I’ve been in recovery since December 15, 2014. I haven’t been sober the entire time, but do mention I’ve been in recovery since then and this seems to upset many hardcore, old school members of various programs. As I write this, that date was 1,662 days ago. Out of those 1,662 days, I was substance free for 1,620. I had a couple of slips which both happened to last 3 weeks each for a total of 42 days. My sober date is February 27, 2019 and the date I consider my new anniversary date. I did not collect a four- year coin back in December because I wasn’t sober for a consecutive amount of time.

The only reason I start with that information is because it’s one of many things that seem to be ‘wrong’ when I share about it in meetings. This also includes my lack of belief in a higher power or god. I get the same people, saying the same things, after I share anything out of the norm in any meeting EXCEPT at the agnostic meetings I attend. I find that people who subscribe to any dogmatic form of information subscribe to many dogmatic forms of information. “The big book says this so that’s all it can be!” type of mentality.

My second sponsor told me that if I did not accept Jesus Christ as my higher power, I would surely drink again. We had long talks about our difference of opinion and those talks slowly became more aggressive until I accepted that he was only regressing my recovery and I had to separate from him. It wasn’t my lack of acceptance in his form of deity that led to my picking up years later, it was a choice I made over a period of time that led to my picking up again.

A woman I know in the program also had a similar experience recently. Her sponsor could not seem to grasp that she had a power greater than herself and that power wasn’t god. The sponsor severed the relationship because of her inability to accept the woman’s difference in opinion and belief. Unfortunately, I’ve known quite a few people who are sponsors that completely misunderstand the part about it being something of our own understanding. It’s never required for anyone to understand or accept my concept of anything, it’s only suggested that I find something.

My first sponsor laid a great foundation for me. When I was struggling early on, he made it very simple. “Did you ever drink when you really didn’t want to?”. “Yes.”, I replied. “So, in those situations wasn’t alcohol a power greater than yourself?”. When I could understand that alcohol had been a power greater than me for years it was much easier to accept that many other things are also powers greater than me. That was the start of what was a much- needed relief from feeling as though I was responsible for carrying the weight of everything in my world. It was the start of me being able to find acceptance with life and THAT is how I can turn it over.

I try my best to attend mostly secular meetings these days. The biggest reason is the overwhelming acceptance I seem to find at them. There is much less judgement (or maybe it’s just less need to express that judgement) at these types of meetings around me. It seems that the majority of typical meetings in my area are full of people who feel compelled to throw around unsolicited advice and admonish anything that might break with their view of anything. Don’t get me wrong. The overwhelming majority of people I know in the rooms are good, kind, loving, compassionate people that love to see others keep coming back and succeed by whatever metric they decide is most important on any given day. And I try my best to not let one bad apple spoil the bunch, but those few apples have a way of turning up. On most days it’s best for my mental health to surround myself with people at secular meetings who find their serenity in the journey they choose to take and understand that happiness can be a state of mind without needing to corrupt someone else’s joy in the process.

I still find myself wanting to argue with people who find their superiority in explaining to me why I’m wrong about my time or about my belief or about my program, but when I don’t respond and I don’t allow their rigidity to break my flexibility, I get a bit more understanding of exactly why my understanding works exactly how it does for me. Knowing that a disease can’t talk to me or do push-ups in the parking lot, but in actuality is simply my brain operating more from the limbic system and less from the cortex, brings me a sense of serenity and peace. Knowing that we all have the ability to move our thoughts more into the cortex and more into reasoning and understanding helps me move closer to my higher self and further away from a drink. And isn’t that the point in all of this? Trying to be a bit better every day no matter what we call it. I use the method that works best for me and has helped me stay sober for 1,620 days out of the last 1,662 and not loaded for all 1,662 like the decades before my journey started.

I’m extremely grateful to AA for showing me that I have areas of my life that need addressing and correcting, but also for showing me that all of me is not bad. I have shining areas that can be helpful to others and myself when I choose to work on those areas just as much as the ones that fall short. AA helped me see that I am worth the effort and every day is an opportunity. As long as I wake up the rest is a bonus.

About the Author, Rob L.

I’ve been a member of A.A. since 2015. Three sponsors, thousands of meetings, dozens of books and pamphlets, years of catholic school, and decades of alcohol and drugs have all formed my path to where I am today. An understanding of the brain and how we develop the spiritual experience (personality change) has been life changing.

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First time in a detox was 1983; I left my 4 young children with my ex ON CHRISTMAS DAYso I could go drink …they didn’t have no booze store open then…so went to my drug dealer :then ended up going into the hospital /—figured that would be a good excuse——( I found it was a good reason)/ because I have a FATAL … long life ..” disease. I didn’t stay sober, thumbed to bar In next state. 1983… my second detox didn’t want to take me they said “WILL you go to any lengths to stay sober”” and “I said… Read more »


Rob thank you very much for your story here. It’s a very important point you’ve made. My truth: I walked into an AA meeting in 1990. I had a short relapse in 2000 but make no mistake, my recovery began in 1990. I have tangled with many religious AA “experts” who push a religious dogma on me and others generally. Where they get the idea that their opinions are the “real” AA has been (and is) a never ending supply of utter bullshit that I take great pleasure in blowing out of the discussion using science and modern medicine that… Read more »


I’m with you Jack, let’s keep going to regular meetings, so the newcomers will know we are here


Yes absolutely. And thanks for your comment. The newcomers who are agnostic/atheist are rarely found at secular meetings. Traditional meetings, particularly those that include a religious prayer, are where the secular members of AA are most needed. There are many meetings where any mention of secularity is disallowed. If you are a secular member and you DO speak up at religious meetings, by all means speak up! But be aware that you may get some angry feedback. My response to that is to turn my back and walk away. A struggling newcomer is always more important than a loud dogmatist.

Thomas B.
Thomas B.

“I’ve been in recovery since October of 1972 . . .” is how I sometimes identify myself. Most frequently, I say, “I’m grateful for experiencing another 24-hour period of our daily reprieve.” I’ve been successfully sober for many years, but I don’t want to ever consider myself cured — this is why I make the statement about being grateful for experiencing another 24-hour period of sobriety — in truth, that’s all I ever have . . .


Rob, thanks for this. I get several topics from it. One this whole thing about ‘having time’ – which can be an encouragement for people who “have” it, but it is in most cases an even greater discouragement for people who “lost” their time. It could be ok, if not so much hullabaloo was attached to it. It’s fine people are clapping for the person who just got a 7 month chip, but there is someone in the room who just lost theirs, already feeling shitty about it who is now going to feel truly shitty, and what’s the use… Read more »

marty nieski
marty nieski

We do not forget what we learned in sober times however, we must figure out where we went wrong.


Yes absolutely!
If a religious extremist starts telling a newbie that a relapse is fatal doom then it’s no surprise that so many newcomers who relapse are scared about the tut-tutting bullshit they might receive upon coming back.
There is something to learn from a relapse. There is nothing to be learned from a
religious, judgemental extremeist.