It Lasted Over 22 Years

By Len R. 

My Childhood

I grew up in a large family, the oldest of eight children. We were raised Catholic, but even as a teenager I was skeptical about how the same God could be both loving and vengeful. How could it be that unbaptized babies, through no fault of their own, could never go to heaven? I never received good answers to this and other questions, so I became an unbeliever and quit going to church in my late teens.

Dad was a good provider and Mom stayed at home to take care of us. Heavy drinking was normal. When we went to visit friends or family, the first thing that happened when an adult walked through the door after a handshake or a hug, was that somebody handed them a beer. The hard stuff would come out later.

Dad was a truck driver. After a hard day’s work, he would stop at the bar for a beer or two and a few shots of whiskey or more. Mom was a secret drinker, waiting until we all went to bed before she started up. This seemed reasonable to me. I had never lived any other way.  Working hard, drinking, eating, drinking, and sleeping was just the way life was.

I was a smart kid, though I was a loner. I was a nerd, socially inept, not at all athletic, and never participated in extracurricular activities because I was needed at home after school. I did develop an interest in electronics and at 15 was working part-time after school in a TV repair shop, learning a trade.

Due to an illness in 11th grade, I missed too many days of school, and they were going to make me repeat the year. This did not appeal to me, so I quit school and started working full-time fixing TVs. I was good at it. What I didn’t know, I either learned from more experienced guys or would read in manuals.  On my 18th birthday, I sat for the GED tests and successfully completed them in one session.

I Become an Adult and an Alcoholic

Shortly after passing my GEDs I got married, and within three years my wife and I had two daughters. I worked hard, supported my family. My wife stayed home and took care of the children. I made sure they had food, clothes, and a good place to live. As my reward, I began drinking after work.

I drank alcoholically from the start, but as long as I got up every day and went to work, I figured everything was all right.  The money I made from my job supported my family.  The work I did on the side, fixing TV’s for friends and family and referrals, supplied my drinking money.

I was a good worker, and even though I was young, I was regularly promoted. I worked, I drank, I got up in the morning, and I did it again. The only family time we had was on the weekends, but I drank then, too.  Not in the mornings, though.  Only alcoholics drank in the morning. I did my weekend chores, spent some time with my family, but of course as soon as my “responsibilities” were done, I drank.

This was my life, and I was a happy, functional drunk. I didn’t go into rages, get into fights, beat my wife or children, spend the grocery money, or display any of the other behaviors common amongst many alcoholics. But I was never physically or emotionally home for my wife and kids, and the fact they were hurt by this never occurred to me.

Sober, I was usually shy and introverted, but once I had a few drinks in me, I morphed into a different person. I was friendly and loved to entertain people with jokes. I was also very skilled at playing pool, which supplied more money for drinking.

After seven years of marriage, my wife divorced me. With nobody to nag me about coming home, I spent most of my free time hanging out at bars, and this was where I met my next wife, who also enjoyed a few drinks. We were married in 1980 and soon after I was promoted and we relocated to Southern California.

I made new friends in the bars and also got well-acquainted with marijuana and cocaine.  My use of everything increased, and with no kids, at home, we could drink, smoke, and snort to our heart’s content.

As my alcoholism progressed, however, my work began to suffer. I started trying to quit but never lasted very long. On one Sunday after a weekend of heavy drinking, I began to get very sick and went to the emergency room. “I believe you’re in withdrawal,” the doctor said, and he suggested that I see my primary doctor ASAP.

I went to my physician and told him the truth about my drinking.  He sent me over to the Chemical Dependency Unit. The counselor at the unit wanted to admit me. I said I needed to think it over, and she gave me a copy of the Big Book and The 12 & 12. I related to Bill’s story but balked when I saw the word “God,” and concluded this was not for me. I was agnostic and had not seen the inside of a church in 20 years.

When I went back to the unit to return the books I was greeted by the director the program, Dr. Paul O., the author of the story in the Big Book named “Acceptance was the Answer” in the 4th edition. Dr. Paul calmly told me his story, and I was impressed. If a doctor could go through what he had and get sober through this program, well, I decided to give it a shot and agreed to check in. I called my boss and told him the truth, that my sickness was due to my drinking problem and that I was checking into treatment. He told me to do what I needed to do and not to worry about my job.

I Get Sober December 16, 1988

It was a three-week inpatient program, and on day two they loaded me into a van and took me to my first AA meeting. I expected to see a room full of skid row drunks. But, to my surprise, there were at least 150 “regular” people, laughing, hugging, enjoying themselves . . . Sober!  I wanted what I saw more than anything in the world.

So, I jumped into the program with both feet. I did not abandon my agnosticism immediately but sincerely agreed to give God a chance. I was not alone. AA in Southern California is full of clapping and cheering, and while God was certainly discussed it was also more secular than in other parts of the country. Everyone was accepted, even me. I was no longer alone! AA became my passion. The compulsion to drink evaporated immediately. I went to meetings every day, got a sponsor, did the steps praying on my knees. I dived into service work, chairing meetings, accepting treasurer and secretary positions, helping the treatment program’s alumni program and eventually becoming the head of it for a few years.

After several years my agnosticism returned, and I adopted the group as my higher power. I lost faith in God, but not in the program. And I stayed sober through a divorce, the death of my mother, the loss of my job due to an RIF (reduction in force), unemployment, and a new job. The new job required a cross-country move—very stressful because I was leaving my adult daughters, my friends, Southern California, and my AA community. This was at about five years sober.

In Chicago (at least at the meetings in my area) the clapping and cheering were gone. I found myself having to introduce myself, rather than being welcomed into the meetings. I still went, but they felt solemn rather than a celebration of sobriety. Much more God, many more drunkalogues, much less talk of recovery. These weren’t the happy, joyful meetings I was used to and I began to slack off.

At about eight years sober I was transferred to Atlanta, GA. In Atlanta, I met my third wife, to whom I am still married 20 years later. But, wow, if the Chicago meetings were different, I was now in a new world: not only was a religious belief in God expected, I was even asked what church I belonged to. I faked it, joined the circle, held hands, and recited the Protestant version of the Lord’s Prayer.

Sharings frequently included not only references to God but to Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If the Chicago meetings felt solemn, these felt like I was going to church.  If I wanted to go to church, I would have picked one and gone. I was looking for the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and wasn’t finding it.

The Empty Years

Feeling alienated and disaffected, I stopped going to meetings. I stayed sober for the next ten years without a single meeting or any other contact with AA. During most of this period I had no desire to drink. I had a loving wife and a good job as a division manager in a Fortune 250 company. However, at around the 12-year sober mark, I developed a severe health problem and had major surgery. This caused or exacerbated a spinal condition that put me in such great pain that it was necessary for me to take some pretty strong narcotics, long-term.

I can attest to the fact that when narcotics are really necessary, there is no high—at least for me. But as my condition improved, the pain lessened, and as I began to need fewer narcotics, I started to begin to feel a high. Though still not drinking I occasionally exceeded my prescribed dose so I could, “get some extra pain relief.” This put me on shaky ground. I had no program and no desire to return to AA. I felt alone and empty inside.

After yet another RIF, extended unemployment, and the death of my dog and death of my father, we made another move, this time to Houston, TX. I’m now sober for 18 years, settled into a really stressful job. I was now in my mid-fifties, and with no college degree, my ability to find other employment was limited.

I Lose It

Four years later, after 22 years of sobriety and my wife out of the country, I took a drink on March 15, 2011.  There was no triggering incident. I just decided to have a drink. My intellect said maybe I wasn’t an alcoholic after all; maybe I just had a “drinking problem” back then. I bought a bottle of bourbon, planning to have just a few drinks, and got drunk. I poured the remainder out the next day. I didn’t drink again for months.

Then after working late one night, I stopped for dinner on the way home from work. The restaurant was crowded, but there was room at the bar. I took a seat with no intention of drinking, grabbed a menu, and when the bartender asked what he could get me, it just rolled out: “A bourbon, a draft beer, and a cheeseburger.”

I began making these kinds of stops more and more often, telling my wife, who had never seen me drink, that I was working late on stressful projects. But, she knew something was wrong and thought I might be having an affair. Once I confessed to her that I was drinking, she didn’t know what to do. I swore to her that I could control it. But I couldn’t and started binge drinking.  Sometimes after going to bed early, I would hear her crying alone in the living room. I just picked up my bottle and drank enough to pass out.

I reached the point that, when I went to work, I didn’t stop shaking and sweating until mid-morning.  I told my boss it was that damn medicine the doctor had me on. Finally, I took some time off of work and checked into a detox center because I was afraid of the DT’s. But I felt there was nothing they could teach me about drinking or sobriety, and I was out in five days.

I did begin attending AA again, but this didn’t last for long. This wasn’t Georgia, but I was still in the bible belt.  The God talk had me gritting my teeth, and I gradually stopped going. Let me be clear about the “God talk.”  It doesn’t bother me to hear others share their experience with God as their Higher Power. I can respect their belief, but what bothers me is when they won’t respect my disbelief and insist that I must believe in their God.

Soon my drinking again became uncontrollable, and I experienced another detox and another resumption of drinking.

 I then agreed to attend an outpatient program—three-hour sessions five nights a week plus required AA meetings where I had to have my sheet signed, just like a probation slip. I stuck it out, finished the program, went to AA every day at 7 a.m. before work, and got a sponsor. But I still couldn’t stomach the God talk, so once again I stopped attending AA and found a different program called Smart Recovery. A lot of their material was pretty good, but there was no fellowship.

I lasted about a year with Smart Recovery before I began drinking heavily again. This time I found a psychiatrist who specialized in outpatient detox and treatment, and I agreed to see him for a year (paid in advance). He helped both my wife and me very much. I still had a few minor slips but didn’t slide as far down the slope.

In AA, we come up with names for many so-called triggers, such as HALT (Hunger, Anger, Lonely, Tired), but for me, it all boils down to being uncomfortable.  When I am uncomfortable in my own skin, I want relief. And for me, that’s a drink. So, I have to focus on keeping myself out of uncomfortable situations. During this period I mostly stayed sober but slipped occasionally.

Another Geographical Move

My wife visited her relatives in Georgia during August of 2015. During that visit, she learned that one of her cousins, who owned a small business in the North Georgia mountains, was looking to sell out. When she got back to Houston we fantasized that it would be nice to move there when I retired, and open a small business of our own for her to run—my wife is 12 years younger than me and had no intention of retiring when I planned to. I finally quit the lousy job that was stressing me out, and which I guess was really one of my subliminal triggers.

My wife desperately wanted to move back to Georgia, as she hated Houston. Within two weeks, I packed up our SUV and a U-Haul trailer with as much of my stuff as I could and moved back to Georgia to perform due diligence and learn the new business. My wife stayed back at her job for the time being; we now had only one income—my wife’s—which also carried the medical benefits I needed for my ongoing medical issues.

In Georgia, I was lonely, isolated, and uncomfortable and began drinking again. When my wife arrived a few months later, the stress levels went through the roof due to the challenges of the new business. I really wanted to stop drinking. I wanted those 22 years back.

So, I started looking for a local doctor who specialized in alcohol and addiction problems.  In June 2016 I found one, and started seeing him—it turns out that this doctor was in recovery and an atheist, so he was someone I could be honest and open with. I also started seeing a counselor my doctor recommended. The doctor also helped my wife understand that she was not responsible for managing my recovery.

I started going to meetings again and faking it when it came to the God stuff. The doctor told me to speak up at the meeting and tell them I was an atheist.  I didn’t say “atheist, ” but I did say, “I am not a man of faith.”  This was not well received, but I kept going back, still sharing without bringing God into it.

I lasted until mid-July and then went off the rails again. I binged nightly after my wife went to sleep drinking a pint or more of vodka (bourbon, my spirit of choice, is too easy to smell) as quickly as I could and then jumping back into bed. She caught me one night because instead of ditching the bottle and going to bed, I passed out on the couch.

Hopefully, My Last Recovery Begins

On July 31, 2016, I entered another 5-day detox, and this time when I got out, I was the most determined I had ever been. I was more agnostic than ever, but I gave AA my best. Then, in September of 2016, I discovered on the Internet and found my first secular meeting in Atlanta. I hadn’t known that secular meetings existed up until now. It turns out that there are only two of them in the Atlanta area, both of which are a two-hour round trip from where I live. But I began attending. I also found around this time and volunteered to help narrate stories on their site (which I am currently doing). I also attended my first—their second—International Convention of Atheists, Agnostics, and Free-Thinkers in AA, held in Austin, TX.

My New-Found Sobriety

I am staying sober, one day at a time since my last detox. I am abstaining from competitive sobriety and refusing to count days. Plus, since I am following the competent medical advice I am taking some medications to help maintain that sobriety. So, when I am free of those meds, maybe I’ll pick a date.

The hardest part when I first returned to traditional AA, relapsing after 22 years of sobriety, was my ego.  I felt humiliation and feared rejection. My fears were unfounded.  I was welcomed back as a lost lamb. However, in traditional AA when I tried to discuss my problems, doubts, fears, etc., I was preached to, told I wasn’t praying enough, that I wasn’t right with God. I couldn’t find the counsel, direction, or solace I was seeking that made sense to me. And I relapsed again

When I returned again, the counsel I received was the same nonsensical advice as before, and I kept relapsing.

Since finding the secular AA community, I have experienced a renewed hope. I have found a fellowship of like-minded individuals who, collectively, are my spiritual higher power.

I now have a group that I can share openly with about my recovery issues on a secular level and can discuss my problems, doubts, and fears with on a rational level. I am slowly, but surely, regaining the serenity and comradery that was missing in my life for so long.

Thank you, AA, and especially to the secular AA community.

About the Author:  Len R.

Len grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and has lived in Orange County, CA (where he began his 22+ years of sobriety in Dec. 1988), Chicago’s northwestern suburbs, Atlanta’s southern suburbs, Fort Myers, FL, and Houston, TX. He now lives in the Northwestern Georgia mountain city of Jasper, with his beautiful and understanding wife of nearly 20 years and two dogs, both rescues. Chance, as in second chance, is a Maltese and Lil’Bit a mostly cocker spaniel mutt. Keeping them company is a stray bob-tail cat named Bob. 

He has two grown daughters, two granddaughters (one in college and one in high school), and a grandson currently serving in the US Army.  Len is diligently trying to start a secular AA group in his area.  Anyone interested can contact him at

Images for the Story:

Family Drawing by Charlotte v. W. G (a dear family friend of the author)

Images Collected and Composed by Cope C.

Audio Story

The audio version of this story was recorded by the author, Len R. from Jasper, Georgia. Len has recorded audio versions of the stories posted on AA Beyond Belief, all of which can be found on AA Beyond Belief’s YouTube Channel. He is currently working on a project to record stories published at AA Agnostica, which are being posted on the AA Agnostica YouTube Channel

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  1. Gerald February 28, 2017 at 12:33 am - Reply

    Thanks, Len, for the details of your recovery journey. A significant part of my recovery journey includes wondering if AA even has a place for me anymore. Another significant part of my recovery journey includes “recovering from recovery,” if you get what I mean. Dissent, in AA, is healthy, alright? It’s healthy! The AA’ers that make a religion of the AA program frustrate me as much, or more?, than the Christians who christianize our AA culture. 

    I don’t think that the Christians do it on purpose, I really don’t. But they have the numbers, and the more provincial the area, the more they have the numbers, right? And it’s all about the demographics & the numbers: in business, in romance, in war – it’s all a numbers game, right? 🙂 And at age ten I realized, one, I’m an atheist, and two, I’m surrounded by people who are not atheist, just surrounded 🙂 … outnumbered.

    Thank goodness the AA fellowship didn’t hurt me. One little rejection or the pressure to convert would have sent me to my death, but I got very lucky in where I landed in AA. Those good AA members, and dare I say good Christians?, explained the various forms that the Low Road in AA can take: 1) Church “Lite,” low-calorie church, where we substitute religious faith for that promised Spiritual Awakening that is described in Appendix II of the Big Book, 2) the Non-Drinking Bar Scene, where that kind of social life substitutes for the promised Spiritual Awakening, and then, the worst one, 3) veritable para-religious Cults of Personality within AA that trade on the AA name but carry a message that is wildly different from the message contained in the BB and 12&12. Speak of the Devil, I just learned that portions of expat AA here in Tokyo have been infiltrated by one of these cults. You know, just when you think you couldn’t be any more isolated than living here, in fringe-rural Japan, not speaking the language and quite a distance from the expat meetings downtown … that cancer is spreading here, too. How did they get here? I’m not isolated after all. They found us here 🙂 As Charlie Brown would say, Good Grief!

    Anyways, dissent is healthy, but there’s no room for dissent when you follow a crowd that takes one of those Low Roads in AA (1)-(3) above. And if you’re not allowed to be different, how are you going to find what you really need to feel comfortable in your own skin?

    Thanks, that was my problem, too, not feeling comfortable in my own skin. That’s why I drank. And I have way, way better answers today than I had as a newcomer. When I was new, the answer was that my problems have a name, alcoholism, and AA has a solution. Nowadays, and for several years now, my personal experience with the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, my personal answers, are sometimes significantly different from what might be suggested in our “instruction manual,” the Big Book. And that’s OK. Dissent is healthy in the liberal democracy – or anarchy? – that our fellowships are supposed to be, as described in the Twelve Traditions.

    … Where I landed in AA, they didn’t teach (1)-(3) above in an academic manner, just in a round-about manner. But they wanted you to know that we don’t all get along in AA and not everybody does it “right.”

    “Do you want to be a ‘cannot’ or a ‘will not’?” as in someone who cannot do this simple program or someone who will not do it.

    “You have to find out who you are, but we cannot tell you who that is.” And they said the same thing about God. And about childhood hurts, they said I would have to figure out how I had been hurting myself with what was done to me, and boy! did that last one take about twenty years to start to figure out …

    They did teach the steps & traditions in an academic manner, and they were careful to distinguish between the program as it is described in our instruction manuals and their own personal experiences with the program. That’s called the spiritual principle of anonymity, by the way, as explained in Tradition 12, principles before personalities.

    Those non-atheists saved this atheist’s life. I live a spiritual life today, a principled life. They can think it’s Ol’ J.C. loving them back from Up High, but I know that it’s just me loving myself, taking care of myself, and actually being a friend to myself. Even after all these years it remains such a fresh, new feeling to me, to actually like myself … I shall never take this feeling for granted 🙂

    Thanks again for your detailed story, and I hope you’ll find the recovery community that you’re looking for. Me, too, I hope I can somehow get to Tokyo and find it there for myself, too. It has recently become important to me to commune with fellow non-believers in recovery, rather people who believe in recovery but don’t believe in the god of the old home religion 🙂


    Gerald, alcoholic, Japan

    • Len R February 28, 2017 at 6:59 am Reply

      Gerald, thanks for sharing your experience.  I also believe the theists push their belief system with the best of intentions Because that is what they truly believe and it’s what works for them.  However, now that our online community is growing faster than ever, the brick and mortar groups are growing as well.  Through the websites I have found a few others in my general area (still about 100 miles apart) but we are going to try setting up a Skype meeting and see how that works. In any case, to my benefit, I now have found my tribe, online. And that includes you.

      Domo arigato, my new friend.
      Konbanwa (If I’ve got your local time right)

  2. Pat N. February 26, 2017 at 10:07 am - Reply

    Many thanks, Len. I could relate to many parts of your story, and  I appreciate all you’ve done for other alkies. Isn’t it ironic that, despite its culture, you probably helped a lot of people when you were in traditional, even Bible Belt, AA? Just as many believers helped me get sober,  by their example, love, and practical ideas, not by their beliefs.

    I kind of agree with your indifference to birthdays-the highest rank in AA is sober. But I admit I treasure my birthdays (just had one), and carry my anniversary coin at all times. At first, it was a constant reminder not to drink, and now it reminds me to stay grateful.

    In my heretical opinion, your birthday was in December, 1988. That’s when you first started fighting the dragon, and though at times it was winning, today you’re the winner. If you’d struggled with diabetes or occasional heart attacks, who could say you’d lost whatever good periods went by, even if you had relapses?

    You’ve always found your Sober Self, as LifeRing calls it, and have brought that Addicted Self under control. Happy 29+ years!


    • Len R February 26, 2017 at 11:05 am Reply

      Thank you for the encouraging comments, Pat.  Today, I feel more foolish than ashamed of my relapse period.  When I hear from  others who have relapsed, I repeat the old, but applicable saying, “It’s not how many times you fall, It’s how many times you get back up.”  You only fail when you stop trying.


  3. Oren February 26, 2017 at 9:57 am - Reply

    Thanks, Len. A very straightforward, and (if I may say it) “sobering” account of your life. I appreciate your sincerity, and I also appreciate all the service you have been doing for our online fellowship. I have a long, long, unbroken string of days without drinking behind me, and you have helped me to add today to that string. I am an agnostic when it comes to “higher powers”, but I do acknowledge the miracle of my sobriety, which appears to me to come from hearing, reading, and contemplating the stories of my comrades like you. I don’t know if I cold do it on my own, and I’m glad I don’t have to try. Keep up the good work!

    • Len R February 26, 2017 at 11:19 am Reply

      Oren, thank you for your kind words.  My “higher power” is this secular community.  Just as I have proven to myself that I have no control over the influence of alcohol and other mind altering substances, I am equally convinced I cannot do it alone.


  4. Bob K. February 26, 2017 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Internet AA is very interesting in that we can have friends we’ve never met. I have such AA friends in other lands, people I feel I know better than many of the folks in my home group. In today’s essay, it was cool to get to know Len. I’m a huge admirer of the work he’s done for AA Beyond Belief, especially his audio versions of that bob k. guy.

    Joe mentioned the incredibly calm voice. I’d like to have a demeanor as pacific as Len’s vocalizations. Now that I’ve heard his story, I imagine that he would too.

    I related to many elements of Len’s story – the Catholic upbringing, the idea that my drinking was “normal,” the frustration with being patronized as an atheist-agnostic in AA, the inefficacy of tremendous motivation in combatting alcoholism, and drinking prompted by discomfort.

    The main message, for me, is a “Road Not Taken” type of thing. In 2012, I was over 20 years sober, and gave some serious thought to quitting AA in my frustration over the loathing for my types that was being expressed at the Toronto Intergroup witch hunt. The most zealous were on a mission to effect a purging, and it was me and my peeps that they wanted out. I was probably saved by my internet involvement, and an inner voice that saw great danger in leaving the flock, even though it had become unsatisfactory in so many ways.

    Staying has been great – lots of new adventures. I’m rooting for Len, and its clear his service to this site has been wonderful for us, and valuable to him.

    Long comment on a long piece. It’s all about balance, 😉

    • Len R February 26, 2017 at 11:27 am Reply

      Thanks, Bob. I appreciate your input.  Narrating that other “bob k. guy’s stuff” has really enlightened me on AA history and I enjoyed it immensely.

  5. Joe C February 26, 2017 at 8:36 am - Reply

    Having listened to maybe everything Len has recorded, I have a connection to his calming voice. What a great message. More than ever, I take issue with competitive sobriety. Sobriety is imperfect. Being in long-time sobriety is imperfect. I think someone with 20 years and someone else with 20 days have the same thing: imperfect sobriety.

    We all fall, we all get sidetracked. Sobriety isn’t an escape from life it’s an entry card to life and life is adventure/misadventure. I’ve  told  my story here already and if you’ve heard Len tell it, you know that while 40 years were not interrupted by drugs and alcohol, I fell off the wagon of healthy living with many replacement addictions from sex to food to exercise and the worship of money/career recognition. If my AA sobriety was conditional on life/work balance or self-care, I would be chronic relapsed.

    I don’t know if I got old or honest but my binges and purges aren’t as extreme but I’ve had to stop hiding them and I make room for, and make peace with, my imperfection instead. Some days I embrace my incompleteness sometimes I fall back into “I’ll be happy once I…… (have, do, consume, accomplish this or that).

    My sobriety is always teatering. I get too rigid and overcompensate with chaos. Rare is the day of having order and spontinaity in balance from morning to sleep-time. Writing for instance, I don’t write for four hours and then move on to other activities and forget about the writing process. Writing isn’t discipline – it’s compulsion. I’m often avoiding or buried in writing. Is this an example of The Steps at work in a recovered life? I’m not offended if you say, “No, it’s not.”

    Wearing sobriety like a status symbol is its own non-reality, too – as far as I’m concerned.  Any of us could drink again. I’m never farther away from my next drink because I’m farther away from my last drink, as far as I can see. We are all equal. My sobriety is the direction I’m pointed in not the length of time or mastery of the journey. If we’re all aimed in the direction of staying or getting sober today we are all tied for first place.

    Thanks Len.

    • Len R February 26, 2017 at 9:00 am Reply

      Thanks for your comments, Joe.  What I finally came to realize was although I did fall after 22 years, and it was six years of hell getting back, I didn’t lose what I learned during that 22 years. And I give full credit to the secular AA community for giving me the strength and acceptance that allowed me to get back in.  Without the unconditional acceptance of this community, I would indeed still be in a terrible place if not dead.


  6. Thomas B. February 26, 2017 at 7:59 am - Reply

    Wonderful story, Len, told with verve, adept skill and humor — Thank You !~!~!

    Your story could have been my story, when my wife Jill and I moved out to Oregon in 2011 after 40 years in much more secular New York AA, both in the New York City area and Woodstock. However, I was most fortunate to find AA Agnostica in early 2012, when we experienced AA on the southern coast of Oregon to be a neofascist, Christian cult. I stayed sober and more or less sanely serene through active participation with Roger C., just like you are today with John and AA Beyond Belief. It’s our stories and our service, sweetheart, not a god of any persuasion, wherein we receive the gift of sobriety !~!~!

    I go to traditional meetings and respectfully mention for the younger people attending that as an agnostic atheist, I’m sober in  my 45th year, BUT that the only day that really matters is today because I haven’t picked up a drink or a drug and because I am at a meeting. I’m reasonably sure I won’t pick up a drink or a drug for the next 24 hours. I follow exclusively the 24-hour plan which John Lauritsen explicates so effectively.

    Thanks again . . .

    • Len R February 26, 2017 at 9:03 am Reply

      Thank you Thomas. I agree the 24 hour plan IS the key.

  7. Jon S February 26, 2017 at 6:20 am - Reply

    Fantastic piece. Thank you Len. I also stopped attending AA but recognise that this is not always the best option and don’t recommend it for others. It’s important to keep in touch with sober and well people in some way.

    I listen to all your narrations on YouTube and think you’re doing a truly brilliant job.  YouTube and podcasting is the future.

    The young people I work with just don’t watch TV or listen to radio anymore.  So you can be sure there are many current newcomers, plus very many more yet to come, who will be helped by the great work you are doing here.

    Jon S

    • Len R February 26, 2017 at 9:09 am Reply

      Thank You,  John for giving me the opportunity to contribute.  You allowed me to regain  a meaningful sobriety through service.

  8. Bill P. February 26, 2017 at 6:08 am - Reply

    Len: A very moving story! Congratulations on working it out finally. And shame on conventional AA for not helping you more. From what I know of Bill W., particularly in his later years, he would    have been upset at the way you were treated by conventional AA groups. I too live in a rural area and the only secular group I can find is sixty miles away. I will be 90 years of age this year and it is too far for me to drive. Every good wish to you.




    • Len R February 26, 2017 at 9:16 am Reply

      Thank you, Bill.  Living in a rural area has its challenges but the online community is is what is saving my butt, today.
      Best wishes back at you,

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