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: Alli O.
I could start with family history and give my theory on how and why I became an alcoholic, but that’s not relevant to my story.
I drank for 25 years, maybe 20 of them alcoholically. Every day, for the last 6 months or so of drinking, I would wake and promise myself, “I will not drink today.” Then I would quit for a day or two and then start again.
I was drunk at 8 AM one morning and my husband said to me, “This isn’t working.” I looked into his eyes and saw that I was breaking his heart and his spirit. I don’t have the right to do that to another person, especially one I love. That was the turning point for me.
Fortunately, I had a friend/co-worker with recovery experience. When I talked to her about my problem she recommended a therapist who had many patients with substance abuse issues. After only a few visits with her I knew I was on the right path and during one visit she told me that AA was a strong recommendation to her patients so I followed through. After a few months of 3 times a week traditional meetings and once a week sessions with my therapist, I felt that I was headed in the right direction, but I had difficulty with the religious aspect and structured format of the meetings. It didn’t seem right that I was making a huge effort to be honest with myself and others but then I wasn’t being true to myself by praying to a god I didn’t believe in. It was hypocritical and contrary to what I was trying to accomplish.
The traditional AA meetings were suggesting I let someone else fix my problem and turn it over to something I don’t even believe in. There were two problems with that. First, I believed it was my responsibility to fix the problem and secondly, I don’t believe in a supreme being. This was a waste of my time and I had already wasted 25 yrs.
My therapist then recommended a freethinkers meeting that was held in the town near where I lived. The following week I attended my first meeting of the We Agnostics group. Immediately, I felt accepted and at home with like minded people. Their goal’s were similar to mine. They believed we were all there to get sober, stay sober and live a good sober life…not get religion.
I realized that I needed strength. My goals were to be accountable and mature. Also, to understand who and what I was and fix it. The fellowship would help me with this endeavor and then, if I didn’t drink, my life would be less troublesome and more fulfilling. I know that sounds simple and it was anything but. The alternative, though, was unacceptable.
For the past ten years I have been participating in this group. I have learned a lot by listening to others share. The collective wisdom of this group has led me in the right direction toward self-growth, which is my program. When I look back now, I see that that specific group of individuals was exactly who and what I needed at that time. They taught me so much and accepted me unconditionally. It worked for me. Not everyone can say that. In fact, most can’t and I have no idea why this worked so well for me, but I have not had a drink since I quit on March 24, 2007.
Today I am still me, with my fears, obsessive thoughts and behaviors. That was the only disappointment to being sober. I have learned though that even though I will always be an anxious person and I will always be obsessive, I no longer feel a need to drink to ease my anxiety. Now, I find that I can identify the thoughts that trigger my unease. I am doing my best to manage these issues. So, I finally know who I am and, most days, I’m good with that. My therapist was responsible for that breakthrough. I am so grateful for her counseling and compassion.
AA has also opened my eyes and mind to many methods of dealing with life as a sober person. Each of us has something to offer to others and we learn by listening to them share their stories. A friend once said, “None of us arrived here on the wings of victory.” Isn’t that the truth?
The winner of this story is, of course, me. There is another winner … maybe by collateral good fortune or maybe by my positive influence. It doesn’t matter. My mother, who stopped drinking at the age of 81, is now my sober buddy in a totally alcoholic family. We understand each other and we are available for each other. I treasure our relationship.
But, what’s next? What’s after AA?
I don’t see myself attending AA meetings forever. However, I do know that I will always be in touch with another alcoholic. I have made good and lasting friends with some members of our group. We share an understanding of an alcoholic’s triumphs and failures. We are there for each other—always.