ACA 12 Steps – Agnostic/Secular

ACA Oregon Intergroup has voted to post an ACA Agnostic / Secular 12 steps list on our website which would be in addition to the WSO 12 steps. It will not replace the original 12 steps. The purpose of this will be to help our members who do Recovery without God.

“Likewise, if the meeting requires a specific spiritual or religious belief, the basic freedom to choose is removed, and the meeting should not be called ACA.  We are a spiritual program where each person is free to choose a Higher Power or not.  There are no mandates.”  –Page 74 ACA WSO  Strengthening my Recovery.

Comments are welcome below.

          

ACA 12 Steps – Agnostic/Secular

  1. Admitted we were powerless over our family dysfunction and that our lives had become unmanageable.
  1. Came to believe the wisdom of the ACA program and its members could restore us to sanity.
  1. Made a decision to follow a path of recovery.
  1. Made a searching, fearless, and honest inventory of ourselves and our families of origin.
  1. Admitted to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our past.
  1. Became entirely ready to work at nurturing and transforming ourselves.
  1. With the assistance of others and our own firm resolve, we transform negative aspects of ourselves and cultivate positive ones.
  1. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and those who had harmed us.  Then became willing to make amends and open to letting go of the shame and blame we hold for ourselves and others.
  1. Made direct amends and forgave such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure ourselves or others.
  1. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  1. Sought through meditation to improve our conscious contact with our highest selves and to find integrity in all areas of our lives.
  1. Having had an awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others like us and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

 

Please note this is not an ACA WSO-sanctioned document.

aca-12-steps-agnostic-draft-1-alt-1

28 thoughts on “ACA 12 Steps – Agnostic/Secular

  1. I see comments back from 2016, is there anyone who’s attended a secular mtg since then who could mention how it’s been different in recovery? How to work on issues w/o turning it over to God?
    Thanks

  2. I really like this version.

    Many years ago, I was an active member in an ACOA group in western Massachusetts in the early and mid 1990s, where we had a similarly non-theistic version of the 12 steps. When I moved to the Chicago suburbs in 1996, the meeting there not only used the “normal” (theistic) version, but they also recited the Lord’s Prayer at the close of every meeting (!).

    I attended a group business meeting and proposed that the group stop using the Lord’s Prayer and to adopt the copy of the 12 steps from the western Massachusetts meeting. Not only were both proposals roundly rejected (I don’t think there was a single other vote in support of either proposal), I felt strong, negative, personal judgment of me in things said by several members of the group. I was told that the other ACOA groups in the area all used the “normal” version and the Lord’s Prayer, so I left ACOA altogether.

    I recently became active in a group in the Seattle area, in which we have been looking at potential revisions to the preamble script. I was thinking that this may be an opportunity to consider an alternate version of the 12 steps to use in our meeting.

    My only concern about this version is whether it would be acceptable to someone who is theistic. For example, if someone believes only in a transcendent higher power – rather a belief in immanence – I’m concerned that such a person may find “higher selves” as objectionable as I find the use of “God” in the version of the 12 steps we currently use. I wonder if “true selves” – a term used in several places in the Big Red Book – might be something theists and atheists / agnostics would find acceptable.

    Similarly, if a theistic person believes in prayer, but rejects meditation, I wonder if using the disjunction “prayer or meditation” would be acceptable to all adult children, regardless of theistic orientation.

    Finally, does anyone have any experience with using this version of the steps in meetings? I’m wondering whether it alienates any of the theistically oriented group members. Thanks.

    • Chicagoland area recovery seems to find it difficult to let go of their God. Think I might hit the only one of 2 secular AA mtgs to get an idea of how it differs. Want some familiarity before considering the possibility of starting one up north.

  3. It seems I am late to this. I mentioned above I have had BAD experiences with ACA in the past, both in person and on line. I always thought it odd that folks who might have been abused were supposed to just shut up and take it, regarding rules and regulations and dogma in many MANY 12 step fellowships. Thanks to the internet, I’ve been able to search and find like minded folks. Right now, I am slightly going crazy, as I am the care giver for my elderly alcoholic mother. I was shocked that adherence to a dogma was more important than getting some support. Very glad I found this. thanks internet. take care, Rob T

    • Wow Rob. Sounds really tough. Consider a respite worker/volunteer through elder care groups &/or Senior Center in your area. Self care is vital.

      I can’t sit back & “take it anymore”. As an aging adult I could never go to a regular mtg now. No tolerance. Support should never include “strings attached” in my book.
      Hang in there & please take good care.

      • me as well, I won’t go to a “regular” meeting either. IN MY OPINION, it’s as dogmatic as the Westboro Baptist Church. And I can use the support, but not not from dogmatists and religious fanatics who always say, “it’s not a religion” but “god” gave you your parents “for a reason” blah blah blah. again, this is MY opinion and experience.

  4. Starting the process of developing a Secular ACA is a great idea. We need that in the Los Angeles area. Now that the 12 Steps have been adjusted, what about all the other literature? Here is one idea to kick around (bad metaphore for my wounded inner child!): the notion of a “Higher Power” can be replaced by the concept of a “Healing Power.” As a living organism, Evolution has developed in each person a Healing Power that operates naturally for those who work the program. By working the program, and “turning it over to one’s own inner Healing Power,” the toxic feelings and effects of childhood trauma can be released, or healed. It’s not a case of the Ego taking charge, but of learning to trust oneself and surrender to one’s own Healing Power.
    Bill K from LA

  5. In the continuum of trauma suffered at the hands of those whom once hold power over me, the idea of having to conform to anyone else’s beliefs or having to deny my own could not be called, “recovery” for me. ACA, of course is based on both freedom and the personal responsibility that comes with freedom. The 12-Steps were not invented. There was never a single original idea; rather the entire process was borrowed from other sources readily available at the time from both religious and psychological approaches to recovery. Some of the language expresses our experience and some of our words are a narrative that explain our experience. For me, as an example “Were entirely ready” in Step Six describes an experience; “to have God remove all these defects of character” is an explanation more than an experience. Years into recovery this was not my experience.

    A freethinkers version of the Steps invites me – or anyone – to consider the principles behind the Steps and articulate them in words that are as close to 100% authentic for me as I can muster. It’s not chronic-uniqueness, it’s finding my own authentic voice and expressing unabashedly what is true for me. “Sought through meditation to improve our conscious contact with our highest selves and to find integrity in all areas of our lives,” for example, can be the experience of someone with a supernatural view to recovery or it can be as concrete and practical as someone with a natural worldview would or may express themselves. These Steps work for me, inviting me to participate without conforming.

    • yes! well said. In 1983 I went to Two aca meetings, could not return, back then they actually included the words, and I quote,” “god” may have given us alcoholic parents, but “he” also gave us the 12 steps.” wow, for an atheist/agnostic/freethinker like me, those were deal breakers. As recently as 3 or so months ago, I was asked to leave an aca group on facebook, due to my atheism.

      • Perhaps the guidelines in the 12 step system need to be reviewed by & reminders sent to all ACOA groups about choosing a higher power w/o ridicule & banishment so that your experience doesn’t happen again. To anyone.

  6. Wonderful, thank you for adding this to the website! I know of many people who have shied away from ACA and other 12-Step programs due to the word “God.” Truly, ACA is a spiritual program, but spirituality (and philosophy) can manifest in many ways. Let us be inclusive!

    These steps are a welcome addition to the program here in Portland. May they open the door to healing to even more people.

  7. I think this definitely should be included in Aca Oregon’s literature., a definitely yes to post on this website. There is enough spiritual wounding in my brothers and sisters of Aca that I cannot think of a better reason to have these available for those who need them.

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