Episode 146: Starting a Secular AA Meeting Live Stream

John talks about starting a secular AA meeting from his own experience as well as what he has learned from others. After defining what makes an AA meeting “secular”, he talks about why you might want to start a meeting, and how to go about finding a meeting place and getting the group registered with GSO. 

Topics covered include: 

  • What makes an AA meeting secular. 
  • Reasons for starting a secular AA meeting. 
  • The difference between an AA group and an AA meeting.
  • Deciding on whether your meting should be open or closed and the difference between the two. 
  • What to call your meeting. 
  • How to find a co-founder. 
  • Locating a meeting space. 
  • Meeting formats.
  • Secular literature. 
  • What to do about the Twelve Steps. 
  • Registering with GSO. 
  • Getting involved with the greater fellowship of AA. 
  • Potential problems and how to handle them. 

Transcript

00:00 John S: AA Beyond Belief is a podcast for by and about people who have found a secular path to sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous.

 [music]

00:27 John S: Hello, and welcome to our second live stream, this is episode 146. I do believe, and I thought today, we might talk about starting a secular AA meeting actually it would apply to start an AA meeting, but since we are looking at starting secular meetings that might be what we want to talk about. And I hope that this is more of a conversation than just me chatting because I think that there’s a lot of experience out there and if you would share it with us, you can call in at 844-899-8278. I thought that what I would do is I would just speak for maybe about 30 minutes or so to share my experience with starting a secular meeting, and what I learned from doing that and what I’ve learned from other people. And then we’ll open up the phone lines for you to call in and you can ask questions about what you might have about starting, a meeting or just talk about your experience doing that. So I thought a good place to begin is talking about what a secular AA meeting, is anyway, and bear in mind that a lot of this that you’re going to hear is just are my ideas, my opinions, and you might feel differently about some of the stuff, but a secular AA meeting for me, is lower case ‘s’ in the secular and that it’s not something outside of Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s not that you have AA and you have secular AA. It’s an AA meeting with a secular format, it’s a secularly formatted AA meeting, it’s a secular meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.

02:06 John S: These groups have been around for a long time, as you know, many of you may know, starting back in 1975 and they were called agnostic groups for the longest time, and they’re really weren’t that many of them, but there were quite a few around the world they started, and like I said, in Chicago, and then the first group that called itself, We Agnostics was in Hollywood, California, then we had a group starting up in New York, Washington DC, Florida Austin, Texas. These are some of the areas where you had a lot of these groups a lot of them started using the name “We Agnostics” and then in 2014, we had a conference in Santa Monica, Californi, called the We Agnostics Freethinkers International AA Convention. 

02:57 John S: And from that convention, we started referring to these meetings as WAFT meetings or as agnostic meetings. Anyway, long story short, we had a conference in Austin, Texas and we decided to change the name of the conference from “We Agnostics, Atheists, international… “We Agnostics Atheists and Freethinkers International AA Conference” to the International Conference of Secular AA, and we started referring to our meetings as secular. The idea being that a secular referring to it as secular is a little more inclusive, you’re not just defining it narrowly by the belief system of the people who go there anyway long way to put that. But these are special-purpose AA groups in my opinion, they’re just like, LGBTQ meetings, young people’s meetings medical professional meetings, they’re special purpose meetings of AA. Ed W wrote an article for AA Beyond Belief some time ago, called Agnostic AA 101 and in that article, he listed three criteria that these meetings seem to have in common. And I thought it was a really good article and he did a good job explaining this, but this is how he describes a secular AA meeting. These meetings have a tradition of free expression, “There are no prayers during the meeting and the meetings de-emphasize traditional, God-based AA literature. 

04:22 John S: Now, that third point, I think actually just come naturally for our group and I think it comes natural for a lot of our groups that it’s the literature it’s the original literature that may have driven some of us away from some of the original meetings anyway because the big book doesn’t really seem to apply to us in some degree and the other literature as well doesn’t have a lot of great things to say about non-believers. So we do de-emphasize those books. So that’s my idea of what a secular AA meeting, is altogether. Now, there’s a good reason for starting a meeting like this. There’s a lot of good reasons, but I think that most of us do it because we might not have been feeling comfortable in our regular AA groups. That was the situation with me. I’ve shared my story many times but I’d been going to AA for a long time, some 25 years at this group before I started coming out as an atheist and as I was talking about the program in a more secular way I didn’t really feel like it was that well-accepted or received by the people I was in the meetings with. 

05:39 John S: I felt like I was walking on eggshells around these people and I didn’t feel comfortable. So I asked a friend of mine, the only other atheist I knew if he would like to start a meeting with me for Agnostics and Atheists he said he would, and that’s what we did. So I think that’s how a lot of these meetings start. They always say that a new AA meeting starts with resentment and a coffee pot. So I wouldn’t say that I was resentful but I had a reason for starting a meeting, If I was going to stay in AA I was going to have to have a secular AA meeting because I could no longer tolerate the regular meetings. So that’s a good reason for starting it right there in your own sobriety, by doing this it allowed me to remain part of the AA fellowship and I also found it and do still find it a very rewarding experience. I think the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had in my sobriety has been helping get a secular AA meeting started these secular meetings I believe are more inclusive in that we aren’t making anybody feel uncomfortable with their belief system without the praying and so forth, so there’s a real need for that. 

06:52 John S: There are a lot of people out there who are just put off by the overtly, religious tone, of a lot of AA meetings. Many people won’t even go to an AA meeting, to begin with, because they already have the idea in their head, right or wrong, that it is religious, and they just won’t have anything to do with it, but people are desperate, they want to support with their sobriety, and they start Googling for secular AA, or AA for atheists and those people find us, those are the people that a lot of those types of people were coming to my group when we started. These are people that just would not go to any other type of AA meeting, then you have people who have had a bad experience in AA and stopped going. We’ve had people show up at our group that, Oh gosh, they’ve been in AA for 20 years or whatever, but stopped going because they felt like they were driven out because of the religiosity and then when they heard about our group, they were really happy about it and started coming again. You have people also out there, and we’ve had some of these in our group who have been traumatized by religion, and just hearing the God-talk can be traumatic for some people. 

08:07 John S: I’m thinking of one woman in particular, who came to our group who grew up in a very religious household, and she had a bad experience with religion, and so she was coming to our group, she couldn’t tolerate other groups, but what was funny about that is she ended up feeling comfortable in other groups and her, that’s where she goes, anyway, so there’s a good reason for starting these meetings. So once you decide, “I think that you want to start a meeting because you feel that you don’t have a home, in AA and you know that there are people out there that would benefit from it, then you want to decide whether or not you should have a group or a meeting and there is a difference. 

08:54 John S: An AA group exists outside of the meeting, an AA group might be involved in service. It could be doing 12 step work it exists outside of the meetings and an AA group would have perhaps multiple meetings within the group. There’s more responsibility I think that comes with being a group. When you start a group, you want to make sure that it’s the group that operates itself that governs itself. So you wanted to really think this through, I guess, if you have a meeting and I’ve seen some people just start off as a meeting and then become a group and the advantage of that you can be a meeting and you don’t have to have group conscience to decide, have a meeting is run, you can run the meeting, however, you want. And I know that Bob K did this with the Whitby Group, the Whitby Freethinkers group, he started it off as a meeting because he didn’t want it, a group conscience to turn it into a religious meeting I guess, so he had it going the way that he wanted it and the other co-founder, and then later on it became a group. 

10:06 John S: So this is some things to think about, there are advantages to be in a group and there are advantages to be in a meeting. We chose to be a group and from the very beginning, we started having business meetings, so the group could run its own way of having meetings. So now you decided that you want to have a meeting because you’re not comfortable in AA, you know that there are people out there that are like you and you decide that you’re going to have a group. So now you need to decide if you’re going to have open meetings or closed meetings. And this is really interesting, I find because what I have learned is, I don’t think anybody outside of AA, understands that terminology. 

10:55 John S: And one of the problems with having your meeting listed as closed is people who aren’t familiar with that, they see closed and they think you’re not open for business, they think they can’t go, they think it’s closed and it’s very confusing. It’s not really welcoming, it’s not a welcoming word if you want someone to come to your place, putting the closed sign on there, isn’t really a good way to get them interested. So it causes people to question. Can I really go to that meeting? It says it’s closed. They just don’t get it. But a good reason for having a closed meeting, I suppose, is if you’re concerned, and this is why we started our meetings as closed. I was concerned that I didn’t want it to become something other than an AA group, I didn’t want it to become a club for an atheist, I wanted to make sure that it was there for people with a desire to stop drinking. And I see, I had an experience with a group in Kansas City, Kansas, that opened its meetings up to the neighborhood. And what happened is, it became a community center more than an AA meeting, there were just people there of all sorts who didn’t really have drinking problems or have any desire to stop drinking but they were open meetings and anyway, that group ended up folding and I remember going to these meetings and I thought they were crazy. 

12:11 John S: So I had that memory in my brain, and I thought I don’t want that to happen to my group, so I wanted these meetings to be closed. Ultimately, what I have found for myself, is it’s not that big of a deal, whether the meeting is open or closed, and here’s why. Nobody… Very few people are going to go to an AA meeting who don’t have a reason to go. I mean, people just don’t go to AA meetings because they’re curious or it’s fun, I don’t see that as a problem. So the people that go to an AA meeting either think they might have a drinking problem or they know they have a drinking problem? And they want to check it out, that’s basically why they’re going. But you’ll also have people who will go to a meeting just to support a loved one and that’s a good reason for your meeting to be open. That happens more and more. I see someone might bring their wife, to their first meeting someone might bring a good friend. I’m a parent.

 13:12 John S: I’ve even had parents call to say they’d like to check the meeting out before they recommend it to their son or daughter. So there’s a good reason to have open meetings too, what we’ve done in at our groups in Kansas City, we have… Some open and some closed meetings, but those closed meetings, if anybody were to show up, we’re very welcoming. You never want to be in this position where you start quizzing people as to whether or not they should be there, especially if you’re going to use the AA language. Like do you have a desire to stop drinking? That’s people don’t talk that way and they probably don’t have a desire to stop drinking, they just know they need to. So just, I don’t think it’s a big deal. So I’m at the point where I think an open meeting is probably a good way to go, but if you have concerns that your meeting is going to be overrun with people who aren’t alcoholics, then maybe closed is the way to go. And also when you talk about that, that whole, there’s a problem right now I think in AA where there are people that are fanatical about our primary purpose or singleness of purpose and they think that drug addicts, can’t go to meetings. But that’s not true, you can have other problems besides alcohol, and be a member of AA. 

14:28 John S: You don’t even have to have a problem to tackle, all you have to have is a desire to stop drinking, that’s all it takes. And if you have a problem with drugs and, you know, that not drinking is an important part of your recovery from your drug addiction, then you have a right to be an AA member, because you have a desire to stop drinking. So, anyway, but what I have found long and short and I’m talking about this a little bit too long, is it’s very rare to find somebody in an AA meeting who doesn’t belong. And I say to that you want to figure out what to call your group. And we decided to call ours We Agnostics because we wanted to have agnostic in the name so that people knew it was an agnostic meeting we were afraid that we wouldn’t be welcomed in our community that turned out to be not true. We just want people to be able to find us and that’s actually why a lot of these groups call themselves… We agnostics or Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers or freethinkers or whatever they have that name, they have that in their group name as sort of code just to let people know that this is a different type of a meeting, it’s a secular meeting. You’re not going to be praying, here. 

15:36 John S: So a lot of people put that in their name. I think it’s becoming less important now because I think that these meetings are becoming more accepted in the greater AA community. Most inner groups and places that list AA meetings will have the designation secular to let people know that that’s a meeting that you can go to and not expect to be praying and so forth. So it’s not probably as important what you can call your groups. Now I see a lot of new groups coming up with names that don’t have atheists or agnostic or free-thinker in the title. So I think that another important thing about starting a group is that you have someone to help you. I had just one person, me and Jim, and it was really important because I knew that eventually there was going to be something someday when I wouldn’t be able to go to the meeting and you always want to be able to have someone there to make sure that the door is open for the person who shows up. 

16:37 John S: So Jim and I did that if there was ever a situation where I couldn’t be there, I knew Jim would be there, and if there was ever a case that Jim couldn’t be there, he knew that I would be there. We were really fortunate that shortly after we started, we had a core group of four or five of us that would make sure that that meeting would be there, for anyone who would show up and really in no time at all, Jim and I got to where we didn’t really have to go to meetings if we didn’t want to, but it’s good to have one or two or three or four people help you start the meeting. But if you can’t find more than just one person, I think one person is enough, just make sure that the two of you can commit to being there to be there for people. If you don’t know of anybody to start a meeting with, there’s a couple of ways you can find them if you speak openly, at meetings and sometimes, this could be hard to do, but if you can come out openly as an atheist or agnostic or, however you want to define yourself as a non-believer a secular person, if you come out openly in your meetings, you might find someone else do the same and maybe the two of you could get together and start a meeting or three or four of you, you can also, check out on social media. 

17:50 John S: There are a lot of secular AA group secret Facebook groups. For example, we have one for AA Beyond Belief. You got the secular AA Coffeeshop, you got atheists, agnostics in AA you’ve got… Oh gosh, Dale’s Group, A secular sobriety, you’ve got all kinds of different private Facebook groups, that you can join and meet people from all over the world. You might meet someone in your own community that can start a meeting with you. You can also write the secular AA website. They used to have a service that would hook people up with each other. But if you contact the secular AA website the webmaster or whoever, at secularaa.org they might also be able to help you. So those are just some ideas of how to find people, but you definitely need somebody more than just yourself. Then finding a meeting space. This is interesting because most of our meetings, meet in churches and some people think that that’s weird, I don’t find it so, a lot of our meetings, meet in Unitarian Universalist churches, that’s where our group meets and we’re very welcome there. The rent is reasonable for us, we pay $20 a meeting. 

19:10 John S: And by the way, I think it’s important that you pay rent. If someone offers it for free at least tell them that you would like to make donations on a regular basis from whatever you’re able to have donated from the basket. But it’s important to be self-supporting just I think, so you want to have a space that you can afford, and a lot of churches are very affordable. The Freethinkers group in Kansas City, they meet in an Episcopal church, and that church is very welcoming to them, so… But another one of our meetings meets at a hospital. Hospitals are also good, they have rooms that they can rent. Sometimes they’re a little bit pricey and if it’s a big hospital, sometimes the bureaucracy is kind of crazy, to get someone to actually talk to you about renting the space. The meeting that we have at the KU Medical Center, it’s kind of funny, we were actually squatters for the longest time because we could never get anybody from a hospital to actually tell us that we could actually meet there, but eventually, we did get that. I don’t know, so that’s kind of interesting. There are groups that meet in Alano Clubs. And if you just have a meeting, an Alano Club could be a good answer. 

20:17 John S: The group in St. Louis, Missouri, they meet in a beautiful Alano Club. If you’re ever in St. Louis, you should check out the secular meeting there, the We Agnostics group in St. Louis. It’s a really cool place. Office buildings, a lot of groups in Kan City used to meet in the office buildings and in storefronts, but that’s less common now, and I think that’s because real estate is a little bit more valuable now than it used to be, and it’s not so easy to afford that kind of spaces. But that’s just to give you an idea where you can meet. But a lot of us do meet in churches and the Unitarian Universalist churches are good options. If you know of any other ideas call in and talk about that. And how to run the meeting. The Secular AA website used to have these meeting formats, from different groups that you could follow. I’ve got some and I will upload those on AA Beyond Belief because I don’t think that they’re on the Secular AA website right now. But basically, our group keeps it very simple. So we just open up with reading the AA preamble. We don’t have a moment of silence or anything like that, we just open up with reading the AA preamble. We don’t read any steps, anything, we just read the preamble. Then we welcome everybody and then we introduce the topic. 

21:33 John S: Most of our meetings are topic meetings and nowadays what we do is the person who’s chairing the meeting, introduces a topic, they might talk for five, 10 minutes, whatever, about whatever a topic they want to discuss, and then we go around the room. So that’s mainly what we have, are those discussion meetings, and then we close the meeting just by thanking people for attending and that’s it. We don’t do any kind of ceremony at all, we don’t do any recitation of anything, we just say, “Thanks, the meeting’s over.” And then we start talking and chatting. The discussion meetings that we have are round-robin style. Where one person speaks at a time, you go in order, and I like that because I’m… Believe it or not, I’m actually an introvert and if I’m at one of these popcorn-style meetings I will never say anything. But I know, in other parts of the country, the popcorn style where you raise your hand or you jump in there, that seems to be more in fashion, so you could do it either way. So those are discussion meetings. You can also have speaker meetings. I love speaker meetings. 

22:38 John S: We had one going for a little while. The problem that we ran into though, is we didn’t have enough speakers. There’s probably less than 100 of us, and a lot of us haven’t really been sober for that long and weren’t comfortable speaking, so we didn’t really do well with our speaker meeting. We have a step meeting, which is interesting. You can use any kind of book you want to use for your meetings. We use alternative literature, there’s plenty of secular literature that talks about the steps, and that’s what we use at our step meeting. Our group doesn’t make a big deal about the steps, and I’ll talk about that a little bit later, but you can certainly have those types of meetings as well. So talking about books, you don’t necessarily have to have books at your meeting, but you can have whatever book you want. Don’t believe this stuff that you can only have conference-approved literature. You can have any kind of book you want and there are some good ones out there. If you’re just looking for daily reading to have to introduce a topic, one good book is Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life, by Joe C. It’s an excellent, excellent book. 

23:49 John S: He starts off with a quote from somebody famous in history, and then he relates that to recovery, in some way, through his own writing. It’s really, really a well-done book. Another book that our group used for a while, which is about 90% secular, is a Walk in Dry Places, which is a Hazelden book. And I like it because the readings are kind of short and concise, and as I say, most of the readings are secular. No mention of spirituality, God, or any of that. Those that do have mention of God or higher power, you can just leave that part out, and it’s completely secular. So that book has actually worked out pretty well for us. Or you can just avoid those ones altogether, but that’s actually turned out to be a pretty good book for us. Living Sober, not real popular with my group, to be honest with you, but I hear that a lot of secular groups like Living Sober because it’s a very practical book, it’s an AA World Services publication. It’s secular, so people do like it for that reason. We actually, when our group was starting, we had a Living Sober meeting, where we had read from the book and talk about it, but believe it or not, the book really wasn’t that popular amongst us, so anyway. 

25:05 John S: The Twelve Secular Steps by Bill W, Staying Sober Without God by Jeffrey Munn, The Proactive Twelve Steps, you might not have heard of that, that’s by Serge Prengel. It’s actually a free PDF but you can actually also buy a paperback on Amazon. But it’s really a good book. He takes a very practical approach to the steps, and what’s so interesting about it is Serge is not an alcoholic. He is a life coach and a therapist, and he found that the 12 Steps are a great way to help people get unstuck. So his approach is to use the steps as a way to get unstuck from whatever behavior you’re engaging in, and it’s really, really, really well done. He also has a YouTube channel with a lot of good videos. The Alternative 12 step A Secular Guide, a real, real, a popular. My co-host Angela, on our step meetings, talks about that book a lot. That’s what she used. I’ve been told that whenever she goes to a meeting she usually has that book with her. We’re actually reading that now, at our step meeting in Kansas City. I like it, it’s a good book. It does have kind of a spiritual approach, but that’s okay for some people, and I’m not that spiritual myself, but I can tolerate it and it’s good to know the language anyway because some people relate to that kind of stuff. So… It’s a good book, it’s got some good stuff in there. 

26:25 John S: Oh, gosh, A Freethinker in Alcoholics Anonymous by John Lauritsen. That’s the… Our freethinker group in Kansas City took its name from that book. They liked it so much. A Secular Sobriety by Dale K. That’s a take… That’s a secular interpretation of the Big Book. Archer Voxx did the same thing with Alcoholics Anonymous, Universal Edition. He also wrote a good book called The Five Keys, where he kind of takes the principles of the 12 steps and puts them in these five key categories, which is pretty good. A book… I’m almost done. [chuckle] A book that was really popular with our group for a while was Marya Hornbacher’s, Waiting: A Nonbeliever’s Higher Power. She writes so well, and the book addresses the steps in a very kind of a… A real gentle way, and it’s just a joy to read. And a lot of… It was just really popular in our group for a long time. We would be talking about that book a lot. Do Tell and Don’t Tell, you can find those books on AA Agnostica. Those are just basically stories of atheists and agnostics in AA. So there’s a lot of literature out there. Go to the AA Agnostica website, to their literature page, and you’ll see it. You can just Google “Agnostic AA literature” if [chuckle] you want, you’ll find it. Go to Amazon, it’s just… It’s easy to find, lots of it available. 

27:55 John S: Now I’m almost done. And the last subject that I want to talk about, I guess is what to do about the 12 Steps. This is interesting. Our group, as I said, doesn’t make a big deal about the 12 Steps. When we first started the group, Jim and I thought that we were going to have our own version of the steps and post them, make a sign, and I wrote up a version of the steps that we both liked. But ultimately, we looked at each other and we said, “Who are we to say what the steps should mean for other people?” So what we did, we just hung up the original 12 Steps, and we let people decide for themselves how they want to interpret them, and that’s what people did. And we would have people that would write their own steps, bring them into the group, and we created a little notebook binder that… Where we would save them. So that’s what we did, but we don’t really make a big deal of the steps, we don’t actually display them anymore. And ironically… Well, not ironically, but what’s funny about that is… Or interesting about that is we used to hang the… We hung the steps up all the time and then we stopped. We just… We had different people leaving the meetings, and they forgot to do it. And then one day, I put them up again. And people were shocked, they hated it, they hated the… [chuckle] They didn’t like to see God and all the male-oriented language. So we don’t display the steps, they’re too offensive, [chuckle] so anyway. 

29:25 John S: So you know, do what you want. There are groups, I think the Beyond Belief group in Toronto, they actually read their version of the steps and I think they change them as time goes on. So you can do that if you want to if your group wants to write their own steps, you can absolutely do that, it could be a fun exercise. But you’re free to do whatever you want to. What we do is we just don’t make a big deal out of it. We do have a step meeting and we do read alternative literature when we talk about the steps. Okay. To close I want to talk about something that’s, I think, very important. If you’re going to have an AA group, be sure to register it with the General Service Office in New York. And I’ll post a link to the New Group form that you would fill out, and you can email it to them. But you should be meeting for 30 days before you send the form in because they want to make sure that you’ve been… You’re a going concern, that you’re not going to just stop meeting and they’re going to list you as an AA group. So make sure you’re a going concern for 30 days and then register. What that will do, you know, you can be an AA group without registering. 

30:34 John S: But by registering they’re going to have you… They’re going to give you a group number, they’re going to inform the area that a new group is in the area, they’re going to send you some information, some pamphlets, and they’ll give you the Service Manual, and it’s just a good way to get you… Get your group plugged into the greater AA community. If you want to be an AA group, if you want to be part of Alcoholics Anonymous, registering with the GSO is a good idea. Then, you might want your group to get involved with the Service within AA. Our group was in the beginning but is less so now, but we are very involved with each other, we have our business meetings on a quarterly basis, and we have social gatherings within the group on a regular basis. Some of the members have gone out to other groups together and things like that. There was a time when there were a few of us that were interested in going to the district and representing our group as the General Service Representative, going to the Area Assembly, doing things like that. Being involved with the Intergroup, I still help our Intergroup out by answering phones, but those are just nice ways to get involved. 

31:58 John S: And I guess the benefit of doing that is if people are suspicious or not so sure about you… You Heathens meeting as an AA group, by interacting with other AA members it kind of normalizes the whole Secular AA thing. That’s kind of what happened, I think, here in Kansas City. It just seems like it’s so normal. Nobody really cares that we don’t pray at our meetings. So getting involved with General Service is a good idea, going to state conventions, and getting involved with the state conventions and round-ups, having functions with other groups. These are all great things that you can do, by getting involved with the greater community. And now, potential problems that you could have. These are less likely, and one problem that you might possibly have, but it’s very unlikely anymore. Maybe your district or your Intergroup won’t list your meeting, because they don’t want a secular meeting. That’s kind of what they do in Denver, Colorado right now. If that happens, it’s really not a big deal. What I would recommend that you do anyway, is that you build your own website for your group, and you add some keywords in that website. Atheist AA, Freethinker AA, Agnostic AA. It could just be a one-page site that tells the world what time you meet, and where you meet, and a little blurb about your book… Your group. 

33:21 John S: And the reason that you want to do that is, the way that people find things now is obviously through Google. They’re not going to go to the AA website and search for an agnostic AA group. They’re going to go to Google and they’re going to search for “Agnostic groups in Baltimore”, “AA for an atheist in Tuscaloosa.” Do you know? And then, if there is such a group in those cities, Google will tell them. So you have to have a website for Google to find you, and it’s really easy and cheap to have a website, it’s not anything difficult or complicated at all. So look into doing that. Our group did that. We have our own website, weagnosticsaa.org. And that has helped tremendously. Early on, and probably still today, most of the people who learn about our group learn about us from our own website. Okay? So if our district didn’t list our meetings, if our Intergroup didn’t list our meetings, it wouldn’t matter. Because most people find us from our own website anyway, so just do that. But more than likely, you’re not going to have that problem, you just aren’t going to have that problem. 

34:37 John S: If you do have it, it’s probably not a big deal. The best way, I think, to combat it is just a good citizen of AA, and do your service thing, and be involved, let people get to know you, and see what happens from there. Easier said than done, I know, but, you know, the only other option is you can complain to GSO, but they’re not going to do anything. You can go to your area and maybe the delegate, tell them about it. They might be willing to help out, but for the most part, if you have just idiots that don’t want to list your meeting, there’s not a lot you can do about it. But the good thing about it is there’s rotation in AA, so the idiots will leave and another group will come in that will say, “Oh, nice little problems.” So… And that’s another episode of AA Beyond Belief. Thank you so much for listening. If you would like to help out our site and podcast, there’s a couple of things you can do. First of all, go over to iTunes and leave us a review. Hopefully, a favorable one. You can also help out financially, with either a recurring or one-time contribution. You can do that by setting up small recurring donations at our Patreon page, at patreon.com/aabeyondbelief, or through PayPal at PayPal.me/aabeyondbelief, and you can always visit our site aabeyondbelief.org, and click on the “Donate” button. Thanks again for listening, we’ll be back again real soon with another episode of AA Beyond Belief, the podcast.


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Marty Nieski
Marty Nieski
9 months ago

John, Thanks for the article. We here in Connecticut simply pay very little attention to the steps. {They are suggested I’m told}] We feel that most people in AA will eventually do some of those things just by being sober for a while and becoming responsible. Let ’em sort it out themselves. We see so damn many alternate steps that we feel secular AA may be doing the same thing other AA does. We rely more on fellowship and encouragement than anything else. Let’s keep it simple. Thanks