Episode 74: Justin M. from Quad-A Canberra

In this episode, we meet Justin M. from Canberra, Australia. Justin started drinking late in life as a way to cope with an unhappy marriage, and over a nine-year period, alcohol began to completely take over. Eventually, he was in such bad shape that he had to be medically detoxed. After detoxing and on his third day out of the hospital, he was taken to an AA meeting that suddenly changed the trajectory of his life.

It was a men’s meeting and the topic was shame—a topic he knew well.  In a great release of pent-up emotion, Justin broke down in tears as he shared his shame with the group. Soon, he was surrounded by others who embraced him and comforted him with love, acceptance, and compassion. Ever since that meeting, it has been Justin’s wish to reciprocate by providing the same love, acceptance, and compassion to others. 

As Justin continued going to meetings, the religiosity of AA became more of a problem and it was getting in the way of his desire to give back. Still fairly new to sobriety, Justin sought the advice of some longtime AAs about starting a secular AA meeting. They all told him that they have been interested in doing that for some time, but they needed someone who could make the necessary commitment. They suggested he find about six people who would be willing to support the meeting for at least three to six months. Once he had assembled that group, then he should start the meeting. 

Quad A Canberra Meeting Room

Justin followed their advice and today there are two secular AA meetings in Canberra. There is a meeting on Friday night at 6:30 and another at noon on Saturday. Both meetings are well attended and doing great.

Justin believes that secular AA will increasingly fill an important need as the demographics continue to change with more people identifying as not holding a particular religious belief. In Australia, the demographics are moving quickly in this direction with some 30% of the population no longer adhering to a religious faith. 

Today, there are five secular AA meetings in Australia. There are two in Sydney, two in Canberra, and one in Melbourne. Knowing some of the people involved in those groups, it would not be surprising to see the number of secular meetings continue to grow in that country. 

Aside from helping to start secular AA meetings, Justin is also carrying the message of secular AA through a new podcast that he is launching called the We Agnostics Podcast. It will be an interview-style podcast featuring secular people in recovery sharing their stories. The catchphrase for the show is “we believe in recovery.” He already has a few episodes recorded and he’ll begin posting soon. 

I’m looking forward to the podcast and following every episode. It’s great to have a growing secular AA podcast community and a friend on the other side of the world to exchange ideas and provide support to one another. 

Thank you, Justin, for agreeing to participate in this podcast. It was nice to finally meet after following you on Twitter these past few years.

If you would like to follow Justin on Twitter, you can find him at @Quad_A_Canberra.

How You Can Support the Site and Podcast

Consider Supporting AA Beyond Belief with a small monthly contribution. This helps pay for podcast transcripts, hosting fees and other costs associated with creating content on the site and podcast. Even a dollar or two a month helps out a great deal. You may donate through the crowdfunding site Patreon or  through PayPal. AA Beyond Belief is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

Become a Patron!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email



  1. Gerald November 26, 2017 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    Yes, the BB as Swiss Army knife as well as a historical document.

    I used to think that if only groups actually practiced the Traditions then we’d have no need for secular meetings. Well, maybe in theory, but I’m convinced nowadays, and thanks largely to what I’ve learned at this site, of the growing non-believer demographic, rapidly growing.

    When I was new, I was lucky – probability taken personally, as you said 🙂 I fell into a Steps & Traditions AA community. I thought that the reason the old timers held Traditions meetings was because they didn’t have anything better to talk about 🙂 you know, that their lives had been straightened out years before and they didn’t have any problems remaining in life and they were tired of talking about the Steps all the time, so they took breaks to talk about the Traditions, you know, because they were bored, not that I needed to hear about the Traditions 🙂

    Nowadays I believe that it’s the Traditions that are unique about AA; the God talk and the Steps are just retreads (old trailer truck tires, rehabilitated). And I love thumping Appendix II, and as an atheist. Love & compassion is the message: human powered 🙂 , technically, no god required in order to tap that unsuspected inner resource. Appendix II says “most” members identify that unsuspected inner resource as a power greater than themselves or as God, but “most” means not everyone 🙂



    • John S November 26, 2017 at 4:38 pm Reply

      Thanks for listening, Gerald. I liked how Justin explained all the aspects of AA as being made possible by human beings and all the evidence that he can see suggests that it is indeed human power at work.

  2. PJ November 22, 2017 at 9:33 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed the podcast tremendously, particularly another Australian one and secular AA is on the move all over the world.
    I was interested to hear both of you mention how AA seems to be moving more towards the religious side of things. I have never been asked if I believe in Jesus but that seems to be the trend these days. My perception is that Sydney AA was not like that when I came along in 1993. It was suggested to leave your religion at the door on the way in to the meeting and pick it up again on the way out.
    A non-alcoholic friend of mine suggests that religion got a bit more serious after September 11th since worldwide there is now a perceived enemy. This may have some truth in it, I don’t know and I can’t prove it or change it. The timing does seem right however.
    Anyway, most importantly we can now offer sobriety to people of no faith who will make up the majority of our future AA’s. I also like the idea of referring back to the Big Book and use what makes sense. I am a Big Book reader myself particularly the stories.
    Thanks again John and Justin.
    PJ (Brookvale Secular ID)

    • John S November 22, 2017 at 9:45 pm Reply

      Thank you for listening PJ. You and Petrina and Justin are making history and it’s fun to watch it unfold. There is still another Australian group that I need to contact for a podcast, then I will have all of the Australian secular groups covered.

  3. bob k November 22, 2017 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    I continue to be delighted by the bright, articulate members of secular AA. Justin qualifies, in spades, to join those ranks. It’s good to hear some positive comments about traditional AA. I too was met with tremendous compassion coming from folks with a different worldview from my own. We can get so caught up in what we don’t like, that we block ourselves from much that can be helpful.

    Whitby Freethinkers is approaching our 4th anniversary!! Time flies! We have some people weeks, months, and now years sober who had not been well-served by conventional AA.

    I’ll be keen to do the new podcast. I hope to get “Bill Wilson’s Secret Diaries” into print in the earlier part the new year, and I’ll be looking to pimp that bee-yotch!!

    • John S November 22, 2017 at 12:58 pm Reply

      Thanks for listening, Bob. You will need to do the rounds of all the podcasts. I’m looking forward to this novel, and I think my wife will like it too. Though, she isn’t in the program, she is likes reading historical fiction and being married to me, she is somewhat familiar with AA.

      Justin is incredibly talented. It’s still amazing to me that I have these connections with people from all these various places. One of these days, I will need to actually visit Australia and see these people and also Ireland, and the UK and South Africa, and Canada, and Japan and on and on. In the meantime, I will travel vicariously through this podcast.

  4. Joe C November 22, 2017 at 7:50 am - Reply

    great chat; thanks Justin and John.

    It’s weird that there persists an idea that one worldview is superior in AA (any XA) recovery? Atheists have to keep an open mind but monotheists do not? At a meeting I attended in Phoenix a newer member made a poignant comparison. They reported that they asked someone, who encouraged them to try to to believe in god because it was neccissary to get sober, if they would renounce their higher powew in order to get sober? Would they be willing to give up their beilefs in order to stay sober? That’s a good point. I believe that core-beliefs such as a supreme beign rules the universe, vs. a natural order (or chaos) to things, is close to inescapable. I don’t know if I can reason myself out of what I believe… maybe about what I want for lunch, but not about something as core as my worldview.

    If every believe had to renounce their god then it would (almost) make sense that every atheist had to find one or have faith in one; in this way, everyone had to force a psychic shift in themselves to get sober.

    But we know that this is silly. A believe in god is no impediment to sobriety and nor is a believe in a natural order to the universe.

    Anyway, part of your early AA story got me thinking, Justin. … just thinking out loud.

    • John S November 22, 2017 at 12:53 pm Reply

      Thank you for listening, Joe. This never stops being fun. Talking with Justin was a blast.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.