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I disagree with the central claim of all Twelve Step systems; that addiction is a supernatural

problem with a supernatural cure.


The Oxford Dictionary of English defines the adjective supernatural to mean attributed to
some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature. I think it goes without saying
that beyond scientific understanding here means fundamentally and permanently beyond
scientific understanding, not just currently beyond scientific understanding.
There are many that would dispute my characterization of Twelve Step recovery as depending
on a belief in the supernatural. On examination I believe you will find that most of these
objections boil down to associating the word supernatural with beliefs that the objector
disagrees with, or finds offensive. For many people of mainstream religious faiths these outsider
ideas might include divination, ESP, ghost hunting, reincarnation, the New Age, Etc. But if the
criteria given in the definition is applied to ideas such as the efficacy of prayer, creationism, faith
healing, or everlasting life in a celestial realm, it is clear that these too are indeed supernatural.
My claim is that belief in the efficacy of recovery from addiction via the Twelve Steps, requires
belief in the supernatural.
We are told in many groups that your Higher Power can be anything; a doorknob, a tree, or the
group itself. We are later told to believe that this Higher Power could restore us to sanity, to
make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of it, to admit to it the exact
nature of our wrongs, to become ready to have it remove all these defects of character, ask it
to remove our shortcomings, and to improve our conscious contact with it through prayer
and meditation. Whether god, dog, doorknob or universe, all or some of these cant be true,
occur, or have an effect on anything at all and still be in the realm of the natural.
The use of god or gods as a Higher Power is clearly supernatural. Is attributing will and
sentience to the universe any less so? How could a dog or a tree remove your character
defects and still be anything but supernatural? The whole of the Twelve Steps as a path to
recovery from addiction is a practice in supernaturalism.
Ill walk us through some key of the Twelve Steps using different higher powers to show clearly
the need for a belief in the supernatural.
Well start with a doorknob. This is easy, a doorknob would have to be magic to almost anything
asked of the Higher Power. If you honestly believed this, you would have more pressing
problems than drinking.
Next well use The Universe, god as equivalent to nature, or the totality of all existence. This is
formally called Pantheism. This god is neither transcendent (separate or outside of the world)
nor personal (a being with whom you can have a personal relationship and interferes in the
world). Famous Pantheists include Albert Einstein, Baruch Spinoza, William Wordsworth, Walt
Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and for a time even Abraham Lincoln.

Right off we would have to give up this Higher Power or modify our view in a direction that
requires more supernaturalism than the basic notion of Pantheism requires (some might say it
requires none). Step Two requires that we accept a power that could restore us to sanity. This is
clearly interference in the world. Step Three might be a little tricky as only asks us to make a
decision to turn our will and our lives over to our Higher Power. But why would we do that if we
didnt believe that it would enter into this controlling relationship with us? Step four has us
admitting things to our Higher Power, that requires a personal relationship. Step Six is a bit like
three in that only asks us to be ready to have our Higher Power remove our Defects of
Character. Step Seven asked him to remove these shortcomings is a personal relationship
and interference. Step Eleven Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious
contact with God, as we understood Him... I think you get the point.
Finally well consider using the Group as a Higher Power Admittedly with some extreme
mental gymnastics, you might adapt the steps to this Higher Power without the supernatural, but
it would require or result in madness. Abdicating your will and your life to anyone let alone a
group of anonymous addicts is not a healthy thing to do. And are we really supposed to expect
them to restore us to sanity or remove our defects of character? Help us, or show us how to
do these things maybe, but then we would be restoring and removing not the Higher Power.
Would we be expecting prayer and meditation to be improving our social skills to aid in the
interaction with the Group? No, in practice those using the Group are just attributing to it the
superpowers commonly attributed to God.