This is the second in a series of five articles originally published at atheisticaa.com and reposted here with permission. “The Secular Alcoholic and The Moment of Decision” was posted on AA Beyond Belief on January 5, 2020.
My earliest experiences in recovery started the same way that most of these journeys begin, at a meeting.
Going down a short flight of stairs into a very large church basement with smoke thickened air (it was, after all, early 1987 when there were still smoke-filled rooms) and seeing an old DC drinking buddy at the bottom of those stairs who immediately said, “What the fuck took you such a long time to get here?”, made a profound impression on me and I immediately, without reservation, felt at “home” there with these people who I began to meet who, as individuals, seemed to have my best interests at heart.
What was clear from the beginning was that the overriding concern of the people in the rooms was with my continued sobriety.
I was so desperate for a solution to my drinking problem that virtually any well-intentioned group of folks who were also sober probably would have sufficed but, very soon, other aspects of what was going on became evident and things got a bit more complex.
Having been very fortunate in many (but not all obviously) aspects of my life I managed to fall into a very “liberal” recovery-oriented culture in Northwest Washington, DC that was, demographically, very heavily weighted towards highly educated, professional people with backgrounds similar to my own.
I easily identified with my first conventional homegroup and while my vocal atheism disturbed some members the overriding theme of tolerance and inclusion there mitigated my initial reluctance to being part of something identified as a “spiritual” fellowship.
The early benefits I received from my sobriety included a “pink cloud” experience precipitated by the realization that, if I stayed sober, it was very likely that I would not die prematurely as a result of my alcoholism. This temporary feeling of euphoria allowed me to ignore my many misgivings about and outright rejection of what I encountered in the literature.
Additionally, I quickly noticed the strange calming effect that takes place when a group of members sits together listening to their fellow alcoholic’s share. I never left one of those early meetings more tense or worse than when the meeting began and, for that reason, my first sober year can be recalled as something of a “charmed” experience.
This view began to change when I had about 18 months and was precipitated by my attendance at meetings on the weekend (my “liberal” homegroup only met Monday–Friday) where more traditional views and a group reading of “How it Works” was featured. By this time my “pink cloud” had dissipated and this “Big Book” foolishness totally alienated me to the point that, as I have chronicled elsewhere, I nearly left what I now saw as a “cult” and actively considered, for what fortunately has, so far, been the last time, taking another drink.
Even then, in my “darkest”