Alli O.

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.

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2 years ago

Great article Alli! I do not attend meetings; I haven’t for over 2 years and I am 3 years’ sober as of last December. I do however, have a sponsor who is more a best friend and confidante than anything else. I started off with AA, but much like yourself, I couldn’t relate to the structure, dogma, and self-important members within.

Really wonderful to hear of your strength, determination, and accountability to yourself.

2 years ago

I love this article. However, I’m unsure of stopping the meetings in the future.

I am anxious to find a free thinking meeting in my city. I am in serious need of meetings that don’t have a religious slant.

I really can’t imagine s future without any meetings though. I will always have alcoholic tendencies and honestly, I’m not sure if I can trust myself without the aid of some sort of on going support of like-minded people.

But this article certainly opened my mind to alternative meetings!


steve b
steve b
2 years ago

Nice article.  AA people tend to think that anyone who leaves AA is doomed, but I’ve never seen any clear evidence that that’s the case. I haven’t been going to meetings very much recently, perhaps once or twice a month, and meetings now usually bore and annoy me. Also, I don’t feel  like drinking whether I go or not. Maybe I’ll get back in the groove of going to meetings more often, but I just don’t know.

Janet Falk
Janet Falk
2 years ago

Alli:   So glad you found the secular group -however, your comment about not continuing attendance bothers me = what if the individual  members of that group decided they did not need the meeting anymore?  You need to be  there to help those ‘like us’ to have aplace to find their sobriety.  Please rethink that decision.  Janet

John S
2 years ago
Reply to  Janet Falk

I see it a little differently. I think that there are enough people who choose to stay involved for the long-term to counterbalance those for whom AA is no longer needed. I believe that a lot of people just need the support they find in AA to get them through their current crisis, and then they move on to happy and productive lives, helping others in a different way. They don’t need to go to AA meetings for the rest of their lives. At the same time there are those who derive great pleasure and satisfaction by continuing on in… Read more »