SOAAR 2019 Was Enormously Successful

The second biennial Secular Ontario AA Roundup was held at the First Unitarian Church in Hamilton, Ontario on September 7, 2019. The committee who put the conference together did an amazing job, and everything went smoothly. All of the panels were interesting and well-presented.

The conference began with opening remarks by Joe C., from the Beyond Belief Group in Toronto. Joe had just returned from the Recovery Capital Conference in British Columbia, and he had some interesting observations about the conference. He questioned the idea that the opposite of addiction is human connection. After all, weren’t we socializing as drug addicts and alcoholics?  

After Joe spoke, those who wished to introduce themselves were given the opportunity. There were people from all over Ontario, from other provinces in Canada, and also from the United States. As people introduced themselves, they also identified an asset to their recovery. These assets included websites, podcasts, meetings, fellow alcoholics, and more. After a fifteen minute break, the panels began.

The topic of the first panel was about spirituality in recovery and featured Dr. Vera Tarman and Dr. Conrad Sichler. This was an interesting discussion centering around the science behind addiction and how practices often labeled as “spiritual” can assist with recovery. Dr. Sichler made an interesting comment that the current science does not support the wide use of antidepressants, and the pharmacological industry has been promoting their use despite the lack of evidence of their efficacy.

Jowita Bydlowska, author of Drunk Mom, Jeffrey Munn, author of Staying Sober Without God, and Thomas B., author of Each Breath a Gift, spoke about Step Four. All agreed that the word “moral” needed to be eliminated from one’s thinking when working this step. Each of the panelists shared their experience with the step and took questions afterward.

After returning from lunch, there was a panel on General Service. The presenters included Jim W, former Delegate for Area 86 and former Chair of the Hamilton AA Central Office, Richard B, past Eastern Canada Trustee on the General Service Board, Dale S, current Delegate for Area 86 and Anna P, current DCM for downtown Hamilton, District 10. Anna’s story about how service aided her recovery was most inspiring.

The Mindfulness in Meditation panel presented by Dr. Sichler and Heather C. featured actual meditation and discussion about the experience.

Jeffrey Munn and I participated in the panel titled The Practical Steps. Jeffrey talked about the steps as he understood them and wrote about in his book Staying Sober Without God, and I shared my experience with the steps since I was first introduced to them, and I spoke about how my understanding and appreciation of them has evolved over the years.

The final panel of the day highlighted the history of secular AA groups in Ontario. Several groups participated in the sharing of their history, even a few nearby American groups who were influenced by the secular groups in Ontario. 

The conference concluded with a talk by Dr. Tarman, who recounted her struggles with addiction and her experience in recovery. Dr. Tarman is a great speaker and always has such a wonderful sense of humor about herself and everything. She did an amazing job. 

This was an incredible event. The venue was beautiful and offered ample space for people to socialize. As we were saying our goodbyes to old friends, a business meeting was taking place to determine the location of the next SOAAR. Those details will be released in the near future.

The entire event was recorded and the audio will be made available on the audio page at AA Beyond Belief and the AA Beyond Belief YouTube channel. 

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