Episode 43: Joe C. Talks AA Service

This week, we speak with Joe C., author of Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life, a co-founder of Canada’s first agnostic AA group, Beyond Belief, and host of the podcast Rebellion Dogs Radio. Joe writes articles for various publications, presents a seminar on AA history at the Sedona Mago Retreat, and much, much more.

I have to say, I was a bit nervous about this podcast, only because I have such tremendous respect for Joe and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to hold my own in a conversation about AA service work. I mean it was only a few years ago when I had absolutely no interest in service, and it was actually Joe’s podcast that first inspired me. I remember he was talking about AA stewardship which was something that up until then, had never crossed my mind. Now, I talk about AA stewardship as if I invented the idea.

Service work has been an important component of Joe’s recovery since he started answering phones for his intergroup in 1977. He likes that for the most part service work is secular, and it provides an opportunity to work side by side fellow AAs in a common purpose. Nobody is concerned about any dogma or philosophy or belief. It’s all about getting the work done that helps facilitate carrying out our primary purpose — to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

It was interesting to hear Joe’s views on AA Tradition, especially when it comes to Social Media and the Internet. Individual AA members are participating in online communities by the thousands. We have Facebook Groups, Twitter feeds, podcasts and blogs. Yet, despite our ubiquity online, the General Service Conference seems reluctant to use the Internet for public information. It seems like the Conference is open to the idea, but they never fully take the plunge into the 21st Century.

We also talk a little about underrepresented groups in AA. Why for example is AA population so disproportionately white? In the 2014 membership survey, it was found that only 4% of AA’s are black, yet 14% of the US population is African American. NA doesn’t seem to have this problem. Joe suggests that because our literature is more dated than is NA literature, that NA is doing a better job attracting people of color. Our literature is older and written from the perspective of white, Christian men from the 1930’s.

I think that if we are going to be true to our primary purpose of helping other alcoholics achieve sobriety, then we should be reaching out to all alcoholics, not just the white, middle-aged male. It is through General Service that we can work on improving AA by continuing to break barriers to widen the gateway to recovery even further.

I hope you enjoy the conversation and get something from it. As far as I’m concerned, if just one person is inspired to get involved in General Service as a result of listening to this, then this was time well spent. Please forgive the sound quality at the beginning of the podcast, it gets much better after the first couple of minutes. Also, we will be adding a transcript sometime next week. We are working on that right now.

Thank you Joe for agreeing to take part in this. I enjoyed the talk a great deal, and I’m grateful to you for your service to AA, and for all the encouragement and support that you have given me over the past couple of years.

Podcast Transcript

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  1. life-j December 22, 2016 at 10:59 am - Reply

    Thank you both for this. it was really inspirational to listen to. And it is also nice that I can now sit there and put faces to the voices. Regret that I didn’t get to talk more with either of you. Now as for the merry christmas part, remember that it was either a time to fight with all those you love or in some way or other traumatic. I think the alcoholics who actually had a good christmas are few. At any rate, personally I put it in the closing prayer category.

  2. Bob K. December 21, 2016 at 10:30 am - Reply

    Joe is articulate and thoughtful. Any time I hear him speak, its a pleasure. He sets another example of calm and respectful discourse that the feistier members of the local heathen AA community will be wise to follow. As we move forward in the wake of a Human Rights Commission action very likely to go in our favor, there will be a need for healing in Toronto area AA.

    I think all of that is going to end in the favor of the complainant, and we should all delight in a more inclusive AA, but keep to a minimum any urges to spike the ball in the end zone. I think Joe will set a good example moving forward, and as much as we can, the rest of us should do likewise.

    Loved the podcast.

  3. Thomas B. December 21, 2016 at 9:12 am - Reply

    So wonderful to hear two of the more prominent members of our secular AA community, Joe and John, share their perspectives on AA and so many vital and interesting topics relevant not only to our special purpose group evolution, but to the continued evolution of AA as a whole — thanks so much for a most interesting and vibrant conversation !~!~!

    • Joe C. (@Rebellion_Dogs) December 22, 2016 at 10:00 am Reply

      This discussion has suddenly become symbolic for me. I regret to pass on the news that AAWS Director and Class B Trustee Joe D died this week. I last heard Joe D talk about AA’s history of diversity at our 2015 District 10/Area 83 service workshop called, “So You Think You’re Different: Diversity in AA” about a year ago.

      Joe was on the trustees’ Literature Committee that was recommending the atheist/agnostic pamphlet that was rejected by the General Service Conference. Joe was visibly frustrated by the time, love and service that went into the draft, which was all for not. Joe was one of the “good guys,” (not to suggest there is any nefarious element at General Service). He would certainly have been a voice or reason and asset to AA World Service – and all of us – at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal mediation now underway. In this regard, the timing couldn’t be more tragic.

      I have a hard time grasping that Joe D is gone for good. He was a former Area 83 delegate (South East Ontario Canada and NW New York State – AA’s only international Area). He was a mentor to many past and present trusted servants both in Ontario Canada and New York. As it turns out, it’s good that we’re talking service. It’s time for many of us to step up to fill a void. If 2016 has taught us anything it is this: Don’t take your democracy for granted; liberty comes with responsibility.

      • John S December 22, 2016 at 8:45 pm Reply

        I remember you writing about his talk at the time. I’m sorry for your loss. AA’s loss.

    • John S December 21, 2016 at 7:26 pm Reply

      Thanks Thomas. Your description of myself and Joe reminds me of Bob K’s comment of “sitting at the cool table at the mental asylum.” 🙂

      I love this site and the little online community we have, and these podcasts are thoroughly enjoyable to produce. What an incredible experience it’s been talking to all these beautiful people for the past year. It’s hard to believe, but we’ve done 43 now. Wow!

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