First, the original 12 steps of AA spawned many fellowships to tackle other types of addiction. These groups were less inclined to adopt the Christian interpretation of the program that the traditional AA groups upheld and they tended to a non-religious stance, even though the wording of the steps – with god implied or mentioned in half of them – was treated as sacrosanct. More recently the original 12 steps of AA have been supplemented with many optional secular alternatives.

It should be understood that the 12 steps of AA are the 12 step program. There is more to the program than that, but no more to the twelve steps. They are a concise expression of the program. However over the years it has become permissible for addicts to rewrite the twelve steps to express their own interpretation of the program, because every member needs an individually tailored program to suit them, their own program.

Secular equals tolerant

What we mean by secular is a tolerant approach to everyone else’s belief systems. Everyone should be free to hold their own religious belief or none. And to change it whenever they like. Nevertheless 12 step meetings should be non-religious so that members can concentrate on getting sober without the distraction of missionary work – either practicing it or being on the receiving end. There are countless other places to practice religion.


My trilogy of non-fiction addiction books follows recent developments in the 12 step world. An Atheists Unofficial Guide to AA was designed to help atheists and agnostics to navigate the 12 steps of AA by giving members the confidence to write their own god-free steps where needed. It contains suggested replacements for six of the 12 steps of AA that mention or imply god. These are intended as an encouragement for members to write their own – or they may use the guideline versions if they wish. By the way, if you say: “I know there’s something there, but I don’t know what it is,” congratulations: you’re an agnostic.

My second book, Twelve Steps to Self-improvement widened the coverage to all of the other 12 step fellowships that had borrowed the 12 steps of AA as a template for their own programs. I hoped that all the other members of twelve step programs who needed god-free steps would also benefit.

12 steps of AA remain in Everyone’s an Addict

While the first two books remain on target to help atheists and agnostics, my third book Everyone’s an Addict is designed to help absolutely anyone. It offers alternatives for six of the 12 steps of AA, but the original 12 steps of AA also remain in the book for traditionalists. They have not been deleted, as in the first two books. This latest book also goes a lot deeper into how to lead a moral life. Whereas book two introduced an idea for bad behavers’ meetings to help them follow a more moral life as well as addicts, the self-improvement aspect is given a much greater airing in the final tome.

The last book is also a daybook with 366 entries – one for each day of the year – so it is ideal for use in the topic meetings of any fellowship.