Book Review: Staying Sober Without God

Munn wrote this book because, as a nonbeliever, he felt the 12 steps of AA didn’t fully translate into a workable program for atheists or agnostics. This inspired him to develop the Practical 12 Steps.

Reviewed by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

I stumbled upon Staying Sober Without God while searching for secular 12-step literature for a client who identifies as atheist. Jeffrey Munn, the book’s author, is in recovery and also happens to be a licensed mental health practitioner.

Munn wrote the book because as a nonbeliever he felt the 12 steps of AA didn’t fully translate into a workable program for atheists or agnostics. (For example, the traditional version of Step 3 directs the addict to turn his/her will and life over to the care of God as they understand him. If you don’t believe in God, how can you put your life into the care of him? Munn notes that there’s no feasible replacement for a benevolent, all-knowing deity.)

The whole “God thing” frequently turns nonbelievers off from AA/NA. They’re told (by well-meaning believers) to find their own, unique higher power, such as nature or the fellowship itself. (The subtle undertone is that the nonbeliever will eventually come around to accept God as the true higher power.)

In Staying Sober Without God Munn asserts, “There is no one thing that is an adequate replacement for the concept of God.” He adds that you can’t just replace the word “God” with “love” or “wisdom.” It doesn’t make sense. So he developed the Practical 12 Steps and wrote a guide for working them.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

The Practical 12 Steps are as follows:

  1. Admitted we were caught in a self-destructive cycle and currently lacked the tools to stop it
  2. Trusted that a healthy lifestyle was attainable through social support and consistent self-improvement
  3. Committed to a lifestyle of recovery, focusing only on what we could control
  4. Made a comprehensive list of our resentments, fears, and harmful actions
  5. Shared our lists with a trustworthy person
  6. Made a list of our unhealthy character traits
  7. Began cultivating healthy character traits through consistent positive behavior
  8. Determined that the best way to make amends to those we had harmed
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would cause harm
  10. Practiced daily self-reflection and continued making amends whenever necessary
  11. We started meditating
  12. Sought to retain our newfound recovery lifestyle by teaching it to those willing to learn and by surrounding ourselves with healthy people

The Practical 12 Steps in no way undermine the traditional steps or the spirit of Alcoholics Anonymous. Instead, they’re supplemental; they provide a clearer picture of the steps for the nonbeliever.


Before delving into the steps in Staying Sober Without God, Munn discusses the nature of addiction, recovery, and the role of mental illness (which is mostly left untouched in traditional literature). He addresses the importance of seeking treatment (therapy, medication, etc.) for mental disorders while stressing that a 12-step program (secular or otherwise) is not a substitute for professional help. In following chapters, Munn breaks each step down and provides guidelines for working it.

The last few chapters of the book provide information on relapse and what the steps don’t address. Munn notes that sustainable recovery requires more than just working the steps, attending AA meetings, and taking a sponsor’s advice. For a balanced, substance-free lifestyle, one must also take care of their physical health, practice effective communication, and engage in meaningful leisure activities. Munn briefly discusses these components in the book’s final chapter, “What the Steps Miss.”

Image by xxolaxx from Pixabay

Staying Sober Without God is well-written and easy to read. The author presents information that’s original and in line with current models of addiction treatment, such as behavioral therapy (an evidence-based approach for substance use disorder). Working the Practical 12 Steps parallels behavioral treatments; the steps serve to modify or discontinue unhealthy behaviors (while replacing them with healthy habits). Furthermore, a 12-step network provides support and meaningful human connection (also crucial for recovery).

In my opinion, the traditional 12 Steps reek of the moral model, which viewed addiction as a moral failure or sin. Rooted in religion, this outdated (and false) model asserted that the addict was of weak character and lacked willpower. The moral model has since been replaced with the disease concept, which characterizes addiction as a brain disorder with biological, genetic, and environmental influences.

The Practical 12 Steps are a better fit for what we know about addiction today; Munn focuses on unhealthy behaviors instead of “character defects.” For example, in Step 7, the addict implements healthy habits while addressing unhealthy characteristics. No one has to pray to a supernatural being to ask for shortcomings to be removed.

Image by m storm from Pixabay

The Practical 12 Steps exude empowerment; in contrast, the traditional steps convey helplessness. (The resulting implication? The only way to recover is to have faith that God will heal you.) The practical version of the steps instills hope and inspires the addict to change. Furthermore, the practical steps are more concrete and less vague when compared to the traditional steps. (This makes them easier to work!)


In sum, Munn’s concept of the steps helped me to better understand the 12-step model of recovery; the traditional steps are difficult to conceptualize for a nonbeliever, but Munn found a way to extract the meaning of each step (without altering overall purpose or spirit). I consider the practical steps a modern adaptation of the traditional version.

I recommend reading Staying Sober Without God if you have a substance use disorder (regardless of your religious beliefs) or if you’re a professional/peer specialist who works with individuals with substance use disorders. Munn’s ideas will give you a fresh perspective on 12-step recovery.


For working the practical steps, download the companion workbook here:

Note: The workbook is meant to be used in conjunction with Munn’s book. I initially created it for the previously mentioned client as a format for working the practical steps. The workbook is for personal/clinical use only.

350 Ideas for Hobbies

Discover a new hobby with this diverse list of assorted leisure activities, which range from beekeeping to Kombucha brewing to knife throwing to ghost hunting.

A list of over 350 hobbies to try

Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Image by Fathromi Ramdlon from Pixabay

I developed this list (with the help of Wikipedia, and Google, of course) as part of a project I was working on and thought it would be worth sharing. (Click below for a PDF version of this list.)


350 Ideas for Hobbies

Jump to a section:

Animals & Nature Hobbies

  1. Attend pet shows (or horse shows)
  2. Beekeeping
  3. Berry or apple picking
  4. Bird watching
  5. Butterfly garden (Visit one or create your own!)
  6. Butterfly watching
  7. Be a plant parent; nurture and care for indoor plants
  8. Composting
  9. Dog training
  10. Dog walking
  11. Fossil hunting
  12. Grow and tend to a fruit tree
  13. Grow an indoor herb garden
  14. Grow plants from seedlings (and plant outside when in-season)
  15. Hang humming bird feeders and then sit back and enjoy the company!
  16. Horseback riding
  17. Become an expert at identifying various plants
  18. Mushroom hunting
  19. Nature walks
  20. Adopt a pet
  21. Pet fostering
  22. Pet sitting
  23. Plant a flower bed
  24. Go on a swamp tour
  25. Tend to a vegetable garden
  26. Topiary
  27. Visit a farm
  28. Visit an aquarium
  29. Go to zoos and/or nature centers
  30. Watch wildlife on Animal Planet
  31. Go whale watching

🔝

Arts & Crafts

  1. Drawing
  2. Candle making
  3. Collages – Use whatever materials you desire!
  4. Coloring
  5. Crocheting
  6. Design your own greeting cards or stationary
  7. Flower arranging
  8. Glassblowing
  9. Jewelry making
  10. Knitting
  11. Lettering/calligraphy
  12. Mixed media art
  13. Mosaic making
  14. Origami
  15. Painting (watercolor, oils, acrylics, etc.)
  16. Paper crafts (including paper mache)
  17. Photography
  18. Pressed flower craft
  19. Pottery
  20. Quilting
  21. Scrapbooking
  22. Sculpting
  23. Sewing
  24. Sketching
  25. Soap making
  26. Weaving
  27. Wood carving

🔝

Collection Hobbies

  1. Action figures
  2. Antiques
  3. Autographs
  4. Barbies
  5. Books (classics, signed copies, etc.)
  6. Christmas tree ornaments
  7. Comics
  8. Fun socks
  9. Hot sauce from around the world
  10. Movie or music memorabilia
  11. Obsolete tech (i.e. outdated cell phones, tape players, etc.)
  12. Original artwork
  13. Plates
  14. Purses, shoes, and other accessories
  15. Recipes
  16. Records
  17. Retro video games
  18. Rocks and/or crystals
  19. Shells
  20. Souvenirs
  21. Sports memorabilia
  22. Stickers
  23. Ticket stubs
  24. Toys
  25. Vases
  26. Vintage items

🔝

Cooking & Baking

  1. Braising
  2. Bread making
  3. Cake decorating
  4. Canning
  5. Cheese making
  6. Coffee roasting
  7. Cookie decorating
  8. Grilling and BBQ
  9. Hosting dinner parties
  10. Kombucha brewing
  11. Learn ethnic and regional recipes
  12. Learn recipes from cooking shows
  13. Make “fun foods” for kids
  14. Make homemade ice cream
  15. Make jam or jelly
  16. Make your own beef (or vegan!) jerky
  17. Participate in competitive food festivals (or just go and enjoy the food!)
  18. Pasta making
  19. Pastry and confection making
  20. Pickling
  21. Pie making
  22. Raw diet meals
  23. Recreate menu items from your favorite restaurants
  24. Reduced fat cooking
  25. Sautéing
  26. Slow cooker meals
  27. Smoothie making
  28. Soup, sauce, and stock making
  29. Sushi making
  30. Take a cooking class
  31. Tea brewing
  32. Try new recipes on a regular basis
  33. Use an air fryer
  34. Use a dehydrator
  35. Use Pinterest for inspiration
  36. Vegan cooking
  37. Watch Food Network for inspiration

🔝

Entertainment

  1. Attend movies, operas, plays, and musicals
  2. Bingo
  3. Board games and/or party games
  4. Card games
  5. Chess
  6. Strategy games
  7. Dine out at new restaurants
  8. Escape rooms
  9. Gaming
  10. Go to museums
  11. Go to poetry slams or open mic nights
  12. Jigsaw puzzles
  13. Karaoke
  14. Murder mystery shows
  15. Read entertainment/celebrity magazines
  16. See your favorite bands/artists perform live
  17. Standup comedy
  18. Theme parks
  19. Watch your favorite Netflix series, but make sure you become overly invested (borderline obsessed) with the story line and characters in order for this to qualify as a legit hobby

🔝

Home Improvement & DIY

  1. Add a backsplash to your kitchen
  2. Bathroom remodel
  3. Build a shed
  4. Build furniture
  5. Design a meditation room, home office, “man cave,” or “she shed”
  6. DIY headboard
  7. Fireplace makeover
  8. Hanging shelves
  9. Home organization
  10. Install smart home technology
  11. Kitchen remodel
  12. Paint an accent wall or update your entire home
  13. Paint old cabinets
  14. Redecorate a room
  15. Stencil or wallpaper
  16. Update a closet
  17. Update furniture
  18. Update lighting
  19. Use chalk paint or metallic spray paint

🔝

Literature, Music, & Dance

  1. Acting
  2. Visit art galleries
  3. Attend literary fests
  4. Ballroom dancing
  5. Belly dancing
  6. Blogging/guest blogging
  7. Break dancing
  8. Editing
  9. Go to book signings
  10. Go to the library
  11. Join a book club (either in-person or online, i.e. Goodreads)
  12. Listen to music
  13. Play/learn an instrument
  14. Puppeteering
  15. Rapping
  16. Reading
  17. Sell your art on etsy.com
  18. Singing
  19. Song writing
  20. Submit articles/opinion pieces/essays to magazines and newspapers
  21. Swing dancing
  22. Take a dance class (swing, hip hop, ballroom, etc.)
  23. Take a drama or improv class
  24. Take voice lessons
  25. Wikipedia editing
  26. Write a book
  27. Write poetry
  28. Write short stories

🔝

Outdoor & Adventure

  1. Backpacking
  2. Boating
  3. Bungee jumping
  4. Camping
  5. Canoeing
  6. Caving
  7. Fishing
  8. Geocaching
  9. Go-Karting
  10. Hiking
  11. Hot air ballooning
  12. Kayaking
  13. Laser tag
  14. Mountain biking
  15. Mountain climbing
  16. Paintball
  17. Parasailing
  18. Rocking climbing
  19. Sailing
  20. Scuba diving
  21. Skiing
  22. Skydiving
  23. Snowboarding
  24. Snorkeling
  25. Waterskiing
  26. White water rafting
  27. Wilderness survival

🔝

Self-Improvement & Social Hobbies

  1. Advocate for a cause
  2. Attend support groups/meetings
  3. Attend workshops
  4. Bullet journaling
  5. Daily positive affirmations and/or self-reflection
  6. Join a club
  7. Join a gym
  8. Join a Meetup group
  9. Join a political campaign
  10. Journaling
  11. Keep a gratitude journal
  12. Listen to podcasts
  13. Make a vision board and update it regularly
  14. Meditation
  15. Read research
  16. Read self-improvement books
  17. Social media
  18. Stretching
  19. Take a class (i.e. self-defense, a foreign language, etc.)
  20. Use a habit tracker app
  21. Volunteer
  22. Watch documentaries
  23. Watch inspirational Ted Talks
  24. Wear a fitness tracker
  25. Yoga

🔝

Sports

  1. Archery
  2. Badminton 
  3. Baseball
  4. Basketball
  5. Biking
  6. Body building
  7. Bowling
  8. Boxing
  9. Cricket
  10. Darts
  11. Disc golf/frisbee
  12. Fencing
  13. Football/flag football
  14. Golf
  15. Gymnastics
  16. Hockey
  17. Ice skating
  18. Jogging/running
  19. Knife throwing
  20. Lacrosse
  21. Martial arts
  22. Poker
  23. Racquetball
  24. Racing
  25. Riding a unicycle
  26. Roller derby
  27. Rugby
  28. Skateboarding
  29. Soccer
  30. Surfing/body boarding
  31. Swimming
  32. Table football
  33. Table tennis
  34. Tennis
  35. Thai Chi
  36. Volleyball
  37. Weight training
  38. Wrestling

🔝

Travel

  1. Alaskan cruise
  2. All-inclusive resorts
  3. Beach vacations
  4. Caribbean cruise
  5. Cross-country train trip
  6. Explore your home town and other nearby place as though you’re a tourist
  7. Guided group tours
  8. Mediterranean cruise
  9. Road trip
  10. See the Northern Lights
  11. Travel to all the continents in the world
  12. Travel to all the states in America
  13. Trip to Las Vegas
  14. Visit the Grand Canyon
  15. Visit the New Seven Wonders of the World
  16. Visit the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World
  17. Go on city walking tours

🔝

Miscellaneous Hobbies

  1. Astrology/astronomy
  2. Billiards
  3. Couponing
  4. Creating DIY home products
  5. Fantasy sports
  6. Genealogy
  7. Ghost hunting
  8. Hair styling/braiding
  9. Hula hooping
  10. Juggling
  11. Keeping up with the latest fashions
  12. Kite flying
  13. Learning magic tricks
  14. Makeup application
  15. Metal detecting
  16. Model building
  17. People watching
  18. Storage unit auctions
  19. Sunbathing
  20. Yard sale shopping/thrifting

🔝


Note: The Wikipedia webpage, “List of Hobbies” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hobbies), was utilized as a reference for this list.