Rebellion Dogs our every step

Welcome to Rebellion Dogs Publishing: November 25th, 2015:
HEAR the latest on Rebellion Dogs Radio. Listen, share, like, re-post HERE

Avoid the #blackFriday rush. Visit our Bookstore page and order some recovery books that help put the "X" back in X-mas, - good reads for your non-religious friends.

November 21st at the 519 Church Street Community Center in Toronto we participated in DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DIFFERENT?: Celebrating Diversity in AA. Based on the pamphlet by the same name (CLICK TO READ), Toronto AA looked at identity politics and how creed, race, gender identity, sexual orientation and problems other than alcoholism play out in AA today. The event was free (Sponsored by District 10/Area 83).

Step One: Admit that we have a problem
Joe D, AA World Service Trustee, kicked off at 10 AM with a look at AA's history (struggles and victories) with intolerance/accommodation. He shared personal frustrations with the conferences decision to choose "Many Paths to Spirituality" instead of the more comprehensive offering of atheism and agnosticism in AA. After all, some who include ourselves among AA ranks reject spiritual language in favor of a more secular sobriety narrative.

Joe D, reflected on his experience of AA's lack of ethnic diversity in his own small town AA and wondered if we could do more in our committees to outreach to communities who are underrepresented. Attendees were interested to hear about updated versions of our Women's and LGBTQ pamphlet, a new "AA members and mental health" pamphlet and an upcoming Big Book in the Navajo language.

Three panels followed with transgender, aboriginal, atheists and multicultural speakers who talked candidly about stigma, other substance and process addictions, challenges of mental and physical disabilities and personal experience with navigating barriers inside AA. Candid sharing was embraced and audience participation followed where time permitted. The take-away is that positive change in AA as a whole starts with groups and members; we don't have to wait for General Service Office direction to review our own meeting's rituals, readings and ways we could outreach at the group level. For those of us who want a more inclusive AA, small personal and local steps are the way to go. Yes, our Conference will continue to review and modernize our literature and messaging where we can but in a society governed by our inverted triangle, group and member leadership is what steers our fellowship.

I hope you enjoy the latest from Rebellion Dogs Radio. We're working on editing our next show which will include comedian Richard Lett talking about his one-man-show, Sober but never Clean and punk-rocker/author Jack Grisham in conversation about his new book A Principle of Recovery - An Unconventional Journey Through The Twelve Steps. I can tell you this: Next show is not your sponsor's, sponsor's sponsor's AA. It's AA, the rude and crude awakening.

Renew Magazine's review of the Amy Winehouse movie by Joe C., called, "Daddy's Girl" is now available CLICK HERE to share, re-post, like or download. Below is a link to buy for yourself or or a friend, the DVD or BlueRay of the full-length 2015 movie AMY. You can read the whole Fall issue of Renew Magazine which  features Rob Lowe, Trauma, Al-Anon, consumer addiction, "Thriving in Recovery" and more.

Read Renew Magazine for Free HERE. (See pg 74, 75 for "Daddy's Girl) - See the trailer for #AMYMOVIE Here (Amy the movie is now available on DVD and BlueRay from the Rebellion Dogs Bookstore. Click the link to the left)

The last weekend in October, Rebellion Dogs did a presentation at Area 83 called, "The Trusted Servant" in Kingston Ontario. We asked if stewardship was about preserving or preparing; were we reifying 1955 AA or laying the ground work for the needs of the newcomer of 2035 (our 100th birthday)? I looked at demographic trends from our 2007 Membership survey to our 2014 survey. AA's average age is getting older, there are less "under 21 year olds," more women, a declining number of visible minorities. I asked if Area Assemblies might be online by 2035 and what challenges there are with engaging, tracking and recording on-line AA members who spend more time in recovery Facebook, Skype, blog/podcast sites than in f2f meetings. To the left was my own brand of future-humor of possible new literature 20 years from now. 

Also in October, at Toronto Young People's Conference Joe and Alyssa spoke about Step 2 and 3, unity vs. uniformity on a panel called, "With or without God."

Recently, the White Papers look at a turn for the better of media diminishing stigma when it comes to addiction/recovery. Read it here if you wish.

We've been dragging our but on getting coverage on the Unite to Face Addiction day, October 4th in Washington. But the bro-briety trio of KLĒN + SŌBR do a great job so check out their three-way chat  HERE on Soundcloud. It was nice to meet Matt, Jeff and Chris as well as so many others from the online recovery community.

Who visits RebellionDogsPublishing? tens of thousands are regular or periodic visitors. In terms of highest visits in the last week, visitors come from Chicago, London UK, Toronto, New York, Rochdale UK, Los Angeles, Houston, Melbourne Au, Dallas, Lincoln, Phoenix, San Antonio, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Boston, Portland, Edmonton, San Francisco San Diego, Perth Au.
The new place to hang out on Sundays. Roger of AA-agnostica has turned the reins of Sunday morning discussion over to John and our community has migrated to Please join up and lurk to your delight or join the conversation.
Coming soon: our own coverage and commentary of Unite to Face Addiction and highlights from Sedona (see below). A warm "Welcome" to our new twitter, Facebook and mailing list friends. There is a ton of content here so take you're time: it won't go stale by tomorrow. :-)

We are so excited. Thanks to everyone who came out to contribute to the discussion in the desert about language in 12-Step rooms: what builds bridges, what creates barriers; who has privilege and who feels prejudice? Beyond Belief: An Atheist & a Theologian go on a 12-Step Call together.... September 18th to 20th @ Sedona Mago Retreat.

How did this discussion in the desert materialize? It started with an idea; the idea led to an opportunity. Listen to the how this weekend in the desert started to materialize. We go back to December 2009, from an article in AA Grapevine buy Joe C. Follow the link to hear the article + Joe C on Santa Barbra CA AM 990, talking with Young At Heart host Patti Teal about Sedona Mago Retreat. LISTEN HERE.

Check AAagnostica for a blog about the 2014 AA membership survey results. Here's the good, the bad and the ugly: Women members are on the increase, racial diversity is getting disturbingly thin, overall membership is down 5% year over year but our young members have shed a shocking 20,000 members in the last three years. How to make sense of this? We draw on Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community to compare AA over the last half-century to America's other social/community behavior. Click the AAagnostica link above and join the conversation.

I am so excited about Episode XVII of Rebellion Dogs Radio; we celebrate rebels Marc Lewis and Gretta Vosper. CLICK here to hear (or help yourself to a PDF transcript of the show. Marc is a neuroscientist and professor. His new book, The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is not a Disease is the David to the Goliath Medical Infrastructure's dogmatic obedience to imperfect language. Do addicts have a diseased brain? That's  a popular belief but does that make it true? What's the cost of seeing things the way we always have? What's the cost of stirring the pot up?

(Pic above: Actor Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein (1974) by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks.

Gretta Vosper, an atheist United Church minister is "irritating the Christian Church into the 21st century." She's got a couple of books of her own which we have talked about before. We talk about the drama around the establishment's view of her fitness to lead. Her congregation supports her, but is that going to be good enough for the United Church of Canada? What both of these rebels exhibit is that they reject authority as the truth, rather their authority is truth.

I'm reading Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, 2013 where he says: 

“I want to explore two ideas. The first is that much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of these kinds of lopsided conflicts because the act of facing overwhelming odds creates greatness and beauty. And second, that we get these kinds of conflicts wrong; we misread them, we misinterpret them. Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the source of great weakness. And the fact of being an underdog can change people in a way that we fail to appreciate. It can open doors and create opportunities and educate and enlighten and make possible what might otherwise have seemed unthinkable.”

Who was at AA's 80th? If you missed it, there are mp3s and CDs of all the panels and speakers. Here's the punch line; the last speaker on the last panel of the weekend was John K (who I've quoted on Rebellion Dogs before). His subject was "We Know Only A Little." You can buy the whole panel discussion for $5 from but you can listen to this message for free. He talks about the danger of dogma. In his talk we hear a blast from the past; Bill W. from Toronto in 1965, celebrating 30 years of AA shares on something you will all find fascinating.

I won't spend more time introducing it than the 16 minutes it takes to listen: WE KNOW ONLY A LITTLE from Atlanta 2015, AA's 80th anniversary.

REBELLION DOGS Says, "Who wouldn't want a gift card?" You can now buy an Amazon Gift Card for yourself or others - it's like the gift of knowledge.

Beyond Belief reaches a new milestone. Rebellion Dogs thanks you for your support to spread the word so that Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life hit the 4,000 units this summer. Let's have a party at 5,000 :-)

Beyond Belief is continues to find its way to 100 to 200 more bedside tables, breakfast nooks and mobile devices each month. Thank-you for chatting up the book. Check our Bookstore page for special. Home-groups: buy six, we will discount the book and cover shipping. Buy the eBook and paperback together for $20. Check for other specials.


Finally, Recovery Books for Nonbelievers, Freethinkers and Everyone
(welcome Counselor Magazine readers)

Order Beyond Belief from Amazon HERE.

Great eBook deals: Barnes & Noble have Beyond Belief available for $US10.19 and paperback for $17.22. Compare with Amazon for Kindle.

If you're a KOBO customer click HERE and find out how your purchase of our eBook can support your favorite independent book store.

Two books that belong together. If you visit or live in Toronto, North America's largest mental health book store is Caversham Booksellers at 98 Harbord, steps west of Spadina. You can find (and buy) Beyond Belief and The Little Book: A Collection of Alternative 12 Steps or anything you are looking for in addiction/recovery, psychotherapy, philosophy, science and religion. I find it hard to leave there empty handed. Drop in say "Hi," if you find yourself near Bloor and Spadina in Toronto, Canada.

Roger C's new book called, The Little Book: A Collection of Alternative 12 Steps is something I am quite excited about it. It is the ultimate mate to Beyond Belief; one is a daily reflection book and the other is a freethinker's workbook for the Twelve Steps. You can order it from our Beyond Belief page.

News and Blogs from Rebellion Dogs
From "A Newcomer Asks..." AA pamphlet p-24 Q: “There is a lot of talk about God, though, isn't there?”

A: The majority of A.A. members believe that we have found the solution to our drinking problem not through individual willpower, but through a power greater than ourselves. However, everyone defines this power as he or she wishes. Many people call it God, others think it is the A.A. group, still others don't believe in it at all. There is room in A.A. for people of all shades of belief and non-belief.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 27 “You can, if you wish, make A.A. itself your 'higher power.' Here's a very large group who have solved their alcohol problem. In this respect they are certainly a power greater than you, who have not even come close to a solution. Surely you can have faith in them. Even this minimum of faith will be enough.”

Check our links for great Freethinking places to go. The recovery community consists of 20 million addicts who have turned the corner on addiction to booze, drugs, sexual and romantic obsession, online-gaming, food, gambling, workaholism and more.

Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life
Finally a daily reflection book for nonbelievers, freethinkers and everyone.


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Previous events

An atheist and a theologian go on a 12 step call...

 —  —

Sedona Mago Retreat, Sedona AZ

BEYOND BELIEF: An atheist and a theologian go on a 12-Step call... 800.875.2256 928.204.3391 Beyond Belief author, Joe C. and bereavement counselor, John McAndrew, MDiv, former priest, Betty Ford-Hazelden Spiritual Care Director moderate a weekend discussion about 12-Step recovery from different worldviews. This isn't an atheism vs. theism debate; it's a celebration of the tapestry of recovery that honors a range of worldviews.

All inclusive: $389 shared room, $489 private room



Book Expo America

 —  —

BEA in NYC, Javits Center, New York City

Bloggers Conference, Digital Media Expo, Authors, Distributors, Publishers Exhibition and Forum

$100.00 to 800.00


Talk Recovery 101.5 FM in Vancouver, Vancouver B.C., Canada

Noon PST, 3 PM EST, Joe C., author of Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life is the guest on Talk Recovery on CO-OP Radio in Vancouver, 100.5 FM and/or

Last Door Treatment hosts the weekly show and we've been a fan for some time, now.



Ontario Regional Conference of A.A.

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Fairmount Royal York Hotel, Front & York Street, Toronto, ON

Annual AA, Al-Anon, Alateen Conference. Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life will be available in Jackie's Books and Gifts. Suite # TBA.



12 Step Language for the 21st Century

 —  —

Kiva Recovery , 935 Lakeview Parkway, Suite 101, Vernon Hills (Chicago) IL

RSVP: 855-777-5482

Joe C presents on changing demographics in North America (creed, race, language, worldview) and the evolution of the 12-Step language from 1939 AA to ACA, to Coda to 21st century fellowships like On-line Gamers Anonymous and Teen Addictions Anonymous. Expect a 30 minutes presentation and then Q & A and discussion.



Rebellion Dogs Blog

Speaking recovery from the four corners of the world(views) 

Rebellion Dogs Blog for August 2015
Recovery for 12-Steppers from all worldviews: Learning the North, South, East & West of 12-Step language.
Twelve Step rooms were designed to invite every still-suffering member of society to be dignified as equals. The language of early AA recovery, that may have been cutting-edge in it's day, has not kept pace with transforming demographics that make up today's world. This blog is a little bit different. It’s an invitation into Rebellion Dog’s next book idea, looking at what we believe, how we express ourselves, privilege and prejudice that arise from exclusive language and how we can avoid triggering and offending each other.

I think out loud in today’s blog and ask for your feedback. The four quadrants of human worldviews is a model that looks at what we believe and the personal reasoning style we employ to ratify our beliefs.

I believe that every attempt was made for a wide gateway that invites all who seek the help that AA offers. We see today that, in an interest to preserve the message, time has unfavorably passed our "language of the heart" by. For example, here's how some of Chapter Four of Alcoholics Anonymous reads:

We found that God does not make too hard terms with those who seek Him. To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all men.
When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God. This applies, too, to other spiritual expressions which you find in this book. Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you. At the start, this was all we needed to commence spiritual growth, to effect our first conscious relation with God as we understood Him.

Almost certainly there was no intention at the time to be dismissive of Buddhists, humanists, Hindus, Muslims, women, atheists or others. However, what was meant as a friendly "welcome one and all," in 1939 sounds more exclusive than inclusive today. Our hope today is not to fault-find but to work together. The hope is that we can all be more sensitive to the diverse tapestry that is today's newcomers whom for some, talk of spiritual matters in Judeo/Christian terms may restrict or offend. With the thought of a brighter tomorrow, Rebellion Dogs devotes the dog-days of August to ask, "How we can renovate our welcome mat so that today and in the future, we are as welcoming as our founders intended the 12-Steps to be?"

Read or download in PDF

Coming to Sedona Mago Recovery Retreat September 18th to 20th is a first of its kind gathering to discuss 12-Step language in the 21st century. One theme we aim to explore with attendees is how our narrative about 12-Step recovery can be more inclusive. A first step is to develop skills to understand each other better.

Demographics have changed since the 1930s. Somewhere, it seems, there must be an encyclopedia of religions, creeds, worldviews. We want the hand to be there whenever, wherever a common sufferer reaches out but how do we speak our truth candidly without appearing dismissive or confrontational towards someone with another worldview?

More so than ever, 12-Step rooms are each a coat of many colors. But just as all the colors of the universe can be distilled down to variations of three primary colors—blue, yellow and red—worldviews we encounter in the rooms can be categorized into one of four basic belief structures.

The title of this September’s retreat at the Sedona Mago Retreat in Arizona:
 “Beyond Belief: An atheist and a religious man go on a 12-Step call together…”

Now, that title suggests two worldviews to choose from. The atheist holds a natural worldview whereby all that is known and unknown has a natural (cause and effect) explanation. The religious man holds a supernatural worldview informed by the world of both material and spiritual forces. These two AA members would explain the transformation from addiction to clean and sober in different terms—same experience, two different narratives. Poles apart, one 12-Stepper speaks of a sobriety guided by a higher power as they understand Him, Her, It or Them to be. Conversely, in the narrative of the natural, there is no prayer-answering, sobriety-granting god(s). She or he is non-theistic but not a non-believer. Among a natural’s beliefs, powers that might aid sobriety could be the power of example (in the rooms), faith in the process or a higher purpose, derived in part from the 12-Step process. The supernatural vs. natural perspectives, I suggest, are only two parts—or half—of a four-part story of worldviews that 12-steppers use to describe the recovery process.
Supernatural Worldview
Natural Worldview
Plotting these belief systems, imagine a belief structure that involves a personal God or gods called, “supernatural” at the top of a page—our North Pole. At the bottom of the page is our South Pole, the natural worldview whereby all that is known, all that is unknown and/or not-yet-known is believed to have a cause and effect that can all be explained by natural phenomena. So again, we have supernatural belief to the North and a natural belief to the South.

Let’s add another dimension (a West and East plane) that looks at our reasoning style or problem solving process that we employ to resolve these existential quandaries. Some of us employ a combination of inductive and deductive reasoning. Some of us are more intuitive. Some of us are more abstract in our thinking and others demand absolute true or false answers to the universe’s riddles. So the North/South poles of one belief vs. another doesn’t completely define us without the West/East line of reasoning style.

If you are inclined to a concrete or binary conclusion to the question, you are on the Western side of the ledger. The Eastern hemisphere is for abstract, intuitive or complex approaches to weighing the possibilities of two converse beliefs.  

Bill W’s “We Agnostics” ultimatum is binary—true or false, yin or yang, a one or a zero.

“(W)e had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else he is nothing. God either is, or He isn’t. What is our choice to be?” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p 53)
This question, posed this way is a Western hemisphere reductionist approach that we might expect from someone with a legal education such as Bill. We are asked to weigh evidence or physical properties to make a material choice that we see the world as, a) governed by a personal higher power, or b) the evidence for such a power is insufficient.. That’s a fair ultimatum if our personality type or approach to philosophical questions is one that yearns for concrete/binary absolutism. Being either in the North West (Supernatural) or South West (natural worldview), we may feel gnostic (having vital knowledge) and point to reasons for believing to which anyone who reviews the arguments would see that ours is the sound, correct position.

But this isn’t how all of us negotiate the big questions in life. If our style/personality is rooted in the East we tend towards an intuitive or abstract process. We might start with the premise that the answer to the question is unknown and unknowable. If we have the gall to speak up against our Western sisters and brothers we might warn them that no matter which worldview they stand by, the more certainty they espouse, the less credibility they will build with us. Being sure of oneself isn’t indicative of being right about something.

If we are inclined towards a supernatural view, that puts us in the North East quadrant; we are abstract supernaturals. We might say, “Well, if the world is made up of what I know, what I don’t know and what I don’t know I don’t know, there is more to life than meets the eye. The very possibility of a supreme being makes it worth exploring. My gut instinct is that I must have the humility to bow to the reality that I know but a little; I ought to reach out to whatever might be.” No human construct (religion, book or following) has provided a narrative that resonates with us but we won’t bet against infinite possibilities. “My gut says ‘I feel something, but I can’t define it.' I will satisfy myself with the possibility of spiritual forces at work in my life.”

Those of us in the South East are not as optimistic. Either god created man in his image or man created god in our image; the latter is more likely than the former. If there is a superior being, any attempts to connect to it would be egotistical and futile. “I don’t put my faith in supernatural forces because there isn’t enough evidence to support such a thing. Sure, I could be wrong. But I don’t know because I can’t know, so I don’t care. I will search for enlightenment from within. I will not pander to either personal nor collective wishful thinking for some entity that might get me out of a jackpot or offer the big ticket to eternity. Hey, if I’m wrong, the actions informed by my own internal compass ought to please Yahweh and I’ll be able to answer for myself. But in the meantime, I will just do the next right thing.”

Ambiguity is a fact of life in the Eastern hemisphere. Westerners see Easterners as wishy-washy, or in a provisional position of purgatory. Westerners might urge the Easterners to see that more searching will help them “save time and see it our way.” Easterners may view their Westerner counterpart’s reduction of complicated matters to simple ones or zeros as rash or arrogant. Easterners may sometimes wish that their outlook was more absolute, more definitive. But in time, Easterners might see doubt as a higher or more honest level of consciousness compared to the certainty that their Western neighbors seem to enjoy.

In t
Four worldviews in
12-Step Recovery
he North, the concrete supernatural Westerners and abstract supernatural Easterners might feel they have a 12-Step advantage over their southern brothers and sisters; so much of the literature is written in higher power-friendly language. Yet, both the concrete naturals and abstract naturals of the South may sarcastically retort, “Don’t worry about us; we stay sober without God the same way you do—because there isn’t one (as far as we’ve seen).” The “unsuspected inner resource” referred to in AA’s Appendix II is not a second-rate sobriety coach. It’s a perfectly viable route to happy, joyous freethinking.

Consider that each of these four ways of seeing the world could be natural and healthy. None of the four worldviews is superior or easier than the other.

Here’s one advantage that those in the concrete supernatural North West quadrant hold over the rest; most of the early 12-Step language was written in your theistic language. “We realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves”, “We asked God to remove all these defects of characters” and “For our group purpose there is but ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself through our group conscience…” These are stark examples of the AA story being written in a concrete supernatural narrative, suggesting that a higher power is a given. 

But all of AA is suggestive only. If it is suggested through a theistic narrative, AA’s truth, taken literally, isn’t true for everyone. One can either conclude that, “I don’t belong here because they haven’t spelled it out in a language that speaks to me.” Or, one could assume from the positive results reported in the early writings that there was something to be learned from the change in attitude and behavior. Can we translate the heavy theistic language to a more universal language? How would I describe the process in my own words? How could I help another member translate the process into their language?

Many members have stayed sober without having to accept anyone else’s worldview or having to deny their own. Some reject the Twelve Steps almost entirely, deeming them a flawed and ill-fated process based on an incorrect premise; fair enough. Many more have taken heart from this passage:

“The wording was, of course quite optional, so long as we voiced the ideas without reservation.” Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 63

That invitation or challenge has been taken by many addicts from AA to SLAA to Online Gamers Anonymous. We now have Humanist Steps, CBT Steps, aboriginal/Native American Steps, Buddhist, Atheist and Agnostic Steps, Internal and External Locus of Control Steps and a wide open invitation still stands for every member to write their own twelve, two, six or twenty steps.

In Sedona we’ll look through some of the varieties of 12-Step experience and discuss the possibilities for us and today’s newcomers. One member’s poison is another member’s cure. It’s a matter—not so much of fitting our square-ness into a round hole, but—of finding what fits.  In Sedona we’ll look at tools already available and maybe we’ll craft some new ones.

Here are a few examples of Twelve Step interpretations already changing lives for the better:
  • Step Two: Came to believe that a power other than self could restore us to wholeness. (The Little Book: A Collection of Alternative 12-Steps, p 19)
  • Step Three: Become willing to do things differently and make healthy choices in my thoughts, behaviors and actions through various methods, be it CBT, suggestions from wise friends, my sponsor … meetings, meditation and the development of my own inner strength and wisdom. (Tracy Chabala, After Party Magazine)
  • Step Four: I will make a fearless and honest review of my life, my values, and my goals. (Teen Addiction Anonymous)
  • Step Eleven: Find and study something that we find amazing. Realize that there are ways of living that can bring us a deeper degree of personal fulfillment. (Steps and Principles for Atheists and Agnostics, Online Gamers Anonymous)
Look at that Step Eleven. Who wouldn’t want to do that, regardless of what we believe? How fun; how refreshing. Look at Teen Addiction Anonymous’s 2008 variation of Step Four—not only does TAA remove the biblical word, “God,” but the religious morality is extracted from the inventory process, too. In this day and age, only our imagination limits us.

Back to these four quadrants. What are we going to do with this exploration of four quadrants? First we’ll look at which belief and reasoning style is the most authentic fit for us. They are made up of made up compound worlds. Why? Well first of all, overused words lose their meaning. Atheist for example defines someone by what they don’t believe. That’s no way to look at ourselves or others. Nonbeliever is just as bad. Supernatural worldview was my best attempt at including everyone who believers in one or more personal deities—God of our understanding, my higher power called Wonder Woman, Allah, Yahweh, the collective-consciousness—without excluding others. Most abstract thinkers would be what we call agnostics but “agnostic” comes with its own load of baggage now, so I avoided the triggers associated with the word, "agnostic." Make your own words which you feel communicate best. That’s the whole idea here.  

Let's look at others we know, in and out of the rooms, too. Who are the people we love and what corner of the graph are they in? Why are we more tolerant of some who fall in one of the worldviews that is different from ours? Think about people in the rooms that really bug us; what quadrant are they in? Is there something about the language they use that triggers us? Can a second look at language help us see past the words they say and the negativity I feel under my skin? Can I better understand what they are saying? Maybe we are two people divided by a common language that have more in common than we realize. Oh, the narcissism of small differences.

We might look at popular personality categories and how, within each corner of the recovery quadrants, the room for variety is wide open. The Five Factor Model (FFM)—openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism—how would our score in these scales impact how we’d represent our quadrant? Extroverts might think that everyone would be happier if they saw it their way; it may be hard to get an introvert talking about her or his worldview. Are we open to new experiences? That personality trait will likely inform how warm or intolerant each of us is to the worldview of others.

The program for Sedona Mago is still in the revision stages. If you have ideas, don’t be shy. We’re looking into the possibility of Continuing Education credits to those attendees whom are professionally accredited. In the theme of together, we’re better, we are looking to facilitate a weekend where we all go back to our home towns and home groups better able to hear and speak to today’s rapidly changing tapestry of newcomers. After all, it is our responsibility.

Beyond Belief: An atheist and a religious man go on a 12-Step call together… is one of several great recovery retreats offered at Sedona Mago Retreat Center. If you can’t make it Beyond Belief, check out other offerings on Buddhism and the 12-Steps, AA History, Spirit-Stock, Loving Sober and more:

Sedona Website
Sedona Youtube

AA History didn't just happen 80 Years Ago - It's happening now. 

In this blog: What did I learn during my trip to New York City to explore GSO Archives in search of the history of Agnostic/Atheist AA members? History is ongoing. This month we look at what AA’s latest statistics say, how AA members and GSO are shaping AA’s future. Also, let's talk about sober adventures in New York City.

View or download a PDF of July 2015 Blog: AA History didn't just happen 80 Years Ago.

Where are we now? One idea that solidified for me when I was surrounded by AA history in our archives office is that AA is not stagnant. Today we will discuss AA’s evolution and things that are changing right now. For some of us, AA isn’t changing fast enough, for others it isn’t focusing on the right kind of change and for others, change is risk and risk is foolhardy.

AA didn’t happen 80 years ago—our anniversary is just a symbol of the meeting of two alcoholics who needed each other, one to get sober, one to stay sober. Both may have perished without the other. The reason our 80th anniversary is symbolic is that it dates back to AA’s second success story. Forget which came first; you can’t have an AA without both a chicken and an egg. In this way, our fellowship borrows from a metaphor about the circle of life. Bob Smith’s sobriety date didn’t happen in a bubble; nor did Bill’s before him. “AA wasn’t invented,” as Bill W said.

What became a movement eventually, was no movement at all, on June 10th, 1935. The name Alcoholics Anonymous hadn’t been invented yet. Bob didn’t get sober from talking to Bill just once. Sobriety was a process. And is Bill really patient-zero? Bill was helped by Ebby. Sure, Ebby was an Oxford Group member with no plan to form a new organization, but these two men were talking alcoholic to alcoholic in a very AA way. Even through cynical eyes, Bill saw in Ebby, an example of someone who knew alcoholic helplessness yet was now sober. Ebby stayed sober that day. Maybe reaching out to Bill helped Ebby in the way we know it does. From his 2015 book, Key Players in AA History, Bob K writes about Ebby’s reunion with a drunken Bill Wilson.

That “bleak November” was in 1934. The old school friend was Edwin Throckmorton Thacher, known better then and since, as Ebby. “Fresh-skinned and glowing,” sober a mere seven weeks, “he was inexplicably different.” Although he did not at the time realize it, Bill Wilson was only a few short (but well-lubricated) weeks away from his very last drink. More importantly, this simple reunion of old chums, though it did not, in fact, recapture the spirit of other days, would set in motion a series of events that would dramatically affect the lives of millions of alcoholics, and change the world of addiction treatment.[i]

So the events leading up to June 10, 1935 have as much to do with Alcoholics Anonymous as the events that followed. Of course, what was still to come counts for a lot. There was no book, no Steps and no name for AA in 1935. There was never a thought of Atlanta: 2015. It was “one day at a time” back then; neither Bill’s nor Bob’s sobriety was assured. Nothing was, as of yet, sacred or forbidden. Our future as a fellowship was not limited by any event in 1935 and any symbolic significance of that date was an afterthought.

In the Spring, an article by Rebellion Dogs was published in the pages of In Recovery Magazine. “Unbelievers Unabashed” is about AA members whose worldview and sobriety does not include a supernatural explanation of mankind and/or sobriety. For some folks, there is no prayer-answering, sobriety granting higher power “holding us up to the light.” Specifically, the article was about the anticipation and reaction to a new pamphlet that rolled out in 2014—right about this time last year.

Many Paths to Spirituality, was an effort to represent AA in the 21st century. The pamphlet demonstrates that AA can work for a Jew who likes the Lord’s Prayer, an atheist who prays but to no god, a Catholic who is happy she can worship the God she learned about in school and a Native America who’s glad that she doesn’t have to.

However, if you were following the talk around the coffee urns at Regional Forums and notes from AA’s General Service Office for the years leading up to this, you might have been expecting this pamphlet to be by-and-for atheists/agnostics in AA.  For the majority of not-God AA members, the pamphlet was a disappointment.

In the article, I explained to readers that I was looking forward to a trip to AA archives in New York City to do some research on events leading up to this pamphlet. As I mentioned at the top, I have been there, now. I have looked through notes and minutes from Literature Committees, advisory actions and Final Reports of the General Service Conference, and I am still in the process of putting it in perspective.

What is clearly recorded (and I saw with my own eyes) in AA history is that the trustees’ Literature Committee was asked by the fellowship to consider a pamphlet for members who don’t believe in God. In 2008, a Literature Committee subcommittee found that previous committees had started down that road in 1975, 1981, 1988, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2008 and 2012. That is nine times that members asked that the hand of AA would be there regardless of what one does or does not believe.

While no such atheist/agnostic pamphlet has ever been approved by the Conference, one atheist story was included in the original 1976 Do You Think You’re Different? pamphlet. Later, a Hispanic story was removed and an agnostic story was added. Our A Newcomer Asks and some of our pamphlets for medical and religious professionals now make statements that AA’s membership requirements don’t include a belief in God and our history of success stories in the rooms bears that out.

With more to say on the history of atheists and agnostics in AA later, let’s stop for a moment to look at a snapshot of AA today. Our annual count of members and groups is out. We have also just finished General Service Conference season. Let’s look at what’s going on right now, shall we?

New or revised LGBT, Women’s, Agnostic/Atheist and Mental Health pamphlets coming soon from General Service.
GSO is all about presenting AA stories in a hip lingo that reaches today’s newcomers. Right now, the General Service Office in New York seeks stories to update the Women’s and LGBT pamphlets (currently called “Gay & Lesbian). A new pamphlet about mental health issues seeks stories by AA members with co-morbidity or sponsors who work with these double-winners. So, GSO does—in some important ways—want AA’s voice to be current and portray our stories in print in a way that is as diverse as our meetings.

Luckily for those who think of recovery and addiction from the perspective of natural, not supernatural laws, 475 Riverside Drive in New York City isn’t our only General Service Office. In the UK, the General Service Conference voted 80% in favor of an atheist/agnostic pamphlet and they are collecting stories from members as we speak.

Why the initiative for a 21st century AA narrative? Well here are 97,792 possible reasons—that’s the number of how many fewer members of Alcoholics Anonymous there is this year compared to our survey last year. AA's population is down about 5% over last year. The significant loss is the International (non-Canada/USA) population of members, down 13%.
What we’re looking at Just the facts What’s the significance?
AA’s population (pop) 2,040,629 members[ii] Down 98 K from last year.
AA pop compared to USA since we peaked in 1992 USA is up 28% and AA has  dropped 10% AA as a percentage of world pop is in decline.
USA adults in recovery from alcohol & drugs [iii] 23.5 Mil, 10% of adults, up from 20 Mil in last survey AA members are a shrinking % of people in recovery.

Keeping tabs on AA members is a dodgy business at best but compared to how AA counts our tally, it gives us a year over year overview. Today's AA is about the same size as the early 1990s. We had doubled in size twice (from 500,000 to 1 Mil to 2 Mil) in the 20 year period between 1974 and 1993.

BTW, do you know how new AA (conference-approved) literature comes to be? There are several ways to get your idea heard at the General Service Conference. You can write a letter as a concerned or interested member of AA, directly. You can bring it up with your group, get the group behind it and have the group instruct your General Service Rep to ask the District to support it. There are over 90 Areas in Canada and the USA and each Area has dozens of Districts. So, if you’re District is in favor of your new literature idea, the District Committee Member will bring the idea to the Area and ask for Area support. The idea will be debated and if it gets substantial unanimity, the delegate to your Area will bring the idea to the annual General Service Conference for discussion or send your request to the Literature Committee.

Four or more times a year a trustees’ Literature Committee meets to discuss the matters before the Conference. There are a dozen trustees’ committees; Public Information, Treatment, Archives etc., all have their own committee, too. Sometimes trustees’ committees appoint a subcommittee to discuss, research and make recommendations on a certain issue on the docket. Pamphlets, books, booklets, videos and a few other info/outreach pieces are all things that might be included in Literature Committee business. Not only does every new pamphlet have to go through a process, but every update and change needs approval, too. So there are about 100 items, all of which will eventually be up for renewal, removal or replacement.

Some of the items are foist upon the committee by an advisory action at the annual General Service Conference. Other items are directives/ requests/ inquiries that may have come by direct contact to GSO.

The trustees’ Literature Committee will pass on certain items to the Conference Literature Committee. The CLC tables the recommendations before posing them to the delegates, trustees, board members and staff who decides on what is, and what is not, “conference-approved” that year. But not everything that the trustees’ Committee discusses is passed on to the Conference Committee. The Conference Committee will either: a) reject the trustee’s recommendation, b) send it back for clarification or c) bring it forward to the Conference to seek approval.

Now that the respective Conferences have approved these two pamphlets to be updated (Women in AA & LGBT AA) and two new pamphlets (mental health & atheist/agnostic), here’s the info if you live in the jurisdiction and you’d like to contribute a story for consideration.

GSO is on the 11th floor of 475 Riverside Drive in Manhattan (pictured). For the purposes of mail for members in Canada & USA who want to contribute to the mental health, women’s or LGBT pamphlets:

Literature Coordinator
General Service Office
Box 459
Grand Central Station
New York NY, 10163

In the UK, contribute to a pamphlet for atheist/humanist/agnostic members and newcomers. If you live in the United Kingdom, send your story to:

General Service Office of AA
PO Box 1
10 Toft Green
York YO1 7NJ

Tell your story. Contact your GSR or delegate and ask them to include your story for consideration. Help make our literature as diverse as alcoholics and recovery stories are.

As for previous attempts from USA/Canada’s General Service Office to produce secular recovery literature for and by members, each request has met with varied levels of enthusiasm from the trustees’ committee. Sometimes motivated trustees’ committees changed personnel and the drive was lost. In some cases the proposal was passed on to the Conference committee and that group axed the proposal. It wasn’t until earlier this decade that stories were finally collected, assembled and presented to the Conference with the recommendation of approving a collection of atheist/agnostic AA success stories (USA/Canada). This one time that the Conference was presented with AA success stories from members without a belief in God(s) there was both enthusiasm and hostility about the idea. The recommendation, needing two-thirds approval, as is the AA way, was not carried forward. What we got instead, a year or two later, was Many Paths to Spirituality which if you haven’t read the In Recovery Magazine story, you will find from the hyperlink below. The article outlines AA’s agnostic, humanist, atheist, secular community feedback to Many Paths.
Read Now:
UNBELIEVERS UNABASHED by Joe C. © Spring 2015 In Recovery Magazine

So that article set the stage for my trip to AA’s archives to either refute or corroborate the claims made in History – Proposals to Create a Pamphlet for the Non-Believer/Agnostic/Atheist Alcoholic  The un-authored ten-page report still has some mystery surrounding it. But it seems that is was put together in February of 2008 by the Literature Committee while considering the proposal that came from Area 17 (Hawaii) for a nonbeliever's pamphlet.

From 1976 to today, AA’s Literature Committees entertains a proposal to produce a pamphlet of atheist/humanist/secular AA members nine times. If it is true that every time the request has been made, the request was denied, then the question has to be asked, “Is AA guilty of willful blindness?”
The concept of willful blindness is addressed in a Ted talk and a book by Margaret Heffernan called Willful Blindness:  Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril. Heffernan explains the legal consequences:

“if there is information that you could know and you should know but you somehow manage to not-know, the law deems that you are willfully blind—you have chosen not to know.”[iv]
I am not a lawyer or a judge; I’m a reporter. AA isn’t under the microscope of legal opinion so such terms ought to be cautiously wielded. As members of a larger whole we may want to look ourselves in the mirror and ask, “What is my duty, as an AA member, in terms of my own fiduciary responsibility to accommodate the needs of a each and every alcoholic that reaches out for help?”


Willful blindness is a term used in law to describe a situation in which a Person seeks to avoid civil or criminal liability for a wrongful act by intentionally putting him or herself in a position where he or she will be unaware of facts that would render him or her liable.
For example, in a number of cases, persons transporting packages containing illegal drugs have asserted that they never asked what the contents of the packages were and so lacked the requisite intent to break the law.
Such defenses have not succeeded, as courts have been quick to determine that the defendant should have known what was in the package and exercised criminal recklessness by failing to find out.

Using myself as an example, I have (I guess you could call it) campaigned for pamphlet called something like, With or without God: AA for humanists, atheists, agnostics and secularists. If you’ve been following along this region of the blogosphere,  you know I have echoed the arguments that have come before that such a pamphlet would both help the newcomer who doesn’t hold a supernatural worldview and it would help sensitize all members to how best to help nonbelievers without fear or discrimination.

Since the 1940s, ALANON HOUSE (now on 42nd Street) hosts AA meetings. In the back, we see “Twelve Suggested Steps” which have hung above the speaker for over 70 years. In the foreground hangs a baseball bat, donated by Bill W. It’s called The Peace Maker, jokingly given to aid in achieving group conscience during business meetings.
Maybe you’re nodding, thinking, “Yeah, such a pamphlet would make all of AA a more sensitive, tolerant place for newcomers.” So, you’re with me so far. Now the next question I ask myself and invite you to ask yourself: “Have I read every story in Too Young?, AA for the Gay/Lesbian Alcoholic, AA for Women, AA for the Black or African American, AA for the Native American, etc?” 

If I can answer, “Yes,” then I am indeed an example of the inclusive AA I ask GSO to be. If I have to admit, “No; I haven’t read every story,” then maybe I want to be heard and validated, more than I want to be an example of a responsible AA that “when anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there,” and with a modicum of understanding. Do I understand the local building code enough to know if my own home group is wheelchair accessible—according to the code? Do I know some of the other languages AA literature is available in if a newcomer arrives with English as a second language?

I am not pointing the finger; I am confessing my own willful blindness. I try to be more sensitive but sometimes I hear myself saying things like, “walk the AA walk,” without thinking about how hearing that would make me feel if I was confined to a wheelchair.
AA history then and now in New York City
May 2015, in the city so nice they named it twice, I had a chance to catch some AA meetings, along the way. The trip included a group on 42nd Street that's been meeting at ALANON HOUSE since the 1940s.
This was a bit of AA history that I came across by chance. The building, 303 42nd Street just off the theater district of New York City might not be long for this world and this capsule of AA history will soon be gone.
I was told that the speaker chair is the same chair they have always had and it sits just below the Twelve Suggested Steps (see photo). Imagine—Bill W, Hank P., Jim B., Marty Mann, who knows who sat in that chair and shared what it was like, what happened and what it is like now. Among the memorabilia is an old can-opener that opened coffee cans for 50 years before being retired.
I took in six of New York City's fourteen AA groups for humanists, atheists and agnostics; stops included:
  • Tuesday Sober Agnostics on 29th Street,
  • We Agnostics of The Bronx at North Central Bronx Hospital,
  • Agnostics at Noon at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in The Village,
  • We Agnostics of New York City in the Upper West Side at  Stephen Wise Free Synagogue,
  • East Village Sober Agnostics at the YMCA on Bowery and Houston and finally,
  • The 11 pm Friday in Brooklyn, my vote for the wittiest secular AA group name ever, The Ungodly Hour group.

DID YOU KNOW? For people who prefer AA without prayer, there are 267 meetings times now, around the world (according to Some groups meet one hour a week, some meet five or more times a week. There are morning, afternoon, evening and midnight groups. There are online meetings and chat groups, Facebook, Yahoo and Google groups. I think this is an interesting example of Alcoholics Anonymous adaptability; the world is getting more secular, more freethinking and AA seems to be adapting to this, being one of many legit ways to look at AA-ness—one requirement for membership, each groups sets its own boundaries and purpose (focused on sobriety for alcoholics), every group part of the larger whole but autonomous from others. 
Book Expo America 2015
Book Expo America was one of our stops to learn more about publishing with a look to its role in peer-to-peer recovery. Here are some of the highlights from BEA:

Jane McGonigal, PhD wrote a book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. Over a billion people are gamers now and we heard, "the opposite of fun isn't work; it is depression." Look, there are benefits, emotionally, from gaming. Do our Face-to-face (f2f) communities meet these needs? Is online engagement as useful in recovery as going to meetings? Why or why not?
I heard a new term for the discomfort people feel when they are separated from their mobile devices: No-Mo-phobia. I love it.

BEA was a combination of old-guard publishing industry and the Young Turks. I heard one publisher say from the podium, “The problem is that there are too many titles today.”

I had to think about this—is it true or is it false? Everything I know about the book business I learned from the music biz. Here’s what I know about the music biz. There is more music being consumed by more people today than at any time in history. That said, the top-10 list of songs is bordering on irrelevant. In the 1970s or the 1980s how many of us wouldn’t know the artists on the top-10 list? We might not like them all, but we sure knew who they were and what they were singing about. Today, how many people do you know that could name the top-10 songs on the radio right now? Hey, I’m in the music business and I don’t know. The top of the pops is not being followed by most young people any more. More people are finding their music in more ways.

The rules about gatekeepers have changed. Record labels and radio stations controlled access to music. They were our taste makers. If you were a musical artist and you weren’t on the radio in 1980, you didn’t exist. If you didn’t have a record label, you couldn’t record a song. Now anyone with an iPhone has a Garage Band app and they can record a song. Anyone with a Facebook page can sell a song or help promote a friend’s song. We don’t look to the labels or pop-radio stations to tell us what’s worth our time to the same degree we did a few decades ago. There are podcasts, internet and satellite radio stations to choose from and we aren’t controlled by the limits and range of our AM/FM antenna any more.

So when a publish company executive says, “There are too many books,” that means something different than if a book reader said, “There are too many books.”
Today’s reader finds out about worthwhile titles from their friends on or from any number of online taste-makers that each reader chooses to trust. GoodReads readers read three titles a month, each (on average). Readers aren’t complaining about too many books. They don’t care about how many books are available; what they care about is how many books that they care about are available. Bricks-and-mortar companies care about how many books there are because they have limited shelf-space. But not many eReaders and iClouds are too full to fit another few titles. 

So when I hear “too many books” I hear fear that the old guard is losing control of supply and demand and I hear a company that isn’t on the same page as the person who matters most—the reader.

So that's what we have for you this month on literature, history and AA membership trends. As always, we'd love to hear what you have to say on these topics. Drop a line here, on Twitter or Facebook and please feel free to re-post and invite your friends to do the same.

A recent Rebellion Dogs Radio includes an interview with addiction/treatment counselor and author, Erica Spiegelman about her new book Rewired: A Bold New Approach to Addiction and Recovery. She really has a refreshing way of looking at the problem and the many paths to our solution.

Download a PDF of July 2015 Blog - the Ongoing History of AA

Science behind the 12 Steps? Joe Nowinski PhD's new book Podcast

This year, a new book looks at 12 Step outcomes. It’s called, If You Work It It Works! The Science Behind 12 Step Recovery by psychologist and award winning author, Joe Nowinski PhD. It is a jargon-free look at how, 12 Step modality help alcoholics/addicts. I read it, I interviewed Dr. Nowinski and I will share our conversation with you in this show.

There is lots of debate on both sides of the 12 Step campfire. Gabrielle Glaser wrote a 2015 feature for the Atlantic called "The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous."

Her urgency has to do with how Obama Care dollars are going to be spent. Glaser says, "The debate over the efficacy of 12-step programs has been quietly bubbling for decades among addiction specialists. But it has taken on new urgency with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which requires all insurers and state Medicaid programs to pay for alcohol- and substance-abuse treatment, extending coverage to 32 million Americans who did not previously have it and providing a higher level of coverage for an additional 30 million.The United States already spends about $35 billion a year on alcohol- and substance-abuse treatment, yet heavy drinking causes 88,000 deaths a year—including deaths from car accidents and diseases linked to alcohol. It also costs the country hundreds of billions of dollars in expenses related to health care, criminal justice, motor-vehicle crashes, and lost workplace productivity, according to the CDC. With the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of coverage, it’s time to ask some important questions: Which treatments should we be willing to pay for? Have they been proved effective?"

We'll talk about this. We will explore who or what is irrational, because Dr. Nowinski delivers the goods in terms of statistical facts on how meetings, sponsorship and engagement with the 12 Step fellowship improve results? Nowinski has the numbers; he knows how significantly these factors predict outcomes in people with low, medium and high engagement in 12 Step recovery models.

The Fix pitted advocate Joe Nowinski against the critical Lance Dodes earlier this year. READ IT HERE. We talked about the Lance Dodes book, The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science of the 12-Step and the Rehab Industry in Episode 04 of Rebellion Dogs Radio where we looked at 50 years of critics that have taken a hatchet to the AA tree. 

For a transcript of this show CLICK HERE :-)

Our show features a great new song by Halifax songwriter, Joel Plaskett, called, "The Park Avenue Sobriety Test."

As always, re-post this, like, link, or download to your heart's content.


Rights and the Duty to Accomodate in AA: getting ready for the 2015 conference Podcast

 As A.A. readies for its annual business meeting (for Canada & USA) in April, I just came back from C.E.R.A.A.S.A., the Canadian Eastern Regional A.A. Service Assembly which was held outside of Toronto – Mississauga February 20th to 22nd. There are ten districts from the Ontario/Manitoba border east to the Atlantic Ocean. GSRs, delegates and any member who wants to buy a ticket can come have their say as the ten delegates get a feel for the room, or hear from members as we discuss the agenda items for the General Service Conference in April 2015.

I had the most bizarre experience at a panel called, "Diversity in A.A. - Our Heritage of Inclusion." You'll hear all about it on the latest Rebellion Dogs Radio. Some AA stewards suffer from the misapprehension that group and member rights are granted by the authority of GSO (or Intergroup) and are therefor, conditional. On the contrary; rights are inalienable - they can't be surrendered nor can they be revoked. Rights are inherent, or as the superstitious expression goes, 'granted under god.'

Love and tolerance for others is our code but I just heard from an AA delegate (talking about diversity) who thought that stewardship is rule-enforcement. Why does our Service Manual describe our duty in the terms of servitude? I guess any of us can get drunk on dogma or trip out on authority; we're only human. The question is this: Are we praising our own inclusiveness on one hand and systemically discriminating against minorities on the other hand. Repeat after me, GSO, "Denial isn't a river in Egypt."

Admitting there's a problem is the first step. This isn't going to be an all critical rant. We hear from Barry L who talked at the 1985 AA World Convention in Montreal about AA's overcoming their personal value system to do what's best for AA as a whole and agree to list gay and lesbian affirmative groups. We look at the Big Book's second edition affirmative action and how it advanced the interests of women in AA, acting as an early adapter to the women's liberation movement. So we look at race, creed, age, gender and physical/mental accessibility needs as we say, "Never mind what kind of a job we think we're doing with minorities in AA, what do our cold, hard statistics tell us about how well we're doing?"

 I want to read it - not hear it. View or download the transcript HERE. Visit us on POD-0-MATIC

If AA is so inclusive, why do our demographics not reflect in the rooms, the same demographics of the towns and cities just outside our rooms. We look at NEXT AMERICA, a report by Pew Research and compare that report to the AA triennial survey and we contemplate why AA looks like 1960 American - not Century 21 America.
Did I mention the Human Rights Code? In Ontario, where discrimination in AA is currently being tolerated, the Human Rights Commission has something to say about A.A.’s responsibility to advocate for minorities.

On their website you and I can read:“Organizations must ensure that they are not unconsciously engaging in systemic discrimination. This takes vigilance and a willingness to monitor and review numerical data, policies, practices and decision-making processes and organizational culture. It is not acceptable from a human rights perspective for an organization to choose to remain unaware of systemic discrimination or to fail to act when a problem comes to its attention.”

A transcript of the whole radio show is available HERE

January 2015 - Pluralism: The language barrier to getting along  

January 2015 - Pluralism: The language barrier to getting along
Worldviews that divide us in politics, religion and recover & the hope for reconciliation.

#JeSuisCharlie is the hash tag that tells the world that you condemn violence in the name of creed; Vive la freedom of the press! An antagonistic French atheist newspaper was terrorized by angry Muslims in retaliation for insensitive depictions of Islamic religious symbols. Let’s not forget that most Muslims condemn violence, too, but they’re hardly pro-blasphemy either. How does one avoid knee-jerk reactions to news stories like these? We can see people take sides, sometimes before all the facts are in. 
Credited to John Buchan (1875 – 1940), novelist, politician.

I am pro-pluralism and at times like this I wonder if everyone getting along respectfully isn’t the delusion of liberal idealism. Still, it’s my default position; we can respect each other and not berate our differences. But it’s a challenge. I can sound all rational and inclusive… until I get triggered and then I get passive-aggressive or worse.
On January 9th, The New Yorker printed “Unmournable Bodes” by Teju Cole. The editorial confronts the question that has to be asked about this news of the world. What if you don’t want to promote either terrorism or racism? On one hand you have insensitive journalism that preys on racial/creedal stereotypes and on the other hand, jihad.  Both are dehumanizing.
“But it is possible to defend the right to obscene and racist speech without promoting or sponsoring the content of that speech. It is possible to approve of sacrilege without endorsing racism. And it is possible to consider Islamophobia immoral without wishing it illegal. Moments of grief neither rob us of our complexity nor absolve us of the responsibility of making distinctions.”
Check out the whole article here:
In Twelve Step/Twelve Tradition culture, creed becomes an issue of the relevance/reality of divine intervention in the process of getting and staying clean and sober. It’s not our religious or a-religious convictions per se. One can believe in their favorite Holy Book and still believe that addiction recovery is a self-help process—not a matter of divine inspiration. It comes down to not just outside agency; but we each see the role of outside forces in our recovery outcomes differently. Regardless of having our faith in Yahweh or the power of example of the group, where does our responsibility take over?
The “as we understand God” is a buffet of spiritual folklore. Don’t like a punishing judging god but want to believe there’s a divine plan for you? There’s your god. Want to plug into power but not the word god because of the religious baggage that comes with calling Yahweh by name? Have at it with your higher power. Or do you want the internal locus-of-control model? Tap away at your unsuspecting inner resource. Mix and match as you see fit. Accessorize with a heaven but no hell, reincarnation instead of finitude, your only limit is your imagination. Still, being above it all with an ashes to ashes, rotting flesh back to star-dust atheism has the rush of trading eternity tomorrow for being so intellectually superior to our myth-dependent fellows, today.
From A.A. Grapevine May 2010 we have a lesson in taking what we like without bad-mouthing the rest. Actually, this is a “one of these things is not like the other” scenario. Previously, in January 2010 an article “Without a Higher Power” gave an atheist take on recovery in AA. Here are three responses from readers. See if you can pick the one that’s different from the others:
Response to Greg H.’s Without a Higher Power published in Grapevine January 2010.

Ludicrous: I was not pleased with the story “Without a Higher Power: (January 2010). As the Big Book states, we have no defense against that first drink, but we do have “a daily reprieve contingent upon the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” Why would I need a spiritual condition, or maintain it, if it weren’t associated with a power greater than myself? The part about the sponsor saying that what the author was doing was obviously working, so let’s not try to fix it, is absolutely ludicrous.  If there is one who is walking in my midst with this limited idea of AA, I will be on the lookout to work with him and hopefully get him back on this road we are trudging of happy destiny.  Dale M., Lake Charles, La
Primary Purpose: Although the author’s experience did not match my own, I applaud Grapevine for publishing “Without a Higher Power.” In my 22 years in AA, the most common complaint I’ve heard from newcomers who’ve “tried it; didn’t work” was intolerance of AAs towards atheists and agnostics. Hopefully this article will help us remember our primary purpose isn’t evangelical, but to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.  Kevin K. Centerpoint, N.Y.
All-encompassing: Thank you for publishing “Without a Higher Power.” In recent years I’ve noticed a kind of thinking among some AAs that I would consider bordering on the “fanatical.”

There is no one way to be a member of AA. The author made a beautiful statement about the all-encompassing arms of our life-saving Fellowship. George P. Hingham, Wis.[i]
None of the respondents claim to be atheists. They are all believers and none had a conversion experience from the” Without a Higher Power” article. Two believers thanked A.A. Grapevine for publishing the story and took away something themselves or saw how the story could benefit others. The other—Ludicrous—was offended that A.A. Grapevine poisoned the magazine with such blasphemy, siting the suggestion of recovery without god as plausible as a dangerous (maybe life-threatening) act of irresponsible journalism.
I hope I can be more like Kevin and George and less like one-way-or-the-highway Dale.
I think it’s pretty good that two-thirds of the reactions from people with opposing worldviews are respectful of the unbeliever writer and appreciative of his input. That’s very hopeful.
Some of you may know that a few months prior, I had an article published called, “Overhaul?” asking if our early 20th century program was fit for the 21st century newcomer.  Sure, some reactions were hostile towards the blasphemous idea of tinkering with our sacred text. But most agreed or disagreed with one or more ideas without being disagreeable about me, the quality of my recovery or A.A. Grapevine.
It’s easy to stop at something like this response and get angry:
Overhaul? (by MARK W.)
In suggesting that atheism or agnosticism are satisfactory in the longer-term, provided one keeps an open mind, the author misses a key purpose of the Big Book. As "We Agnostics" clearly states, the book's "main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself," while in "How it Works," we are reminded "there is One who has all power—the One is God," For this alcoholic, only God can effect enough change within me to stay away from the bottle.
Binary thinking is reserved for the religious. Atheism comes with its own dogma as does agnosticism. Dogmatic atheists will pronounce that religion is destructive, waning and breathing its last gasp. We’d all be better without religious mythology and they’ll rant about the crusades or pedophiles of the cloth as an example of how religion is bad and we’d all be better without it. Dogmatic agnostics won’t even let atheists or theists finish their sentence, interrupting with “It’s unknown and unknowable, why are you still talking about this; what’s the point?” Debate will frustrate a dogmatic agnostic because unsolvable riddles are an unproductive use of time. “Every rational person would agree with us,” would be the rational for any dogmatic theist, atheist or agnostic.
Last week on AAagnostica I suggested that both Big Book thumpers and Big Book bashers were dogmatic and a member took exception to “bashers” being called dogmatic just because they have the same “it’s time for change” ring to their sharing. 
I will say this: both a member of a minority or a majority can hold prejudice over the other, but only the majority member can discriminate over the other. A system needs to be in place whereby literature and/or rules frustrate equality. Just as one could have an anti-visible minority prejudice or an anti-Caucasian prejudice, only one is racism in North America. If you think African Americans are superior to whites, that’s prejudice but anti-black sentiment has a system of prejudice in place to back it up—making it racism. Stats show that being born black in the USA has a different probability for wealth and education than being born white. This is systemic discrimination at play. This is borne out in gender in the workplace, sexual orientation in high school and yes—being an atheist in AA. Either an atheist or theist can be a bigot but only the theist in AA has the systemic backing to harass and discriminate against the atheist.
So, going back to being called out for calling Big Book bashers as being just as dogmatic as Big Book thumpers, I stand by what I say—each may feel superior to the other. But. to my critic’s point, the basher doesn’t have the systemic infrastructure of literature and strength in numbers to harass or discriminate against thumpers (except maybe around the table at a We Agnostics group).  In this regard, the basher—the one who wants wholesale changes to the Alcoholics Anonymous text—has to be insistent, disobedient and repetitive to disturb the status quo enough to initiate change. While that may or may not be dogmatic, it is an unavoidable position. Mary Sophia Allen (British Suffergette), Malcolm X (Reformist of Islam, Capitalism and Civil Rights) or Madalyn Murray O’Hair (American Atheist)may be people, who if they laid down on a psychiatrist’s couch today, might label their negativity, temper, disobedience and hostility as Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Einstein might be in this category too.
It’s no surprise that many theists see atheists as angry. In the USA today—in or outside of the rooms—a member with a theistic worldview enjoys a status quo that embraces them while an AA atheist does not. It may be anger that the atheists are displaying. On the other hand it may be lobbying for change.
I will use myself as an example. I just wrote a letter to GSO and our latest Area delegate. It was about the current dysfunction of our two Canadian big-city Intergroups that have de-listed agnostic groups. There isn’t much that our groups can do ourselves; we have no voice on the Intergroup floors. The point of the letter was simply to ensure that no one is too comfortable with the new reality of an AA of uniformity replacing our AA of unity. While the atheist/agnostic groups are on the wrong side of “going with the flow,” Intergroup is on the wrong side the Human Rights Code in Canada. It’s just a matter of time before some frustrated AA nonbeliever files a complaint with the Provincial Human Rights Tribunal and AAs would be trading in their spiritual awakening buzz for a rude awakening zap.
The Tribunal would look at A.A. as a service provider through the Human Rights Code’s “duty to accommodate” and the Tribunal would not look at this as a local squabble the way GSO might want to. This isn’t complicated legalese. No matter what “a loving God as He expresses Himself through our group conscience” says about atheist meetings or atheist Steps, the Code ensures that minorities, based on race, sexual orientation, creed, etc. are accommodated. Rules that discriminate are rules that will be struck down by the Commission. You can find this right on the OHRC (Human Rights Commission) website:
“Organizations must ensure that they are not unconsciously engaging in systemic discrimination. This takes vigilance and a willingness to monitor and review numerical data, policies, practices and decision-making processes and organizational culture. It is not acceptable from a human rights perspective for an organization to choose to remain unaware of systemic discrimination or to fail to act when a problem comes to its attention”[ii]
Readers might see my letter as discontent, argumentative or that I am complaining. I don’t think that’s fair. I am pointing out an inequity, yes, but I am also trying to alert AA to an always present danger of AA being paraded across the front pages on the newspaper, again, framed as promoting a culture of bigotry. This is 2015; The World Convention is in Atlanta. I am sure that while all eyes of the world are on AA in Atlanta, GSO doesn’t want the press asking about members who are currently being discriminated against in the host city of the 2025 Conference, Vancouver.
So, a minority member can feel just as superior as the majority member that oppresses them. But without systems of support, only one of them can be called “discriminatory.” Let’s get back to pluralism the reality vs. pluralism the myth.
It is easy to get bent out of shape over passive-aggressive suggestions that our atheism is just anger at god or a temporary intellectual holdout, why not look at the warm reception we get from most members, instead of the bigotry of some? There is plenty of both if we look for it.
So, if one focuses on the bad, it’s easy to be negative. Phil Zuckerman’s Living the Secular Life combines personal anecdotes and sociological insights to craft a guide for living without religion. The book seems aimed primarily at the USA, the developed country with the largest per-capita belief in a personal god.
He uses stats that we’ve reviewed before from the Pew Research Center. Expanding on a Washington Post article he wrote called, “Why Do Americans still dislike Atheists?” he looked at people’s opinion of atheists compared to Muslims, homosexuals and people of other faith.
“A lot of religious Americans don’t like or trust people who don’t believe in God because they assume that atheism is the same thing as being without morals. This assumption is so widely spread that In many surveys atheists come in at the last place when Americans are asked to rank members of certain racial, ethnic, or religious groups as potential spouses for their kids. … 43% of Americans said that they would not vote for an atheist for president, putting atheist in last/worst place, behind Muslims for president. Homosexuals (30 percent wouldn’t), Mormons (18 percent wouldn’t) Latinos (7 percent wouldn’t), Jews (6 percent wouldn’t), Catholic (5 percent wouldn’t), Women (5 percent wouldn’t) and African Americans (4 percent).”[iii]
“See,” you say. “Over 10 times the number of people in America won’t vote for atheists compared to African Americans or Jews.” True; but almost 60% of American’s would consider voting for an atheist. I don’t deny this is a great handicap in any political race. Nevertheless, having 57% of votes at least considering you ought not to be discounted. Put in a more positive light, over ½ of American’s don’t liken atheist to devil-worshippers. Yes, 100% of Americans ought to treat atheists equally, but over half—that is at least a big improvement over how it was 20 years ago and it seems to be continuing to move in the right direction.
If you think being an atheist in AA is an uphill battle in the popularity contest department, try being an atheist minister. Gretta Vosper has two books published since she came out to her congregation and the elders at the United Church of Canada. Gretta is an atheist.  She doesn’t see throwing out the good deeds with the dogmatic myths as productive. She founded the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity and she continues to lead the West Hill United Church in Toronto’s east end.
“I do find it hard to imagine that preserving an institution for preservation’s sake itself is anything more than an enormous waste of time and energy. But I do think that the church is well placed to bring about some significant change in the world. And change in the world is desperately needed.”[iv]
She sees the infrastructure of the Church as flawed and imperfect but still virtuous. From the statement above, she goes on to talk about how many sects and denominations got behind the 2003 United Nations, “International Year of Freshwater. “ She gives other examples. We hear the Catholic Pope today campaigning for positive climate change initiatives and more economic and social equity.
If a church can be a church with or without God, I am sure Twelve Step fellowships can embrace a “with or without God” worldview. Our primary purpose isn’t directly connected to any theology. Our preamble and our Traditions don’t defend any particular program of recovery. Instead, they remind us how to get along with each other and in the world around us.
While in the habit of reading Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life, Jay in Sedona invited me to host a weekend recovery retreat on the theme of “Beyond Belief.” He asked me if I would and I said, “Yes.” He asked me who I’d like to work with and without hesitation I said, “John McAndrew.” A parish priest for 18 years, John has also worked as both a bereavement and an addictions counselor. I don’t want to frame the Twelve Steps as better secular. I want to talk about the bilingualism, biculturalism of the Twelve Steps. How better to do that than to co-host an event with a theologian?
I still have a warm feeling when I think about being invited by the Ontario Regional Conference of A.A. (2012) to speak on the Spiritual Panel (in the Concert Hall, Fairmont Royal York Hotel, pictured); it was the two Joes—Joe R, priest and Joe C, atheist. We both have decades of sobriety; we both stay sober in A.A. If anything, I got out-outrageous-ed by Joe the Catholic priest.
He was awesome; Joe spoke—I was in awe. It was a celebration of pluralism and people continue to share with me their fond memories of how that meeting helped them overcome their own narcissism of small differences. We share the experience of addiction and we share the experience of recovery. The narrative changes from one worldview to another but believing and belonging are not synonymous.
An Atheist & Theologian go on a 12-Step Call together... More about Recovery Workshop weekend @ SedonaMago Retreat.
Joe C & Joe R: Spiritual Panel Ontario Regional Conference 2012
Overhaul? The audio article
Overhaul? The reader responses.
PDF of this BLOG.
[i] A.A. Grapevine Inc., May 2010
[iii] Zuckerman, Phil, Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions, New York: Penguin Press, 2014 p. 9
[iv] Vosper, Gretta, With or Without God, Toronto: Harper Collins, 2008, p. 284

Food Junkies: Food and other process addictions Podcast

Listen now to Episode 10 of Rebellion Dogs Radio on Pod-0-matic HERE

What do Maxwell House Coffee, Grape-Nuts cereal, Kool-Ade, Jello and Marlborough cigarettes all have in common? Well their formulas are engineered by chemists that all work for the same companies. Companies that continue to get sued over misleading us about the health issues of their cigarettes are now processing many of the foods we eat each day.

How about that; “Don’t smoke, Suzzie, it’s addictive and it will make you unhealthy,” we say to our daughter as as we pour her a bowl of yogurt that may has more sugar than Honey-Nut Cheerios.  Have you ever heard of bliss-point? That’s the term chemists that make processed foods call the perfect amount of salt, sugar and fat that will create craving in you for more, will play with your brain chemistry and be whispering to your addictive tendencies while you hold hands and recite the Serenity Prayer.
Episode Ten of Rebellion Dogs Radio is please to invite Dr. Very Tarman to our show. Vera is Medical Director of Renascent Treatment Centres and she just authored a new book, Food Junkies: The Truth About Food Addiction. We talk about process addiction in general – sex, food, gambling etc. We talk about the food industries role in consumer eating habits and we talk about the latest in addiction and recovery.

Not long ago, buying yogurt or granola meant you were buying health-food. It’s not so simple today. Food is designed to fight for stomach space against all the other consumer-goods companies. This episode of Rebellion Dogs Radio will help you get to know Dr. Vera better and her experience with addiction might surprise you. If it’s true that we are what we eat then we owe it to ourselves to better understand how the food industry is making Food Junkies out of us all.

We look at the DSM-5 which is the latest manual that helps doctors diagnose mental health and addiction problems. We'll also look at what  Dr. Gabor Maté (In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts), Marc Lewis (Memoirs of an Addicted Brian), Patrick Carnes (A Gentle Path through the Twelve Steps) and Michael Moss (Salt Sugar Fat) have to say and more.

Food Junkies has been on the market for just over a month. It offers readers both the science and the craft of addiction and recovery. Expertise and real-life experience are combined in a book that I can't wait to tell you more about. Enjoy Episode Ten of Rebellion Dogs Radio.

Please feel free to download a free PDF transcript of this show HERE if you want to follow along or refer back to anything that was said on the show. As always, join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook.

More Dr. Vera on Addiction Unplugged.
Show notes for further exploration:
[2] Tarman, Dr. Vera, Food Junkies: The Truth About Food Addiction, Toronto: Dundurn, 2014
[3] Thompson, Damian, The Fix: How Addiction is Taking Over Your World, London: Harper Collins Publishers, 2012
[4] Moss, Michael, Salt Sugar Fat, New York: Penguin Random House, 2014
[5] Maté, Gabor, Ted Talk,
[6] Kessler, David A., The End of Overeating: Talking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, New York: Rodale Books, 2009
[7] Lewis, Marc, Memoirs of an Addicted Brain. Toronto: Double Day Canada, 2011 pp. 158 – 159
[8] From the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (section 312.31)
[10] Carnes, Patrick, A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Step, Center City: Hazelden Foundation, 1993,.

Rebellion Dogs Radio Episode 9 - We Agnostics & Freethinkers International AA Conference in Santa Monica Podcast

Welcome to Rebellion Dogs Radio Episode IX where we bring you highlights of the first ever We Agnostics & Freethinkers International A.A. Conference from Santa Monica California, November 2014. So much content is available on this and we include many links included in this blog. Rebellion Dogs Radio # 9 will include segments from the keynotes given. Click on the link above or bellow to start listening. We have a teaser for Phyllis H., A.A. General Service Office GM, Marya H, author of Waiting: A Nonbeliever's Higher Power and Class A Trustee, Reverend Ward Ewing.

Workshops, Keynote Speakers , panels AA meetings from atheist/agnostic groups from around the world meant there was a rich program at WAFT IAAC and we can't get everything worth saying into one show. We'll continue to talk about this historical event in upcoming shows. The punchline, if you haven't heard is we're doing it again in 2016, We Agnostics, Atheists & Freethinkers International A.A. Conference will be in Austin Texas and we'll do it again, somewhere, every two years.

This wasn’t AA’s rogue nonbelievers off on their own; It was General Service Office (GSO), Conference delegates past and present from all over America, supporters who don’t doubt a loving God in their own life but believe in an AA that speaks the language of everyone with a desire to stop drinking. There were about 300 of us in Santa Monica November 6th to 8th. You'll hear segments form four of the talks recorded at the conference by Dave S. at Encore Audio Archives. You can buy your own mp3s or CDs at: 

I wondered what customs and rituals would be included and what AA customs and rituals would be excluded. While there isn’t any praying at most agnostic/atheist meetings, some read the Twelve Steps, some do not, some read a secular interpretation agreed upon by the ultimate authority in AA, their own group conscience. So it the interest of less is more, there were no readings, no chanting at any of the main-room meetings. Can you have an AA meeting without reading How It Works or praying for serenity? You sure can. And we did. No one in attendance wondered where they were. It was as AA as any meeting you’ve ever been to.

There were AA meetings hosted by secular AA meetings all around the world and they ran those meetings exactly how they run them in their own town. To A.A. fundamentalists who want to, or have, high-jacked their local Intergroups or AA local offices this chaos seems unusual. In places like Toronto where Intergroup still discriminates against agnostic groups and have replaced regional AA unity with AA uniformity, GSO is saddened by your bigotry. No one will tell you to get in line, be more loving and tolerant, practice the Traditions instead of your rigid view of what AA ought to be for all members or all groups. It will be left to your conscience, but listen along and ask yourself if our founders were alive today would they be more likely to be thanking you for discriminating against nonbeliever's AA groups; or would they be celebrating recovery, unity and service with us in Santa Monica?

Andrew Solomon is a New York Times writer and author of Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity. Solomon says something in a Ted Talk that is so right-on for this historic weekend in Santa Monica:

“There is always someone there to take our humanity away and always someone to restore it. Oppression breeds the power to oppose it. Identity politics always works on two fronts. First it gives pride to someone who has given characteristics and secondly, it causes the outside world to treat such people more gently, more kindly.”

It is strangely that it is the tyranny of these rogue Intergroups and AA club houses that harass atheist AA members that we have to thank for this conference. As Solomon points out, while they try to take another's dignity or humanity away, they instead, help set in motion a fellowship wide reaction that celebrates We Agnostics & Freethinkers AA Conference. We enjoy the supported by the larger AA community while they look at discrimination in AA with concern. Oh the law of unintended consequences.

General Service Conference Chair Emeritus Reverend Ward Ewing (Pictured courtesy of Ken Sherry) talks about the traps of feeling like a phoney and the dangers of specific theology creeping into AA meetings under the guise of "spirituality."  GSO General Manager, Phyllis H. shares a few prime Bill W. writings and shares what other founders and trusted servants have said about both celebrating AA diversity and the dangers of dogmatic or rigid interpretations of AA's message. The author of Waiting: A Nonbelievers Higher Power, Marya H. is no stranger to Rebellion Dogs. We have a snippet of her talk included, too.

To those who know her, Marya was as poetic, prepared and thoughtful as we’ve come to enjoy. She was sincerely delighted to be part of this humble bit of AA history.  Marya’s story of one is one of being entirely ready when she ran thin on alcoholic bottoms, she was sincere and willing to do what might work—regardless of the suggestions compatibility with her worldview.  She acknowledged that the language of the Steps (ie: the God stuff) doesn’t talk to all of us and certainly falls short of giving answers. While she sees that people stay sober praying and turning it over, what was a nonbeliever to do to work the Steps?

In his whole talk Ward Ewing will describe the Hope, Honest, Belonging and Gratitude that he sees in the AA way of life. He tells some moving and humorous stories that this show doesn’t have the time to tell. A theme that Ward Started and delegates and members picked up on was that everyone in AA shares a common experience. He nailed it by describing our common AA experience as “when the impossible becomes possible.” Almost everyone in AA around the world would agree with that. When we add the adjective “spiritual” experience, now I don’t agree with your definition of spiritual or you’re offended with what I mean by it and now the experience that agreed upon just a moment ago, we don’t agree with anymore.Curious isn’t it, how the narcissism of small differences can be triggered by such an innocent word.

As the sun came down over Santa Monica Boulevard on the Friday night, Phyllis H. would close out with a lot of quotes from our founders and former Trustees. She was touched to be invited and We Agnostics and Atheists were moved that General Service Office was so supportive of us. It was truly healing. We started with Reverend Ward Ewing, the best friend an atheist or agnostic could have in AA. We conclude with Phyllis H. who personified the idea that together AA is better and everyone is welcome in AA and sobriety in AA possible without having to accept someone else’s beliefs or having to deny your own.

There was  a Conference Delegate’s panel and one of AA’s trusted servants made it clear that we can read anything we want in an AA meeting. Nothing is sacred and nothing is forbidden. Write our own literature, use conference approved literature or anything our group conscience dictates. There was a workshop on how to start your own meeting with a secular, humanist or or agnostic style, free of religion, God-talk and prayer. Over half of all atheist/agnostic groups today have started since 2010. We know of no faster growing segment of AA growth. The only limits are our own imagination.

Don't be surprised if AA's Literature Committee or Grapevine re-think literature for nonbelievers. In the meantime, WAAFTIAAC will be creating our own community, outreach and literature to ensure that whenever someone reaches out for help, the hand of AA will always be there.

Some links of interest.

Order form for CDs or MP3s from Encore Audio Archives

District 11, Area 34 newsletter, Camel Courier: Atheists and Agnostics will not give up on A.A.

Click for AA Agnostica Day One - Day Two - Day Three - Workshop Review (

Hear some more WAFT IAAC talks from Kansas We Agnostics YouTube page.

Joe C, as guest on KLĒN + SŌBR Podcast, talking to Chris and Jeff from Since Right Now (Episode 17, just before WAFT IAAC).


Rebellion Dogs Radio Episode 8 - Coping with ADHD or OCD Podcast

Dual-diagnoses: Addiction + OCD or ADHD and how to deal with it.
Rebellion Dogs Radio #8 features Dr. Tim Bilkey and professional rocker, Paul Nelson

Just listen by scrolling down and playing our embedded Radio player or click on the track above.

Download a PDF of Episode 8. This download complements the Radio Show. It doesn't follow it as a transcript exactly.
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – what if you have these traits as well as addiction? Dr. Tim Bilkey and guitarist Paul Nelson are both guests on Rebellion Dogs Radio Episode 8 to help us tell the story of addiction comorbidity or dual diagnosis or double-winners if you prefer. Not to minimize or oversimplify but consider that being left-handed is not a disorder. We live in a world that is largely designed with right-handed advantages but left-handed people don’t need to fix their predisposition. We lefties might have to be a bit more proactive than righties. Though a minority in a right-handed world, not many of see ourselves as handicapped.

Though not by degree, the same holds true for those of us with OCD, ADHD or addiction for that matter; we don’t need an alcohol free world in which to thrive—we only need to make conscious adjustments to a world that sees no need to baby us. In these notes, we’ll look at how not to be a slave to these conditions. We’re not helpless. Some lefties will buy left-handed scissors, some will adjust to right handed scissors and others will train themselves to do certain tasks right-handed. There is help available for those of us who present with ADHD or OCD from self-help to cognitive behavioral therapy to medicine.  

Maybe as you’re reading you’re already doing a check list to evaluate yourself. Do you think you have any obsessive or compulsive symptoms beyond your obvious relationship with your drug(s) of choice? Are you chronically late, forgetful or do you have a hard time focusing on even the chores that are very important to you? What about others in your life?  Who would you label with ADHD or OCD? Let’s look at smoking; you either smoke or you know what it’s like to walk through the blue cloud as you enter the school, church or community center that is home to your 12-Step meeting. There’s a reason why there’s more smokers outside the AA or NA meeting than there is outside the book club, city council meeting or any other gathering that isn’t all-addicts. We’ll look at some definitions of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Order first: 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder:

“ADHD is five to 10 times more common among adult alcoholics than it is in people without the condition. Among adults being treated for alcohol and substance abuse, the rate of ADHD is about 25%...
People with ADHD tend to be more impulsive and likely to have behavior problems, both of which can contribute to drug and alcohol abuse, researchers say. Also, both ADHD and alcoholism tend to run in families. A child with ADHD who has a parent with alcoholism is more likely to also develop an alcohol abuse problem. Researchers have pointed to common genes shared between ADHD and alcoholism.”
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and addiction:
“OCD, is an anxiety disorder in which an individual experiences recurring thoughts that cause irrational fears and anxiety. Individuals with OCD engage in repeated, compulsive rituals, such as counting items, hand washing and organizing. Executing these rituals provides temporary relief while they are being performed, but the anxiety returns soon after they stop. OCD is a highly destructive disorder that can overtake the life of an individual and keep him from enjoying many life’s most rewarding activities.
The Journal of Anxiety Disorders estimates that over 25 percent of those who seek treatment for OCD also meet the criteria for a substance use disorder. Individuals who experience OCD symptoms for the first time in childhood or adolescence are more likely to develop a drug or alcohol problem, often as a way to cope with overwhelming anxiety and fear. Treating an addictive disorder without addressing the emotional symptoms of OCD is unlikely to be effective.”
Chapter Five of Alcoholics Anonymous describers those will struggle with the AA modality. In the 1939 language AA writers, “There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recovery if they have the capacity to be honest.”
There is more to grave emotional and mental disorders that simply Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. But this is what we’re focusing on for this blog/radio show. To help tell this story, we invite to our show a psychiatrist who will relate to us his clinical experience, plus a professional guitar player who had a layperson’s firsthand experience managing his friend, guitar legend, Johnny Winter which included dealing with addiction and OCD.

Dr. Tim Bilkey (pictured) specialized is adult ADHD. He has two videos, ADHA Across The Lifespan and Her Fast Mind: An In Depth Look at ADHD as it affects Women. F.A.S.T. M.I.N.D.S. is an acronym that Tim Bilkey has developed to help test for ADHD. This 2013 co-authored book: Fast Minds: How to Thrive If You Have ADHD (Or think you do) is published by Harvard Health Publications.

Our second guest, guitarist Paul Nelson (pictured right of Johnny Winter), had a dream come true when he got to play with his childhood idol, Johnny Winter. Paul was asked to take over managing Johnnny and the band. In 2014, just after Johnny Winter’s 70th birthday Winter died while on a European tour as his career was experiencing a resurgence.  Before Johnny died director Greg Oliver completed, Johnny Winter: Down & Dirty, a documentary that Paul Nelson was executive producer for. The movie debuted at SXSW in March of 2014 and it includes appearances form brother Edgar Winter, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, ZZ Top’s Bill Gibson, footage with BB King, Janis Joplin and plenty of fans in North America, Asia and Europe. We talk to Paul Nelson in the limo from Toronto International Airport to the Canadian debut of Johnny Winter: Down & Dirty as part of Toronto’s Reel Independent Film Festival in October, 2014.
Meanwhile, Dr. Tim Bilkey was addressing the Bellwood Health Services Many Faces of Addiction, at their 6th annual addiction symposium. Dr. Tim Bilkey was good enough to make time for us just as guests were arriving to a private party he was hosting. In typical Rebellion Dogs guerrilla-radio style, our interview was in the basement kitchen of Boland's Open Kitchen on Mt. Pleasant Road in Toronto.
Here is what the acronym FAST MINDS stands for. See if you identify:

F – Forgetful
A – Achieving below potential
S – Stuck in a rut
T – Time challenged
M – Motivationally challenged
I – Impulsive
N – Novelty seeking
D – Distractible
S – Scattered
In the book Fast Minds, Dr. Bilkey describes those of us with ADHD as having learning differences – not learning disabilities. Dealing with ADHD is a three-fold approach; Accommodation / Medication / Mindfulness. In Bilkey’s presentation to the Many Faces of Addiction delegates, the doctor disclosed his closeness to Big-Pharma; among his speaking commitments Dr. Bilkey is a spokesperson and consultant to some of the manufacturers of ADHD drugs. We talk in the radio interview about special considerations with medications when it comes to addicts.
For anyone with a 12-Step background, Bilkey unintentionally talks our language. He describes his book as self-help and I would describe it as easy reading. Like addiction recovery, a blend of talking personal responsibility and seeking outside help is required to thrive with ADHD. The Fast Minds approach draws on the three prerequisites that 12-Step modality draw on—honesty, open-mindedness and willingness. There is list making, not unlike personal inventories and our lists of people we have affected with our addiction. There are action steps like sharing our shortcomings with another and making amends. Fast Minds self-help treatment isn’t 12-Steps but the core principles we are familiar with do manifest themselves in Dr. Bilkey’s book.
The first three steps for success with ADHD are: awareness, decision, getting and accepting help. Doesn’t that have a Step One, Two, Three sound to it? Step one is to admit and accept (be aware of) our habits, choices and emotions. Acceptance is the key. Then in Step Two, we have to make a decision; we chose our priorities and identify the steps to get there. Step Three is to help ourselves. Beyond our immediate resources we seek out and engage the help we need. That could be professional help, medicine, electronic devices that help focus and organize us, and/or engaging friends and loved ones to give us feedback. We create an environment that accommodates our style. 

This step-by-step process isn’t so far off from admitting we have a problem that is making our lives unmanageable, come to believe that there is a better way and making a decision to seek and accept help. The fourth level (step) in what Bilkey calls the Pyramid for Success with Adult ADHD is to design your life with structure and accountability. We accept what we can’t change and have the personal responsibility to change the things we can.      

Every addict ought to identify with some aspects of obsessive-compulsive disorders. To be addicted is to be preoccupied and obsessed with our drug-of-choice. Process or substance addictions such as drinking, gambling or sexual compulsion, all have rituals and repetitive processes enslaving the addict insofar as we are more driven by our habits than by our free will. OCDs are activities that relieve anxiety. Duh—so does drinking. But like drinking the relief is short lived and the costs to the consequences or side-effects may get progressively worse.  

Does it seem hypocritical to you that people—be they bragging or exuding gratitude—talk of how they were spared from the ravages of addiction through a spiritual awakening while puffing on cigarettes that will likely cause premature death from a preventable habit? Let me back off a bit if I sound rigid or self-righteous. I want to be clear that there is a difference between a bad habit and chronic, unmanageable addiction. Some of us smoke and some of us eat more chips and ice cream than we’d like; but smoking and overeating doesn’t have us lying to our kids, parents and employers or going to jail for driving over the limit, committing sex crimes or selling narcotics.  
While some of us smoke and overeat and call it “living a little,” some of us wish we could control ourselves but can’t.  We aren’t blind to the consequences of unhealthy choices. Yes, we already endured the temptations and risks that face any addict/alcoholic who transitions from addiction to recovery; we made it through to the other side. It seems like a cruel joke that knowing what we know, achieving what we’ve achieved, we still can’t apply our knowledge and experience to stopping these other habits.
Just saying no to smoking is a simple act of willpower for some and a bafflingly ineffective to others. If we were the same, Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit or the best seller of the last generation, Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, or the Twelve Steps themselves, would convert everyone. The compromised life of bad habits would be swiftly traded for the fulfilling life of good habits—if it was just about desire and commitment. But books and Step don’t work for everyone and everything. OCD (and ADHD) can explain some of this. Paul Nelson talks of how a methadone-free Johnny Winter was a more obsessive/compulsive Johnny Winter. Freedom from addiction didn’t solve his problems, it exposed them. Johnny Winter had to go to therapy for OCD and so did the whole family and band. In the end, Nelson was frustrated that while Johnny Winter’s story had a happy ending in one sense, his life, career and the joy he brought to others was cut short because Paul could never help Winter quit smoking.
From above, we read a definition of obsessive-compulsive disorder and how it frequently makes fast friends with addiction. Some of who have had success in 12-Step recovery think we should be able to do it ourselves when it comes to emotional or mental health. We are reluctant to admit to ourselves that we are suffering if we see the 12-Steps as a cure-all. We may be reluctant to share this new setback with others. Shame doesn’t make it easier. We live in a society that loves to judge, celebrating our successes and also condemning us for falling short or not conforming to the norm.

In the UK, a community/charity helps lend support to OCD suffers. Here’ how OCD UK frames the challenges to, and benefits of, seeking help:
“When you first see a health care professional about your symptoms, it is very important that you are honest and open about your thoughts and behaviours, no matter how embarrassing they may seem. Almost certainly, they have heard it all before – and by being honest, you will help them to identify the most suitable treatment for you.
Many OCD sufferers have depression and thoughts about harming themselves or others, and for some suicidal thoughts are also a feature – it is important to discuss these feelings openly and honestly.
Also, many people with OCD, especially those with thoughts of a physical, sexual or harmful nature, are fearful of the consequences if they tell anyone about what goes on their heads. Whilst we generally encourage people with OCD to be honest and open about their thoughts and symptoms, you may wish to talk with your GP or therapist in general terms first of all until you feel comfortable that they actually understand OCD. Generally, most therapists that do understand OCD will have heard your story many times before, and will probably read between the lines and will help you by asking direct questions which will make it easier for you to open up.”
It is not surprising that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a natural choice for sufferers of OCD. While some medicines can help some suffers relieve their anxiety, for those of us who are pill-adverse, there can be lasting benefit from CBT. The automatic thoughts and feelings and especially the extreme of anxiety and depression can be mitigated by the thought (and feeling) records that are part of the thinking/feeling/behaving inventory of the CBT process. OCD patients might just apply their OCD to the CBT, replacing an unproductive habit with the positive activity of understanding and monitoring the cycle of thoughts, feelings and actions that we are trying to be more conscious of. In Paul’s story of how he helped transition Johnny Winter (pictured above with Jimi Hendrix) from negative to positive habits, he joked that Johnny could get as committed to a healthy vanilla milkshake as he could to his methadone or nicotine dependency.   

While Dr. Bilkey’s tool kit will surely be a permanent part of my own self-help it will also have a long shelf-life on my recommended readings for fellow travellers I talk to or work with. Another book that I recommend whenever it’s appropriate is Gabor Maté’s Scattered Minds. While Tim Bilkey’s Fast Minds is more current, one feature of Gabor Maté’s writing style is his sharing of his personal journey.

Gabor Maté was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder by the medical health practitioner that was working with his affected children. Like addiction, AD(H)D is often hereditary. The Maté book blends the clinical explanation with his first-hand personal accounts of his struggle. Like the 12-Step fellowship approach, Maté shares his troubles in this 1999 book.
He writes:
"Where they know it or not, a large number of people addicted to behaviors and substances of various sorts have attention deficit disorder, no matter what their proclivity may be: for gambling, compulsive sexual roving, chronic impulsive buying, workaholism, excessive physical training, danger-seeking pursuits, like drag racing or for nicotine or cocaine, alcohol or marijuana. As an example, according to some surveys, the rate of smoking among the ADD population is three times that among the non-ADD population.
It is easy to understand the appeal addictive substances would have for the ADD brain. Nicotine, for one, makes people more alert and improves mental efficiency. It also elevates mood, by stimulating, the release in the brain of neurochemicals dopamine, important in feeling of reward and motivation, and endorphins, the brain’s natural opioids, which induce feelings of pleasure. The endorphins, being related in chemical structure to morphine, also serve as analgesics, soothing both physical and emotional pain."
In Scattered Minds, Maté gets very personal with us:
"Terrified of my mind, I had always dreaded spending a moment alone with it. There always had to be a book in my pocket as an emergency kit in case I was every trapped waiting anywhere, even for one minute, be it a bank lineup or supermarket checkout counter. I was forever throwing my mind scraps to feed on, as if to a ferocious and malevolent beat that would devour me the moment it was not chewing on something else. All my life I had known no other way to be.
The shock of self-recognition many adults experience on learning about ADD is both exhilarating and painful. It gives coherence, for the first time, to humiliations and failures, to plans unfulfilled and promises unkept, to gusts of manic enthusiasm that consume themselves in their own mad dance, leaving emotional debris in their wake, to the seemingly limitless disorganization of activities, of brain, car, desk, room.
ADD seems to explain many of my behaviour patterns, thought processes, childish emotional reactions, my workaholism and other addictive tendencies, the sudden eruption of bad temper and complete irrationality, the conflicts in my marriage and my Jekyll and Hyde way of relating to my children.
The driven and hyperfunctioning workaholic tries to delude himself that he must be very important, since so many people want him. His frenetic activity numbs him to emotional pain and keeps his sense of inadequacy out of sight, out of mind. During a group psychotherapy session a few years ago, I heard one of the leaders say that a truly important person is one who considers himself worthy enough to grant himself at least one hour each day that he can call his own. I had to laugh. I realized I had worked so hard and make myself so ‘important’ that I couldn’t beg, borrow or steal a minute for myself.
There is one major respect in which the specific neurophysiological impairments of ADD do hinder the development of a cores sense of self and the attainment of self-esteem. … The fluctuations are greater and more rapid than most people’s experiences. It seems there is less to hold on to. Self-esteem does require a degree of self-regulation, which the neurophysiology of ADD sabotages. The child or adult easily flung into extremes of emotion and behavior does not acquire the mastery over impulses that self-esteem demands.”

If you’re in the 12-Step community you may or may not suffer from ADHD; but you’re going to encounter your fair share of those of us who are OCD or ADHD in the rooms. Fast Minds is written in plain language, it uses anecdotal case histories. It has practical ideas that I found helps me deal more consciously and less reactively to the FAST MINDS symptoms I live with. Again, the videos are ADHD Across the Lifespan and Her Fast Mind: An In Depth Look At ADHD As It Affects Women.
The movie Johnny Winter: Down & Dirty or the new record Step Back which was posthumously released September 2nd 2014 are part of the legacy of Johnny Winter (February 23, 1944 – July 16, 2014). Watch this doc, listen to this record. The Johnny Winter story is a good-news story. It portrays addiction and mental health as a process—not an event—in the lives of people like us. The legacy of music, which is dozens of studio, live and compilation records from 1968 to 2014, is a reminder to me that we need not see mental health conditions (OCD in Winter’s case) as a handicap; look how productive and successful Johnny Winter was. Again, it’s like being left-handed. I’m left handed. I play guitar; it’s no handicap; it requires slight adjustments.
Most left-handed guitarists adjust by using guitars that are strung left handed. Like the righty guitars, lefty guitars have the thickest wound string is at the top of the guitar neck and the thinnest unwound string at the bottom. That’s what Paul McCartney does and that’s what Jimi Hendrix did.
I play a right-handed guitar upside down. The thin string is at the top and the thickest string at the bottom. I didn’t know anyone famous who did this but later I found several – some indie musicians, some casual players and some stars. Is it a handicap? Well most chords are designed for playing the other way around. All music books that teach music have to be transcribed (interpreted) and some songs just can’t be duplicated to sound the way a right-handed person would play a right-handed guitar.
Limits also bring opportunities. Surf-rock legend Dick Dale made his idiosyncrasy an advantage creating unforgettable sounds that favor an upside-down lefty. Blues man Albert King was an upside-down lefty. He preferred the Gibson Flying-V design guitar (over the more popular Gibson Les Paul or Fender Stratocaster) because it presents no handicap playing the high notes when you turn it upside down. Canadian, Mark Gane of Martha and The Muffins wasn’t handicapped when he wrote hit songs “Echo Beach,” “White Station/Black Station” or “Women Around the World at Work.” 
I didn’t know it when I started but I wasn’t alone as an upside-down lefty. Lots of guitars that went before me found ways to accommodate. I am sure many more lefties learned to play right-handed, too. I did it so that I could play anyone else’s guitar and they could play mine. I don’t need a handicap sticker on my guitar case.
Being an alcoholic doesn’t exclude us from society. Some will choose dry gatherings over bars or other licensed surroundings. Some sober alcoholics are bar-tenders and do their job their own way but just as well as any of their colleagues. For many more, it’s not black and white. Before going to a wedding or to watch the big game at a sports bar we check our motives and see if we’re emotionally and mentally fit. The world will go on if we feel that we need to cancel.
The same is true with mental health issues. Like other disorders, ADHD and OCD come in light, medium and extreme versions. Some of us will have more limits forced upon us than others. All of us can benefit from learning more, being willing and seeking help when necessary.
Johnny Winter trailer DOWN & DIRTY
Johnny Winter music
Tim Bilkey
Fast Minds: How to Thrive if You have ADHD (Or think you might)
Scattered Minds
Bellwood Health Services
OCD & Addiction
Just for fun (upside-down lefties)
Albert King jamming with Stevie Ray Vaughan Albert was an upside-down lefty and Stevie was a Texas blues-man like Johnny. Stevie Ray Vaughan got clean and sober and died tragically in a helicopter accident at the age of 35 (1993) while on tour with Eric Clapton.
Martha & The Muffins (with Mark Gane) "Echo Beach"
[iv] Mate, Gabor M.D., Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder. Toronto: Vintage Canada (Edition), 2012 p. 298
[v] IBID p. 4

The Big Book: Sacred or outdated? What AA Stewards, past and present say about progress vs protection Podcast

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous - On one side are the thumpers, muckers and literalists who claim than no modality has touched the healing force of the Twelve Steps as outlined in Alcoholics Anonymous. On the other side, reformers say it's misogynistic, religious, archaic, while it was a good start to the mutual-aid discussion, as the center-piece of any AA meeting today, it makes us look Amish-like, declining modern customs for the ways of our ancestors.

I have been in the middle of these debates. But today I ask, what does it matter? If you like the book, read it from Foreword to 164, over and over. If you don't, leave it be. Recommend that your group read something else, or nothing at all. Or maybe we should talk about a new book instead of a revised book - either/or instead of one or the other.

If you don't like back-to-basics style of AA, get REALLY back-to-basics with AA as an oral tradition, no book, a one-day-at-a-time program of showing up, opening up, helping others. There is no need to feel persecuted by a book that has no opinion on your impression of it and no wish to control you. The authors didn't canonize the founders or make the text sacred; my generation did that. Sorry - our bad.

Stewardship is about two roles - preparing and protecting. Ask any parent how hard it is to be good at both. On Episode Seven, we look at the opinions of trusted servants who have served at AA's General Service Conference in the 1980s, the turn of the century and current (Panel 63 General Service Conference). We will hear a plea for AA to always be progressive, to never rest on our laurels. We will hear the protective argument about how imaginative personalization of an age-old-process is sacrilege. One side says rigidity will cause the death of AA. The other side says experimentation isn't worth the risk. Bill Wilson said that both progress and protection were what he had in mind with the Twelve Traditions. "You can't have one without the other."

Sources used in today's radio show:
Better Times (Toronto September 2014) "Don't mess with the message"
Bob P's (1961 to 1986) "If you were to ask me what is the greatest danger facing A.A. today, I would have to answer: the growing rigidity -- the increasing demand for absolute answers to nit-picking questions; pressure for G.S.O. to "enforce" our Traditions; screening alcoholics at closed meetings; prohibiting non-Conference-approved literature, i.e., "banning books"; laying more and more rules on groups and members."
John K, 2003: "Our co-founders were pragmatists - try something,test it, change it, review it, test it, then change, review,test it again."

You will hear about our need for protection, of progress too, and how challenging it is to gain balance and consensus on both.

At the time of recording we have Southern Californian on our mind as the We Agnostics and Freethinkers International Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous is coming to Santa Monica November 6 to 8. So we invite LA newcomer Mia Dyson to perform her song, "Idyllwild," her little patch of Southern California.

Visit Pod-0-matic to hear or download the show:

For a transcript of Episode VII, click HERE

Rebellion Dogs Book Club: Podcast 6 talks about good reads Podcast

Get your reading spectacles on – It’s Book Club time!Podcast #6 looks at great recovery books that widen our gateway.

On you will find a bookstore. We’re talking about reading on this blog-post (and podcast). Not only is planet Earth’s first secular daily reflection book, Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life available in our book store but many eBooks and hard-copy books by and for addicts/alcoholics/codependents are available.

As 12-Steppers, we are all readers/listeners and we are all storytellers or writers. It was flattering and fascinating for us to read Not God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous because Ernie Kurtz isn’t one of us. He is observing us and telling us and the whole world what he sees.

Chuck Palahniuk is an author we associate with fiction. He wrote Fight Club. He has a 2004 book called Stranger than Fiction: True Stories. In his introduction he talks about the similarities of crafting a true story and a fictional story. He studied us, too. Palahniuk attended self-help groups for those who suffered from various sicknesses and addictions. When we think about the relevance of reading about our stories or about telling our stories, there is value in hearing what outsiders say about our oral tradition of carrying the message. Chuck Palhniuk describes twelve-step groups (or other support groups) in this way:

“…they’ve come to serve the role that organized religion used to. We used to go to church to reveal the worst aspects of ourselves, our sins. To tell our stories. To be recognized. To be forgiven. And to be redeemed, accepted back in to our community. This ritual was our way to stay connected to people, and to resolve our anxiety before it could take us so far from humanity that we would be lost.
“In these places I found the truest stories. In support groups. In hospitals. Anywhere people had nothing left to lose, that’s where they told the most truth…
“While researching my fourth book, Choke, I sat in on sex-addicts talk therapy sessions, twice each week for six months. Wednesday and Friday nights.
“In so many ways, these rap sessions weren’t much different that the Thursday-night writers’ workshop I attended. Both groups were just people telling their stories. The sexaholics might’ve been a little less concerned about “craft,” but they still told their stories of anonymous bathroom sex and prostitutes with enough skill to get a good reaction from their audience. Many of these people had talked in meetings for so many years that hearing them, you heard a great soliloquy. A brilliant actor paying him- or herself. A one-person monologue that showed an instinct for slowly revealing key information, creating dramatic tension, setting up payoffs and completely enrolling the listener. …
“Telephone sex lines, illness support groups, twelve-step groups, all these places are schools for learning how to tell a story effectively. Out loud. To people. Not just to look for ideas, but how to perform.
“We live our lives according to stories. About being Irish or being balck. About working hard or shooting heroin. Being male or female. And we spend our lives looking for evidence—facts and proof—that support our story. As a writer, you just recognize that part of human nature.”

One of the things we notice when we look at AA’s new pamphlet, “Many Path’s to Spirituality,” the publication doesn’t try to define spirituality. It draws from the experience of spirituality expressed from a few very varied storytellers of different creedal and cultural backgrounds and it expresses that not only is there no wrong way to do AA, but that there isn’t even a preferred way to get and stay sober a’la Alcoholics Anonymous. It talks about many paths to experiencing spirituality without feeling obligated to defining it. Ours is an oral (or written) tradition of sharing our experiences. AA has been either lucky or wise in never hand-cuffing ourselves to a definition of addiction nor a definition of recovery. We describe how it looks and feels to each other. And that, is good enough. Certainly, it’s as good as it gets in the rooms of 12-Step recovery.

Listen to the podcast for a review of these books, available as eBooks or hard-copies.

My Name is Lillian and I’m an Alcoholic (and an Atheist):
A Skeptics Guide to the 12 Steps (1990) by Philip Z Vince Hawkings books include An Atheist’s Unofficial Guide to AA

Waiting: A Nonbeliever’s Higher Power by Marya Hornbacher.

A Freethinker in Alcoholics Anonymous is by author, John Lauritsen

Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life & The Little Book: A Collection of Alternative 12 Steps are available at a discount when ordering six or more copies.

So there’s a glimpse into what’s on my bookshelf. Feel free to stockpile or order one-a-moth from or, if you have a favorite bookstore, they can order any of these. Let us know what we’re missing and/or should be talking up.
There have been some books that I have read and wouldn’t recommend. I stick to the, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” motto. That’s a rule I will break, but you really have to inspire me with stubbornness or stupidity for me to rant away with a counter-point. The book The Sober Truth (Episode Four) was one of these examples.

A PDF transcript of this show is available HERE. Come back and visit any time after August 8th. Enjoy the (Rebellion) Dog Days of summer.

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