order to make this process clear, it is necessary to pierce through the mystical fog of the original Twelve Steps. That is, to describe how change actually happens, as opposed to simply attributing it to God's power.
Please note that the goal of clarity is not anti-God. You can very much believe in God and still want to know how God’s will manifests on an earthly plane. For instance, it is quite possible to believe both in God and in modern medicine. So the Proactive 12 Steps are not just for nonbelievers, agnostics and atheists. They are for all people who want to adopt a mindful, proactive approach to change.
Instead of describing a religious framework, the Proactive 12 Steps describe what happens as you are engaged in the process of changing. Talking about experiences, as opposed to beliefs, will help you to share experiences with others, including people who have different belief systems.
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