Episode 150: Step 12

Angela and I concluded our series on the Twelve Steps by live streaming this episode on YouTube and taking calls. Glenn G. from Jacksonville called in and talked about his work with his Area to have a secular AA workshop at the Florida State convention. It was a fun conversation fitting for this step, which as far as I’m concerned is about enjoying life. 

This is how I see Step 12 today: 

Having been sober for a period of time, my life has stabilized, and I feel that I’m a happier and healthier person. Grateful for the help that I have received, I do my best to help others and to be of service to AA, my family, and my community. 

Abstinence from alcohol, attending meetings, taking a personal inventory, working toward self-improvement, rebuilding relationships, and finding time for regular self-reflection, seemed to bring about a healthy change in my behaviors and outlook on life. Now, this is simply a way of life. It’s what I do or try to do on a regular basis. 

Transcript

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

[music]

00:28 John S: From the beautiful studios in the amazing city of Kansas City in Missouri, I am John S and I’m joined by my co-host, Angela B from our satellite location in Boise, Idaho. Angela, how are you doing? [chuckle]

00:43 Angela B: I’m good, John. How are you?

00:45 John S: I’m doing great. And so, we’ve been traveling through the 12 steps on our secular way and we have finally reached step 12.

00:55 Angela B: Oooh.

[chuckle]

01:00 John S: I know, so that means that we’ve had a spiritual awakening.

01:02 Angela B: Yeah, as the result of these steps.

01:04 John S: As a result of these steps, that’s right, and so, we try to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

01:12 Angela B: Yeah, and that’s about step 12.

01:15 John S: Yeah.

01:17 Angela B: So yeah, I looked at the alternative 12 steps in the secular guide and they pretty much say it the same way that they do practice the principles of these steps in all our affairs and carry the 12 step message to others, and they highlight that the principles for this step are commitment, self-discipline, and service to others. And that makes sense to me, that’s kind of how I understand it. Was there anything that your sponsor had you do for step 12? Like…

01:49 John S: No.

01:49 Angela B: Did you guys have a party or get down on your knees and…

01:52 John S: No, not like that.

01:52 Angela B: Hurrah?

01:53 John S: I actually, I was thinking about this, step 12, I think for me has just been a way of life and it’s just been something that has evolved over time since I’ve been sober, and I was thinking back about all the experiences that I’ve had in AA over the last 31 years, and how step 12 has kind of come into my life in different ways, and what I find interesting, I guess, I was thinking at a meeting yesterday, in fact, I was sharing at a meeting yesterday, I was in this meeting yesterday and I’m like the oldest person in the room, I’ve been sober longer than anybody, and there’s a lot of new people there, who are like within a few months sober. Maybe a year sober or whatever, they’re all starting out and they’re struggling, and I just felt so inadequate because it’s been so long since my last drink and I’m so much older than them.

02:50 John S: I just don’t see that they can relate to me. And I was just thinking about that. I just feel like my role is so different now, I just feel like, almost like a bit of a dinosaur, but [chuckle] when I think back when I was starting out, I think that some of my best work as far as on the ground with alcoholics was when I was fairly newly sober. I don’t know if this happens a lot now, but we used to get phone calls at our group and they would take us out on these actual 12 step calls, where you’d go to someone’s house. And I remember the first time I did this, I don’t even think I was a year sober and I went out to this guy’s apartment with an old-timer from the group who’s really experienced with us, and when we got to this guy’s apartment and it was a mess and everything, the guy was still drinking and I remember from reading the Big Book and everything I heard in AA and all this stuff, it was like, “Oh, don’t mess with anybody if they’re drinking, you have to wait till they’re remorseful and hungover and stuff.”

03:57 John S: Well, anyway, so this guy was just talking… My, this old-timer that I was with, he just started talking to the guy, regardless of whether or not, the guy was sitting there drinking and, I don’t know, I just remember from that experience that, okay, I guess you don’t really have to do this by the book. And I was just really blown away by the love and concern and compassion that this old-timer that I was with was showing for this person who was still drinking. And so anyway, we left that guy’s apartment and then we went out and we had lunch or something, and from that time on, me and that old-timer who went on that 12 step call had a bond for the rest of the time that I knew him in AA, and that I think is the strength of AA, I mean the strength of the 12th step.

04:46 John S: It wasn’t so much that that person that we went to visit was, got sober, I don’t know whatever happened to him, but it did strengthen my sobriety, and it strengthened my friend’s and it brought us together. So it kind of brought me even closer to another person, which was helping me. So that has always been what has been behind my approach to the 12th step. But in the early days, it was a lot of hands-on physical, carrying people to the hospital, stuff like that, whereas now it’s much more like being the old guy in the room who I guess [chuckle] shows that you can be sober and have a stable life. So…

05:28 Angela B: Right, yeah, no, I know that I needed that when I got to the rooms, I needed people that I could emulate, who had stable jobs and stable relationships, and possibly owned property and had a car that maybe was less than a decade old and…

05:49 John S: Yeah, well, that’s not me, actually, but… [chuckle]

05:50 Angela B: All that kind of stuff. [chuckle] Well, that’s why I said possibly.

05:53 John S: Right.

05:55 Angela B: Yeah, but yeah, because I was one of the people that didn’t lose everything when I was in my alcoholism, I had never achieved anything to lose, and so I still needed to learn how to achieve all of that kind of stuff and so, yeah, so I needed people that were older, as well as I, do remember a woman who was in my first home group, and she only had three months more than me, but we were kind of bonded because when I met her and heard some of her story, it wasn’t that we had the same story, it was more of a time thing, that she had made it three months and that that seemed doable. And so, if I did some of the stuff that she did, maybe I could stay sober for at least that long, but I also had my eye on people who were living lives that seemed to be what I was going for, what I wanted my life to look like when I grew up. [chuckle]

07:00 Angela B: Even though I was grown up when I got there, but yeah. So people who were balanced in life because yeah, when I got there, I really knew that I wasn’t balanced and that that’s what I was looking for. I think I phrased it as, I had family members who were able to stay sober but were still crazy, and so I was hoping that I would be able to figure out a way to stay sober and live a better life, and yeah… And so that’s kind of what’s happened for me. As far as 12 step calls, yeah, we don’t really do that.

[chuckle]

07:37 Angela B: So I know that… I’ve heard some of the older people in AA talk about it. Some of them wistfully, because I think they’ve had experiences like yours that were very meaningful to them. But in this day and age, I think it’s somewhat dangerous to be able to do that. And perhaps it was then too, but I think particularly now. And so, I don’t recommend it to people. I don’t know that I would go on one unless it was somebody that I knew and had either worked with in some way or kind of knew their situation, because yeah, safety and…

08:16 John S: Yeah. It actually started getting dangerous, too. The last… Actually, the last physical step 12… 12 step call I went on, this was a really weird one, and it wasn’t that long ago, maybe 10 years ago, or whatever. The guy… We went over to his apartment and he was talking suicide and we got in there and he had a gun on the table. I was scared to death. We got out of there, we called the police, we said, “Hey, this guy’s talking about killing himself, he’s got a gun.” And the police went over and talked to him. Which was the only thing we could do? But yeah, it is like, nowadays, I don’t know if I would do it either. I think that was the last time I’ve ever done one, and I think the last time I will do one.

09:04 Angela B: Right. Well, and the necessity of them. I think in the beginning, of course, people didn’t want to deal with alcoholics and there wasn’t anybody else, really, other than the church to try to deal with these people. But today, there is. We have places for them to go. We have professionals that can work with them and most of the time if they’re in some acute distress, that’s who should be doing the work with them and then we can be the community and the support after the…

09:38 John S: After. That’s right.

09:38 Angela B: After they’re physically stabilized because if they’re on something or extremely… Distressed mentally, there’s nothing that we could really do or that we should do. We might make the situation worse. So I generally suggest that people… Yeah, if there… Somebody calls that they know and is in that situation, to call the police or call one of the agencies that work with that more directly.

10:09 John S: Yeah, and you’re absolutely right. If you are going to work with somebody who… If you’re going to be, if you’re dealing with somebody who is coming off of alcohol, it can be of course, really dangerous and I…

10:25 Angela B: For them and for you.

10:27 John S: Yes. For the… I remember this one guy I took to the emergency room and as soon as we got there, he started having a seizure. And I don’t… Angela, I don’t know how I would have handled it if it would have happened before I got to the hospital. It was so frightening. Oh, God, I’ve just seen a lot of stuff. So, yeah, so it’s like…

10:50 Angela B: Need to do a trauma podcast right after this one to help you work through some of those.

10:56 John S: In a way, it was actually good to see all of the stuff that I saw, up close like that, because I got to see the physical aspect of alcohol, people coming off of it, going in the worst… In the worst way. And I don’t know, it just really made an impression on me and always has, that how… Just the physical nature of the addiction to alcohol, just how bad it really is.

11:25 Angela B: Well, and I could see how that would be helpful.

11:28 John S: Yeah.

11:29 Angela B: For some people, but I think that for some of us, we grew up with…

11:34 John S: True.

11:35 Angela B: That kind of an environment, and so many of us. And I think it probably depends on the age when you get to the rooms too. because I got here in my 30s, so I had seen stuff just with friends and these kinds of things and situations. So it wasn’t…

11:49 John S: You didn’t need that education.

11:51 Angela B: Yeah, it wasn’t that helpful. [chuckle] Yeah.

11:54 John S: Wow.

11:55 Angela B: But yeah. So I think that there’s a lot of factors that can come into whether that would make a difference in your sobriety or not.

12:02 John S: You are so right. I think about my friend Ben, and he would talk about how, when he was a little kid growing up and his father was a really bad alcoholic, how he would just have to clean up after his dad or his dad would be passed out in the bathroom and… God, I… I didn’t have to deal with that.

12:23 Angela B: Yeah. Yeah, all of the Al-Anon, Alateen things of, “We’re a normal family.”

12:28 John S: Yeah.

12:29 Angela B: “We’re just dragging dad in from off the front lawn, the next morning, but this is completely normal. Nothing to see here.”

12:35 John S: So, if you grow up with that, you don’t necessarily have to see that anymore.

[chuckle]

12:38 Angela B: Right, right. But again, it was helpful for your experience.

12:43 John S: It was, it was part of my experience.

12:43 Angela B: I like the… We share that. Yeah, we share that because there’s somebody who might relate more to that than they would to me. I’m hearing more and more about people who are like, “No, I had a great childhood and I still became an addict.” And it’s like, “Okay.” And so, I think all the stories need to be included so that… So the people who are out there that are listening can identify with one of them or if they do identify with one of them, they know that they’re not alone and that maybe they can get some help if that’s what they need.

13:00 John S: But this step is more than just about that, though, this is more…

13:00 Angela B: It is.

13:00 John S: It’s more than just about physically even helping alcoholics. I also see it as just service in general to my community, to my family, to AA. And not just that, but taking everything that I’ve learned in my recovery from the time I started to where I’m at now and using that for any problem that comes up in my life, that’s what step 12 is to me.

13:43 Angela B: Yeah, the thing that when I was researching and before these, we do each step I look at several different books and Joe C’s Beyond Belief 12 Step stuff and The Alternative Steps and the thing that really spoke to me this time for step 12 came out of Roger C’s The Little Book: A Collection of Alternative 12 Steps, and it was on page 44, Stephanie Covington, who wrote A Woman’s Way Through the 12 Steps, what she writes for Step 12 is, “With recovery, this can mean that we offer a straightforward explanation of the 12 steps as well as our own personal experience, how we reworked, translated, revised or otherwise molded the steps until they were relevant to us. We all have more to offer than the party line and by-the-book recitation of the steps. We can share our story in any way we like.”

14:42 Angela B: And yeah, I think that kind of sums it up for me on how I think of step 12, is that I’m sharing my story, my recovery in whatever way I can and sometimes it’s within AA and sometimes it’s within the secular AA community, some of it is doing this podcast with you, just participating in meetings, and then outside of it is trying to live in integrity that helps people as well to identify with me or they appreciate when I’m kind or offer grace in difficult situations, and all of that I think is part of the 12th step for me.

15:30 Angela B: One of the things in Joe C’s book from September 20th, he was talking about the 12th step is more of a responsibility and stuff, and he said, “When anyone anywhere reaches out for help we will not complacently hope that someone else will help,” and that made me laugh, because I honestly have sat in meetings where I didn’t want to raise my hand to sponsor or do some of the stuff that we generally do when we’re working within the 12th step, and so that made me laugh and reminded me that I’ve done that and I see other people doing that, but I think in general most people really take this seriously if they’ve gone through the steps and are willing to help other people and then it just takes some time to learn the best ways to do that and what’s effective, what’s not and boundaries and all sorts of stuff, so it’s like you get to learn all the 12 steps again in a different way when you start to sponsor.

16:38 Angela B: And that’s generally what a lot of people think of as the 12th Step is and then starting to sponsor and possibly doing more service work within the AA service structure, but really it’s doing anything where you’re sharing your experience, strength, and hope and living in your own integrity and people can see that and start to do that as well if they aren’t.

17:03 John S: Well, believe it or not, someone has actually called in and he’s been waiting for like four minutes.

17:07 Angela B: Alright, cool, yeah, great, let’s just take some calls.

17:11 John S: I’m going to get him on. Hello.

17:15 Glen G: Well, hello, fellows and ladies, it’s Glen G from sunny Atlantic Beach, Florida.

17:21 John S: Oh, hey, Glen, how are you?

17:24 Angela B: Hi, Glen, yay!

17:26 Glen G: Hey, girl, how are you, and hey John, how are you?

17:29 John S: Fantastic.

17:30 Angela B: Yeah, awesome.

17:32 Glen G: Right, well, I saw your post the other day and I thought, you know, let me put this in my calendar and check in with my crew, even though I haven’t been in much contact I thought I’d say hello, so everybody sounds like they’re well, yes?

17:47 John S: Yeah, we’re doing good, I’m doing good.

17:48 Angela B: We’re doing good, yeah.

17:49 John S: So Glen, can you…

17:52 Glen G: Thank you, go ahead.

17:55 John S: I was going to ask you, do you have anything to say about step 12, by chance?

18:00 Glen G: Absolutely, I do, of course, I’ve got it.

18:02 John S: Okay, lay it on us.

18:05 Glen G: I have a hard time talking so yeah, I’ll try my best.

[laughter]

18:12 Glen G: So I was listening to Angela, I just came on a few minutes ago and I was listening to Angela and step 12 was a big part of my recovery today. Obviously, it consists of service work, helping others and in the traditional sense I keep my recovery semi-private in my business life and in my personal life other than people who know me, which is most people, eventually, so I don’t wear it on my slip there, but step 12 for me is share the message of when people remarked all through my recovery, “Man, you did so… You don’t drink and you don’t, you do so well,” or this, that the other.

19:01 Glen G: I have a couple of great 12th step stories, I heard a little bit of John say and I didn’t catch the first of it, but I don’t do a bunch of responding to calls anymore either, but the biggest mistake, and what I share with anybody about 12th step work in my experience is this, that we did a 12th step a couple of years ago on a girl that parked out in front of my house and felt really secure in being there with knowing I was a safe guy and we’ve got her and would like an intervention and got her all coached up and ready to go to treatment, oh, we just forgot one thing. We didn’t have anywhere to take her. And so that was a real learning experience for me that in today’s environment of…

19:57 Angela B: Oh, dear. Well, while we wait for Glen to call back in. I can, I’ll talk about him. That one of the things that I do know about Glen and the 12th step is that I met him in a…

20:16 John S: Okay, he’s back in.

20:16 Angela B: Oh there you go, yay. Oh, dang it. Now I’m going to have to talk to you later.

20:21 Glen G: Yeah, yeah, you can talk about me all you like.

20:24 John S: I think I may accidentally hung up on you, Glen. I was playing with my phone, I lost you then.

20:30 Glen G: No, I actually, it was actually on my end, I had another call coming in and hit the wrong button.

20:34 John S: Gotcha.

20:36 John S: So yeah, I was trying to hear a little bit on the 12th step and that I still do 12th step work when it’s safe, and I have heard a little bit of your story. And I think that that, along with a lot of other things in life, is something that has changed and I don’t feel spiritually or otherwise bad or neglectful, I’m not willing to go into certain areas and put my life and myself at risk to do 12th step work that’s been described in the book or other stories. If other people choose to do that, I think that’s great. My 12th step calling now, as I call it, is to be there for the people like myself who… Anybody else that’s listening, of course, doesn’t know our inter-related stories. One of the reasons I called in was to say hey to Angela, that her being at that first International Convention is a huge part of my recovery, and I’ve been able to pay that back tenfold in 12th step work in meetings, in service work. I’m the DCM for our area. I give back all the time. And I think that’s 12th step work.

21:56 Glen G: And then, you know, the other part of the traditional 12th step is to practice spiritual principles in all our affairs. Well, without going into can an atheist have spirituality, which, course, my experience is, yes, yeah, I try to practice some type of principles in all my affairs. It’s part of my recovery and it’s part of what keeps me sober, right. So yeah, I have 12th steps all over in my life. And then the other part of the 12th step that I was going to share is that I no longer raise my hand and volunteer to sponsor and things of that nature, because my plate is full, man. I sponsor, I sponsor six to seven people at a time.

22:42 Glen G: Right now, I’ve got five men and one woman and I’m okay with that spiritually. It doesn’t bother me. If someone asks me or comes up to me after a meeting, which happens a lot when I share about my atheism and that AA works for me being an atheist in traditional meetings, I usually always get approached. And what I tell them is, “Sure, I’ll be glad to be your temporary sponsor until we find you one, call me every day,” or something to that effect. But my plate is full, guys, you know what I mean?

23:21 Angela B: Yep, we know.

23:25 Glen G: Exactly, so yeah, the 12th step is definitely a part of my recovery, and I would say probably one of the biggest parts of my recovery with my involvement with service work. As you both know, my involvement with the state conventions, which you know, I’ve got that going on again this year. Yeah, and I think it all comes around full circle. The primary purpose is to be there for other alcoholics, right.

24:01 Glen G: So yeah, and I just wanted to say hey, and stay in contact and I think this is really wonderful. I’ll try to keep up a little better and we’ve got a lot of things going on here in Jacksonville and things are good here, things are responsive and things are good here. So I’ll share some of that with you all off the podcast. I’ll be in touch, I promise, just wanted to say hey, and then that we’re alive and well here. I guess it’s a little sunnier and warmer here than it is your way, yes?

24:36 John S: Probably.

24:37 Angela B: Definitely.

24:39 John S: The sun’s out here, but it’s a little bit chilly. I’m a little bit on the chilly side.

24:45 Angela B: Yeah, it’s chilly when the sun’s nowhere to be seen in Boise.

24:49 John S: Oh, Glen, I gotta ask you something. As a football fan, Glen, you watched the Super Bowl? But you were rooting for the Chiefs but you bet against them. You lost some money, didn’t you?

25:02 Glen G: Yes, I did, dammit. I sure did. But I made up for it in the second half because I could tell they were going to win the game. And I’m a season ticket holder, we have a pro-team here in Jacksonville if you want to call it that, and I’m a real fan of Patrick and what he’s done as a player, and as a person…

25:28 John S: He’s a good guy.

25:29 Glen G: And I’ve been to Kansas City to give an unsolicited buzz and I ate the best barbecue I’ve ever had in my life, but I’ve been to the Kansas City stadium, what an experience and what a place that is. I love that city, it’s a great city. Angela’s city is a great city. I’m more in love with Boise every day, I just can’t get there.

25:56 John S: I’ve never been there either. I’ve been to Idaho before, though, it is nice there.

26:00 Angela B: Yeah, no, we’re designing it way. Making it quite difficult. [chuckle] Just kidding.

26:06 Glen G: It’s absolutely cool, and you’re missing it, I will be back there for sure in the near future. But, yeah, I’ll be in touch with both of y’all about the state convention coming up in August. They are going to give us another workshop when I say us, it’s going to be an agnostic freethinkers workshop and…

26:26 Angela B: Yay!

26:27 Glen G: They’re going to let us sit in and let us chair some meetings. And at our next committee meeting next week, I’m going to try to get them to put us on the flyer advertising that there will be an agnostic freethinker meeting like they do LBGTQ and other things of that nature. And my experience around here has still been more positive than negative, and I’m really grateful for that. I try to share that too every chance I get.

27:02 Angela B: Yeah. That’s awesome, Glen. I just think it’s amazing what you’ve been able to do in your area, coming back from the convention and starting a meeting, and then getting a service position, and then becoming DCM, and all the stuff with your area. I just think that it’s so cool and that a lot of us could use your message and tools. And so hopefully you’ll be able to share some of that at some of our conventions coming up as well.

27:32 Glen G: Yeah, oh, I’m looking forward to it. We’re trying to get an organized group together. We’ve already got two of us that were in Austin, three of us, actually, and for the November, the DC Convention and I’m trying to get a bigger group. And the other thing, if I have a second, I wanted to share, and I’m going to be in touch to understand more and also going to get a hold of the Canadian guys, is I’m going to make some road trips to some other meetings here in Florida and try to start networking to begin a round-up. I see they have these round-ups out west all the time and I think that Florida’s ready for one of those, you know?

28:13 Angela B: Nice. Yeah. I think that would be great. Yeah.

28:16 Glen G: Yeah. Yeah, I really think so. Are you guys headed up to Detroit, by any chance?

28:25 Angela B: Yes. So…

28:28 Angela B: Yeah, so one of the things in Vancouver, or not Vancouver, Langley, BC is doing a Pacific Northwest Regional in May, May 16th. So if anybody is remotely near that area, you can find out the information both on AA Beyond Belief, and on the Secular AA website, and on AA Agnostica. And so I’m going to that. And then, Secular AA will have a hospitality room in Detroit. We’re still getting some of the groundwork laid on being able to get the message out to Secular AA members on where it’s going to be and how to be involved, but that information should be coming out within the next couple of weeks. But yeah, they have given us a hospitality suite, so it’s an official one. And it’ll be listed under ITSAA, I believe, under the International Conference of Secular AA.

29:29 Glen G: Ah.

29:30 Angela B: Yeah. And so, yeah, so we’re going to be hanging out with the young people, hospitality suite, and all of those things because they’ve put all of them in one hotel. So, yeah, I’ll be sending out a newsletter and some more information about that pretty soon. But we’re going to be in Detroit and then, yeah, we’re going to have a bunch of information there for the DC conference and hope to get people over there as well.

30:03 Glen G: Where will you post that information? When you remark like, “I’m going to post that,” will that be on the net, will it be a website? Where will it be?

30:10 Angela B: Yeah, that will be everywhere. [chuckle] So one thing is I already have a list, and you’re on it, of people who have filled out a form, I guess, that AA Beyond Belief and AA Agnostica had put out on people interested. So, anybody who filled out that form, I have their name for an email list. So it’ll go out to that list of people already interested. It’ll also go out to anybody on the Secular AA email list from the Secular AA website. And then we’ll be posting it in the private Facebook groups as well. So the Secular AA Coffee Shop, the Sober She-Devils Group, and the AA Beyond Belief group. So yeah, so pretty much everywhere that we can, as soon as we have things shored up so that we can give everyone the information that’s the most correct at the time.

31:07 Glen G: Well, that sounds wonderful. And as you know, I’m a man of action, so I’m ready to help you. Just let me know how and I’ll be glad to. And coming back full circle to the 12th step, I guess you could say another interesting new type of 12th step that I did just a couple of weeks ago involved that She-Devils group. That we had a woman come to our Saturday morning meeting, who wasn’t at all comfortable, didn’t feel safe going to regular meetings for reasons that are none of… That is not important. And I was able to turn her on to that group, and she’s been participating and really really excited, which is totally cool. That’s 12th step work also.

31:49 Angela B: Yeah, definitely, definitely. That’s an amazing group. So thank you for sharing the message in that way.

31:57 Glen G: Oh, yeah. No worries. And thank you all for your service and I really look forward and miss both of you. And I will be seeing you soon. So you all have a great day, okay?

32:04 John S: You too. Nice talking to you, Glen.

32:04 Angela B: You too, Glen.

32:04 John S: Thanks, Glen.

32:04 Glen G: Alright, see you later. Bye-bye.

32:04 John S: They have a nice community down there in Jacksonville, I really enjoyed my visit there and the meeting I went to at their group. When I left there, I felt like, “You know, I could probably live in Jacksonville and be pretty happy there, I think.” So it was a really nice area.

32:04 Angela B: Nice.

32:04 John S: Yeah.

32:04 Angela B: Yeah. Yeah, well, that’s cool. Yeah, when I met him, he was a, and he doesn’t mind my sharing this, having a hard time. He had just kind of come out as an atheist in his area and there were no meetings. This was at the Santa Monica conference. And so there was myself and then two members of my home group, Gary and Mike, that had gone down to that conference and we were just sitting outside in the lovely Santa Monica weather with him and sharing how I started my group with the other three people. And Gary and Mike had been core members and carrying on the group for a very long time. And just some of the stuff that we did that helped us get along in our community with the other AA groups. And then I hadn’t heard from him and I went offline, stopped social media in 2016. And so I had no idea that he had gone back to Jacksonville and started a meeting and did all this stuff.

33:30 Angela B: And so, yeah, it wasn’t until Toronto that he came up to me at the conference there and shared with me all that he’s done. And so it’s amazing, it’s really a very cool thing that he’s been able to do it. It’s not always as easy in every area; as we know, there are some places that are a bit more resistant to groups like ours and stuff. So, like Texas and… Other than Austin. So that, I think, is what makes it even cooler, that he was able to just get renewed, I guess, in a non-spiritual way, and have the impetus to go back and get things going there and that it’s just an amazing example now for other AA groups and secular people of how to get us included so that more people can get sober within AA. So yeah, so that’s very cool.

34:31 John S: I like that ICSAA is going to be in there with the other special-purpose groups, the young people and the LGBTQ groups, and so forth. That’s great.

34:41 Angela B: Yeah, yeah.

34:43 John S: That’s how I’ve always thought of us, as like a group like that, is to an AA group, AA meetings, special purpose AA meetings, I guess, for people who just want to have a secular approach. So…

34:57 Angela B: Yeah, yeah. That’s pretty much what it is, so it’s very cool. I haven’t heard anything on us having speakers on panels yet, but I did send a bunch of information to GSO and to people in charge. And so if I hear anything back on that, I don’t know if they’ll contact people directly or if they’ll contact the Secular AA board to get people. But if I find out more about that, I’ll definitely, definitely share it. But yeah, at least having the hospitality suite and having it be an official one. So it’s going to be on the app that’s used for that conference. So, people can find it as well as printed materials. So, yeah.

35:41 John S: Well, I wish I could be there for that. I’ve never been to one. There’s just no way I could swing it, though. There are other things that we need to do. I’m definitely going to be at the ITSAA conference in DC. And I think my wife and I are wanting to take a trip someplace too. So…

35:57 Angela B: Very cool.

35:58 John S: Yeah. So back to Step 12? Where were we?

[laughter]

36:04 Angela B: Step 12 with a detour off into football land and, yeah.

36:09 John S: I don’t want to give the impression that I think that it’s all about dragging people to a hospital and so forth. It totally isn’t and it’s just like I said in the beginning, it’s just how I live my life now. It’s just the way I feel about wanting to give back in any kind of way. And much like what Glen, Glen has done in Florida, he’s done a tremendous amount of 12th step work by just making it possible for people to find a secular meeting in Jacksonville.

36:37 Angela B: Exactly, yeah.

36:39 John S: Yeah.

36:39 Angela B: Yeah.

36:39 John S: And it’s very rewarding, too. So yeah.

36:42 Angela B: Right, I agree.

36:45 John S: Well, if anybody else wants to call, our line is open. It’s 844-899-8278 and we welcome your call. Talk about whatever you want to.

36:54 Angela B: Right. Football, tattoos.

36:57 John S: Football, tattoos, whatever.

37:00 Angela B: Yeah, I have one tattoo, it’s like a sun and the moon thing. I was going for a Carpe Diem, Carpe Noctum type thing in my 20s and I got it in Kansas City, Missouri.

37:11 John S: Oh, really?

37:12 Angela B: Yeah, I’d spent a summer doing an internship with an ecumenical ministry, of all things. It was when I was going to become a minister. And a group of us, one of the kids, was like, “I’m going to get a tattoo and I need to get it in, at this one place in Kansas City,” and so several of us went over and I’m like, “Maybe I’ll get one too.” And then he chickened out and so I had to go through with it just to show that I’m more of a man than he is, I guess, at the time.

[chuckle]

37:45 Angela B: And so, yeah, so Kansas City is responsible for my one and only tattoo. And yeah, the only time I’ve been there too, but hopefully, I’ll be able to get there another time, yeah.

38:00 John S: Yeah.

38:00 Angela B: So that’s my digression is… I have a… Not into football and not familiar with the Super Bowl stuff, although I’m… Congratulations.

38:10 John S: Thank you.

38:11 Angela B: But yeah…

38:12 John S: I’m not a football fan until they actually go to the Super Bowl, then I’m a fan.

38:16 Angela B: Yeah, that makes sense, yeah. Yeah, around here, everyone’s a Boise State Broncos fan. We’ve got the smurf turf and stuff, and so it’s a thing, but it’s never been my thing.

38:29 John S: Yeah, yeah. So anyway, after we… So we well, I’m stuck. Okay, so that was kind of wound up with the steps. We were talking about maybe doing some other topics. Did you mention a topic that you wanted to explore?

38:50 Angela B: Yeah, I thought that at some point if people were interested that we could explore more mental health and AA and so some of the experiences that people have had, as well as our own experiences of working with what’s deemed outside issues in AA, so that… Yeah, there’s a little bit more knowledge of people’s actual experiences. Sometimes people experience that they’re told that they are not supposed to be on anti-depressants or that they can’t get sober, they’re not sober if they are, all sorts of stuff and so, yeah, I thought that you and I have experience with being sober and working with mental health stuff as well in AA and yeah, if people are interested that might be a good thing for us to talk about.

39:48 John S: I think so, I think so, it’s something that’s pretty close to my heart, mental illness has been… Just tore my family apart and when I was a younger person getting sober, depression was a huge problem for me and so I would have people tell me that that was a normal part of getting sober and they dissuaded me so much from getting help for so long and I put it off and I’m just really fortunate that I lived through it, it was really… It made the whole thing way more difficult than it needed to be, so I finally started, I started off with therapy and then I went into getting medication, and it just turned my life around so, yeah, but unfortunately I understand that they still talk about that.

40:35 Angela B: Yeah, certain places do and certain groups of AA-ers and things like that, so it’s not prevalent everywhere, but you can still hear echoes of it in different places and so yeah, I think it’s important to get that message out there that, one, it’s not like some official AA thing that you shouldn’t go to counseling and take medications as prescribed by doctors, it’s I think actually it’s in the Big Book that you should.

41:10 John S: That’s right, it’s absolutely is.

41:13 Angela B: Yeah, it was written in the ’30s but that’s still pretty prevalent and good advice of seeing people who can help you with whatever it is going on. AA is not a fix-all, although some people truly believe it is, but I think particularly those of us in the secular community are aware that it’s not, and that there are lots of resources and most of us use a variety of resources for our sobriety, so we don’t just do AA, some people go to Dharma Recovery Groups or go to SOS Save Ourselves or Women in Recovery or Smart Groups or all sorts of stuff and so yeah, I think us talking about it some more, and I know your podcast is great for that. You have a lot of different people that you’ve had on and I just listened to the one with John Stewart the other day and yeah, I hadn’t heard that one before and so yeah, it’s interesting, it’ll be good, I know that he’s going to be at the DC Conference at ITSAA, and I’m very curious to see how his thoughts have either evolved or what he thinks of what Secular AA has become and all of the new meetings and things like that so yeah, that will be interesting.

42:39 John S: Yeah, it will be interesting to hear what he has to say. I haven’t talked to him in a long time, he’s gotten really busy because his band has started back up again, but when I had that podcast with him he at that time was, oh, he’s pro-choice, he says he’s not anti-anything, he’s for whatever works for you, and he did think that AA as a whole, like AA World Services and so forth, should be more open and reaching out to other support groups and so forth to somehow pool resources and everything, and AA has always been kind of we do our thing, we don’t want to get mixed up with anybody else so, but yeah, he’s a very thoughtful person, and he has spoken a lot about AA and he’s pretty knowledgeable with the history of it too, so, yeah, it’ll be interesting to hear him at the conference.

43:40 Angela B: So no other callers, huh, nobody wants to come and… Call in and talk to…

43:44 John S: No, there are people in the chatroom, though, Bob B says that mental and emotional health would be a good topic. Indeed, yeah, so definitely, we’ll have to do that. You know, something I was thinking about that too is, it only takes like… It’s always the small minority people that do these screwy things.

[laughter]

44:00 John S: No, seriously, and it makes it seem like everybody is like that, they’re the ones that give AA a bad name. It’s the one guy out of 30 in a meeting that walks over to you and tells you not to take your meds, that’s the guy, and it’s like he does it and no one else knows he’s doing it, but the message gets to you. It’s just… because I’ve never had a whole group of people come to me and say, “Oh, John, you shouldn’t be taking your medication,” but there’ll always be that one guy that’ll pull me aside.

44:30 Angela B: Right, yeah, I know, I agree, that’s been my experience as well. It’s usually one, maybe two people but they’re usually extremely loud.

44:40 John S: Yeah, yeah, it’s those people that have strong opinions.

44:44 Angela B: Yeah, something that we respond to. Maybe they touch into our negativity bias or I don’t know what it is but it is funny that the way we respond to stuff like that too, doing this podcast with you, and it’s also on YouTube and somebody did a thumbs down on, I think, my story, like on my actual story…

45:11 John S: I think, I know.

45:12 Angela B: And yeah, I was like, “What, somebody thumbed down my life story,” even though… God. And so it reminded me of the Alanis Morissette song of, something of, I think it’s in Ironic when you… Oh, no, it’s… That she’d be okay even if she got the thumbs down. I’m like, “Yeah, I relate, Alanis, I relate to that,” I got the thumbs down, but yeah, there were lots of people who liked it, I’ve got a lot of good response from it, that people have heard my story on your podcast and then… And they, yeah, it was the first time that they had heard of a secular person using the steps or a secular version of the steps in somebody’s life specifically. Like we have a lot of literature out there now that talk about the 12 steps in a secular way. But there wasn’t a lot of people talking about how they actually worked the steps in a secular way. And so yeah, so I get lots of good things from that, I’ve never received something where somebody’s like, “Yeah, that’s just dumb.” Maybe they thought it but obviously, this person did, because they gave me a thumbs down.

46:18 John S: And who knows, maybe he’s just something, he may be some like fundamentalist guy who just doesn’t like or didn’t like something, I don’t know.

46:26 Angela B: Right, yeah, no, there is a woman in town that doesn’t like me and so I’m guessing she found it and gave me the thumbs down. But I can’t tell who it is.

46:36 John S: No.

46:36 Angela B: Which is, it’s probably good and… But yeah, I was like, what? The thumbs down on my life story, how rude.

46:44 John S: I know.

46:47 Angela B: I may not appreciate someone’s personality, but a life story, it’s what people have experienced. That’s one of the things that I do like about most AA groups, though, most AA meetings are the sharing from experience, strength, and hope. In general, you don’t get a lot of cross-talk, because if I share with you what my experience is, you can’t say, “No, that didn’t happen,” because it’s my experience. And so I think that that’s a really, really helpful thing in the rooms. But YouTube and social media is a different story.

47:24 John S: It totally is. I often say that I think that Facebook is like the worst place for AA, which is Facebook. Because it’s like most of the AA Facebook groups I’ve been in, I’ve left, because people want to debate and argue. And it’s like, “No, I don’t do that in AA, I just tell you what it is for me and it’s my personal thing, it’s not something that’s up for debate,” and I just don’t get that.

47:50 John S: So yeah, but I see that even happen in our little AA Beyond Belief group. Sometimes people want to debate this or that, and it’s like, “Oh, come on, I’m not really into that.”

48:00 Angela B: Yeah, yeah, no, I think your group, you have some great moderation on it, and I think that a lot of people feel very comfortable in your private Face group… Facebook group because of that. You do a great job.

48:13 John S: Yeah, what I do, if somebody, because like we get a lot of people to join and if somebody, well, I’ll throw people out, like if they just like are evangelizing or just getting crazy. I’ve had to throw people out for that kind of stuff, but I don’t mind if they… You know, I’m… I don’t know, I’m pretty loose about most things, but it’s just like I’ve had people like actually preach at us, preach God at us, so it’s still like, they’re gone.

48:38 Angela B: Right, yeah, yeah, it’s not a democracy, and I think that’s a good thing. So…

48:47 John S: Yeah, yeah. Well, this has been fun. If there aren’t any other callers, maybe we should start wrapping it up. We’ve been going for almost 50 minutes, so… Well, it’s really been nice to chatting with you and doing these podcasts with you, I think that you’ve done a great job, and I’m glad that we did the second run-through because I think you brought a lot to the steps that I wouldn’t have caught. We’re two different people and different experiences. And your experience was really needed here, I think. So thank you very much for doing that.

49:23 Angela B: Great.

49:23 John S: It’s really…

49:24 Angela B: Yeah, well, thank you for providing a platform to be able to do that, so that people, yeah, in areas who either can’t get to a meeting or just are part of traditional meetings and they have sponsors that are like, “You need to do step 2 and 3,” which I hear about a lot. Now they know some ways that they can still do that.

49:47 Angela B: And again, for the people that don’t do steps that are in the secular community, that’s fine too, this podcast probably isn’t for you. So we’re not saying that you have to do them, it’s… This is more for people that either want to or are in situations where they really need to, in order to feel like they’re part of their community and just need some options on how to do that, how to take care of the steps.

50:13 John S: Everybody is different at different times in their life. You might need, some people like need more structure at one point in their life and less structure at other points in their lives, or I don’t know, it’s just… I’ve been all over the place, even in the last couple of years, really, so… But we’ll have to keep continue doing this, so we’ll definitely do the mental health, the mental health episode soon. And if you’d like to keep doing these, I’d love to have you on and keep doing podcasts.

50:42 Angela B: Yeah, I would love it, so…

50:43 John S: I like doing this, it’s a lot of fun for me, I just love it, it’s just fun, I like everything about it. I like the equipment, the nerdy stuff, and I just… I enjoy it. But then I also have to remember that it’s also actually reaching people in a very deep, more personal way. And so, that sometimes, if I really think about that, it gets somewhat overwhelming. I’d like to go back to just having the fun part. But there are people out there that the podcast is like a meeting to them.

51:17 Angela B: Right, yeah, people who can’t actually leave their house, I’ve suggested this podcast for. Because then they are still hearing people’s experience, strength, and hope and hearing a variety of ways of getting and staying sober, and your style of doing podcasts, too, and probably is part of your personality. It’s so easy-going and comfortable that I think that helps a lot with people getting possibly more out of a podcast or out of your podcast, than some others, because it does feel very comfortable and open and, yeah, so…

51:58 John S: Oh, thank you, it’s very nice of you to say, I actually had a talk about criticism, I had one person tell me that the host of that podcast is co-dependent with all of his guests. Well, I’m like, damn, am I? I probably am.

[laughter]

52:10 Angela B: I’m not quite sure what that means, but okay.

52:19 John S: Alright, so I’m going to play us out of here with our outro.

52:23 Angela B: Sounds good.

52:24 John S: So there we go. So, thanks, everybody, for listening and thank you for calling. We’ll keep doing more of these call-in episodes. I think they’re a lot of fun. Angela, it’s been a blast. We’ll get back together real soon, and do the mental health podcast.

52:39 Angela B: Sounds great.

52:40 John S: And with that, from the luxurious Studios in Kansas City, Missouri, and our satellite location in Boise, signing off. Bye-bye.

52:49 Angela B: Take care. Bye-bye.


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