We Agnostics KC Sobriety Anniversary: Marty K. and Julie K.

Transcript

This is the monthly sobriety anniversary celebration at We Agnostics Kansas City, recorded on January 25th, 2018. We were celebrating the three-year anniversary of Marty K. and the thirty-year anniversary of Julie K. 

[music]

Wes: Hey guys, let’s get started. Nice quiet moment there. First announcement we have water available right here. The water is turned off in the building. You can use the toilets but, they don’t flush. So, fill them up!

Marty: Sounds like a country western song.

[laughter]

[background conversation]

Wes: Welcome to We Agnostics, an agnostics, atheist, and freethinkers meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. My name’s Wes and I’m an alcoholic.

Group: Hi Wes.

Wes: This is a closed meeting of AA. I’ve asked John to read the AA preamble. Open meeting, sorry my bad.

John S: Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of people who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.

Wes: Thanks John.

Wes: Agnostic AA meetings maintain a tradition of free expression where all are free to express any doubt or disbelief they may have, and to share their own personal form of spiritual experience their search for it or their rejection of it. In keeping with AA tradition we neither endorse nor oppose any form of religion or atheism. Our only wish is to ensure that anyone with a desire to stop drinking may find support in the AA without having to accept anyone else’s beliefs, or to deny his or her own. 

Wes: Is anyone here for their first AA meeting? Would you like to introduce yourself?

Irving: I’m Irving. I’m an alcoholic.

Wes: Hi Irving. Welcome.

Wes: Is this anyone’s first time at this group or is anyone visiting?

Doris: I’m visiting, I’m Doris.

Group: Hi Doris.

[background conversation]

Wes: Welcome Doris. We recognize continuous periods of sobriety, and we are celebrating two big ones tonight, but first is anyone celebrating 24 hours? Any number of months? Any number of years other than three and 30? Okay then. Well guys I’m so glad we have a big group. This is going to be a fantastic night because we have two speakers. We have we have Marty celebrating three years of sobriety and Julie celebrating 30 years. I believe each of them are ready to say some amazing things and blow us away, all right.

[applause]

Marty: We’ll have the child go first.

[laughter]

Marty: May it please the court, John?

[laughter]

John S: You don’t have to talk right into it.

Marty: Okay. My name is Marty and I’m an alcoholic.

Group: Hi Marty.

Marty: Thank you Wes for those kind words and congratulations to you too. If we have portioned the time accordingly, three and thirty, I’ll take about 2 minutes. Anyway, I’ve done this a few times over the years giving a talk at various stages of sobriety. I had about eleven years at one time. I had five at one time. I had a couple years. I’ve been going to AA now for 30 something years. I went to Valley Hope in 1986. When my then-wife decided that it was time for me to go. She literally came by law office and drug me out, put me in the car and drove me there. When I thought the world cannot survive, nor could my law practice possibly survive with me being gone, but somehow it did.

Marty: I feel this is a real honor tonight to say a few words. I hope they’re of some value to somebody. I was thinking today what I might say, my habit when I talk or whatever, is that I like to make a few notes. I thought mainly I need to be as honest as I can, and express some gratitude for my sobriety and maybe leave something that somebody might find of value. I’m quite a believer that one of the great functions of our group is to share our experience, strength, and hope.

Marty: The format is usually one of what it used to be like, what happened, and how is it like now. I’m not going to say too much on how it used to be like. I’ve spoken a couple times before at my first two anniversaries about my drinking, my alcoholism. Pretty low-key in terms of things. I was mainly a party-boy drinker. I had this idea that I didn’t really harm anybody. I just drank a little bit too much on occasion. I thought I well-deserved it because I worked hard. I was an achiever and had done a lot of things in my life that most people would look at and say, “You’re a pretty successful guy you can’t be a victim of some disease which renders you powerless.”

Marty: I had gone to school, college, law school. I’ve been in the Marine Corps for a while. I’ve been a prosecuting attorney, assistant prosecuting attorney, I tried a lot of cases, and I went into private practice. I did pretty well. I had a nice house in Overland Park, two children. I never missed a bill, never missed a car payment. I had financial cash register honesty, but boy, I just became a soulless person. I don’t know when I crossed the line into alcoholism, I really don’t. But I sure as hell did at various times when I became just ruled by self-centeredness, and couldn’t quit drinking. It was very deceptive. I had a denial system that was very well honed because of the successes I had, the financial material things that I used for years to avoid getting help. Until I got so bad, and coupled with cocaine use in the 80s. I was just a vast pit of despair and hopelessness.

Marty: Anyway, I’ve been into AA over the years. I got into it. I struggled with it. What brought me to this particular group, which has really saved my bacon was this journey for me when I first started in AA. I thought I was a conventional believer. I grew up in a Christian home. It was not shoved down my throat, but when I got into the program, I immediately started fighting this concept of God. I never had been a strong believer, but I didn’t really care enough as long I was drinking and partying, and having a good time in my life. Everybody be damned including my wife and two children. I never gave it a thought much about God or anything. So, when I got into AA, you did have to think about it. Doing the steps, I had to pay some attention to that concept. At first I tried to adopt the conventional meaning of God. I found out pretty soon that didn’t work for me. I then got to the point in the AA program—and this was years, in and out. But that God thing was always the hang up for me.

Marty:  I got to the next step in my journey and decided that it would be “God as we understood Him.” Well that’s it, that is the key and I’m going to latch onto that. Well, I saw that it talks about God and Him. It’s kind of the same god, isn’t it? It’s just how I personally think of that same god you think of. That didn’t work for me either because at the core and the older I got, I was firm in my belief that I did not believe in a theistic God, a supernatural being that had a personal relationship with me, that guided my behavior that I could preach to and have… I didn’t believe that. I tried, I didn’t believe.

Marty: So, the next part of my journey was this last time. I came into the program three years ago after a particularly bad evening of drinking during which I’ve passed out. A car about ran over me, the door smashed my face and broke my teeth. I got into AA again. I’m not going to say that was some compelling moment. “Oh, this is it, you got to get sober.” But yeah, I got to go to AA and quit drinking. But this time I’ve stayed sober three years, and I feel much better in this sobriety. I feel it’s mainly because I’m more comfortable with my belief system.

Marty: When I found this group after about 30 days of sobriety, it’s really made all the difference in the world. Because in this group, I finally got to the point where I was able to look at all the steps of the 12-step program. I feel like I was raised in that 12-step program, so it became important to me whether it was ritual or dogma or what, I don’t know. But I continued to look at those steps, but this program has allowed me to have my own interpretation. I feel free in the way which I’ve looked at the steps, and I’ve tried to live it as feebly and as frailly as that’s been.

Marty: The spirituality thing now, from all those steps I told you about with God; I think this time out, I’m at the point where, not my words, but I now look at Step Three and God as instead of as we understood Him. It’s a god of my understanding, and a god again in quotation marks, God being metaphor for higher power. I have felt really comfortable this time to be true to myself. As it says on the coin in my pocket, “to thine own self be true.”  

Marty: In this program too, I have discovered a great deal of literature that I resonate with. I love to read. A lot of my life has been directed by reading and literature, I identify with literature. So, I found a wealth of reading in this program that I had no idea was there. We used to have a bunch of books around when I first came here, and that really was good for me. I discovered there’s different 12 Steps, there’s the Buddhist 12 Steps, there’s this, there’s that. Some wonderful books that really helped me to be comfortable with finding my program and to practice some type of spirituality. 

Marty: I grew up in so many of these old traditional meetings over the years where the spiritual thing went from religion to spirituality. I saw people who had really good programs, and they were spiritual in a sense. Not religious, but people who seemed to be calm, serene, nonjudgmental, and who were genuinely kind and compassionate with other human beings. So, I thought that must be a key to this staying sober thing. It’s not just about being a goody two-shoes person, but there must be something fulfilling about that, enough that maybe that diminishes the craving to drink.

Marty: I finally figured out through this program and getting honest that my drinking was a coping mechanism for me living that terribly, irresponsible, selfish, immature life that I lived, tricking myself all the time that I was just a guy that was just drinking a little too much at times. It’s through that, that I really came in this particular program to feel comfortable, and I think to get some pretty good sobriety going. 

[laughter]

Marty: It’s funny. I kind of look at it like on the road to secular sobriety, I came across real spirituality. As funny and as ironic as that seems, that’s what exactly happened to me. It was good when I came to this meeting, kind of an irony too, a bit of a paradox is that there’s a lot of intellectualism in this group, and there’s a lot of talk. I have heard over the years many people say “I don’t get spirituality. I don’t know what it is, and I don’t need it.” As I learn in the program, I listen to that and it’s not just disagreeing, but what’s my answer to that? How do I react to that? And for me it has really compelled me to confirm some type of spirituality that I think I adhere too. I love the Steps and it’s funny that in this agnostic group, I forced myself to look at those steps and spirituality more than ever, but I believe in those principles if I am going to stay sober.

Marty:  This isn’t just about getting sober so that Marty is in good health, and can concentrate more, and be a better dad or a husband. I have got to be happy with me. The reason I drink I know it was that I was not happy with Marty. I despise him, and I didn’t have the guts and the courage or the means to break that habit of drinking. Just continually relying upon alcohol to furnish what I thought was waht I needed. 

[laughter]

Marty: So, I have come through to and I tried to tone down my spiritual beliefs because I’m a bit afraid that, it’s not like I’ve gone from being atheist to some kind of a holy person. I’m not, and that’s not the case at all but I definitely believe that there’s a real need for me to have some spiritual practice, which is to me at the core of it is, what kind of integrity and honesty and compassion do I have in my dealings with other human beings in my life, and particular those people who are the closest to me? That’s it. That’s just as spiritual as I can get. And it’s just unconditional love which is so difficult. Self-honesty, if I don’t have that I have nothing. It’s the first step me admitting I’m powerless. 

[laughter]

Marty: And I’ve had to work on having gratitude. I was sober for years, and I never appreciated the value of my sobriety. I think this time around, I have developed some gratitude, and it really started out that first year. I’ve had to get up every morning and really tell myself like I was talking to some other third person, “you are grateful today.You do have gratitude today that you’re sober.” And if somebody would walked in the room, they’d say, “who the hell are you talking to?” I had to do it, and I still have to remind myself  because I don’t have a deity. I can get it why gods are so vital to society. They’re so comfortable. God give me, God forgive me, God thank you. How do you fill that void? Well, there’s ways to fill that void. I don’t have to be grateful to an object. I can just be damn grateful and I’m comfortable with that, but I need to behave on that feeling too. Faith without works is dead, and I believe that.

Marty: I’m starting to finally get just how valuable service can be, reaching out and helping others, because at the core of my disease is this selfish and self-centeredness wrapped in this package of fear that I would be discovered. So, one of the ways that I’ve learned to get out of that is is through helping other people. It doesn’t have to be magnanimous or great. It can just be as simple as a phone call and it doesn’t have to be anything related to AA.

Marty: I think the people who started this program really had some great ideas. I got so I destained that because of the Judeo Christian emphasis in the Steps. But I’ve come to read a great deal about Bill Wilson. It’s ironic again, I like to read biographies and it’s true with him as it is anybody else I’ve come to really respect and admire— the more you study these people, the more you read about them, you find out how flawed and imperfect they were as people. But wow! What a wonderful message that I can be imperfect and flawed and incomplete; and out of that have some growth and hope for myself that I am getting better. This group has allowed me that change of gear, that change of pace that this time I’ve really been able to take a look at myself, and feel like I’m okay. I feel that I’m approved by people in that regard and I’m comfortable, because I guess I’m just sensitive enough to want approval and friends that I need that someway. 

Marty: Anyway that’s pretty much been my journey this time. So, I thank all of you for being here. It’s this fellowship that has been an immense help to me. This is not just an intellectual journey. If I have made it sound like that, it sure as hell is not. I hope next year if I’m sober and clean, I have no doubt I will have changed some more. I’m always changing, and the change is good. I’m a big believer that this program is about spiritual progress, not perfection, but I also have come to find out if I don’t have progress, I’m standing still, I’m going back. There needs to be, there will be some progress. That’s not the alternative. Otherwise, I’m not going forward. I got to keep moving forward in this thing or this thing will consume me. I dropped out several times over the years where I’ve gotten bored. Kind of like I can have a drink, I didn’t need the program anymore. I heard all the shit I wanted to hear and it’s a guarantee, sooner or later, I’m going to be back drinking and right back where I was. So progress of some kind is not an alternative. I need to keep moving forward. I did that in great part by you people being here. So I love you all, thank you very much for allowing me to share. Thank you. 

[applause]

Wes: Well, it’s hard to imagine a better pair to record, right? Fantastic. Real fast, I just want to say I was thinking of three years, 30 years, I have 11 months and see that pat on the back, what I was going to say this group does not have any sort of structural hierarchy built into it. I had been to groups where you’re not allowed to leave unless you have a certain amount of time, and those with 30 years look down upon everyone. But we don’t have that here. So we shall continue with Julie… And one more thing, she mentioned that 30 for her, for some reason, is extremely special. I said, “What about 20?”, “Uh”, “What about 10?”

[laughter]

Wes: But 30, take it away.

[laughter]

[applause]

Julie: Thank you, thank you. My name is Julie, I’m an alcoholic. First of all, as a matter of business. I brought that cookie, cut it up and put it on napkins and eat it. I know you guys like to do that. It’s [laughter].. Cut it into small pieces. 

[applause]

Julie: I’m also grateful that this is an open meeting, so that I could bring my spouse with me here. We’ve been together for 17 years although we’ve known each other since we were in our early 20s. So, she knew me and saw me when I was at my worst in drinking. Anyway, I just wanted to say that.

Julie: Mine’s a little different. It’s kind of a lot of the same things you said. You’re going to see the similarities. I will start by drawing a picture for you of how I developed alcoholism. I have talked before but I always do it off the cuff, and I never can get focused and say the things I want, so papers. Anyway, I’ll talk about my sobriety and how I did that.

Julie: In the early 70s, I was married, living in Michigan and pregnant. And I suddenly realized I was gay.

[laughter]

Julie: And here I was pregnant, I thought “What am I going to do?”

[laughter]

Julie: I couldn’t sleep at night. I was a mess. And so my obstetrician said, “Well, you can’t take sleeping medicine, but have one or two drinks every night.”

[laughter]

Julie: That began my process of using alcohol to cope. Can you believe it? Then by 1975, I divorced my husband. I brought my son (I had a son) and brought him with me back to Kansas City. I grew up here. I was raised Catholic. My father was a dentist, so we had a really comfortable life, and I married a doctor, and I had a comfortable life with him. Then when I came back to Kansas City, I was raising my son alone with no emotional help, or no emotional comfort, or help from my family, so that was really difficult. I had a lot of guilt for leaving my husband, and I had a lot of internalized homophobia. Therefore, by the late 70s, my drinking was increasing. It was a way for me to cope with my self-hate. 

Julie: Throughout my drinking years, I was a nurse, so I was able to get prescription tranquilizers. So, I could drink a lot on the weekend and I could drink a lot at night, and get up early, but I always had a tranquilizer where it would kind of just ease me through the day where I wouldn’t have any shakes or anything. That worked for a long time. I changed jobs, I changed relationships, and as my drinking escalated during this time—my self-esteem just plummeted. It really did. At least to the point that in the early 80s, I ended up in an abusive relationship. That’s how low I was. I had the wherewithal to send my son to live with his father, but I stayed in that relationship for two more years. My drinking increased when this was happening.

Julie: At times I became scared for my safety, and I would just try to stop drinking—unsuccessfully. I realized quickly I couldn’t do that. In 1985, I was in a bad auto accident and I had a severe head injury. I couldn’t work for well over a year. My son still wasn’t with me, it was a couple of years after I sent him to his dad. I could drink then, 24 hours a day—and I did. With a head injury, that was probably the worst thing that I could have done, but nobody knew. My family didn’t know how ill I was. I won’t get into that [chuckle] that’s for… I tend to rumble.

Julie: Anyway, my self-esteem was shot, and I knew I couldn’t go on like this. I had to do something. In 1987, two years later, I saw a friend who had been a binge drinker, and she was a really difficult person to be around. Suddenly, she had her act together., and I said, “What happened?”, and she said, “I started going to AA.” I thought, “Well, maybe that’s an option for me.” So I started thinking about it.  She told me about the meetings, she told me about the Big Book. I went and got a Big Book, I found out where Central office was, it was on Broadway, so it was close to here.

Julie: I got a Big Book, put it on my nightstand and every night I would sit and drink scotch, after my son went to bed. I’d go in and drink scotch until I passed out.

[laughter]

Julie: Reading The Big Book! I forgot that part. Reading The Big Book. I don’t know if I read all the way through it in six months, but I don’t remember anything. I never had any…

[laughter]

Julie: The stories seemed nice, that’s all I remember.

[laughter]

Julie: I even went with her, this woman who told me about this AA program. I went with her to a meeting, but I had two drinks before I went. That was the group that became my home group. I think about that now and I must have reeked. I drank scotch, and I was just trying not to say anything, so it wouldn’t come out of my mouth. Two months later, I finally realized maybe I would give AA a try. I was desperate to have a change. I was desperate because of things with my son that I was doing. I just had to change my life.

Julie: Thirty years is hard to synopsize, so bear with me. Things aren’t going to be chronological order, but I do talk about things. I talk about different issues, so I’ll be going back and forth. Oh my God I went. I ended up getting sober on January 1, 1988, I finally got there on January 6. I found out it was a gay group called, “Live & Let Live,” and it was at 31st and McGee. Now in 19… early 88, it was a seedy area, to say the least. We would have people come off the street just to get warm, to drink coffee. I will never forget that day, never forget how I felt when I got to that building.

Julie: I was just… I’m getting emotional. I was just so… Thinking that, “This is going to be the change, I’m going to change my life.” I was shaking. I got to the door and I thought, “I have got to go in there,” and I did. I didn’t know anybody, and there was a huge room, there was 30 or 40 people there at least. It was a big circle, and I was nervous. So, I don’t remember what I said, I just told them my name and that I was an alcoholic. I don’t think they did a First Step with me. I don’t remember what they even talked about. I just was scared to death and I did exactly what I was told to do. I wanted to be a good alcoholic [chuckle] recovering alcoholic. I wanted to get it right. I just remember I went to 90 meetings in 90 days, I found a sponsor, I worked the steps in traditional AA.  I was like a sponge at the meetings. I would just take in everything people said,. It was just, it was just all so insightful. I just couldn’t believe the things they were saying, I would just soak it all up.

Julie: When I went home, I would…everything was AA. I breathed AA, I would go to work and then I would go home and read about AA instead of drinking. I just became a little AA robot.

[chuckle]

Julie: I did exactly what I was told to do, and I was kind of rigid with the way I did it. Although, I did not get down on my knees to pray. I had enough of that growing up.  I’ll talk more about that in a while. During this time, my biggest fear was a relapse. I felt like something out of my control, it wouldn’t be intentional, it would be out of my control, something would get me and cause me to drink. During my entire first year, I feared a relapse. It got better, but I had one motivator that kept me kind of on the straight and narrow—that was my son. He would come to meetings when I would get coins. He would always be there supporting me, but I looked at him and I thought, “I didn’t ever, ever want to let him down again or do the crap I did to him.” That kept me just thinking straight ahead. I thought, “I’ve got to stay in this program, I’ve got to do this, I was desperate.

Julie: Finally, in sobriety, I found that the less I drank it had and inverse effect on my self esteem. I really began to accept myself for who I was. It helped that I went to a gay AA group because everybody there understood my experience. Kansas City and the country was very different then about gays. It was really discriminated against, and so it was nice to have this group. Susan was in that group. We were in some of those meetings together. It was nice to have this group where I didn’t have to have any secrets with them. I knew I could be who I was, and that really was helpful.

Tom: I was there too.

Julie: Yeah, that’s right. Yes,that was the group, it’s still there. There’s fewer people, I don’t know how much the need is anymore, because we’re accepted. 

Tom: About that same time, about that same time, ’87, ’88.

Julie: Was it? Oh, how about that. Part of this… maybe you will remember what I’m going to be talking about.

Julie: I met somebody when I first came in, and he had been there a couple of days before me, and he was such an inspiration to me. We went and got our coins together. We would walk down that aisle and to speaker meetings, and get our coins together. We did that all for our first year. During our second year, he developed AIDS. He was put in the hospital for insertion of a central line, which in today’s terms, people talk about portacaths—it was the earlier version of that. I worked at that hospital, and he was on my floor, so that was nice. We had a lot of long talks. 

Julie: It became apparent that he developed one complication after another from that central line insertion, it was hard to believe and watch, but we would sit and talk for a long time, about life, about AA, about our programs. Because we were both so new, together we just fed off each other. We talked about his death. He often talked, the reason I’m bringing him up, he often talked about how grateful he was, that even if it was just about a year and a half, that he had the AA program because it helped him embrace his dying. He honestly was so… One thing he wanted was to turn 40, and he didn’t make it. That’s how young he was, and it was really sad. 

Julie: Up to that point in time for our two-year birthday, he wasn’t there.  I also wasn’t going to meetings much, and I’ll tell you why. I would go to Live & Let Live right around my birthday, and I got the coin, or I’d go to Unity and do the same thing. Then I thought, “these people are being so nice, they’re giving me these coins, and I’m just going for a meeting pick it up.” and I thought, “I can’t do this.” So I found a place online where I could design, and create my own.

[laughter]

Julie: I did, it was…

[laughter]

Julie: This is 1990 I’m there, I’m ordering these coins, and I’m doing five years. That’s why when you said 10 year coin, [chuckle] that was probably ones I had sent to myself.

[laughter]

Julie: We didn’t celebrate, it wasn’t the same thing. So, that really kind of helped me at least celebrate for myself when I wasn’t going to meetings.

[laughter]

Julie: Some difficulties I’ve had with AA, and these started at the very beginning. The religiosity was real difficult for me. My first year, I immediately told them when I came in, I said, “I don’t believe in God.” And they said, “Fine, fine. You just use the group as your higher power, it’s fine.” And I thought, “okay good.”

[chuckle]

Julie: I sailed through, and I was doing that. I was doing the steps and everything, and I was ignoring the God word in there, [chuckle] just ignoring it. It worked for the first year, but then I started getting pressure from the people that I had to find God now. I couldn’t do it, I heard that to stay sober and to have any kind of sobriety, I needed to find God. I even went back to the Catholic church trying to find this God. I left shortly thereafter. I was there maybe a month. Their teachings about divorce and then gays, I thought, “well, I fit both of those—goodbye!”

[laughter]

Julie: That was a mutual goodbye.

[laughter]

Julie: Another difficulty that I had at that time was after I quit smoking after my first year. All the meetings back then, Tom you’ll remember, were smoking meetings. Everybody who came to AA that was a smoker became a chain smoker when they quit drinking. So, that became, it became a real deal breaker for me. I would try to go back every once in a while and see if anything changed, and they would  get these different machines, or they’d draw a line down the room. 

[laughter]

Julie: At Area Assembly this weekend in Sedalia, I was talking to somebody who had been there at the same time I was. John heard this conversation, and I said, “Yeah, I just couldn’t keep going to meetings because of the smoking, it was a deal breaker for me.” And she said, all of a sudden the light bulb went on, she said, “You are the one that tried to turn the six o’clock meetings a non-smoking.” I said, “Yes, unsuccessfully.” But, I’m so grateful, they way they are now. 

Julie: Now, fast forward… Are you going?

[laughter]

Julie: In the 90s, I made some moves because of my education and professional advancement and two were to large cities. In each city, I could call and find a gay AA group, and I immediately had a connection with that city and made friends.  I would start going there, and I would always come to the same point. They would say, “Why aren’t you using God in your program?” And I would finally just stop going so much. Also at that time, I was reading daily meditation books, none of the AA approved ones, but all about the women, and about divorce, whatever. I also began exercising on a regular basis. Then, I had a group of alcoholic friends that I’d made at the gay AA meeings, that I could just meet with and meet outside of meetings because I wouldn’t go into the meetings. That was helpful for me.

Julie: Over time in sobriety, I began to feel strongly that separation of church and state should apply to AA as separation of God and AA. I can’t see why that doesn’t occur. My discomfort over this God thing just kept me from going to meetings. There was always something missing as a result.

Julie: Four years ago, a friend called me and she said, “Julie, so and so is in detox. She’s pretty bad. She’ll be in Shawnee Mission for about a week or ten days. Will you sponsor her?” I said, “Well, she’ll have to ask me.” I thought, “I have got to get my butt out and I got to start going to Unity.”

[laughter]

Julie: She did call me and said, “Would you?” And I said, “Sure.” And so, I did. I wanted to introduce her to Unity, but it was difficult. She really relied on God heavily for her program, for the Steps, for everything and to get sober. This was another thing that helped me really cement and realize that AA, the program, it was important for me, not God, to be accountable for my own sobriety.

Julie: I have had benefits from sobriety in general. First, I was able to rebuild my relationships with my son, my parents, and my siblings. I was able to attend school and, after several years, I got my PhD in nursing, which had always been a dream of mine. I was able to be with my parents during their aging and their deaths, and to do that sober is pretty special. I have a long-term relationship of 17 years, and I couldn’t have done any of those things had I not been sober. And I recognize that. About three years ago, I came here to this church. I was urged by Anita. She said, “You know, this place. They don’t have any dogma, no doctrine.” I said, “Oh, really.” I thought “Well, maybe I’ll go.”

[laughter]

Julie: When I opened up their bulletin, inside it said, “We Agnostics. AA meetings. Tuesdays and Thursdays.” It was like I was immediately thrilled. I was going like this. I said to Anita, “Look at this,” during the service. I was so excited when I read that. It just spoke to me. It resonated with me, and I didn’t even know for sure what it was going to be. It just seemed, the agnostics part really, really spoke to me. I came to the very next meeting. That’s when I found my home group. From the time I walked in these rooms. I don’t know if… It’s probably this room in fact.

Julie: I’ve always been uncomfortable in AA because of the assumption that if you’re in AA, you must be Christian. I’ve always thought that was unfair. The Jews and Sikhs and all these people… Muslims, who are overlooked. So the nice thing is, they don’t make that assumption in our group, and I appreciate that. Quite the opposite, it gives us the option for an AA program without God, and that’s special for me.

Julie: I have benefits that, I’m almost done, you guys. I’m giving you benefits in secular AA. Like you, once I came, I have rethought, and I’ve kind of developed a different relationship with the Steps since I came to secular AA. Even though the steps have always been a framework and a guide for my life. Now, the emphasis is off God and the steps have become more personal for me. We do have good books. We do. For the new people, we do have some alternative 12 steps and things that help you do the steps, if you want to, that are a little bit easier than the ones that, you know, where God will take away your shortcomings and…

[laughter]

Julie: We’ve all been there. Also, this program re-energized my commitment to AA. I’ve been mentoring and being mentored because of people in this group. And I have, really, for the first time in my…done service work at the group district and state level. I have met people, many people in traditional AA who have really informed and enriched my program. I didn’t think I would ever say that, I didn’t… At the state level, even district, we’ve learned some things. Also we’re able to educate the wider AA community about secular AA, what it is, what it is not, when we’re out there talking and we’re the only secular group involved at these meetings, so that’s kind of special.

Julie: Since I have this secular focus, I don’t, like I said, I don’t have the same discomfort about traditional AA. I feel like we have more similarities than we have differences, and I didn’t feel that way before. I am becoming much more aware of that, because of the work I’m doing. And finally, [laughter] I really feel fortunate as this fellowship, it really grounds me and it provides me so much insights. I would never have this, I’ve never had this camaraderie anywhere else that I’ve been, and so it’s really special. And really for that, I am truly grateful. And that’s it.

[chuckle]

[applause]

Wes: Well, you guys, we have a little bit of time here for comments or questions for our speakers. Any comments?

Greg: I have got to say, I so much appreciate both of you, I do know, when I started back, and I’ve been in and out, in and out, in and out. The last time I came in, I was in pretty bad shape and I sat next to you. And we both shared that we had some severe medical situations, they were like families that we were going through. It just really helped me bond in, in spite of my…

[laughter]

Greg: Not being too stable at the time. I wasn’t drunk, I was… And I had been through treatment. I had been through detox, but that was a long time getting back on my feet. So I just remember, I will always remember coming back. It was one of the many times I came back, or several anyway, and it was the one. And I really always felt close to you for that. Thank you.

Wes: Thank you, Greg.

Group: Thanks, Greg.

Major: My name’s Major, I’m an alcoholic.

Group: Hey, Major.

Major: I’m extremely grateful for this group, I happened to find this group the first day I decided I needed to not drink. It’s funny because I just hit the… with the website it said, if you needed in giant red letters, I just hit it and it’s just really close to where I live, so I just walked down there. I had no idea that this secular, it’s all literally 45 minutes ago, I had no idea…

[laughter]

Major: I had no idea that the hanging out was the deal. I’m extremely [chuckle] grateful for that. It’s interesting though because this meeting, I go to meetings all over the city, because I’m in that 90 meetings in 90 days thing, and I’ve always resisted going to AA meetings, because of the hierarchy things that was mentioned and because of the… I can’t believe you said cocaine, it’s the first time I’ve ever heard the word cocaine at an AA meeting.

[chuckle]

Major: But this meeting has always been very open, and accepting, and comfortable, which I think is funny, as it’s secular.

[laughter]

Major: But anyway, I just wanted to say thanks and I’d like to hear more after the meeting on how that things work. So I’ve worked the steps before. Step three, asking God to remove my shortcomings, my characters and all the things that are wrong with me, of which are many. And my sponsor, like me, wasn’t a big God guy. And I felt like we kind of fucking half-assed it, just going…

[laughter]

Major: So this has kind of been a little bit of a revelation, and I’m worried about next week, because I’ve got a trip coming up, and this is the first time that I’m going to be gone somewhere. I’m going to be with a lot of old business partners that everytime we get together, there’s always been a party thing. I don’t know if I should tell them I’m trying a recovery thing, it’s just a very… I just have a lot of anxiety over the whole situation. And I’m kind of a creature of habit and I’ve enjoyed the past 23 days of getting up, going to work, going to a meeting, coming home, eating, coming home, going to bed. Anyway, I’m babbling now, so I’m going to shut up. Thank you though.

Wes: Thanks, Major.

Wes: Hi, there.

John S: Hey John! 

Wes: Hey, guys, welcome.

Wes: Hey I’m Wes, I’m an alcoholic.

Group: Hey Wes.

Wes: I’d like to second what Major said about the qualities of the group. I found this group totally by accident. Totally by accident. I’d looked online just for a meeting, it said “We Agnostics” but I figured it was titled just in reference to chapter to the Agnostic.

[laughter]

Wes: I didn’t realize it was actually agnostic.

[laughter]

Wes: And I came and discovered it was agnostic and I was like, “That’s a great fit!” So I didn’t have to do any more searching. I just walked in here drunk and it worked.

[laughter]

Wes: And Greg gave me a big hug, and from that moment until now it’s just been pure… What a group. Nobody’s better than anyone else like I said earlier. There’s no distinct hierarchy to the group and we preach tolerance, right? Just tolerance. So… Oh and today’s the 25th so it’s my 11-month.

[applause]

Wes: I feel so small next to you guys. Any more comments? John?

John S: Yeah, I’m John I’m an alcoholic.

Group: Hey John.

John S: Boy. It’s been a great meeting, and I just want to say it just feels great that we’ve been around long enough to see you guys celebrating as many years, and to remember the past anniversaries and so forth. It’s pretty cool. But I also wanted to say something about Julie, and thank you publicly I guess for helping me as we deal with this crazy stuff at Central Office. I mean it’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I don’t know how I could do it without you steadying me. So thank you for that.

Julie: You’re very welcome.

Wes: Thanks John.

John R: Hey my name’s John Riley, I’m an alcoholic.

Wes: Hey John. Welcome.

John R: The floor still open?

Wes: It sure is.

John R: My name is John Riley, I’m an alcoholic.

Group: Hey John.

John R: I’m a member of the Paseo group, and I’m here tonight because I came to celebrate with my friend Julie. I met Julie at Area Assembly. A great place to meet people and catch the service fever. And me and Julie, we serve on a committee down there, actually it’s an ad hoc committee, which is just formed for a specific cause. And it is dealing with diversity and unity within the area, in the AA as a whole. And Julie has been like that… You know how it takes a boat, or a sailboat takes wind to make the boat go? Julie has been the wind that has been helping, keeping me going. She’s hands on, all in, boots to the ground, and she’s focused. I just love her for that.

Julie: Thank you, John.

John R: When she came aboard, first thing okay, “What can we do? What do you need me to do?” And this is the first time I ever chaired anything, anywhere, so I was like, “I really don’t know, but you and me together, together we’re gonna figure it out. We got one thing to do.” And the efforts form Julie and those on the committee, we have come up with some very interesting comments as far as what it deals with. This is not just about, on this committee just not about race and unity because acceptance goes beyond race. Even with agnostics. We’re trying to bring about some tolerance for the agnostic community, for the atheist community, for the gay community. It don’t matter. We all got one kind of thing, and is just that alcohol whooped our butts.

[laughter]

John R: You know, that’s why we’re here, that’s why I’m here. I’m here because John Barleycorn took me in the corner and wore me out. And I don’t wanna box with John Barleycorn no more.

[laughter]

John R: Really, I don’t. Him and his other friends. I fought with his friends too. But I’m so glad that I landed in AA, because had I had not landed in AA, I would still be one of those persons that running around with my own idea, my own little closed mind, owing a whole lot. My eyes have been opened up, become more tolerant, acceptable to people who’s not like me. And it’s okay today. Especially when again with trying to share your experience, strength and hope with somebody else, because that’s what it’s all about. We just tell people, “Hey, man. John Barleycorn had his way with me, and this was what I’m doing so I won’t climb back in the ring with him.” And one day at a time, Julie how many years you…

Julie: 30.

John R: 30 years, see there. And now someone else celebrated also, who was?

Julie: Marty.

Marty: Three years.

John R: Congratulations.

Marty: Thank you.

John R: Congratulations.

John R: My sobriety birthday’s February 20, 2009. So almost nine years in, and I’m still scared to death of alcohol. As much as I love it, I am scared to death of it. Now that very next bright idea, could have been me on my back, looking up, with the ref counting, “You’re out”.

[laughter]

John R: Thanks for letting me share.

Wes: Thank you John.

Al: My name is Al B., I’m an alcoholic.

Group: Hi Al.

Al: I’m from the Paseo group also, and that’s my sponsee. I’m so proud of him.  And we are here to support a recovering alcoholic and that’s what we did. I too got out of the ring with the heavy weight champion. I was truly grateful, and I’m grateful for anyone who put their gloves away. A guy asked me, “How can win the fight?” I said, “Don’t put the gloves on.” And I hadn’t put the gloves on ever since and I’m so grateful for this being in Alcoholics Anonymous. He knocked me out every time. So I’m tired of being knocked out. And I love you all, and I’m glad to be here. With that I pass.

Wes: Thank you.

Wes: Gregg.

Gregg O: I’m Gregg. I’m an alcoholic.

Group: Hi, Gregg.

Gregg O: And I just have announcements. For those of you who are not on our contact sheets and want to be on the sign up sheet, see me after the meeting. I’ll put you on it and email it around. We also had AA movie night coming up, February 16th, in this room. Bill W, the documentary.

Tom: In this room?

Gregg O: In this room. [laughter] For this day we name “Squabbling in the Bickering Room.” [laughter] Then our next one after that is “Twenty-Eight Days”with Sandra Bullock. Anyway, February 16th and the suggested donation is five bucks.

Wes: Thanks, Gregg.

Wes: Excellent, guys. Well, it has been wonderful. Let’s give him another round of applause. [applause]

Wes: And with that, we are done.

[music]


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