I Wanted To Believe

Times it was/is hard to be an agnostic in Alcoholics Anonymous. Between all of the ‘let go and let gods’, ‘ask god to remove all of these defects of character’ and ‘came to believes’ I tried to find a place where I could be true to me, only to hear ‘fake it till you make it’.

Chapter 4 was not the help that I naively assumed it would be. I was desperate to get sober and find a way to stay sober, and I felt that AA’s essence of alcoholics helping alcoholics might work, but I feared that I was going to have to live another lie to fit in. Learning to be honest with myself and others was a prerequisite for me that I feared I could never meet. For you see, I had learned to lie about the most fundamental of things – Who am I? What do I believe? What matters to me? – and the most mundane of things – Is that a new book? Did you pay the _____ bill? Did you talk to _____ about _____ yet?

Secular AA has been a refuge where I speak what is true for me and listen without filters to what is true for others. And now, secular AA is also a bridge for me to feel okay about me in AA more broadly. I found a voice in secular AA that I can use in other AA meetings, maybe even in ‘all (most) of my affairs’. The irony that I still remember John 8:32 KJV “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” was not lost on me then nor is it lost on me now.


I wanted to believe
And oh how I did try
I thought your god
Was mine until one day
What you told me
To believe no longer
Made sense to me
It wouldn’t fit into
Any box I could make
That would hold
All that we know today
I felt such shame
Because I once had faith
And thus I hid my doubts
From those closest to me
To hide the truth
A child of eight
Become boy and man
Pretending to believe
Learning to live a lie


Behind many masks
I’ve hidden my fear
Childhood angst
Buried in sinew and bone
I lacked courage
To be me the me
I wouldn’t let you see
For fear I’d lose your love
And then what oh what
Would become of me
A child lost too young
To survive on my own
Like a stray puppy or cat
Abandoned in a box
By the side of a lonely road
And so rather than be me
I began to lose my voice
And became a me I thought
You needed me be
An actor in a play
Playing my part
On life’s stage
Until I realized one day
The playwright was me


I create the facade
Piece by piece
Brick by brick
And behind it
It is here that
I oft do hide
A refuge I thought
But it is a prison
That I have made
Keeping me from you
And keeping you from me
A prison made of lies

About the Author

Robert B. is a sober alcoholic in Madison, WI participating in AA and AlAnon at Fitchburg Serenity Club. He has been sober since April 21, 2007. He also began writing and sharing poetry on Facebook during his first year sober as part of his recovery from alcohol dependency, acute anxiety and chronic depression. He has found that creativity expressed primarily through writing poetry and playing various stringed instruments helped him heal and thrive.

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Robert B
Robert B
1 year ago

It’s interesting to me that I’ve now written and shared thousands of poems publicly on Facebook. These however, I have not, still sometimes hiding behind masks that I put on for family of origin and friends of my family of origin. In part, I don’t want to risk offending them. In part, I don’t want them to think certain things about me. Yet, here, I feel completely comfortable. At least sober, I am aware when I’m wearing masks, and sober, I have community of those that I don’t feel a need to pretend.

Murray J.
Murray J.
1 year ago

Spot on! Thank you. In verse you told my story. Beautiful!

Robert B
Robert B
1 year ago
Reply to  Murray J.

Thank you.

Deb Thompson
Deb Thompson
1 year ago

I’m so glad that you found your poetry, music and Freethinkers group in sobriety and the strength to share your sober self with us, Robert.

Robert B
Robert B
1 year ago
Reply to  Deb Thompson

You’re welcome and thank you.