“I know that the day will come when my sight of this earth shall be lost and life will take its leave in silence drawing the last curtain over my eyes”
My last day (When? How? Where?): I have a dream. My two sons are near to me while I am taking my last breath. I could hear their gentle voices. They are thanking AA for my sober death.
November 2005, my first day in AA: Sitting at the last bench in a primary school in Kolkata, India. I try to listen to what the speakers are saying. One thing struck me. Each and every speaker is quoting God. I am finished. When the chairperson asks me if I want to say anything, I say that I do not believe in God.
1983, my experiment with alcohol: I was the organizing secretary of our college fest. After hectic activities all day I saw my friends were busy drinking something behind the backstage. ‘What is it?’ I asked. ‘Taste it,’ they replied. The chemistry clicked. Love at first drink.
December 22 1998, my father died, when I don’t know: My father died. I was unable to be before him due to my last night’s heavy drinking. In the morning my mother pushed me up and told me that my father died. When, I don’t know.
1995-2005, 10 years of solitude: My brother died in 1994 due to a CVA (or stroke) and for that I held myself responsible. I made several mistakes for which he had to suffer a lot due to lack of proper treatment and ultimately he died. That incident brought me into massive depression. I combined antidepressants with alcohol. In the meantime, I married a beautiful lady. In the course of time my two sons arrived.
Suddenly sex joined alcohol and depression. I became a victim of SAD (Sex, Alcohol, and Depression). I became a regular customer of Kolkata’s famous brothel. One night, when the full moon was up and stars were twinkling in the clear sky I, partially in black-out condition, wanted to enter in mother’s womb, not to return back in the universe again. My nirvana should come through a sexual route, I thought. I met a new girl. Both of us were ready to play the game.
After the game was over I discovered that I played the game without protection. I felt the smell of death. Terrible fear for three days. Finally I went for an HIV test. The counselor took seven days for my report. When I went for the report after seven days, she told me to wait for another 15 days because my blood sample was sent for recheck. Another 15 days to hear my death sentence? I thought. That night I wrote a letter to my wife to forgive me. I kissed my sleeping wife, two sons. I touched my ailing mother’s feet and went for suicide but failed. I returned home and consoled my weeping wife saying that all is well. That reflects my report. All is well.
1970-1983, childhood memories and young mind: My father was an officer of the government of India and had to travel various places throughout India. We missed him. My mother was a teacher. Though my parents were in service, I don’t understand even now why our family suffered a lot as far as financial matters are concerned. When my father was at home, constant battle between my parents was a regular drama in our home. It shaped my childhood mind badly.
But deep down in my heart I wanted to become a writer of history and Bengali (my language of origin; Rabindranath Tagore won the Noble Prize for writing “GITANJALI” in Bengali; Bengali is also the national language of BANLADESH). Bengali novelists attracted me. Night after night I would absorb fascinating stories. At the same time European and Latin American writers opened my mind. Camus, Kafka, and Gabriel Garcia Marques took my head. Suddenly the stock market was calling me. I wanted to become rich. All my savings vanished in two weeks. My disease of alcoholism and depression were aggravated and alcohol became my master.
2005-2016, in Bill and Buddha’s company: In 1997, I read an article in a local newspaper. The article was about alcoholics and how they became sober with the help of AA. Then I was an active alcoholic. The first thought came into my mind after reading the article was that maybe I need it someday. From 2002 I tried on my own to quit alcohol. I remember the day in May 2006, after heavy drinking, I returned home and I cried and I cried and I cried and told my wife that I didn’t want to drink again. That day in my life is the day of “Turning the Wheel.” The article about AA which I read in 1997 came into my mind. I checked a website, contacted AA, went to meetings every evening, collected a Big Book, and read Bill’s story not once, not twice, but several times.
I could identify with Bill’s pain and sufferings, as if Bill was describing my own story. Bill W became my Hero No 1. Another hero was waiting in the sky and he was BUDDHA. One full moon night while I was smoking a cigarette at the rooftop of our housing complex, suddenly the sky was calling me. Watching the full moon mindfully the thought of BUDDHA came into my mind. That moment was one of the AHA moments in my life. I started reading about Bill and Buddha. The more I read about them, the more I wanted to know them. Then I was an agnostic and tried to believe in a GOD who could save my life. I tried to believe in GOD and I became atheist (laugh).
I believe that BUDDHA is the greatest atheist in this world. So I followed him. I went to Buddhagaya on full moon day of May 2007 where 2550 years before, meditating under a peepal tree, prince Goutama got enlightenment. That night, sitting under the same tree, I committed myself not to waste my life. I don’t have to turn back again from that day. That day also became the last day of my 20 years of cigarette smoking. After three-four years of traditional AA. I became tired hearing GOD things day after day. But I never quit meetings. I checked internet about online atheist AA meetings, I found two. I became member of them. From there I came into contact with the AA Agnostica website. I am a regular reader of it. From there I found AA Beyond Belief. This website opened a whole new world for me. My loneliness vanished. I am not an outsider in AA anymore. I am a part of a whole new AA fellowship. I owe my gratitude to AA Beyond Belief. Thank you, friends.
July 31, 2016, my serenity wish: My name is Somen and I am an alcoholic and atheist. I am celebrating my 10th year of sobriety in AA (though the actual date is July 26th, my home group meets every Sunday–that is why I am celebrating today). I am celebrating a process and not an accomplishment. This group is not an atheist/agnostic group. Nowhere in India you will find such AA group. Needless to say that I am in AA and an outsider in F2F meeting rooms in AA in India.
I hear here and there in the meeting rooms and outside the meeting rooms also that I am in a danger zone because of my no faith in God. I laugh. But at the same time, I share my true story (that I am an alcoholic atheist) now a days. Few members respect my honesty. Most of the members don’t understand Bill W’s message of inclusiveness in AA. May a day come when another fellow joined me so that we can form an atheist AA group and we can start our meeting with the serenity wish: “May we have the serenity …”
The journey from “I” to “WE” is not too far, I hope.
About the Author
Somen is a senior Optometrist living in Kolkata, India with his wife and children. He celebrated ten years of sobriety this past July.
The featured image for this article was created by Kathryn F.
The audio for this story was recorded and narrated by Len R. from Jasper, Georgia. Len is interested in starting a secular AA meeting in his area. If you would like to join him, you may reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.