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: Elisabeth H.
In 1994, I realized that instead of going to Al-Anon I belonged in AA. Aha!
I knew about a local We Agnostics meeting. This meeting is still my home group. There, friends have served as sponsors and the conversation allows for a wide range of topics, including religious ones for anyone in attendance, but God is not a focus. It is a place that does not rely on trite slogans, does not focus on egotistic sponsorship or close with prayer. Our group conscience suggests we need to personally do the work to realize a positive continuing sobriety and not turn over our will to the care of an invisible being. I had no real experience in my life with prayer except for saying grace for food and goodnight to the moon.
I did not drink as a teen and my parents drank only occasionally until my mother’s illness led her to drink sherry in the evenings. As her caregiver I fell into drinking with her, captive to her vice in her discomfort. This felt strange to me, but I began to look forward to those evening conversations, some of which I did not remember fully!
Only when I moved into a “hippy” apartment in NYC did I begin to purchase wine and drink routinely, but never daily. I met my controlling husband who drank, but not (then) alcoholically. I began to drink secretly out of a stash of wine I kept in a kitchen or bathroom cabinet. I drank very little socially, flying beneath the radar of friends and employers as a drinker. When we had wine or beer with meals, he monitored my amounts. I had a terror of driving drunk so I usually insisted on taking two cars to any social event, not drinking there, leaving early and driving home to my hidden sources to indulge! My excuse that I was an early riser was true and a good cover! Luckily I did not suffer consequences at work or with late night calls or other social no nos. I didn’t rely on financial help or abuse friendships with dependency as my early life had stressed that I must take care of relationships.
I first heard “my story” on a trip with a sober friend to the West coast a year into sobriety. We stayed at a Sierra Club lodge in Nevada for a week. We hiked and went to AA meetings daily. Our leaders happened to be Buddhists!
After that we camped along the California and Oregon coasts. A few days into our personal outing we needed a meeting. At the desk of the youth hostel, where we stayed, we found that the only meeting in the wide area started in a half hour at a private home 25 minutes away. Zoom! Synchronicity! Hearing that someone had my exact experience was a breakthrough for me. Before this, I had felt as if I needed more ugliness and disaster to qualify as a real alcoholic!
Giving up alcohol was not a challenge for me. I did not have cravings, drunk dreams, or falters. Panic set in as I began to see my real faults hit me. My greatest needs in sobriety were to become less self-absorbed, mature, and more fully and authentically loving. I have four awesome children and managed all the conventional mothering tasks. I was, also, active in my community. But, at the back of my mind, until then, there had been a focus on when I could get away with drinking one wine or beer at a meal or from my stash!
As the effects of alcohol diminished, I had more energy and attention for my children and neighborhood and was able to sponsor several women, and to feel that I could offer the wisdom of experience when I shared in meetings. For the first few years, at an assortment of conventional meetings, I did coffee and set up service, sharing with the others who, like me, were in early sobriety. Women’s meetings were important to me, as were several other meetings which went light on religious emphasis. I had two wonderful conventional sponsors, both who helped me in many ways and allowed for my non-religious life.
I look forward to the cast of characters and meaningful shared insights at my one local meeting and, occasionally, I go to several other Free Thinker meetings. I am committed to my Agnostic AA program.