The main idea behind AA/NA is that you admit you are helpless over your addiction and must turn your life over to a higher power. If you have a problem and end up getting pulled over for drunk driving or caught with drugs, you can end up being court-mandated to go to AA/NA. So if you're an atheist you still have to go and "work the program" and give your life over and admit you are powerless. If you fight it though, the court can't force you to go to AA, because even though "it's not deemed a religion, it contains enough religious components to make coerced attendance at AA meetings a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the constitution".
And then there are the studies done about the effectiveness of AA/NA. The results so far have been inconsistent. AA, which has been around since about 1939 (when the Alcoholics Anonymous book was published) and now has 1,867,212 members and 106,202 AA groups worldwide, still can't produce conclusive studies that show it works.
So far in the research that has been done, the participants have been self selected. So no randomized double blinded trials exist. I don't know how they would be able to do that, but certainly it shows a huge limitation that everyone is self selected. A Cochrane Review of 8 studies published between 1967 and 2005, measuring the effectiveness of AA, found "no experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA" in treating alcoholism, based on a meta-analysis of the results of eight trials involving a total of 3,417 individuals. To determine further the effectiveness of AA, the authors suggested that more studies comparing treatment outcomes with control groups were necessary.
Also, most people who start AA drop out, 95% according to AA's own surveys. But there really hasn't been much of an alternative. Until recently.
Now there's Lifering Secular Recovery. Here are some facts about Lifering:
- As of this year they have about 130 face to face support groups and dozens of online communities.
- This is a secular organization. About 40% of members attend church, but you don't talk about religion at all. There's no proselytizing, and no religion bashing. It's not an issue. It's entirely private.
- Lifering is a non-religious pathway to abstinence from alcohol and other drugs of abuse. You have to quit completely. If you think moderation will work, they will refer you elsewhere.
- Meetings generally conclude with a round of applause to celebrate sobriety.
- You can see the worldwide meeting schedule here.
- Lifering works through the power of positive social reinforcement.
- Meetings establish supportive connections and reinforce being sober.
- You can see a short explanation with video here.
I don't think any studies have been done on Lifering recovery rates. But at least it's secular and based on positive social reinforcement rather than admitting that you are powerless to a "disease". It would be great if some research were done on the effectiveness of this program though. But to give Lifering credit, they are a support group system and make no scientific claims. Also, they state on their site that they are willing to work with any scientists that want to do a study on their program.
How Lifering is similar to AA/NA: They are abstinence-based. They use group support. Meetings are confidential.
How Lifering is different from AA/NA: They see the power to get clean and sober inside of each person. Your belief or disbelief in a higher power is not a factor. You can get clean and sober whether you believe in a higher power or not. They welcome people regardless of their drug of choice. They encourage cross-talk in meetings. Everyone builds Personal Recovery Programs tailored just for them.
You can see the rest of their helpful FAQs here. That's probably more than enough to get you started, if it interests you.