A Secular Sobriety, authored by Dale K. is an invaluable tool for anyone who may be interested in a secular interpretation of the 164 pages of AA’s Big Book. Dale takes the reader through the first 164 pages, but rewritten as a secular version of the book. The book also contains personal stories from secular members of Alcoholics Anonymous. Today, we are featuring one of those personal stories: Joy!
As a child I attended the Anglican church and belonged to the young peoples group. I taught Sunday school as a teenager and had pleasant times doing so. Later on my brother, whom I adored, left the University in his last year to join a cult like church that verbally attacked our family. He moved out, which was heartbreaking for me and my family.
Later on, when I was married and had kids, we were living in New Jersey and there were rumblings about black people going to riot in our area. We didn’t have any in our neighborhood or schools. I wanted our kids to get to know black people in a friendly setting so I sent them to the Baptist church where there were some in attendance. My kids were friends with them and we had them over to our house. This was frowned upon by some neighbors. Later on I was told by one of my daughters that, while attending that Sunday school, she was taught that she should only marry a Baptist! Since then I have let myself acknowledge the inconsistencies of the message of love with the actions of hate.
When I first started going to AA meetings, I was terrified that it wouldn’t work for me. It was the last resort so I was intense on following the suggestions. I joined a home group, got a sponsor and started attending meetings daily. Sometimes, I attended two a day. I remember looking at the 12 Steps that were hanging in the front of the room …and then I saw Step 2. Came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity? What would that power be?Then I saw step 3. Turn my life over to the God of my understanding! God with a capital G! I rushed to my sponsor with my worries that this program wouldn’t work for me, but she told me to use “group of drunks.” I relaxed a bit and agreed.
Later on, I found out that my sponsor was Catholic. “Oh, no!” “What am I going to do?” Well, I kept my sponsor and she never mentioned her religion to me. She didn’t use religious terms. She stuck to the basics of the program, lead me through the steps and was there when I needed her. We were not pals. She was my guide to sobriety. She kept it simple, taught me to use slogans and was a power of example. She was a true friend. Because of her guidance I have been sober over 37 years. She has since died and I now have a new sponsor who happens to feel, like me, that religion should be kept out of the program.
Over the years I have tried different methods of a higher power. Sometimes a female God or a rotund happy monk-like fellow sharing a small tippy rowboat with me. When riding my motorcycle, which is something I took up in sobriety, I will look up and say, “It’s Joy!” “I’m on the road again (just in case).” I figure if there is a God he doesn’t care if I believe in him or not. My choice of a God wouldn’t have an ego problem and would chuckle at my disbelief…like a loving parent.
I don’t join in with the lords prayer but I will say the serenity prayer. It’s not important to me who I am saying it to. Maybe it’s to myself. Maybe some spirit. All I know is that it calms me and reminds me that I am a member of AA and for that I am forever grateful.
Sometimes I’m envious of those who believe. For them it’s simple…just turn it over. I’m uncomfortable in third step meetings where so much religion is talked about rather than spirituality. Sometimes, I share what I have tried. At other times I keep quiet and wish I were more eloquent so that those having a problem with this subject would feel relief that they are not alone and that the program can work for them. I have heard that I will eventually “come around.” I wonder when that might be!
Joy…just one of a group of drunks.