Thinking About Austin

By John S.

I woke up early on the morning of November the 10th to pick up D., my truck driver friend  from Virginia, so we could begin the journey to Austin. (D. is an over-the-road trucker whose trucking company has a base in Shawnee, Kansas, and he frequently attends meetings at my home group — We Agnostics Kansas City.) Joining us was Amy P. and Shannon W. from Kansas City, and Samantha S. “Sam” from the We Agnostics group in Lawrence, Kansas. We made the trip in Mike H.’s RV. Mike, who also attends meetings at my home group, recently purchased an RV to enjoy during his retirement, and he was kind enough to volunteer to drive it to Austin.  It was a fun trip. We played Uno, munched on some really unhealthy snacks, laughed, took naps, and read Facebook posts. D. helped Mike with the driving so that Mike could also enjoy a few rounds of Uno.

mikes-rv It was past midnight by the time we arrived at the hotel in Austin where we were greeted at the front desk by Larry K. from Toronto’s We Agnostics Group. Larry had driven all the way from Toronto with others from his group. It was nice to meet him and his fellow Torontonians. It seemed like they enjoyed their trip and they were in good spirits. I found Larry to be a lot of fun and very interesting, and I enjoyed the many conversations we had over the weekend.

After a good night’s sleep, I headed downstairs for breakfast where I was greeted by my friend Doris A. (Chief Editor at AA Beyond Belief). She’s one of my all-time favorite people so it was a lucky break to have breakfast with her. We were joined by a British couple. I regret not remembering the man’s name, but the woman is Suzanne and she works on the literature committee for the GSO in the UK, and had an instrumental role with producing the “God Word” pamphlet. I found them to be a delightful couple, and I loved their exuberant attitude. 

Doris left after eating, and I later excused myself from my new British friends to visit with Gregg O. from my home group. He was sitting at another table with John H. from the Washington DC We Agnostics. You may remember John from the “Angry Atheist” podcast and article that he did for us last year. He and I had a rather animated conversation about an article he submitted to AA Beyond Belief that we declined to publish. I must say in all fairness to John that he was friendly toward me during the rest of the weekend and it was good to see him.

After breakfast, I headed over to register for the convention and set up a table to display the WAAFT coffee cups and buttons that my friend John H. from Cypress, California made to give out to the conference attendees. John was on the podcast we did a few months back“ Spiritual John”.  He has been sober since 1965 and is very excited about WAAFT IAAC. He wanted to make it to the convention, but sadly his wife just passed away and he is going through a bad time right now. Please keep him in your thoughts. 

I didn’t go to the opening panel about the atheists. Instead, I went back to my room to prepare for my presentation for the panel I was doing with Thomas B., “WAAFT’s Relationship with Traditional AA”. Here’s a copy of my talk if you care to read it. I went off script a bit when I delivered it, but this is pretty much what I had to say.  WAAFT’s Relationship with Traditional AA. 

buttons I must say that as I looked out into the audience and saw so many people who I respect and admire, it made me wish that I had been a little more prepared. A few people asked questions and made comments after Thomas and I did our thing. Overall, I think our panel went well, and after speaking with many of those attending the convention, the consensus seemed to be that we secularists should work within the AA General Service Conference.

The panels and workshops were secondary to my overall experience. What I enjoyed more were the many conversations that took place between the panels and workshops. There were a lot of people who came up to me to tell me how much they liked the podcast. That just blew me away. One young man, Matthew took a Greyhound bus all the way from South Carolina. He shook my hand and told me how much he enjoyed the podcasts and how much they mean to him. I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it is to hear something like that. There is something about telling our stories in those podcasts that really touches people, and hearing this feedback inspires me to keep doing them.  

The next panel I attended was the literature panel. I was really looking forward to this because Ami Brophy, the Executive Editor Publisher of the Grapevine was speaking. I recently have come to value and respect the Grapevine more than I ever imagined that I would. I’ve known Grapevine devotees in the past and never quite understood them, but now I find that I am one of them.

I acquired my new attitude toward the Grapevine through an unexpected confluence of events, a sort of perfect storm if you will. First, the October issue with a special section devoted to agnostics and atheists came out, which I found to be incredibly inspiring. I thought it was a game changer, and  it helped me realize just how powerful the Grapevine is as a means for sharing our experience. Reading stories from people who I knew, and who shared my belief system was amazing.

I also attended two AA meetings with the topic taken from stories in the agnostic/atheist section. These were meetings with people from traditional AA and I found it interesting that they accepted our stories as completely normal. Even Ami said that the reaction to that issue was positive or at least neutral. The Grapevine wasn’t flooded with complaints. It’s as if being an atheist in AA is now almost mainstream. 

Then, after reading the October issue and a week before the convention, I worked as a volunteer at the North American Central Office Seminar that was held in Kansas City. While serving lunch in the hospitality room with my District, I learned that there was going to be a Grapevine presentation at the seminar, so I asked our Central Office Manager if I could sit in on the presentation that evening. She allowed it, though the event was intended only for Central Office Managers.

That night, I showed up for the talk, chatted with our Area Delegate for a bit, took a seat in the back of the room and just melded into the crowd. I’m glad that I could stay, because I was able to hear both the Director of the Grapevine and the Senior Editor speak, and when they took questions, the person who handles their customer service answered some really tough questions from these Central Office Managers. I was impressed by their professionalism, and their dedication to and love for AA.

With these experiences behind me, by the time I got to Austin, I was on fire for the Grapevine and I was psyched to meet Ami and to hear her speak. I enjoyed her talk. One thing she said that stuck with me was how the Grapevine has served as a record of our experience since 1944. That’s something that is important to preserve in my opinion. We have an uninterrupted record of our Fellowship going all the way back to 1944!

I will say that I think the organizers of the convention dropped the ball by not giving Ami a full hour to speak to the entire convention on her own. I mean, she is the Executive Editor Publisher! It’s a big deal. She speaks at the General Service Conference. There was a lot that we could have learned from her. If you had read her presentation to the last General Service Conference, I think you would understand just how forward thinking she is–she appears that way to me anyway. 

The Grapevine is really trying to reach out to underrepresented groups right now with us being one of those groups, but people didn’t seem to understand this, and I felt that Ami was treated disrespectfully by some who were in the audience. It seemed like the literature panel was a bit chaotic with a lot of anger and incivility emanating from the audience.  I was embarrassed quite frankly, and I was glad that our Central Office Manager and the incoming Chair for our Area Assembly couldn’t make it to the convention. They wanted to be there but they had other commitments. Had they been there, my embarrassment would have only been compounded.

The following day, I attended Ami’s workshop and again, I felt that she was greeted with hostility. People were for example, accusing the Grapevine of censorship. I thought they were just plain rude. She couldn’t even put on her presentation. I felt terrible like I should apologize. Maybe she understood the anger. I understand it to a certain degree, but there was more of it at this convention then I remembered in Santa Monica. Of course, this is just my perception, I could be wrong. Maybe, I’m viewing Santa Monica through rose colored glasses.

Speaking of anger. I walked out of the business meeting. I think part of my problem was comparing that business meeting to the small intimate gathering in Santa Monica which I found to be polite, orderly and peaceful. This one was crazy with people shouting out from the floor and not letting Dianne  P. finish a sentence. Anyway, I guess they got the business done that needed to be done. The convention has a new name (ICSAA), a set of bylaws, and a new Board of Directors.

The next day, my KC group hosted one of the around-the-clock AA meetings. I was glad to see that our meeting was so well attended and it was nice to meet people from other parts of the country. I was going to go to lunch with some of them, but right after the meeting, I got a text message from Thomas telling me that the new Board of Directors wanted to see me ASAP.

I ran over to see what they wanted. It turns out they wanted to know about  WAAFT Central. They had assumed it was part of WAAFT IAAC, and were surprised to learn that it was something else. I went through the entire history for them and told them what WAAFT Central does.

They suggested that we wrap WAAFT Central and IAAC into one entity. Though, I had always opposed this idea even as recently as the previous day, this suggestion from this Board, at this time, actually lifted my spirits. WAAFT Central was hardly ever mentioned at the convention except for my short presentation, and I was disappointed that we couldn’t bring it up at the business meeting and get a new group of volunteers to take over. I was concerned that there was no succession plan, and now suddenly sitting before me was a group of intelligent, talented people—Trusted Servants who understand and respect the Traditions and Concepts of Alcoholics Anonymous. 

It remains to be seen if this consolidation happens. However, I did offer to donate the domain name We can use that as a site for all things related to Secular AA. It would include WAAFT Central (Secular AA Service Board), WAAFT IAAC (ICSAA) and the regional conferences.

The newly elected Board of Directors ended up drafting me as sort of an auxiliary member. I hope to be able to help with the website. I plan on creating a mock up to send them so they can see the concept that I have in mind. 

It’s totally up to them and the Board of WAAFT Central as to what will be done, but we definitely need to do something. Dierdre S. who maintains the World Wide Agnostic Meeting Directory at Agnostic AA NYC  gave an incredible speech about the history of special purpose groups, and during that talk she asked why we have two meeting lists; her list and the list at WAAFT Central. She suggested consolidating this responsibility with WAAFT Central. As soon as she said that, I felt a tremendous obligation to make sure that WAAFT Central lives on and has a structure in place so it can be passed on to future generations. That’s one reason, I like the idea of consolidating with ICSAA. They have a structure in place, and people who are dedicated and willing to do the work.

I was impressed with this new Board of Directors and as I returned home and thought about the convention, I must say that despite my perception of there being more anger than was present at Santa Monica; the convention itself was a success and I had a good time.

Pam W., Pat N. and Dierdre S. all did an incredible job as speakers at the banquet and every single person who I spoke with that weekend was an immediate friend. The workshops and panels were well done. The hotel and facilities were great and Austin is a beautiful city.

The weekend was so full of activity and there were so many people I met and so many old friends who I was able to see again, that it is impossible to go through it all in one article. I know that I’ve left a lot out, so I will conclude with a few shout outs.

  • Glenn G. and the gang from Jacksonville, that dinner at the Ethiopian restaurant was a blast! I guess I’ll be seeing you in Jax in July of 2017.
  • Joe C., your workshop Living Cyber was incredible and it was so cool to chat with you. Of all the people in agnostic AA who have inspired me, you are at the top of the list.
  • Peter T. from Vermont, thanks for dinner on Sunday night. That was a lot of fun and it’s great that we could connect on Facebook. I love your  Sober Bingo app
  • Life-J, how nice it was to finally meet you. I have always admired your writing and your intellect.
  • Iain H. from Bristol, England, how wonderful it was to meet you and your lovely wife. I hope you can visit KC when you chase your next tornado. As you know we have plenty of them around here.
  • Thank you, Dianne P., and the past IAAC board for all your hard work at making a successful convention.
  • And to all the people who complimented the podcast…thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have no idea how much that means to me.

Here’s to Toronto in 2018!


About the Author, John S.

John’s home group is the We Agnostics Group in Kansas City, Missouri where he is the outgoing GSR. He volunteers at AA Beyond Belief, WAAFT Central, and ICSAA. 

Audio Version 

Narrated by Len R of Jasper, GA. Len is looking to start a secular AA meeting in his area.  If you are interested, please contact him at

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  1. Victoria December 3, 2016 at 3:20 am - Reply

    I’m a bit hesitant about writing this, but here goes. I write as an observer from afar – very afar (in Aus), plus as a very Ordinary Member of AA, in the sense of just being in and out of the rooms, and not involved within the larger service structure at all. My comments are thus:

    The couple of cautions about proceeding with a ‘merger and acquisition’ of the WAAFT Central and ICSAA (formerly WAAFT ICAA? – see? it’s already become confusing) are very wise. The two, it seems, do in fact have quite sound and specific work to do with whoever the current people are. I believe – from knowledge of enormously complicated government inter-departmental structures, as only one example – that secular AA as a whole to work well, it would do best to retain just these two functional ‘arms’. Another thing to be aware of is that the bulk of secular AA organisational work and structure is contained in North America. There may be something similar in the UK, if so, I’m not aware of it; and there is decidedly nothing like it in Australia.

    Hopefully – very hopefully! – these others will evolve, but I believe it would be great if they do so in a very similar fashion: i.e. a general country or continent-wide / internet based clearing house, and perhaps for ICSAA to solely do what it says in the acronym – to organise the various international secular AA conferences, which over time (please!) will be located in other countries as they come online as it were.

    I suspect that, for the average more-or-less newcomer secular member, things have already become a bit complicated and hard to navigate, even with the relatively short time frame for things like Agnostica cf Beyond Belief. If we wish to do things a bit smarter and less arcane than the traditional AA structure (which I believe is frightfully confusing, despite its sometimes pretension to being the very spirit of anarchism / bottom-up), then please do try to keep the main functional groups formally separate. This need not prevent members of these Boards / groups from meeting informally to compare notes as to their progress, surely?

    Another cautionary note: AA as you all know well has not grown in membership numbers for quite a number of years. Its membership growth rate has been static more or less for how many? approx 20 years plus? (I don’t have the latest rather vaguely collected figures to hand, and the methodology is barely worth the name, for the scientifically minded among us). For that reason alone, I feel it’s critical for you wonderful on-the-ground secular AA members to always save your energies from corporatist imaginings – and certainly group-think, which can arise from that. ‘Power corrupts…’ and so forth. We have enough of that going on currently in the world in general, and who knows how much worse it will get.

    In short: please try to keep secular AA organisationally as simple as can be. For us disenfranchised members of current AA.

    • John S December 3, 2016 at 10:40 pm Reply

      Thank you for such an intelligent and articulate comment. That was very well stated and I think you have a good point. We should keep this simple. That was probably Dr. Bob’s best advice to Bill, “keep it simple”.

      It’s so nice to hear from you Victoria. I hope all is well in your part of the world.

      • Victoria December 5, 2016 at 1:29 am Reply

        Thanks so much, John. This is such a civilized space, so I don’t know why I felt awkward replying as I did. (Well, on reflection, I do: there’s so little incivility around currently, so one feels wary).

        And, yes, ‘keeping it simple’ – for those of us with an analytical mindset (my hand shoots up), even that saying can be at times, infuriating, and at others, calming. Poor ole Bill et al: they thought things were getting complicated back all those years ago, and as the years went by….I often think, jeez, how would they cope now? Multiple avenues towards recovery (which I relish, so it’s not ALL AA-dominated), many of them via increasing  discussions, data, and applications from neuroscience / psychotherapy for trauma etc / mindfulness practices/ secular Buddhist recovery modalities and practices /  and so on. And, all this, whilst much of the world – our world – is rife with operating at a much speedier pace and with a million more complexities (wicked problems) than even those of us with a slight finger on the pulse could have imagined.

        Things are damn tough now, really tough. There are few substantive ‘solutions’ to recovery, to politics, to economics, to just living (the very nature of wicked problems, alas). Hence, I say again, it would be great if secular AA as an overall movement (of individuals, wherever we are, and whatever each one’s situation of sobriety – or not, at the time) could remain a small beacon of sanity and mostly-peacefulness.

  2. Galen T. November 28, 2016 at 9:09 am - Reply

    John- Thank you so much for your informative account of the Austin convention.  It made me wish I had been there.  Among other things, it well-illustrates that a relatively new movement like ours is bound to still be sorting itself out and have some rough edges, including angry ones. As time passes and we feel less embattled and more secure, I trust that the anger will yield to gratitude, and to pride in what we have to offer AA as a whole.

    I have never been an avid reader of the Grapevine,  but I am impressed by the willingness of its representatives to expose themselves to a potentially hostile audience and listen to others with whom they disagree.

    I also appreciate the access to your address text on WAAFT’s Relationship with Traditional AA.  It got me thinking about the question of organizational self-identity.  When do elements within an organization depart so markedly from this self-identity that they need to break off and begin anew under different auspices.  There are obviously constituencies within AA who think that we secularists should acknowledge our anomalous beliefs by starting our own outfit.  But this presumes that belief in God is a, or the, defining characteristic of AA, and this is not the case.  Instead, we should point to the following:

    1. Our primary purpose is to recovery from addiction and help others to do the same.  Whether we do this via a belief in God or not is immaterial.

    2. What is not immaterial is that we recover through a program and a fellowship.  The integrity of the 12 Steps are not damaged by removing  God from them.  I have used “godfree” steps with sponsees without damaging the Step’s capacity to galvanize profound inner change. Which reminds me, let’s not surrender the term “spiritual” to religious adherents.  Although in its original usage spiritual was aligned with religion, this is no longer the case.  Spiritual now designates a life orientation that seeks meaning beyond the realm of physical and empirical realities.  Thus values such as openness, humility and compassion are spiritual ideals that do not depend on the existence of a God and they can be pursued in recovery with equal vigor by secularists and religious folks.

    3. Our fellowship, the open and honest sharing of our experience, strength, and hope does not depend on religiosity.

    I could go on, but won’t.  My point is simply that religion is not essential to AA’s self-identity. Therefore, what we secularists are up to is opening up the essence of AA to as many people as possible so that they, like us, may find freedom from drugs and alcohol and the gateway to a better life.

    And the fact is, AA is going to change whether it wants to or not, because the majority of people coming into our fold are not religious and not interested in become so.  This trend is only going to accelerate.  Organizations retain relevance and vitality by holding onto their core beliefs and practices while changing the other stuff in the face of evolving realities.

    Thanks again, John, both for your information and your dedication to the well-being and growth of AA. You have inspired me to plan for, what is it?  Toronto?



  3. Roger C. November 28, 2016 at 8:55 am - Reply

    Hi John,

    I really appreciated your article. I particularly liked the candor of your take on some of the elements of the Austin convention/conference.

    In one of your comments you wrote: “We need to turn things around with more modern and secular literature that is approved by the General Service Conference. Until that happens, we should be flooding the Grapevine with our stories”.

    I totally agree, good Sir. I think it is exactly that kind of engagement and involvement that resulted in the October “Atheist and Agnostic Members” of AA issue of the Grapevine. And coming up – thanks in large part to the work of people like life-j and Thomas B – in 2017 or 2018 there will be an entire Grapevine book devoted to we agnostics in the fellowship. Working with the Grapevine and Ami, its executive editor and publisher, has clearly already produced some important and remarkable results.

    I truly enjoyed the convention. I very much like the new ICSAA Board and l look forward to the next convention in the very mecca of agnosticism in AA – Toronto.

  4. Kit G November 28, 2016 at 5:09 am - Reply

    Thanks for the news and comments!

  5. life-j November 27, 2016 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    John, now going through your article a second time, I have a couple of comments:

    I’m not directly involved with waaft central, or for that matter icsaa, so I may be speaking out of turn, but it seems to me that it is OK to have a few separate organizations, it is my understanding that icsaa is only about the convention, waaft central is more about every sort of service week to week, month to month, and thus two different things, and people join one or the other not so much because they think one is more important than the other, but because whatever they get to do in there is something they each are more inclined to work on. Mixing them up only has the potential to have them each get in the other’s business, and bogged down with organizational bickering, instead of just let each of them do what theyfeel they’re good at.

    Other thing is the schedule – I just went on the waaft schedule a couple of days ago, and definitely appreciate the work that has been put into it. However, i think it is problematic that it is arranged by, weekday, rather than, as deirdre’s by area. When I’m looking for a non-believer meeting, the first thing I’m looking for is meetings in a particular area – do we have meetings in Sacramento, say? OK, when? – that’s my second question.

    When it is arranged by weekday it is very difficult to sort through – ok, it’s tuesday, and I’m in Northern California , ok, here’s one in West Virginia at 7 pm, guess I’ll  go to that one? Doesn’t work like that, right?

    I think Deirdre’s list is the better, for being arranged by area, but I can see how there’s a duplication of effort.

    Finally want to say about theschedules that since our meetings are still quite far apart, it seems important that some contact info is listed for all the meetings.

    I’ve been thinking of going to the one in McKinleyville Sunday Mornings at 10 AM. I’m 2 hours away. Now there are particular reasons why I doubt that this meeting is happening for sure which I wont get into. Suffice it to say that if I’m going to drive more than 2 hours to get to a meeting I want to call first, and make sure it is happening.

    Been going off on a tangenthere a bit I think, but theseare just a couple of things that you make me think of.

    Finally, and quite unrelated, but just want to throw it out there, We need to make more regional get-togethers like the one they had in Olympia

    In order to do that we all the more need contact info for other meetings. How else would we ever pull it together?

    • John S November 27, 2016 at 9:29 pm Reply

      There’s a sort feature on the WAAFT Central meeting list. If you want to see meetings on any given day for a particular place, you select “Any Day” and “Any Time” in the sort fields. Then in the “Any Place Box” you will see a menu by country. Click on the plus sign and it opens up the provinces and states. If you are looking for a meeting in California, just open up the California list and it will show you all the cities in California. Then select the city that you ant and it will pull up all the meetings in that city. You can also use the search box, to type in a city. If the city is in the database, it will pull it up. You want to make sure that you have “Any Day” and “Any Time” selected.

      The plugin used for the meeting directory was designed to be used by local central offices that deal primarily in one state or city. They did add some features to help with our purpose of having several countries, states, provinces, etc. The benefits of this list is that it works well on mobile devices and has a map feature. So that you can pull up the meeting on your phone, click on the map and your GPS will take you to the meeting.

      Probably what we could do is add some instructions on how to use the directory. It’s a popular program used by intergroups all over the world, including NYC and Toronto.

      We could add contact information where it is available. The program was designed to protect anonymity so the contacts who provide the meeting details are private. However, when a name and phone number is given in the meeting description, we do try to include it. Once you find a meeting on the list, if you have a concern as to whether or not it is still meeting, you may need to contact the local intergroup for that particular meeting. Most intergroups do have these meetings listed. We experimented with other formats and this was the best that I found as far as for use with mobile devises and search capability. You can search anyway you want, day, time, country, state, province or region. The default when you pull up the list is for the day, so if you go to the site on a Monday, it will show you all the meetings taking place that day. However, by using the filters you can vary your search by whatever means you choose.

      With regard to combining the entities, my primary concern is that we have some structure to assure that the service organization can live on. ICSAA is now in its third turnover of board members, the transition has been smooth and the organization is continuing on.

  6. John L. November 27, 2016 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    I was on the panel with Amy B. — “The Role of Literature in Secular AA”,  The organizers asked me if I would talk on Living Sober.  I agreed, and put a lot of effort into my talk, which I wrote out.  I anticipated that others on the panel would discuss other AA books, but it turned out that the focus was on Amy and the Grapevine.  That was all right until it got to the discussion period, which was almost entirely taken up by Amy, who responded to every question at length.  In my life I have been on a great many panels, and have moderated many.  Ideally, panelists respond briefly to questions, and if a question is of general interest, all of the panelists can respond to it.  As Amy was speaking towards the end of the discussion period, I quietly asked her to wind up, since people from the audience were waiting in line to speak.  She took umbrage, and some people afterwards were angry at me.

    I don’t think she was treated with disrespect.  As John H. and John C. have pointed out, we atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers have good reasons to dislike the Grapevine.  Its sins of omission: in decades of publishing the “AA experience”, it has almost completely ignored us.  Its sins of commission: sometimes publishing material that is insulting and offensive to us.  As an example, John H. read a grossly offensive statement by Dr. Bob, which the Grapevine published.  Intellectually, the Grapevine is a couple of notches below the Reader’s Digest, and with some of the same characteristics.  It’s not worthy of much respect.

    It’s good if the Grapevine will treat us better in the future.  But for now, an apology would be in order.

    • John S November 27, 2016 at 5:25 pm Reply

      I think your presentation on the book Living Sober was very good and I hope that we can post it here one day. It was a very interesting history.

      Much of what I wrote was my perception of what I saw and experienced. For the vast majority of my life in AA, I ignored the Grapevine, but I am now coming to appreciate the great potential of the Grapevine, if we were more engaged with it.

      We are a tiny minority in AA because only people who will tolerate religion stay. That’s why the stories in the Grapevine reflect a more religious experience. We need to turn things around with more modern and secular literature that is approved by the General Service Conference. Until that happens, we should be flooding the Grapevine with our stories.

      I probably harped on the anger thing a bit too much in my article. That really wasn’t my overwhelming impression of the entire weekend. I had a great amount of fun and wonderful memories.

  7. John H November 27, 2016 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    As a coda to John C I was one of the more vocal opponents to having the Grapevine present and so identified myself to Amy B who was, as had been said elsewhere, a most professional and civilized person who was given the difficult assignment of speaking to us and handled herself very well.

    I think she was treated with respect by everyone (myself included) and I had an interesting and quite pleasant one on one chat with her on my own.

    However, despite her professional demeanor and undoubted good intentions she was a formal representative of a publication that exhibits all of the characteristics John C outlined. She was fine. The Grapevine definitely is NOT fine and that includes the equivocal nod to us as exhibited in the October issue.

    I too hope that the new BOD and Toronto program committee will not find it necessary to invite “official”AA to present to us in 2018.

    We proved in Austin yet again  that we have more than enough fish to fry of our own and that our membership has more than enough competent and interesting speakers within it so as to make “outside” presenters both unnecessary and inappropriate.


    John H.

  8. john c November 27, 2016 at 1:49 pm - Reply


    The service you render on this website is appreciated by all.  However, I’m in complete dismay of your continued touting of Amy and the Grapevine.  Perhaps you cannot understand that this publication is disliked by many, if not most atheists, agnostics & freethinkers in AA.  Several board members didn’t want to invite her to the convention at all, but the consensus was that she should have a very limited role.  I did not attend any of the panels in which she participated, but was very, very happy to learn from your article that she was not treated with kid gloves by those who did attend them.

    The Grapevine is, in essence, a religious tract.  Deification of Bill W., sanctification of the Big Book & 12 steps as the panacea for life, a devotional, folksy, churchy tone throughout — it takes the cake! It is anathema to anyone with a modicum of intellectual proclivity.  Even the now exalted October issue contains the same old religious nonsense just a few pages past the agnostic stories.

    I do agree with one point in your article,  the anger of some of our numbers.  I heard many at the convention relate how they’ve been snubbed, disparaged and rejected  for years by traditional AA people.  Of course they were angry!  Most were relieved to share what they thought and felt, in an open and accepting environment, some for the first time. They were generally speaking against the narrowminded “program” purported by traditional AA.  The Grapevine is the most visible, most current element of traditional AA.  Let us hope we won’t have to suffer the presence of any of these people at the next convention in Toronto.  Thinking back to Santa Monica, I guess I should be pleased that no clergy had a leading role in Austin.


    John C.

    • John S November 27, 2016 at 1:56 pm Reply

      Yeah, I know and I was hesitant to tear open an old wound, and I can understand why some opposed her as a featured speaker. I still think it would have been better for her to have the floor to herself because of the role she has in our Fellowship. I also think that the Grapevine is making a genuine effort to reach out to underrepresented groups in AA.

      I didn’t want to appear too negative as overall, I feel the convention was a success and I had a good time. Other people have also pointed out to me that they would not want an atmosphere where people felt they couldn’t vent, and it may have just been my perception and my lack of tolerance for that sort of thing that was more at issue. On the ride back to KC, we talked about some of the anger at the convention so it was fresh in my mind at the time I wrote this. I just hope that part of my story doesn’t overwhelm the totality of my experience which was very positive.

  9. Jerry F. November 27, 2016 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    Gosh, John, you covered so much territory! Attendees reaction to your AABB, the Grapevine issue (both definitions of “issue” are intended), the new name of the organization, WAAFT Central, the sometimes contentious Membership Meeting, the new board, the dual meeting lists kept by Deirdre and WAAFT Central, and more.

    I suspect we all view Santa Monica with rose-colored glasses. And that may be a good thing.

    But I want to address only the issue of ICSAA and WAAFT Central. The stated mission of Central is “sharing resources to support agnostics, atheists and freethinkers in AA, and to make AA as a whole more inclusive. We hope to eliminate the cultural bias against nonbelievers that sometimes exists in AA, and we feel that through sharing our experience, strength, and hope as nonbelievers, we will help widen the gateway to recovery for all, making AA even more accessible and welcoming to a greater number of people.”

    The mission of ICSAA is to have a party every two years. A great deal of time and energy (thank you to the Austin folks for all you contributed to the success of the convention) is spent to have this convention. I believe that it is worth it but I also think that an organization like ICSAA can do more, much more, than just meet biennially.

    The question of combining with WAAFT Central came up a number of times during my tenure with the board of WAAFT – IAAC. It wasn’t presented as a formal motion but it kept coming up. And it makes sense. Shouldn’t our organization do more for the alcoholic and more for AA than just have a big meeting? I said then, a number of times, and I write now, sure. It makes sense. But my involvement with mergers and acquisitions taught me that they are really, really tricky in the details.

    If the new board and if the WAAFT Central board want to explore their options, I am entirely in favor. But please proceed with a very large measure of caution. We don’t want either organization to come to harm and that potential is a very real one when merger is the desired outcome.

    • John S November 27, 2016 at 1:57 pm Reply

      Thanks Jerry. Will proceed very cautiously and slowly.

  10. life-j November 27, 2016 at 11:11 am - Reply

    John, thanks for your account, and all that you do for our community. I see now how many exciting things I missed out on, but I’m glad for the things I did get to go to. Was good to meet you too.

  11. D.G. November 27, 2016 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Thanks John, not only for this article but for all that you do. I met Matthew from SC as well and his comment to you on how important the podcast (and website) has been to him mirrors my own experience. I’ve seen with my own eyes the amount of time and energy you devote to this work of making the website and podcast and meetings in KC available. And you too Doris! I was so impressed to hear how the two of you give the other all the credit for the work done on here haha! It just shows that it’s a labor of love and exemplifies the best of AA (and humanity in general) that it’s done with great care and humility. Thank you for the great examples of service in sobriety!

    I also want to thank you personally John,  for the times you’ve gone out of your way to come get me, for having me along on this trip, and even letting me crash in your room on that exhausted first night (!) since my reservation wasn’t available til the next day. I truly appreciate you, my friend.

    A special thanks to Mike for putting up with all of us on the trip and the nice RV to make the trip in! And to Amy and Shannon for keeping it funny and conversational on the long rides. And especially to my buddy Sam for the friendship, you’re the best!

    The convention itself was awesome. I didn’t experience the first one in Santa Monica and it was so nice to be there among like minded friends and and be involved (thanks Doris for asking me to share in your meeting) and great to meet so many people who I’ve read and admired (Thomas, Roger, Joe C, so many others!) and meet new people from all over and exchange experiences and support. There did seem to be some “growing pains” and contention in the business meeting and discussions on how to best move forward- but I think this is to be expected considering how important this fellowship is to all of us and for me it didn’t at all diminish the overall camaraderie and feeling of being welcomed and supported by all. Looking forward to Toronto!!


  12. Thomas Brinson November 27, 2016 at 7:01 am - Reply

    Thanks, John, for this excellent summary from your heart of what impressed you by the awesome gathering we experienced in Austin.

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