In this episode, Benn and John meet Bobby C. from Huntington Beach, California. Bobby has been sober since February 27, 1984 and participates in both AA as well as SMART Recovery meetings. Bobby shares his story which evolves into an interesting conversation about anonymity, secular recovery options, and recovery culture.
00:00 John: AA Beyond Belief is a podcast by, for, and about people who have found a secular path to sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous.
00:06 John: Good. Benn is here. Hey, Benn.
00:23 Bobby: Oh, Benn’s on video.
00:25 John: Yeah, so here we are. Thank you everybody for joining us here on AA Beyond Belief today. I don’t know why I said that. We’re not live. This is just a recorded podcast. [chuckle] Anyway, good to see you there Ben.
00:39 Benn: Hey, John, sorry for my tardiness. I had a kid fall and bump his lip and then my WiFi internet wasn’t working.
00:46 John: Okay, well, you’re fine. And then we got Bobby C here. He is from Huntington Beach, California. Bobby, this is Ben.
00:55 Benn: Hey, Bobby, nice to meet you.
00:56 Bobby: Hi, Benn, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you. Nice to see you. Oh, Benn, I just got done seeing him on video, but now it just went off. Yeah, it’s good. I finally got to speak with you. I’ve been seeing you on the podcast, I’ve been watching mostly all the podcasts on both channels.
01:15 Bobby: Oh, good, I’m glad. I enjoyed your talk with John the other week too, on the other podcast.
01:19 Benn: Thank you.
01:20 John: Yeah, that was kind of fun. That spirituality topic is always kind of controversial. Some people hate it, some people… I’m like, “I really don’t care. Do what you want to do.” So, I don’t know, there’s a variety of things I guess we could talk about, Bobby. Last time that we spoke on the other podcast, you shared a little bit of your story and you talked about the meeting that you started and some of the other recovery groups that you participate in. And we were talking a little bit beforehand, and you thought that one topic of many that we could talk about might be anonymity. Would you want to talk about that, and what your feelings are about that? Or would you want me to start?
02:02 Bobby: Yeah, sure. Well, we could… I’ll go and then we could discuss it. Benn, yourself, we could talk about a little bit.
02:11 John: Okay.
02:11 Bobby: How about if I just go into my story just a little bit to where I’m at now with the anonymity stuff. When I came in 36 years ago, I didn’t even know what a rehab was. There was only one place to go, and as you both know, was Alcoholics Anonymous. So I was fortunate that a friend of mine was… Not a friend of mine, but became my friend. He already was going to Alcoholics Anonymous, and he came over and he took me to my first meeting. I think I mentioned that in the last podcast. But before that I had no clue about rehabs, help, or any other form of recovery. All I know is that I started using it very early. Probably… I don’t know how old you are in fifth grade, but that’s when I started taking my dad’s cigarettes, and started smoking cigarettes in fifth grade. It’s crazy to even think back. And then from there, even in fifth, I moved from one town to another, and then I was in fifth grade and met a couple of friends in the neighborhood back east. I come from South Jersey, so back east there were a lot of kids my age in the neighborhood. And we picked up and I started probably in about fifth, sixth grade. Taking a little bit of wine here and a little sip there, I’d go out and pour a little bit in a little jar, take a little whiskey. Everybody took a little whiskey out of their parents cabinets and we’d meet down to the gully, and I’d hold my nose and swig a little bit of half of a thing of whiskey down, and I don’t know, that was crazy.
04:06 Bobby: That was the introduction to it in kind of a crazy way. Then it just progressed. On and on. And I like to say today that it was a choice for me to take that first drink, and it was a choice that I chose to take that first cigarette, and it was a choice to take the other things, but it wasn’t a choice for me to get addicted to it, that’s for sure. I didn’t realize that I was going to become addicted to any of these substances, but I did. And they talk about progression and it progressed. And my story’s just like anybody else’s, it was like, in the beginning, it wasn’t that bad, but then, as you turn the pages, you become doing the same thing over and over again. And I didn’t try to expect some different results, but no different results ever came out of it. It kind of got worse and really never got better. And so I came into Alcoholics Anonymous. And that was February 27th, 1987. But when I came in, anonymity… They say anonymity is the spiritual foundation of the program, and today… What I thought then and what I think today is completely different. And as my journey and I evolved throughout the Alcoholics Anonymous program, as I stated in the last podcast, I went to many different things. ACOA, CoDA meetings, I did one-on-one groups, I went to some men’s meetings. Different types of men’s meetings.
06:00 Bobby: And I read different books, different spiritual books, different motivational speaker books, and my mind started to expand. So when I was going to these meetings, I always had… I think we talked about that cognitive dissidence from the very beginning. And anonymity was always talked about. And as the years went on, I kind of started to think on my own, and started to think, question, observe, become aware of different things, because of the outside information I was getting. And I had started seeing movie stars talk about their recovery. And we know Bill and other speakers, they broke their anonymity way back then. But, today, I don’t know, everybody… I don’t think it’s… I actually think people don’t… They don’t care about that, because I think the trend’s going to less labels, less stigma stigmatizing people, less words that we’re using to describe us. Alcoholic, alcoholism, anonymous, the disease concept. I believe that’s going to go away eventually, altogether.
07:35 John: Yeah. I think anonymity is a personal choice and that there are some people who need to because of their careers, or whatever, have a reason to keep it out of the public level, and I can certainly respect that, and so I feel obligated to respect their privacy and their anonymity. I think that for me personally, I’m kind ofdone with the tradition of anonymity. However, I do respect it on this podcast, just out of respect for AA. And since AA is in the name of this podcast and the people who listen to it are primarily AA members, I do try to follow the traditions as best as I can, so I do maintain my anonymity here. But when I read about this principle, or tradition, of anonymity and the 12 traditions and the 12 steps that Bill W. Wrote, the primary reason that we’re anonymous is so that we’re not out there, it’s for public relations and so that we’re not out there acting as spokespeople for AA and then lousing it all up. And I just don’t see people doing that. I don’t think that that is a problem and I think it’s almost idiotic, because there are many other programs like SMART Recovery and LifeRing where people can talk openly about their involvement and nobody is accusing them of being a spokesperson for their particular program.
09:11 John: So I really feel like it was kind of a way, at that time, for those people, and they probably felt it was important to control the message as much as they could. And so they wanted everyone to be anonymous except for the big guys who would go around and talk about the program. That’s just my feeling. I also think that it kind of stigmatizes the disease a little bit. It’s like, we’re all in hiding or something. Now… And I also though, that being said, I also recognize there’s a huge difference between being anonymous and respecting someone’s confidentiality, so that, if I’m at a meeting, anything I hear in that meeting stays there. I have no right to go around talking about what I hear in a meeting. But that doesn’t have anything to do with anonymity, that has to do with just respecting the confidentiality that we have in AA meetings. So that’s kind of my take on it. And I’ve kind of evolved to this position, and I still kind oftiptoe it a little bit. Sometimes I cross the line when I don’t mean to, but I’m not as worried as I used to be. What do you think, Benn? What’s your take on that?
10:24 Benn: Well, you guys made a lot of good points. John, the last part you made too about anonymity, I am 100% for anonymity and how it is everybody’s decision as to whether they’re anonymous themselves about being a sober person or not. It’s never my right to go out and say, “Oh, hey, I know this guy, John S, and use your full name and say, “He’s sober too and does this and does that.” That’s not for me to ever blow somebody else’s anonymity, but I do agree that most of it stems from probably trying to keep the message quote “here in the get go” and not having people spouting off everywhere like they’re the spokesperson for AA. And Johnny… Or, Bobby. I’m sorry. I thought it was an interesting point you made. A lot of people, the first time they maybe heard about AA, was when some famous person said that they were a sober person without even saying they were going to AA or something. So, again, we’ve all probably seen somebody in the public eye who seems pretty enthusiastic, and you can probably tell they’re going to a lot of 12 Step meetings, the way they’re talking, we kind ofknow the lingo. But even when they don’t explicitly say they go to AA, I don’t really cringe about any of that, because I don’t know if we give people enough credit.
11:43 Benn: I don’t think anybody thinks of somebody like Ben Affleck is out there relapsing and causing chaos if… I don’t think everybody says, “Well, AA doesn’t work.” The person who might say that is probably an active alcoholic who’s scared to death of quitting drinking. They’ll find an excuse to not come no matter what usually. So I would imagine more good has been done by people talking about being a sober person, and I still think it’s kind of this way. And Bobby, you mentioned it, it’s been kind of trendy and hip, and I don’t mean that in a bad way, to talk about being sober. And, facts on the table, drinking in general is not healthy for anyone, whether you’re an alcoholic or not. I mean alcohol is a toxin. And again, I’m not the sobriety police, I’m not saying everybody shouldn’t drink, but it’s a public health issue too. So back to the point at issue, I will respect anybody’s right to be anonymous and go out of my way to protect anybody else’s anonymity and confidentiality, like you guys are saying, but I also… I’ve evolved to it too where it’s everybody’s business whether they choose to say they’re sober or not.
12:57 Benn: And you do have to be careful, because especially most of us here that tend to to join on this podcast, we probably have some conflicting feelings about it. It’s like, I want to advocate for people to be sober if they want to be sober and if they find that AA works for them, great, but if it doesn’t, I have problems with AA, I have things I love about AA. But, like John said, there’s things about the traditions that make them very worth respecting and this is one of them. But I’m not sure their intentions are always so pure.
13:00 John: Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, in the workplace I’m pretty anonymous and I kind ofchoose that, but it’s not like if somebody were to know, it would bother me per se, but I don’t want people to think of me as, that’s me. I don’t want them to identify me as being a person in recovery necessarily. I just want to be another guy at work. And also, I don’t want to have to be having to explain or even defend AA to people who might not understand it.
14:04 Bobby: Right…
14:07 John: Go ahead. Sorry, Bobby.
14:08 Bobby: That’s okay. I agree with mostly everything both of you are saying. For the listener, I guess, that’s important to hear what you two are saying. For the listener that really doesn’t know what anonymity means or how to deal with it. I mean, through years you learn. For me, I believe in… When I talk about anonymity, I talk about myself, not other people. I personally don’t break my anonymity to anybody because it doesn’t matter. I only do it… I know exactly when to do it. If it comes up, it’s like almost a known thing. It’s like your body and your mind and your feelings know to open up. So I’m really very careful with anonymity in that sense. And I totally respect other people’s anonymity. I mean, after all, the only thing that separates me from everybody else is that I was addicted to alcohol and now I’m not, and character defects, I think all these character defects that they talk about are just human character defects of every human being on the earth. So anonymity is a personal thing, I don’t even go into the medical stuff. Even on the first day I got sober, I don’t really tell my doctors, to tell you the truth.
15:47 John: Right. It’s not really a topic that comes up in just normal everyday conversation with people at work, or at a party, or something. [chuckle] It’s just not a topic that comes up. You’re exactly right. It’s like talking about a medical issue or something. It’s just not something, I don’t think, that comes up that often or it’s even an issue. It’s more of an issue now because of the internet, I think. And you can go on YouTube and just search for AA and you’ll find any number of people talking about their experience at an AA meeting, or they’ll be celebrating their anniversary, or whatever, and holding up a coin, and they’re on video, and they’re not anonymous, and they don’t seem to mind at all. [chuckle] And I don’t know if that’s really hurting AA, I don’t think it is, so I’m fine with them doing that if that’s what they want to do.
16:43 Benn: Yeah, definitely, I think we all probably see people post the pictures and there’s always degrees of involvement in AA too. Some people just go to meetings and aren’t that connected with other people socially, and everybody kind ofdoes it a little different. What Bobby said, you know how we hear about how anonymity is the spiritual principle of whatever… To explain that more probably worldly terms, in regular world terms, it’s about humbleness, I think, because even like we were just talking about people on Facebook, you can see somebody who’s smoking paint cloud hardcore into being sober and they’re spouting it everywhere in six months. And the counselor or me says, “Okay, now let’s take it easy here. You gotta be prepared for when it doesn’t feel this great all the time too. Not to burst your bubble.” But I think that’s some of the concern with that anonymity thing. And I just think it’s over-exaggerated how people say if that person has a relapse, or something happens, that it gives AA a bad name. I think, one, most people still don’t know too much about AA, and two, I think people do understand that addiction… They’re starting to understand that addiction and alcoholism is not something that’s just a once and you’re done type deal for a lot of people.
18:01 John: Right. And the stigma has gone down to a certain extent. And to a large degree because of all these people that have come out openly about it. That’s one reason that has reduced the stigma I think.
18:18 Benn: Well, especially for certain professions. If you’re a medical person, or you’re a surgeon, or somebody who’s… I think anonymity is important there, and it does seem like we have special groups for people who tend to be the higher end professionals because of that. But also it’s to be careful, because… I don’t know if I’m being delusional about my own drinking, but it was a fairly high bottom compared to some people. Now that doesn’t mean it wasn’t bad enough for me, or whatever, but sometimes I’m careful to even tell somebody I’m a recovering alcoholic, because the first thought their head goes to is that all I did was drink all day every day for 10 years and lived on the street. I wouldn’t be ashamed of that if that was my story, but again, we don’t know what other people’s perceptions and where they go with that. So if somebody’s a professional, and I out somebody else who’s going to 12 Step meetings, I may very well be destroying that person’s reputation based on just what the other person doesn’t know about that other person’s history.
19:19 Benn: So, it’s touchy. But I have friends back in my old home groups who we have agreements with each other where I’m like, “Hey, if you ever know anybody now that I’ve moved up to Omaha, if you ever know someone who needs somebody to connect with up here or talk to, I don’t care if you out me one bit, give them my number, tell them my first and last name, I don’t care.” So I can have agreements with people like that too.
19:43 Bobby: Yeah, that’s where I’m going with that anonymity stuff. Is that what we’re doing… What you’re doing with My Secular Recovery, okay. I don’t mind breaking my anonymity, because I’m targeting… I’m talking to another alcoholic…”alcoholic”, we could talk about that word, “alcoholics”, but other people are in recovery. I’m talking about maybe somebody that’s looking for something. So for me to break my anonymity that way, I don’t have any problem with it. None whatsoever. Because they’re looking, or they’re searching, or they’re going to this site for a specific reason. So, in that sense, I don’t… Anonymity to me, I’m going to break it every day that way. If I can help somebody.
20:37 John: That other podcast you talked about, My Secular Sobriety, that’s a really interesting experiment, because I wanted to do that because I wanted to kind of break out of the AA mold. I wanted to have topics that talked about recovery that weren’t always related to AA. And I was really hoping that I wouldn’t even have to talk about AA. But the more I get involved with it, the more difficult I find it to not even mention it, or not even to mention it as part of my own experience. So I ultimately just gave up, I said, “Okay, I’m just going to have to talk about my experience honestly.” And, as a result, I ended up breaking my anonymity on that particular podcast. I just finally said, “That’s just the way it has to be. I have to talk about my own experience.” But most of the episodes on that podcast aren’t going to be centered on AA, or the steps, or anything like that. I really want to focus on that podcast. I want to look at recovery from all addictions and using all types of therapy or support groups.
21:44 Bobby: Exactly.
21:46 Benn: And not being so concerned about what you say, and how you say it, and what you’re representing.
21:51 John: Exactly. Exactly. I don’t need traditions police getting on me about, you broke this tradition or that tradition.
21:58 Benn: Right. Well, how dare you talk about that podcast on this podcast?
22:02 John: That’s another thing. I was really having the two separate.
22:05 John: I don’t want anyone to know I’m doing this. It almost felt like when I left my old AA group.
22:10 Benn: Exactly.
22:10 John: I didn’t tell anybody that I left, I just went off and did it. [chuckle]
22:14 Bobby: Well, sooner or later, we just have to become honest. Sooner or later we have to become real, instead of kind of hiding. And we don’t talk about the disease. There’s two trains of thoughts out there in this disease concept. Some believe it isn’t, some believe it is. I happen to believe… Today, I believe I don’t have a disease. Now, this might be better to talk on the other channel about that. But we don’t talk about that. We don’t talk about the alcohol industry. We don’t touch the alcohol industry. Me, I actually think that the alcohol industry should be held responsible for some of these devastating consequences it has on society. Actually, if you look at it, we are victims of the alcohol society. It’s been a lie… And it’s still affecting… It’s targeting young people, women, older people. So we don’t talk about that. Not that we’re going to talk about… We’re not going to talk about that right now.
23:24 John: That’s okay to talk about it if you want.
23:27 Bobby: No, no.
23:27 John: It is interesting.
23:28 Benn: Well, and the point is, I think, Bobby, too, some people it seems like… And, again, I always get it off on the religion thing, but it’s like, there’s these police out here who think if you, for one second, talk about anything that may be contributed to you becoming an alcoholic, or whatever you want to call it, then that is you trying to sidestep your own personal responsibility. And on some level, there’s a truth to that especially when somebody’s really newly getting sober. It is so important to just focus on what you can do. But eventually, I think a healthy recovery, oftentimes for many people, involves looking back and maybe analyzing what went on, and looking at some deeper personality stuff, and maybe some therapy, and things like that, that I found to be of benefit. It doesn’t mean everybody will, but there’s such a… You can even sense a tone in certain AA meetings, where if something even remotely goes in that direction, the next person is sure as heck to slam the door on that and move everything back towards a personal responsibility movement.
24:32 Benn: And often that involves a lot of shame and blame and guilt, the tone of it is part of my concern about it. But there’s truth to it too, right? And it’s that singleness of purpose and staying focused on this, but it’s also what has led me to be bored of going to AA meetings often. That singleness of purpose, which I agree with on many levels, but sometimes it just feels so repetitive and over and over. It’s like staying in English 101 when you really want to get to reading new books in English 408.
25:05 Bobby: Oh my God, I say that, like, “Would you stay in kindergarten and not try to go to second grade?” It’s parroting. Let’s be honest here, it’s parroting. Repetition of words, and phrases, and readings that repeatedly get into your brain and kind of… Let’s just use the word, it can brainwash you.
25:37 Benn: Yeah. And there’s a good side to that, and then there’s a dangerous side to that.
25:41 Bobby: Yeah.
25:42 Benn: And I’ve had to try and unweave some of that stuff, like, “Oh, do I just believe that because I heard it in AA meetings over, and over, and over, or how does that really relate to me? Or how do I really feel about that?”
25:53 Bobby: Well, I believe I was born an atheist. Okay?
25:56 Benn: Yeah.
25:57 Bobby: I was born an atheist. Then my mother gave me her Catholicism, I did all the Catholic stuff. All of the whole ritual. And then slowly, when I came into Alcoholics Anonymous, I tried to get back into that because I thought something was wrong with me, I didn’t have it. And then I even went into the Christian churches and started to do Bible studies, and started to tell everybody, “They better be saved lest not go to hell. And I did that little routine there for a while, and thank God, I came out of it. Thank… Well, thank whoever. Thank me, really, that I came out of it. And, yeah. Yep.
26:44 Benn: And it seems like there’s a fear in AA, again, along this anonymity line, that if we don’t have this consistent message and it doesn’t sound the same everywhere, there’s a danger in that. And that’s just, to me, a lot of fear mongering. To me it’s like sex education for kids. Let’s give all the information so that kids can make the best decision they have to make for themselves when they’re in a situation where they’re the only ones to make a decision. Just like we can all feel united, and we can all say whatever the heck we say in that one hour in an AA meeting when we’re there. It really does not matter if you mean it or if you’re parroting it or not in that moment. Where it matters is when you’re home, and you’re walking past the liquor store, or your wife has a 12-pack of beer in the fridge that you’ve been thinking about a lot. It comes down to what’s it going to mean to you, in that moment, when you’re away from all your safety? And what do you really believe? What really works for you? Like you learning about your mom’s religion, or any religion, it’s like, “Well, what does that mean to me? Or what am I taking from that? Do I have to believe it all or none of it? Or do I have to frame it in a way that works for me now?” So it always comes down to personal responsibility.
27:58 Bobby: Yep. Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it will achieve. That’s good or bad. Whatever my mind wants, if my mind wants to drink, and I believe it wants to drink, I’m going to get a drink. And if I want sobriety, bad enough, it says the only requirement is a desire, so a desire means a craving. So if I have a craving for sobriety, whatever my mind can conceive and believe about sobriety, I will achieve it. I believe all programs, all recovery programs work the same way, through the belief that it will work. So I take responsibility for that belief. So I believe all the programs will work if you want them to work. If you don’t want them to work, it won’t work. I see people in AA, they’re Big Book stompers, they’re 12-step, they got two sponsors, they sponsor 10 people, they go to meetings. They go out and drink. I see people that don’t have sponsors, don’t do the Big Book, don’t do the 12 Steps, they stay sober. I see people that believe in God stay sober, I see people that don’t believe in God stay sober. So I believe it’s our responsibility, it’s my choice, and I choose to want it today still like I did back then. And actually, my desire today is a 1000 times greater than it was back then.
29:21 Benn: And something like this website and this podcast, I think what it does is, it exposes the fact that there’s been people who feel like us all along, and at some level that makes the people who are the hardcore dogmatists of AA, scared. Because it’s like… It’s bringing something to light that’s been true for a long time, and it’s probably growing in numbers. And I’m with you, Bobby. The honesty and the truth about it is what’s important. And I think the good side of… I’ll say “movement”. I know we don’t always like that word. But the good side of this is what it brings to the front is authenticity and being emotionally honest about ourselves. That scares the hell out of some people. And I would say that some people hide in the dogma of AA and/or religion because of that fear. So to have your foundation rattled just because all of a sudden you realize, “Holy cow, there are some atheists in here” “Holy cow, there’re some people who don’t think the 12 Steps are perfect as written. They came down the mountain.” For some people, if that really rocks their foundation, have to question how secure their sobriety is.
30:30 Bobby: How open-minded are they?
30:33 John: Benn, you just talked about how secure someone is in their sobriety, and it brings me to another topic that’s on my mind that I’d like to talk about. And that is how we’re handling going to meetings, or not going to meetings, during this pandemic. So I made a decision that I’m going to practice social distancing. And for me that means I’m going to be working from home, I’m not going to be going to gatherings where there’s a large number of people, and I’m not going to go to AA meetings. I’m not going to sit in a room, a small room with 15 or 20 people in it. I just made that decision for myself. I just think that it’s not so much just me not getting the virus, but if I do get it, I won’t be infecting other people, and I just think it’s really important to do that. So anyway, I was at a meeting last night, and it was a Friday night meeting that I chair, and I just told the people, I said, “I don’t want to chair this meeting anymore, I’m not going to go to meetings for another month. We either need to close this meeting down or someone else needs to chair it.”
31:35 John: No one else wanted to chair it, so we decided to close it down. And so, after the meeting, I was talking to a guy, he looked to be about my age, and I know he’s been sober for at least 20 years or so, and I was explaining to him why this decision I made about not going to meetings for a month, and the social distancing. And he said to me… He said, “Well, that sounds like a recipe for a relapse.” That he has heard so many times that when someone relapses, the first words are, they stopped going to meetings. And that kind ofdisturbed me, because it’s like, I’m not that insecure. My sobriety isn’t that fragile. And I have a good reason for doing this, and it almost frightens me that there’s people in AA who think that they have to continue going to these AA meetings regardless of a pandemic.
32:28 Benn: Well, John, that’s the disease talking in you.
32:30 John: I guess.
32:31 Benn: [chuckle] I’m just kidding.
32:32 John: But how do you guys feel about this pandemic? And how are you handling yourselves? I guess, Bobby…
32:43 Bobby: Let’s just say I’m still a little confused in the sense that I don’t know if I want to cut… Because my meetings are new, and there may be only about 12 people in them, I’m torn, I have cognitive dissonance with this. I’m torn. I don’t know what to do. So I’m taking it day by day, and actually, I have a little meeting tonight. And there may be one person or two people that show at the Recovery Dharma Meeting, but I’m going to go. And you know what, more will be revealed to me, and I’ll be able to make a decision after that. And then I’ll build on that decision. But as far as people saying… In the beginning I took vacations. I was away from meetings for two weeks. I didn’t get drunk. I didn’t want to get drunk, because I wanted sobriety more than I wanted to get drunk. And there’s people that don’t go to meetings all the time and they stay sober.
33:52 John: Yeah. I know. [chuckle]
33:54 Benn: Right. John, I have a question. Was this person directly referring to you?
33:57 John: Yes.
33:57 Benn: And that… Wow… “That sounds like a recipe for relapse for you.”?
34:00 John: Yep, yep. We were talking, and it was just he and I in the room together, and he was talking to me. He thought that what I was doing was dangerous. And I think that it’s dangerous for me to put myself in a room full of people who might have a virus that I could transmit to someone like my wife who could pass it on to her mother.
34:19 Benn: And here’s where that kind of stuff annoys me. Maybe if you were like two weeks sober, or something like that, and still physically withdrawing, but it’s like… That’s the dogma, and that’s fear-mongering, and that’s the religiosity that annoys me about AA sometimes. As far as me, I took my son to Costco yesterday because we had to get some things, with, “Oh, let’s all quarantine, but before that, I’m going to go be around a thousand people who are frantically buying things and then go quarantine.”
34:48 John: Right, right, right.
34:49 Benn: So I have so many mixed feelings about it. Our daughter was going to daycare still last week, three days a week, but then, all of those kids have been exposed to each other and…
34:58 John: Well, fortunately for kids, it’s not that dangerous really.
35:02 Benn: Yeah.
35:03 John: The younger you are, the better off you are really.
35:06 Benn: Right. And like you said, John, I’m not worried about me, I’m not worried about my wife, I’m not worried about my kids. I’m worried about my in-laws, who are in their 70s, who have heart conditions. I’m worried about my mom, who, if she got the coronavirus and had a medium problem, she would die. She’s on oxygen 24/7, and has heart disease, and she has COPD. So that’s why we do this. I’m not trying to get political on this, but… So even today, I think I’m going to take my daughter to a movie, but the movie theater that I’m taking is practicing distancing and not putting people in certain seats, but even still, there’s a part of me that feels guilty, because what this whole thing has revealed to me is just how God damn self-centered we are too. Even myself, I’m thinking like, “Man, if I’m super annoyed with my family, how the hell am I going to get out of here and go to a movie if my wife’s cool with it when this is going on, what’s this going to do for me?” And then I have to sit and I have to think… Much like AA, it’s not about me, it’s about us. And if the goal really is… I mean, we may look back and be like, “Oh, everybody’s panicking over nothing.” We may never know that. We may be like, “Oh, we avoided the worst spike of it because of what we did.”
36:21 John: Exactly. Exactly.
36:21 Benn: And then the other side of people might say, “Well, look at this bullshit. We didn’t even have to do this. It hardly broke out at all.”
36:28 John: That’s what my wife was saying. It’s like, if it turns out that we do lower the hump, or whatever it is, and it’s not as bad as we were expecting, because we took these precautions, people are going to say, “Oh, what an overreaction. It really wasn’t that bad.” But it wasn’t that bad because we did these things.
36:47 Bobby: Right. There was a guy in line in the Costco I was at yesterday, went all the way to the back of the store and back around the corner. The line moved super fast, but there was one gentleman and he said, “What the hell are all these people doing here?” And then another guy who I would have assumed, if they were a political people, that they would have been on the same team. The other guy said, “Well, didn’t you hear? Schools are probably going to close for six to eight weeks.” The other guy turned around and said, “God damn fucking media.”
37:12 John: Jesus.
37:13 Benn: And so I’m just like, “Okay.” It’s like… “Whatever.” It’s like, we talk about sacrifice, and we talk about what’s a couple of weeks or a month, which I know is a big deal in terms of economic terms. I do a lot of stuff in the stock market, so I realize that. But the same people who are talking about… Sorry, this has now turned into a political podcast.
37:35 Benn: The same people who were probably preaching against whatever Obama’s death camps were, are also the same people who are just saying, “Well, it’s just the flu. If we kill off just the most vulnerable people, and the old people, who cares?” It’s like, “Okay, which part of this camp do you want to agree with?” But I guess my point is, I don’t blame anybody for not wanting to go to a meeting, especially one where people are going to try and grab your hands and make you hold…
37:57 John: But what scares me…
37:58 Benn: Which I think is a stupid outdated idea anyway. But… We’ve talked about this on other podcasts. There is something about being around other people, physically around other people, that does help. So I understand it. And especially, Bobby, for you. If you got a new meeting that is trying to gain some traction, a month or two break might be just what it takes to have that meeting fall apart for a while. But then on the other hand, that problem might solve itself, because there might be enough people that are living in fear that don’t come to the meeting anyway.
38:30 Bobby: Exactly. Yeah. I just want to talk to the listeners. The new people that came into different types of programs, recovery programs, that are dealing with these issues, these addictive behaviors and stuff. This is normal. Anxiety, depression, feeling bored, it’s all normal feelings, we’re all feeling them. So I want to just say that to them, and let them know that today… I could see back in my day, but today everything’s online. Go online, get involved, go to Facebook, go to Instagram, go to Twitter. Listen to these podcasts. AA Beyond Belief, I mean you could just stay there for hours listening to those different podcasts. My Secular Recovery, you only have about seven of them right now, but they’re going to be more coming, you know? And we could sit and listen to them, and listen and learn to listen. It’s a new era, so I don’t think we have to worry about that.
39:36 John: Well, I was thinking about that, Bobby.
39:38 Benn: Great point, Johnny. Bobby.
39:39 John: The reason that I’m doing this is mainly because of my age. I’ll be coming up on 58 years old, and I think that I’m a little bit in that category where I should be careful. So this is my decision. A lot of people that go to our meeting are under 40 and they’re not that big a risk, so it’s not as big of a deal for them. So I’m just making that decision for myself. The way that we’re handling that at our group is people who feel comfortable, they’ll take their own precautions and do their own thing. And so that was just my decision, but I was thinking, Bobby, that, what if I was only just now getting sober, I’m like a week sober? Now, if I was a younger person, and just newly sober, I think I would still go to meetings, and I would practice precautions of not holding people’s hands, and etcetera, but I think I would still probably attend the meetings.
40:32 John: But when you talk about all the other resources that are available, like going online and so forth, when I was getting sober, I didn’t have any money, and so I’m thinking that if I was in the same position now, just getting sober and I didn’t have a job or any money, I might not be able to afford a cell phone with internet access, or to buy a book, or any of that stuff. I might not have a computer or be able to go online. So I wouldn’t have those resources if I were in the same position today as I was back in 1988 financially and so forth, first getting sober. So the only thing I would be able to do now is go to the library, which is actually what I did back in the ’80s. So it’s a little bit more difficult. It depends on where you are in society and what kind of resources you have. It’d be great if you’re just getting sober, and you have a job, and you have access to the internet, you can go to online meetings and so forth, but if you don’t have the access to that, it does make it a lot more difficult.
41:42 Benn: Yeah, like you guys were saying, and Bobby, thank you for bringing that up. There are going to be different degrees of what people need. So the important thing is, if you can or are able to, be in touch with somebody who can help guide you through it, if you don’t feel like you know what you should do. Because that uncertainty, like, “Oh, God, am I going to screw… ” John, even that guy mentioning it to you. You’ve got what? 33 years of sobriety. That kind of stuff upsets me too, to where I’m like, “Oh jeez, what the… Maybe I am. Maybe I’m screwing up.” But somehow we have to trust ourselves. Use what tools you have available to you. Talk to a neighbor more often, or I don’t know, it’s going to be different for each person.
42:24 John: It is.
42:25 Benn: And if somebody’s going to use it for an excuse to drink, they will.
42:28 John: It scares me though.
42:29 Benn: “Oh, I’m isolated,” and this and that.
42:30 John: It scares me that there might be people who are in their 60s and older who are afraid not to go to AA meetings, and they’re going to go to AA meetings, and they’re going to get sick. And they might get very, very sick. And they’re doing it because they think that it’s the only way to stay sober. And what I’ve heard some people even say is that, “Well, I have two choices here. I can die from this virus or I could die from drinking.” I don’t believe that that’s the choice. That’s not the choice. You can stay sober and still take the precautions that you should take for your particular situation. If you’re an older person, if you have underlying medical conditions, you need to take more precautions than somebody who is 32 years old and otherwise healthy. So, yeah, it kind ofconcerns me. I think that there’s a lot of people out there who aren’t taking it seriously, and they’re going to go to meetings, and people are going to get sick.
43:36 Bobby: Yeah. We can talk about… No, that’s great. Everybody’s going to find their own way, and I’ll go back to that, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it will achieve.” If you want this thing, you’re going to figure it out no matter what. Go to a library or go online. If you can’t afford it, grab a book or something. You’ll figure it out. Somebody will figure it out if they want it. They’ll get it. How about the people in that Alcohol… How much time do you think that guy had? Did he have a lot of time or a little bit of time when he told you that?
44:08 John: About 25 years, I think.
44:09 Bobby: Okay, now let me just go with that for a minute. So, we have people in Alcoholics Anonymous with a lot of time, and they used to use these things with the bleeding deacon and elder statesmen. I think that was more a controlling factor where if you speak out differently, you’re a bleeding deacon, and if you sit back and say nothing, and let the people make you a movie star, or a guru, then you’re an elder statesman. I don’t buy that bleeding deacon and elder statesmen, but in Alcoholics Anonymous it almost seems like we are talking about this kindergarten moving up. You got 12 steps, Then move up to the 12th grade. In the 10th step it talks about to continue to take personal inventory. So what I tend to see a lot in Alcoholics Anonymous is people that have five, 10, 15, 20, they tend to talk about the past all the time and try to use what they did 20 years ago to help them today. Instead of really searching, having an open mind, being honest and willing to change more. Not just stay stuck. I see older people with years… I’m judging and I’m taking inventory, yes I am. I see I’m stuck. And that’s why I like this other stuff. Because if you venture out just a little bit, your mind opens up a little bit more. And that’s just my take on that.
45:48 Benn: Bobby, that’s a great point. And I’m looking at this as an opportunity, “Okay, we’re going to be at home more. What are the things around the house that we’ve been trying to get done that we say “we ‘don’t have time for”? So to liken that to recovery, it’s like, “This is a different aspect of our recovery.” So if you’re someone out there who’s super concerned about going to meetings, but you really don’t want to because of this, well, think about, “This is a new way I can challenge myself to grow in my recovery while I’m at home.” Maybe you’ve been sitting there putting off writing down your fourth step. Well, if you’re going to be inside more, go ahead and write that down. Maybe you’ve been telling yourself forever that you’re going to journal more often and share your feelings in writing. Well, here’s a great chance to do that more. So it’s almost like you’re going to… We’ll all have this opportunity to have this stuff put in our face that we’ve been procrastinating and putting off. Well, here’s a great opportunity to dig into some of that stuff.
46:38 John: And I’m going to be doing more podcasts, and I’m going to be reading more, and I’ll be taking my dog for a lot of walks.
46:43 Bobby: It’s an opportunity. You said it, it’s an opportunity for all of us to grow. You can look at it as a bad thing or a good thing. It’s an opportunity.
46:52 John: Well, let’s wind things up guys, I think.
46:53 Benn: That is a recovery tool. That’s a recovery tool. Yep.
46:56 John: I think it was a good conversation we had, and I think that both topics we talked about, anonymity and also the personal distancing… Social distancing thing, it’s all up to each individual person to decide what’s right for them, I think, and that’s the way it should be. We get in trouble when we tell other people what they need to do.
47:13 Benn: Well, I just want to say I’ve been practicing social distancing in meetings for quite a while. As soon as that Lord’s Prayer gets said, I go up and stand in the corner.
47:21 John: Yeah. Yeah, to a certain extent, it’s kind ofeasy for me to social distance, because I don’t like being around people anyway. Anyways…
47:31 Benn: No prayer for me, thanks.
47:32 John: Thank you very much for listening to AA Beyond Belief, the podcast. It’s always an honor to do this.
47:39 Bobby: Thanks, John. Thanks, Benn.
47:39 John: Thank you, Bobby.
47:39 Benn: Hey, Bobby, great talking with you.
47:41 John: Okay, take care guys.
47:43 Bobby: Alright, it’s been great. Thank you so much.
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