Meth Addict’s Problem with Rehab (Hint: God is Involved) February 28, 2008

Meth Addict’s Problem with Rehab (Hint: God is Involved)

Journalist David Sheff and his son Nic recently appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air to talk about their respective books. Nic was a meth addict (one of many drugs he used) who eventually escaped the addiction. He’s 25-years-old now.

One part of their interview was particularly interesting.

During rehab, Nic experienced a lot of “Godtalk,” such as the kind seen in Alcoholics Anonymous. Both Nic and his dad say it was as if the only way to get sober was to embrace God.

For those who are atheists, this is a tremendous hurdle to overcome in trying to beat an addiction. You don’t want to replace one dependence with another.

The relevant portion of the interview is only about five minutes long and begins at the 20:00 mark.

(Thanks to Laura for the link!)

[tags]atheist, atheism, Nic Sheff[/tags]

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  • Korinthian

    Get them into church while they’re weak, kind of like indoctrinating children. Tricky!

  • incunabulum

    This is a serious issue. If anyone has experiences to share, I’d love to hear them. There is really only one accepted way we deal with addiction and it is saturated in religion. It’s also not entirely healthy. Google “Orange Papers” and you’ll see what I am talking about. The reason I say “accepted” is the way AA and similar programs are handled by our courts and medical community. To them it’s a no brainer – that’s how people get well. If people resist it’s because they “aren’t ready.”

  • Godtalk (is that kind of like doublespeak?) in AA and other rehab programs would be more palatable if twelve step programs actually worked, but they don’t. AA and similar programs have become cults with their own dogmas and fanatical adherents.

  • BowserTheCat

    This comes up now and then and I have always found it odd. Perhaps it’s a question of where one sobers up. I was raised an atheist and have always considered myself one (although I did flirt with agnosticism for a while). In any case I’m also a recovering alcoholic. I went though rehab in New Orleans back in the 80’s and was involved in AA for almost 10 years. In all that time I certainly heard talk of various deities but no one ever pushed one on me or had a problem with my atheism.

    Perhaps is was the areas (New Orleans and later White Plains New York) but none of the groups seemed particularly concerned with what you believed other than believing that booze was more powerful than you were.

    Addiction is nasty, I had liver damage at age 28! But with the help of AA (no deities involved before during or after) I am still sober.

  • Stephen

    My girlfriend has been involved with NA in the Austin area for 14 years, and I’ve gone to a few of the meetings. Though I was leery of the idea of the godtalk I expected to hear, I haven’t seen a lot of push about any particular god. The people I’ve heard from reference “your higher power”, and acknowledge that the phrase could refer to a christian deity, non-christian deity, reverence for nature or for your fellow man.

    Overall, my experience with these people has been positive. My atheism has been a non-issue.

  • I am having this problem right now. My little sister is a cocaine addict and I have been trying to get her help. Every program I have asked them specifically if it is based, like AA, on giving yourself to a “god” or higher power. Every one of them is based on it. I can’t find ONE that seems like a good program to get her involved in. We’re both recovering Catholics…we have been atheists for quite some time now and I don’t like the idea of her being taken advantage of at a time when she is so vulnerable and needs help. I wish someone would start a good program that is science and medically based and not this fairy tale. How is she going to learn to live in the real world when they’re teaching her fairy tales?

  • The Reverend

    I had called AA’s home office looking for programs geared towards agnostics/atheists and found myself being ‘witnessed’ to by a counselor. Needless to say, I don’t talk to them any more.

    I am currently working on organizing a support group for alcoholics and addicts without the ‘higher power’ hoopla. If anyone has any information about non-religious programs, please let me know.

    Thank you.

  • robin

    My brother has struggled with drugs and, quite frankly, if we could choose between him being a crazy Christian or an addict, I’ll take crazy Christian every time.

    Some people, for some reason, need a crutch. The church of the perfect parent is, IMHO, a superior delusion than the soft lens of a drug invoked haze. I agree that for those non-believers, having God shoved down their throat when they are trying to kick a habit is BS. But I suspect that God is, for many, a suitable placebo when harder drugs have seriously messed them up.

  • robin,

    I hear what you’re saying about a drug addict being worse off than delusional Christian, but do we have good evidence that a belief in God improves the chances of overcoming addiction? If not, then using God as a crutch might only be adding another problem to the existing one.

  • robin

    Do we have good evidence it doesn’t – or more aptly, is less successful than anything else? No program or cure works for everyone. In fact across all strategies for overcoming addiction, if I recall correctly, the stats are very poor.

    If this is something that works for some people, then frankly the additional risks of adopting the (extremely common) problem of the God-crutch seem acceptable.

    I don’t think we should dismiss a cure as ‘not good enough’ just because it comes from sugar pills.

  • There is good evidence that 12 step programs don’t improve recovery rates. It may not even have the placebo effect that you suggested.

  • pansies4me


    There are three secular recovery programs that I know of. One is based on Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (developed by the late Albert Ellis) and is called SMART Recovery

    Another one is called LifeRing Secular Recovery

    The last is called Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS) http://www.secular

    I hope this information is useful. Best wishes to you and your sister.


  • Matt

    I had similar trouble with my court-mandated rehab experience. There was always, without fail, talk of a “higher power” as the only path that leads to freedom from addiction. The sorry success rates of these programs is a testament to the presence of god. About 5 %. Guess what the success rate is for people who don’t go to rehab and quit on their own, it’s about 5% ! Where’s your stinkin god now? I’m proud to be a part of the latter 5 %. I’d say this policy of forcing people into a religion based system is unconstitutional, and ineffective as well.

  • Matt

    Whoops, meant to say non-existence. And thanks for the links Lisa!

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