Consigned To A Life Unexpected

By Bill D. 

“. . . But am I to be consigned to a life where I shall be stupid, boring and glum . . . ?”    (Big Book, p. 152)

To tell the truth, that life looked like a step up for me when I arrived at the tables Feb 3, 1989, and if you folks could show me how to get to that, well then, good enough. 

I’d taken my last drink January 30, 1989, and had just been released from a detox stint at a local hospital. This wasn’t my first visit to AA; I’d made several other starts without much success, but it was the only place I found people like me that were contentedly sober. Yeah, I thought you were stupid, boring, and (maybe not so) glum. After all, I had a brother with three years’ sobriety under his belt and a brother-in-law with nearly ten, and they weren’t at all like that. So here I was once again. The arrogance, pride, and hip-slick-cool attitude was finally beaten out of me. Forty-five years old, and no coping skills or very many healthy brain cells left, sitting on my hands staring at the table top and wondering if it was going to work for me this time. I hoped so, but kind of doubted it. 

Then it happened, one of the members said the magic words: “Get God in your life or die.” Another offered, “Get with God or get drunk.” This is where I’d bailed in the past, but I’d be damned if I was going to this time. Nope, this is the last hope for me and you’re going to have to throw me out . . . this was the string of thoughts running through my head at the time. Then I heard a man say that at the end of his drinking he met a man who radiated so much love you could warm your hands off him, and he became this man for me. That’s all I hung onto till the end of that meeting. None of the other dire pronouncements of ultimate demise if I didn’t hit my knees mattered. It was just this one human connection and it was good enough to start. I talked to him after the meeting and he asked me to consider two thoughts that were important to him: 

  1. Never put conditions on your sobriety nor allow others to.
  2. The only two things we do by ourselves is the First Step and come to our own understanding about the spiritual aspects.

He then gave me the phone number of the local atheist member (we’re a small rural community and there aren’t a lot of us around willing to admit it). 

Dick J. and I spent a lot of time together and he acquainted me with his take on the program of recovery and the way he put it made sense to me, so I made a start. I also needed to revisit the sources of my resentments regarding religion and spirituality, and this journey yielded results. Over the course of several years, I arrived back at my original non-theist position, never once having to compromise my own personal ideals. What has been added is a frame of mind that allows no antagonism, resentment, or judgment toward the beliefs of others. Live and let live, or as Thomas Jefferson put it: “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” 

I wasn’t comfortable sharing my beliefs at meetings for a long time. I had been accepted by a group of folks I cared very much for and I thought that I might somehow jeopardize that acceptance. I was frightened, you see. It was easier for me to rationalize my self-censure than come out as a non-theist. Usually when the topic centered around God, Higher Power, spirituality, or prayer I’d mumble something about “the steps say of my understanding not my explaining,” or “it’s all a mystery to me and I’ll just let the mystery be.” 

I know how many of us are when we first arrive at AA, parroting what we hear, paying lip service to concepts we may not agree with; I was that way, too, but grew increasingly disturbed with the preaching and pulpit rattling that started to become more pronounced. Was there possibly someone here who needed to know they might not be alone? Probably. When the topic was appropriate, I shared my thoughts with just as much zeal as the fundamentalists. In time, I had others approach me after the meetings and share their own thoughts about what they saw as alarming practices in the groups they attended. Some were atheists, some agnostics, and many held traditional religious beliefs. 

I had been introduced to general service early on and had served as GSR for our group and DCM for the district, having held all offices in that body as well as a couple of office positions for our Area. We adopted a yearly group inventory at our home group. We measure ourselves by the Twelve Traditions as to how well we are living up to our primary purpose. Everything is subject to change or revision, nothing is sacred.

I would love to report that the group has done away with the Lord’s Prayer closing, but although a motion is made to this effect every year, about all that’s happened is that we have come up with an announcement from the chair: “It is the custom of this group in closing our meetings to join hands and recite the Lord’s Prayer. You are welcome to join in if you wish but it is strictly voluntary.” We’ll keep trying. At least most of those opposed to this simple request aren’t as adamant nor as militant as they first were. We’ve found that discussing the traditions as a regular meeting topic has started to open the door to an understanding that practices standing in the way of full inclusion are as much a hindrance to unity as any errant treasurer or anonymity breaker. 

I’ve found personally, that I need to give as full a measure of tolerance toward those with views different from mine as I would wish from them. An attitude of smug arrogance and antagonism probably isn’t going to do the cause of full inclusion and the development of a fellowship worthy of unity any good. Yep, from time to time I can become ‘stark raving sober’ over what I perceive as intentional provocations of agnostics and atheists. We had a member from a nearby Back to Basics group show up one evening and about half way through the meeting exclaim that Fellowship sobriety isn’t real sobriety and if you’re not talking about God it isn’t an AA meeting at all. I started to burn and was about to enter into verbal combat with him when one of our younger (in sobriety) members smilingly said, “Why thank you very much for sharing that. Keep coming back, it will get better.” Silence. We moved on and he moved off. I hope he heard something in that comment that will become operative someday. 

In the past several years a few of us like-minded people started to meet from time to time, usually at a meeting after the meeting. We offered support to anyone who might be experiencing difficulties and needed to hear something other than “I’ll pray for you,” or “Turn it over to your higher power,” or that inane “Let go and Let God.” We also have a private Google+ page where we can submit opinions, and share links or just stuff of interest.

A recent attendee, someone with expertise in the digital world, and I are working to incorporate a chat session through this venue. We’ve discussed starting a group for like-minded people, but nothing has come of it other than discussion. We know we have the resources and a reservoir of experience to draw on. The main objection has been that because we are in a sparsely populated region and AA groups tend to run small, we may have an adverse effect on neighboring groups. It appears that at this time we’ll strive to become a “traveling” group attracting those who wish to be a part (not apart) as we attend other meetings nearby. 

I wish I had an easy answer to the dilemma those of us with non-theological, and non- mainstream theological views have toward what can only be considered a not so subtle attempt to hijack our fellowship in the name of God. It’s my personal opinion that Alcoholics Anonymous IS religious in nature and sooner or later will either have to acknowledge this truth and make drastic changes or become a footnote in the annals of recovery. This change rests with us. We are AA, and through the cumbersome processes of the General Service Conference structure we have the means to affect change. Perhaps there will never be an answer satisfactory to all of us who love this Fellowship. But the question I have sometimes asked myself and with which I end this essay is: “Have you a sufficient substitute?” 

Yes, there is a substitute and it is vastly more than that. It is the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. There you will find release from care, boredom, and worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life will mean something at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead. Thus, we find the fellowship, and so will you.”  (Big Book, p. 152)

I have alcoholism, and as a result of arriving in AA I have gotten well. This has been the truth of my life in AA. This for me has been the promise handed down from one drunk talking to another, and I will continue to do what I can to make it a reality for all who seek an answer to their problem.

I’ll stay on the firing line till I reach the end of this Happy Trail.


 About the Author,  Bill D. 

Bill D. was a new product start-up team leader for a major manufacturer and is currently retired.  He lives contentedly sober in mid-Michigan with his wife of almost 54 years, Dorothy. Bill had his first intoxicating event on New Year’s Eve in 1957; he earnestly began his quest for that “last drink” in his mid-thirties and ended it ten years later on January 30, 1989. He and his wife enjoy duplicate bridge, time with family, and a host of friends both in and out of the Fellowship. 

Artwork

Covered Bridge image by Bill D. and Doris A.

All other photos by Jan A. of Oregon

Audio Version

The audio version of this story was recorded by Len R. from Jasper, Georgia. Len is interested in starting a secular AA meeting in his community. If you would like to join him, please send an email to lenr.secularsobriety@gmail.com

 

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  1. bob k April 4, 2017 at 10:54 am - Reply

    The AA book tells us, in a few places, what is the MOST effective technique for staying sober – “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.” (P. 89) “…when all other measures failed, work with another alcoholic would save the day.” (P. 15)

    It is a bit mean-spirited of me to use book quotes to argue against the “Get God or DIE!!” book-worshiping mudder-fuggas, but hey, I don’t get glorious opportunities like this every day. It’s worth noting that both citations refer to other measures failing, and those activities obviously include reaching out to the Spinner of the Orbs.

    Although I have at no time in 2 1/2 decades of sobriety been on board with the “God stuff,” we heathens can be overly dismissive of some beneficial psychology that underlies the 12 step process. For whatever reasons, I’m more likely to follow direction toward self-examination coming from Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, or Lao Tzu, than from Bill Wilson.

    Nice essay, Bill. I thank you most especially for being older than I. 😉

  2. RonB April 3, 2017 at 11:20 pm - Reply

    I have considered what I perceive as being a significant difference between most posting on this board and those in mainstream AA. It seems to me to have little to do with ‘God’, as such may be seen as simply a symbol. A God such as Ganesha or Apollo is most likely acceptable to even Atheists, as a symbol of light, knowledge and intellect, and the key part of AA freethinkers is ‘thinkers’. ‘Religion’ is a different matter, as it has a direct effect on the processes of the mind. In effect, it produces ‘absolutes’, areas of demarcation that are the limits a person is prepared to consider. An example may be my experience of a Muslim arguing that Mohammed discovered Pythagoras’s theorem. Despite the logic of the Greek living 1200 years beforehand, the Muslim was not prepared to even think of the matter, on the basis that the Quran forbids criticism of it or it’s teachers. The Muslim therefore has an absolute which overrides rational thought. If I simplify knowledge to a square (a two-dimensional simplification), it may be understood that at birth it is an extremely small square, and that as one learns and experiences, the square enlarges as we reach for wisdom. The hurdles are our ‘absolutes’, and we all have them. Be they concerning murder, monogamy, genetic modification or commonly death itself, a person reaches an absolute that restricts further thought, blocking such thoughts out. When I try to discuss death with my wife, she says “I don’t think about it”. Religion and socialization tend to have the most dominant ‘absolutes’, however whereas a religion, particularly involving an afterlife, truly restricts thought, socialization allows thought, but perhaps restricts it to self or trusted others. The person who has a mind full of absolutes or little wish to develop the mind has a very small box. The person is caged in, by choice or indoctrination, and becomes a follower, often referred to as a ‘sheep’. I suppose this term is a result of the religious teacher and their ‘flock’. Others concentrate on ‘pleasures’ and just ‘go with the flow’.

    The relevance to this very enjoyable article, and thank you for providing it Bill, lies in the very relevant part of his story about his sponsor, DickJ. I see a person that thinks outside of the boundaries of the AA texts. I feel Bill is fortunate to have such a sponsor as so many others are caged in the texts and traditions.

    But then, should my perceptions be true, there are two distinct groups. Those caged by AA and those that seek truth and knowledge beyond such boundaries, the latter being those of this site (those that engage in thought and debate, and not those who give one line rejections and insults). It seems to me that within the AA group, there are die hard believers who are unlikely to be persuaded otherwise, and there are others that conform in the outer world, but tend to think otherwise. The latter may be better served outside of religion, and sites such as this, once aware of them, seem to be very important.

     

    We see many ‘sheep’ in society, the greatest number, perhaps, being in the political world of democracy. A world of pleasures rather than purpose, democracy being ‘what’s in it for me’, rather than ‘what’s in it for society’. Somehow, and I don’t know how, we need to encourage our children to think, to have goals and purposes, rather than pleasures and expectancies. This is an important emphasis which will define future consumption of alcohol and recreational drug consumption, and the minds of those afflicted to be proactive rather than leaving it to others to sort out.  I’ve always remembered, ‘If it’s going to be, it’s up to me’.

  3. RonB April 3, 2017 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    I have considered what I perceive as being a significant difference between most posting on this board and those in mainstream AA. It seems to me to have little to do with ‘God’, as such may be seen as simply a symbol. A God such as Ganesha or Apollo is most likely acceptable to even Atheists, as a symbol of light, knowledge and intellect, and the key part of AA freethinkers is ‘thinkers’. ‘Religion’ is a different matter, as it has a direct effect on the processes of the mind. In effect, it produces ‘absolutes’, areas of demarcation that are the limits a person is prepared to consider. An example may be my experience of a Muslim arguing that Mohammed discovered Pythagoras’s theorem. Despite the logic of the Greek living 1200 years beforehand, the Muslim was not prepared to even think of the matter, on the basis that the Quran forbids criticism of it or it’s teachers. The Muslim therefore has an absolute which overrides rational thought. If I simplify knowledge to a square (a two-dimensional simplification), it may be understood that at birth it is an extremely small square, and that as one learns and experiences, the square enlarges as we reach for wisdom. The hurdles are our ‘absolutes’, and we all have them. Be they concerning murder, monogamy, genetic modification or commonly death itself, a person reaches an absolute that restricts further thought, blocking such thoughts out. When I try to discuss death with my wife, she says “I don’t think about it”. Religion and socialization tend to have the most dominant ‘absolutes’, however whereas a religion, particularly involving an afterlife, truly restricts thought, socialization allows thought, but perhaps restricts it to self or trusted others. The person who has a mind full of absolutes or little wish to develop the mind has a very small box. The person is caged in, by choice or indoctrination, and becomes a follower, often referred to as a ‘sheep’. I suppose this term is a result of the religious teacher and their ‘flock’. Others concentrate on ‘pleasures’ and just ‘go with the flow’.

    The relevance to this very enjoyable article, and thank you for providing it Bill, lies in the very relevant part of his story about his sponsor, DickJ. I see a person that thinks outside of the boundaries of the AA texts. I feel Bill is fortunate to have such a sponsor as so many others are caged in the texts and traditions.

    But then, should my perceptions be true, there are two distinct groups. Those caged by AA and those that seek truth and knowledge beyond such boundaries, the latter being those of this site (those that engage in thought and debate, and not those who give one line rejections and insults). It seems to me that within the AA group, there are die hard believers who are unlikely to be persuaded otherwise, and there are others that conform in the outer world, but tend to think otherwise. The latter may be better served outside of religion, and sites such as this, once aware of them, seem to be very important.

     

    We see many ‘sheep’ in society, the greatest number, perhaps, being in the political world of democracy. A world of pleasures rather than purpose, democracy being ‘what’s in it for me’, rather than ‘what’s in it for society’. Somehow, and I don’t know how, we need to encourage our children to think, to have goals and purposes, rather than pleasures and expectancies. This is an important emphasis which will define future consumption of alcohol and recreational drug consumption, and the minds of those afflicted to be proactive rather than leaving it to others to sort out.  I’ve always remembered, ‘If it’s going to be, it’s up to me’.

  4. RonB April 3, 2017 at 5:55 am - Reply

    I have considered what I perceive as being a significant difference between most posting on this board and those in mainstream AA. It seems to me to have little to do with ‘God’, as such may be seen as simply a symbol. A God such as Ganesha or Apollo is most likely acceptable to even Atheists, as a symbol of light, knowledge and intellect, and the key part of AA freethinkers is ‘thinkers’. ‘Religion’ is a different matter, as it has a direct effect on the processes of the mind. In effect, it produces ‘absolutes’, areas of demarcation that are the limits a person is prepared to consider. An example may be my experience of a Muslim arguing that Mohammed discovered Pythagoras’s theorem. Despite the logic of the Greek living 1200 years beforehand, the Muslim was not prepared to even think of the matter, on the basis that the Quran forbids criticism of it or it’s teachers. The Muslim therefore has an absolute which overrides rational thought. If I simplify knowledge to a square (a two-dimensional simplification), it may be understood that at birth it is an extremely small square, and that as one learns and experiences, the square enlarges as we reach for wisdom. The hurdles are our ‘absolutes’, and we all have them. Be they concerning murder, monogamy, genetic modification or commonly death itself, a person reaches an absolute that restricts further thought, blocking such thoughts out. When I try to discuss death with my wife, she says “I don’t think about it”. Religion and socialization tend to have the most dominant ‘absolutes’, however whereas a religion, particularly involving an afterlife, truly restricts thought, socialization allows thought, but perhaps restricts it to self or trusted others. The person who has a mind full of absolutes or little wish to develop the mind has a very small box. The person is caged in, by choice or indoctrination, and becomes a follower, often referred to as a ‘sheep’. I suppose this term is a result of the religious teacher and their ‘flock’. Others concentrate on ‘pleasures’ and just ‘go with the flow’.

    The relevance to this very enjoyable article, and thank you for providing it Bill, lies in the very relevant part of his story about his sponsor, DickJ. I see a person that thinks outside of the boundaries of the AA texts. I feel Bill is fortunate to have such a sponsor as so many others are caged in the texts and traditions.

    But then, should my perceptions be true, there are two distinct groups. Those caged by AA and those that seek truth and knowledge beyond such boundaries, the latter being those of this site (those that engage in thought and debate, and not those who give one line rejections and insults). It seems to me that within the AA group, there are die hard believers who are unlikely to be persuaded otherwise, and there are others that conform in the outer world, but tend to think otherwise. The latter may be better served outside of religion, and sites such as this, once aware of them, seem to be very important.

     

    We see many ‘sheep’ in society, the greatest number, perhaps, being in the political world of democracy. A world of pleasures rather than purpose, democracy being ‘what’s in it for me’, rather than ‘what’s in it for society’. Somehow, and I don’t know how, we need to encourage our children to think, to have goals and purposes, rather than pleasures and expectancies. This is an important emphasis which will define future consumption of alcohol and recreational drug consumption, and the minds of those afflicted to be proactive rather than leaving it to others to sort out.  I’ve always remembered, ‘If it’s going to be, it’s up to me’.

  5. RonB April 2, 2017 at 9:28 pm - Reply

    I have considered what I percieve as being a significant difference betweem most posting on this board and those in mainstram AA. It seems to me to have little to do with ‘God’, as such may be seen as simply a symbol. A God such as Ganesha or Apollo is most likely acceptable to even Athiests, as a symbol of light, knowledge and intellect, and the key part of AA freethinkers is ‘thinkers’. ‘Religion’ is a different matter, as it has a direct effect on the processes of the mind. In effect it produces ‘absolutes’, areas of demarcation that are the limits a person is prepared to consider. An example may be my experience of a Muslim arguing that Mohammed discovered Pythagoras’s theorum. Despite the logic of the Greek living 1200 years beforehand, the Muslim was not prepared to even think of the matter, on the basis that the Q’ran forbids criticism of it or it’s teachers. The Muslim therefore has an ablolute which overides rational thought. If I simplify knowledge to a square (a two dimensional simplification), it may be understood that at birth it is an extremely small square, and that as one learns and experiences, the square enlarges as we reach for wisdom. The hurdles are our ‘absolutes’, and we all have them. Be they concerning murder, monogomy, genetic modification or commonly death itself, a person reaches an ablolute that restricts futher thought, blocking such thoughts out. When I try to discuss death with my wife, she says “I don’t think about it”. Religion and socialzation tend to have the most dominant ‘absolutes’, however whereas a religion, particularly involving an afterlife, truly restricts thought, socialization allows thought, but perhaps restricts it to self or trusted others. The person who has a mind full of absolutes or little wish to develop the mind has a very small box. The person is caged in, by choice or indoctrination, and becomes a follower, often referred to as a ‘sheep’. I suppose this term is a result of the religious teacher and their ‘flock’. Others concentrate on ‘pleasures’ and just ‘go with the flow’.

    The relevance to this very enjoyable article, and thank you for providing it Bill, lies in the very relevant part of his story about his sponsor, DickJ. I see a person that thinks outside of the boundaries of the AA texts. I feel Bill is fortunate to have such a sponsor as so many others are caged in the texts and traditions.

    But then, should my perceptions be true, there are two distinct groups. Those caged by AA and those that seek truth and knowledge beyond such boundaries, the latter being those of this site (those that engage in thought and debate, and not those who give one line rejections and insults). It seems to me that within the AA group, there are die hard believers who are unlikely to be persuaded otherwise, and there are others that conform in the outer world, but tend to think otherwise. The latter may be better served outside of religion, and sites such as this, once aware of them, seem to be very important.

    We see many ‘sheep’ in society, the greatest number, perhaps, being in the political world of democracy. A world of pleasures rather than purpose, democracy being ‘what’s in it for me’, rather than ‘what’s in it for society’. Somehow, and I don’t know how, we need to encourage our children to think, to have goals and purposes, rather than pleasures and expectancies. This is an important emphasis which will define future consumption of alcohol and recreational drug consumption, and the minds of those afflicted to be proactive rather than leaving it to others to sort out.  I’ve always remembered, ‘If it’s going to be, it’s up to me’.

  6. RonB April 2, 2017 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    I have considered what I percieve as being a significant difference betweem most posting on this board and those in mainstram AA. It seems to me to have little to do with ‘God’, as such may be seen as simply a symbol. A God such as Ganesha or Apollo is most likely acceptable to even Athiests, as a symbol of light, knowledge and intellect, and the key part of AA freethinkers is ‘thinkers’. ‘Religion’ is a different matter, as it has a direct effect on the processes of the mind. In effect it produces ‘absolutes’, areas of demarcation that are the limits a person is prepared to consider. An example may be my experience of a Muslim arguing that Mohammed discovered Pythagoras’s theorum. Despite the logic of the Greek living 1200 years beforehand, the Muslim was not prepared to even think of the matter, on the basis that the Q’ran forbids criticism of it or it’s teachers. The Muslim therefore has an ablolute which overides rational thought. If I simplify knowledge to a square (a two dimensional simplification), it may be understood that at birth it is an extremely small square, and that as one learns and experiences, the square enlarges as we reach for wisdom. The hurdles are our ‘absolutes’, and we all have them. Be they concerning murder, monogomy, genetic modification or commonly death itself, a person reaches an ablolute that restricts futher thought, blocking such thoughts out. When I try to discuss death with my wife, she says “I don’t think about it”. Religion and socialzation tend to have the most dominant ‘absolutes’, however whereas a religion, particularly involving an afterlife, truly restricts thought, socialization allows thought, but perhaps restricts it to self or trusted others. The person who has a mind full of absolutes or little wish to develop the mind has a very small box. The person is caged in, by choice or indoctrination, and becomes a follower, often referred to as a ‘sheep’. I suppose this term is a result of the religious teacher and their ‘flock’. Others concentrate on ‘pleasures’ and just ‘go with the flow’.

    The relevance to this very enjoyable article, and thank you for providing it Bill, lies in the very relevant part of his story about his sponsor, DickJ. I see a person that thinks outside of the boundaries of the AA texts. I feel Bill is fortunate to have such a sponsor as so many others are caged in the texts and traditions.

    But then, should my perceptions be true, there are two distinct groups. Those caged by AA and those that seek truth and knowledge beyond such boundaries, the latter being those of this site (those that engage in thought and debate, and not those who give one line rejections and insults). It seems to me that within the AA group, there are die hard believers who are unlikely to be persuaded otherwise, and there are others that conform in the outer world, but tend to think otherwise. The latter may be better served outside of religion, and sites such as this, once aware of them, seem to be very important.

    We see many ‘sheep’ in society, the greatest number, perhaps, being in the political world of democracy. A world of pleasures rather than purpose, democracy being ‘what’s in it for me’, rather than ‘what’s in it for society’. Somehow, and I don’t know how, we need to encourage our children to think, to have goals and purposes, rather than pleasures and expectancies. This is an important emphasis which will define future consumption of alcohol and recreational drug consumption, and the minds of those afflicted to be proactive rather than leaving it to others to sort out.  I’ve always remembered, ‘If it’s going to be, it’s up to me’.

     

     

  7. Bill P. April 2, 2017 at 6:28 pm - Reply

    Thanks Bill: I seem to recall that even Bill W, the co-founder of AA, had some misgivings about these issues, namely the increasing emphasis on “God” in AA groups and that the late Ernie Kurtz had a reference to that in the book he wrote with Katherine Ketcham on the Spirituality of Imperfection (Intro p. 5) (reissue 2002). Bill W is reported to have indicated some doubts he had with organized religion and folks who insisted that they were always right. He is said to have maintained that AA is completely voluntary, that all the steps are optional and the only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking.

  8. Gerald April 2, 2017 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    “We had a member from a nearby Back to Basics group show up one evening and about half way through the meeting exclaim that Fellowship sobriety isn’t real sobriety and if you’re not talking about God it isn’t an AA meeting at all.”

    This guy is half right, half wrong. The AA program is not a do-whatever-you-wanna-do program. He’s right about that. There are clear cut, concise directions on how to work the program … except that you don’t actually have to work the program if you don’t want to, and you can still call yourself an AA member 🙂 We have lots of fellowships just like that 🙂  Besides, the directions are just suggestions, right? We suggest you try the steps as a way to destroy self-centeredness, as a way to level your pride, to confess your shortcomings, to make restitution for harms done, etc., etc., etc.

    But we can’t force you to practice the destruction of self-centeredness, the leveling of your pride, etc.. How could we?

    That man was wrong, however, about the God part. The AA program certainly is a believe-whatever-you-wanna-believe program. And that’s by definition. You don’t have to infer that or read between the lines of the AA Big Book or the Twelve & Twelve. It’s right there in the  Steps and in the Traditions and even in Appendix II, where we find the AA definition of the “spiritual experience.” You don’t ever have to come to believe in a deity or any kind of extra-dimensional being or force for good, nothing like that.

    I’ve practiced the AA program as an atheist for 23 years, even the prayer part. I pray because that’s part of the AA program of action. And it works! Prayer works. But I certainly do not pray with any kind of belief. I’m the only one hearing my prayers. That’s what I believe.

    Yes, an atheist can practice the AA program and meet with the promised result as it is defined in Appendix II of the AA Big Book 🙂

    Thanks,

    Gerald, alcoholic, Japan

  9. boyd p. April 2, 2017 at 2:55 pm - Reply

    “Thank you for your share, keep coming back, it will get better.”  As plain as that sounds, it is a good response to narrow thinking.  When that message has a sincere tone, eye contact, etc. we all benefit.

    Thank you Bill, for persevering, finding a way through the irrelevant and sharing your story.

  10. Lance Bredvold April 2, 2017 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this story, Bill.  As usual, the Sunday morning article generated ideas for my secular meeting at 10 mountain time.

    This time the first thought which interested me was your feeling toward the theistic man and his two important ideas.  Instead of copying the whole article I wrote down:

    1. Never put conditions on your sobriety or allow others to.

    2. The only two things we do by ourselves (in AA) are: a.) The first step and b.) come to our own understanding about the spiritual aspects

    The meeting successfully evolved around consideration of those two ideas since all 4 other participants were Christians to one extent or another.  And, as would be expected from a well written article, various other ideas which you brought up also became appropriate to our little meeting.  The Jefferson quote for example. Also, from a newer member, that AA IS religious.

    I don’t suppose it was you, but the lady trying to start a meeting 98 KM north of Brisbane, Australia, said that when she sat alone at a meeting she always thought about some Michigander she had read on aaagnostica who had sat alone for a year before finding some company.

    I treasure the interesting minds I find around this place.

     

  11. Dale K. April 2, 2017 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    Thank you,Bill. Yours is a wonderful story of how AA should and often does work.

  12. life-j April 2, 2017 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Bill, thanks. I really like your kind attitude toward all. After fighting my local intergroup for a year over starting a secular meeting I got so radicalized I’m having a hard time settling back down. They finally decided to list it back in october, that has helped some, but I’m really having a hard time listening to the “readings” in regular AA meetings, and down from 3-4 to one a week, that one being a small one where I’m entirely accepted for all my radical views.

    It’s odd, things having changed like that. I would have liked to focus more on my personal recovery than I do. Like I used to. Instead, I have become an AA lobbyist, or politician. It seems to keep me sober, but there isn’t much personal growth in it. Still, having been around about as long as you, I guess I can handle it, until it changes.

     

  13. John L. April 2, 2017 at 11:10 am - Reply

    A fine article on how the real AA works.  I like the point that AA’s kind of religiosity is alarming or offensive, not only to us non-believers, but also to many who hold “traditional religious beliefs”.  I have known Episcopalians and Presbyterians who considered the Bill W./AA religiosity to be “tacky” and distasteful — and irrelevant to recovery from alcoholism.  If I may make a suggestion — try starting a Living Sober group.  This is “conference-approved” literature, and has good information on how to lead a good life in sobriety.  https://aabeyondbelief.org/2017/01/15/living-sober-the-book/

  14. Pat N. April 2, 2017 at 10:08 am - Reply

    Excellent! My current struggle is going to the bother of attending nonsecular meetings to share my viewpoints. My personal needs are met by 2 secular ones, but maybe I need to follow some of your excellent examples, which I only do now when out of town and no seculars are available.

    Thank you.

  15. Bill D. April 2, 2017 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Thank you for the story Bill.  It’s very similar to my own, although I’m about five years behind you (turned 23 on Thursday) and as yet don’t have the camaraderie of local, like-minded people.

    Thanks again,

    Another Bill D. (as was A.A. #3)

  16. Joe C. April 2, 2017 at 9:05 am - Reply

    I love that Jefferson quote, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” If you can’t express a sincerely held contrarian view in AA, where can you? And I would say that the Back-2-Basics view is as welcome as—but as with all of us, as a personal expression and not an AA edict. If someone finds recovery and god-consciousness one-in-the-same, I’m not offended. As Bill has expressed in today’s essay, when someone suggests that this view is the only legitimate AA view, well that rigidity is the most un-AA thing I think you can profess.
    Atheists/Freethinkers are an underrepresented population, for sure. If we (secular AA groups) were 5% of AA, we would be 5,900 groups world-wide and nearly 3,300 of those would be in USA and Canada. At 5% we would still be modest when we look at any credible poll of the population just outside the doors. So, at 300-400 secular groups worldwide, we are hardly the next big thing in AA. This isn’t to say we aren’t legitimate and it isn’t to say we aren’t meeting a need. We are one of or maybe the fastest growing style of AA gatherings.
    Just as some people can overcome alcoholism without the help of peers and don’t need AA at all, some atheists can and do get sober in “our more religious” AA groups because they are impervious or understanding of some of the theistic zealotry that thrives in local meetings. It’s hard to understand just how many of our AA members are, and are not, theistic in our view of AA recovery. We keep age and gender and race statistics; why not keep a tally on worldviews among our members, too?
     
    I’m getting side-tracked here, but I wanted to say, “What a well-told and heart-felt story, Bill. Thank-you.” The rest was just demanding ideas in my head that the story awoke.   

  17. John S April 2, 2017 at 8:31 am - Reply

    I love this story. I was inspired by people like Bill to get involved in General Service as a way of affecting change in AA. I truly believe that if enough of us get active with our Districts and Areas, that we can make a real difference with changing AA culture to make it more open and comfortable to those for who hold a secular view of the program. I also think we can get new literature written that specifically addresses the program of recovery in the language of our times and in a way that is acceptable to both the believer and nonbeliever.

    Thank you, Bill for sharing your experience with us this morning. Well done!

    • Joe C. April 2, 2017 at 9:11 am Reply

      The further down the road of service we go, the more secular AA gets. The traditions only mention God once. The Concepts don’t refer to a higher power at all – not that most of our members don’t thing that the agency of an AA deity isn’t implied in everything written in AA. Still, I don’t hear the higher-power talk in committee or district meetings or Area Assemblies from the same members who talk so mechanically about god in their home groups.

      I like service because it’s more activity/action focused and less philosophical or theoretical.

  18. Eric Carlson April 2, 2017 at 7:52 am - Reply

    Geez, Bill.  Do I know you?  Please get in touch with me at SecularAAMichigan@gmail.com or through our website at SecularAAinMichigan.org!  Loved your piece.

  19. Thomas B. April 2, 2017 at 7:45 am - Reply

    A wonderful explication of what works, Bill: the Fellowship of one drunk sharing experience, strength and hope with another drunk. I especially appreciate how you ended this well conceived and written story with the quote from the Big Book about what we experience within the Fellowship of AA. Thank you !~!~!

  20. Andy McIntosh April 2, 2017 at 7:41 am - Reply

    Thank you Bill, for your beautifully written personal story. I appreciate you taking the time to share it with me.

    Regards,

    Andy Mc

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