Chaz Stevens: How To Get Sober Without God Or AA








A few years ago, was kind enough to allow me to write a guest editorial entitled “How I stay sober.”

For those that haven’t read my tale of boozing woe, here’s the primer of those drinking days.

I used to drink way too much … like you see in the movies … crazy, crazy, crazy drunk. How I never hurt myself or another is just miraculous.

Those that knew me back then will attest to my booze holding ability. On my last b’day, before I stopped, down at the Lorelai bar in the Florida Keys, I had five double-Chopin dirty martinis delivered to my table.

Why five? No clue, just seemed like the right prime number of cocktails.

Needless to say, I drank ’em all, and had more after. For the record, I had a designated driver … not always the case with me back then.

Soon thereafter, nearing a decade ago, I woke up one morning and just stopped. After years of trying to moderate, after leaving Atlanta because I was drinking too much, just one day I quit. And, I’ve never returned back to the bottle.

Since then, I’ve managed to stay sober, in spite of being an unhappy member of the religious cult known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Recently, and luckily for me, I’ve given up on AA, after coming clean over the organization’s intent, meaning, and purpose.

For those unaware, let’s begin with a few facts about AA.


  1. Started in the mid 1930s, AA’s original founders were from the Oxford Group … a deeply religious Christian sect.
  2.  Today, AA has 12 steps, but originally there were only six. Out of the original six, only one referenced “god”. The modern day 12 steps allude to god in seven items.
  3. Based in NYC, AA apparently makes money as a book publisher — selling nearly a million copies a year of the “Big Book.”
  4. By AA’s own data, the one-year recidivism rate for the “program” is 95%. That is, after one year, 95% of folks who came into AA’s front door are back drinking. The success rate for non-attendees (that is, people doing it alone at home) is better than AA’s.
  5. 30 days into it, 50% of folks don’t come back to a meeting.


AA demands that abstinence is the only way. While that’s my answer, it’s not a one-size fits all solution, and that’s a leading cause of AA’s failure … but they really don’t care about you getting sober (more about that in a bit). If you believe, like I do, excessive drinking is really just a bad habit for many, then abstinence only is doomed to fail.

So, by AA’s own admission, you’ve got a better chance at getting clean if you avoid a meeting, and in some cases, the meetings work against you in the long term.

Down here in South Florida:


  1. There are approximately 700+ weekly meetings in Broward County, and another 700+ in Palm Beach County.
  2. Out of those 1,400+ combined meetings, four meetings, just four, are for folks who self-describe as agnostics, atheists, etc. Recent Pew polling indicates about 20%+ of the US population isn’t religious in nature.


Four out of 1,400, or roughly 0.002%, of the meetings are for the non-believer. With those odds, good luck heathen getting sober.


Too Much God 



Ha! I jest. AA really isn’t about getting clean.

I’ve come to realize, AA’s really only about the first step — “admitting you’re powerless.” That’s the dirty secret to AA, admit you’ve lost control, so you’ll “let go and let god.”

Fuck me. Fuck you. Fuck that.

If you fall for step #1, then you’re red meat for the third step, where you’ll make “a decision to turn your will and your life over to the care of God as you understood Him.”

Hook. Line. Sinker.

Sure sure, they’ll tell you … let your god be Jesus, a tree, or a doorknob.

And so I began to wonder — what the hell does that say about the efficacy of AA, or prayer in general, if praying to a doorknob is the same as praying to the god of your choice?

For the record, though some fall for my Satanist shtick (gets me in the news), in reality I’m a strict believer in the separation of Church v. State, and my “religious beliefs” are non-existent. As an atheist, a militant one at that, I don’t believe in god, (though your god is the worst), don’t believe in Satan, or anything along those lines.

But, back at AA, let go and let god … fake it to you make it … meeting makers make it … one day at a time … the program works. These are the bromides, the bumper sticker slogans that power the simple-minded, and often times, deeply religious folk who flock to the meetings.

For the newly initiated, it’s quite often suggested 90 meetings in 90 days! Hell, if you’re really serious, why not do three meetings a day?

Don’t be a slacker! Meeting makers make it!

When examined, AA has zero interest in applying any modern day understanding of substance abuse to their offerings, the Big Book’s 1939 Christian-based temperance message is rigorously maintained, any thoughts of using advanced medicines is ignored, in the end it’s all about you finding god.

Says AA, “I can’t handle it God; you take over.”

For shits and giggles, select any AA meeting in your area at random … and then go to a local Sunday church gathering … not much difference, eh?

Or take a moment and read the twelve steps, and then ask yourself, how does this help anyone get sober?

In the meetings, you hear time and time and time again, “I’m working the steps, I’m in the program, I’m working the program.”

Program? AA is a program?

What the fuck, I’d often remark, I once worked for NASA … now that’s a program … they sent a rocket to the moon. The stupid shit spouted off in those AA gatherings, those aren’t a program, that’s church.

AA’ers believe it works because they’re suffering from survivor’s bias. What about, I say, the 95% who don’t make it past the first year? Or the nearly half who aren’t coming back in 30 days?


Sober Without Prayer


For me, getting sober really only required one rule — “don’t pick up.” A simple notion, not easy, but simple. No god, no praying, no need for the Lord’s prayer, or holding hands, or any such silliness.

I recall the moment I finally began to realize AA is a religious cult, forever stuck in the past. It was the time a young fellow walked into our Friday night meeting … that meeting, a small gathering at the same location for over 30 years, consisted of assorted non-religious types looking to stay clean.

So in comes this gent, who at the end of the hour, shares with everyone though he wants to get sober, his next stop is GetHammeredVille. Hanging on in life by a thumbnail, he came to us for advice.

Big mistake!

And here’s the collective wisdom others offered:


  • Call your sponsor
  • Go to another meeting
  • Turn to the Big Book
  • Take it one day at a time


Hearing that as if for the first time, I realized the fallacy of AA, the dependence on a book written in ’30s, a book with zero understanding of dependence, fanboy to an organization that’s completely out of sync with the neuroscience of addiction, and listening to advice from a group of folks who can only offer barely hidden religious flavored bromides as solutions.

I advised the youngster to, “Avoid AA. Get the fuck out of here and don’t come back. Find a SMART Recovery meeting, make an appointment with a trained professional, don’t drink and drive, wear a condom, use a clean needle, practice harm reduction. But if you want to get sober, avoid AA completely.”

AA, as a whole, believes alcohol dependency is a moral failing, a character flaw, a disease that can be prayed away if you only work it hard enough.

Alcoholism then is the only “disease” with a spiritual component … to AA’ers, the program never fails you, you fail the program. If it’s not working, attend more meetings, crack open the Big Book, call your sponsor.

And really, a disease? Perhaps convenient for insurance billing purposes, but have you ever known anyone successful at praying away a case of flaming genital herpes?

Turn to page 87 of the Big Book, and voila! No more diabetes!

Imagine telling your family doctor, “Well doc, those pills you gave me to cure my crabs aren’t working. I’m sorry that I’m such a failure, am I taking the pills incorrectly?”

AA’s success in life isn’t due to its effectiveness at getting folks sober. As I pointed out, the success rates are abysmal. However, the court system loves AA, providing AA with a near monopoly on recovery. And, AA is on every corner, offering a fellowship of social interaction.

Like I told that young man, like I’ll tell you if you’re looking to stop using, avoid AA at all costs. Unless you have a broken leg, run, don’t walk, away from “the program.”


(Chaz Stevens is a well known Broward County-based blogger, civic activist and all-around troublemaker. His work can be found at

18 Responses to “Chaz Stevens: How To Get Sober Without God Or AA”

  1. NW Broward MODC says:

    Following decades of experience working in residential treatment centers with addicted individuals, some with “co-existing” disorders, some without, I have reached the following conclusions:
    1) Often, but not always, a chemical imbalance, or sometimes something as simple as low blood sugar can set off cravings for alcohol.
    2) For an individual with a psychiatric (personality) disorder, the AA program is counterproductive to clean living and exacerbates the symptoms, particularly encouraging dependency on others. This is the absolute worst direction for an individual with a personality disorder.
    3) There is a chapter in the Big Book entitled “For the Wives.” Enough said.
    4) If the “sponsor” is pathological, the sponsee (follower) may be in danger.
    5) The peer group in AA is not a healthy or positive environment for an individual who wants to make changes. There are many people with decades of “recovery’ whose lives are anything but manageable. They have nothing to offer and often are parasitic.
    6) The AA Program parallels the Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and similar cults. You will be shunned by members for non-compliance.
    7) Authoritarian personalities are present in home groups who dominate and control the forum.
    8) There are old school members who ostracize members who take psychiatric medications. There are individuals with schizophrenia in AA; who absolutely need to be medicated.
    9) Although “I’m only as sober as the time I woke up this morning’ is touted, members with “time in” have superior status.
    10) Power of suggestion leads people back to the bottle when they are told that they will “relapse” if they fail to do a 90/90.
    11) Telling another AA member” the exact nature of your wrongs” is a set up for all kinds of problems.
    It is clear from studies of adopted children that there is a genetic component to alcoholism. An individual’s mental health, life experience and choices of how to deal with pain are also significant factors. However, before showing up in a church basement, it is a better idea to rule out a possible medical issue that may set off cravings. Then, explore the possibility of a psychiatric diagnosis. A manic episode related to bipolar disorder can set off cravings for alcohol. This is absolutely treatable. Treating a chemical imbalance with an anti-depressant, or medication for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia is not the same as ‘using” at all. However, anti-anxiety meds and pain killers can present a significant risk for the addicted.
    Based on my long term experience and observations, I have concluded that in the absence of a medical/psychiatric treatable issue, individuals will stop using substances when the pain of the CONSEQUENCES is greater than the positive effects of the alcohol/drug. Individuals who practice a balanced life style of exercise, healthy eating, and friendships with NON-alcoholics -and find their passion in a hobby have the most success.
    Suggesting that one is “powerless” after picking up the first drink which will lead to “jail, institution or death” is more dramatic than it needs to be.
    Very simply, if you recognize that the problems in your life are alcohol/drug related, you need to take personal responsibility to have the life that you desire.


    Is this your plea for an intervention for past judges Imperato, Rosenthal and Pollack? LOL

  3. Sam The Sham says:


    You are a sad, little man. AA does not work for everybody but it does work for many, and you just can’t stand that.

    You have deluded yourself into believing that you are some sort of “Truth Warrior” trying to save people from religion, when in fact, you are just addicted to a different thing. You are an attention addict. You get high from your own ego. You are a pompous know it all. You deplore religion’s influence on the public because you are jealous of it.

    What you need is a 12 step program to get on with your own life and stop inflicting the rest of us with your hatred, self centeredness and petty jealousies.

  4. Drunk with Ego says:

    “Nearing a decade ago I woke up one morning and just stopped drinking.”

    Conclusion: You write this AA article Now because you’re still drunk with ego and the fact that your Satanist shtick still gets you in the news.

  5. NW Broward MODC says:

    With regard to the question about whether this is a plea for an intervention for the judges:

    All of those judges have been instrumental in their support of addicts in Broward County for many years. They understand addiction firsthand. This county has been privileged to have their knowledge base.
    At least two of them have been open about their personal struggles with addiction. The amount of clean time accumulated should not be the focus.
    This being said; would it be unfair to say that the public humiliation that came their way was NOT an intervention in itself? Public humiliation is a consequence of addiction. It’s the balance of the high vs.the negative consequences that makes one consider making changes.

  6. Jesus says:

    God Bless

  7. A reader says:

    Maybe you should consider replacing that old booze fix with something positive. So many of your actions speak of a very unhappy person. Knitting, painting, reading, gardening, helping others are just a few suggestions to keep oneself calm and focused.

  8. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    >> AA does not work for everybody but it does work for many, and you just can’t stand that.

    By their own numbers, AA fails 95% of the time.

    For those that seek and find sobriety, I am happy for them … the vast majority do it without the help of AA.

    And I disagree. I am not an attention addict, I am an attention whore … Please, if you’re gonna call me a name, at least use the proper one.

  9. You are a genius! says:

    Should your post not be preceded with a disclaimer: “Folks with Asperger’s exhibit these tendencies, to wit;
    Dislike any changes in routines.
    Appear to lack empathy.
    Be unable to recognize subtle differences in speech tone, pitch, and accent that alter the meaning of others’ speech.
    Avoid eye contact or stare at others.All of these difficulties can cause folks with Asperger’s to become withdrawn and socially isolated and to have depression or anxiety.”

    You see, for most of us, we understand Aristotle when he professed, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

    So that for most folks,without a mental illness, there is something powerful in the act of being held accountable; in a 12 step group it is to your peers. in your case, I guess it is to “Pops”. Most folks get encouragement, support and understanding along with the deep emotional commitment to try to do better within a context of personal relationships. AA or any 12 step group provides that forum. The so called “god stuff” you posit is just the icing on the cake, or the reach beyond. It is an acknowledgment that sometimes folks feel overwhelmed.
    But you don’t get it Tim, and you never will. Cuz I am guessing you are still struggling with the whole personal relationship thing.

  10. Far from a Genius says:

    “For those that seek and find sobriety …”

    Please, if you’re gonna respond (and try to be cute) at least use the proper pronoun.

    For those Who seek and find sobriety …

    You’re no Shakespeare, Twain, Chaucer or other insightful genius … rather, merely a not cute “attention whore”.

  11. NW Broward MODC says:

    You have raised a worthwhile issue for discussion. Besides all the “yuk-yuk”, your original point is well taken.
    Individuals without co-occuring disorders usually take what they like from AA and leave the rest; for a period of time before they realize that most of what’s left in the rooms, for the long haul, are those who can’t get out out their own way, and a few alpha males with control issues.
    It is not atypical to see AA members with 25+years of sobriety unable to hold onto a job or a stable family situation.

    What I find disturbing is that when one is ready to move on, they are warned that they are headed for a “slip”; labeled a ‘dry drunk” etc.
    Individuals who question AA principles are targeted by the group as lacking in faith or those ” incapable of understanding a manner of living which requires rigorous honesty….
    Similar to the “Pioneers” of the Kingdom Hall, AA members are taught pat phrases; usually in the form of slogans, to respond to any questions from outsiders or newcomers. When there is a left field question the response is: ” Don’t drink and go to meetings.” Or, how about, ” Keep it simple, stupid.”

    Sorry folks; this meets every criterion for a cult.

    In practice, for the short term, many find this type of structure to be helpful in the first few years as they come out of the fog of addiction. However, those who hide from life in “the rooms”; and count their sobriety coins may very well be some of the”unfortunates” that Dr. Bob made reference to so long ago.

    Most importantly, since scientific evidence suggests that there is a genetic pre-disposition for addiction, AA members should seriously consider this before they “reproduce” with another 12 step member. There is a lot of AA marriage, and sadly, a lot of addicted offspring as a result. Gene’s matter.

  12. Ha Ha Ha says:

    @7 – Chaz works really hard to help others with both his investigative reporting on political corruption and his campaign to enforce the separation of church & state.

  13. Not a big Chaz fan says:

    I’ve never been a big fan. Not that I don’t think you have the right intentions, typically I agree with you, just not the way you go about it. In this case, though, I think you’re right on the money. For someone who is religious, even a little, AA might work. For others, especially like yourself, it would not. I always thought it was strange that AA seemed very “God” based, but since it did not directly affect me or my family, I didn’t really care. I found this article insightful and fascinating. May the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Festivas Beer can Pole or anything else you believe in or don’t believe in help you to continue to stay sober and be content in life.

  14. HillaryIn2016And2020 says:

    Damn it!

    Someone needs to say this:

    “I’ll Drink To That!”

  15. Blahblahblah says:

    No one cares.

  16. Disappointed says:

    Buddy, lie down with dogs you get fleas. Why would you endorse any of the BS coming from the disgusting lowlife pictured above? It truly lowers your standing in the community.

  17. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    Thankfully, Buddy’s not too tall of a gent … so less damage as he rolls around in the muck with me.


    I viewed your piece as a glimpse into the interior life and demons of a well-known Broward political agitator.

  18. We don't care says:


    We could care less about Chaz’s Angels, demons, interior life, outward appearance, social activities, political leanings, athletic abilities , love interests, sexual piccadildoes, political opinions , financial reports, comfort foods or favorite color .