Do Tell! Stories by Atheists & Agnostics in AA

Do Tell!

“Storytelling is the practice and… essential dynamic of AA”.
AA historian Ernie Kurtz

Reshaping the AA Culture

By Roger C.

Things change.

At least that’s been my experience in life. And it’s the experience of everyone I have ever chatted with about change and their lives and the world in which we live our lives.

I thought it would all settle down, frankly. That finally when I got old enough change would pretty much cease and I could count on things remaining steady, solid and unchanged.

It didn’t turn out that way. In fact, the opposite occurred. My understanding of myself and my relationship with others seems to change almost every day. The great mystery of existence becomes more mysterious by the hour. My ideas about everything evolve. Now that I am sixty-five, I do not understand virtually anything in the same way that I did when I was twenty-five. Or when I was forty-five years old, a young pup then, it seems now.

Because things change.

So what’s up with AA?

Founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous seems somehow incapable of moving forward, at least in any significant way. It seems stuck in a pre-World War II mindset. And that, quite frankly, is a pretty sad place to be stuck.

Even Bill Wilson recognized the problem.

In a speech given to an AA Conference in 1965, he began by noting that “a million alcoholics have approached AA during the last thirty years”. He goes on to estimate that 600,000 had walked away from the rooms of AA, never to come back.

He asks: “How much and how often did we fail them?”

That question is exponentially more relevant today, fifty years after Bill asked it.

And of course the problem is that the fellowship remains shackled to the book Alcoholics Anonymous, published in 1939, which in turn is mired in the predominant Christian culture of the United States as it existed in the Thirties and Forties.

Two examples of the out-of-datedness of the Big Book (as it is known, which in itself is revealing): the misogynistic chapter “To Wives” and the condescending and patronizing chapter “We Agnostics”. That’s already a fifth of the main 164 pages, and it hardly stops there.

The book goes on to share a “suggested” program, the 12 Steps, in which God (or “He” or “Him” or a “Power”) is mentioned in six of the Steps. In Chapter 5, “How it Works”, we are told that “probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism” but “God could and would if He were sought”.

So, go to an AA meeting, invariably in a church basement, and you will find the 12 Steps brazenly displayed at the front of the room and someone is likely to read “How it Works” (at the beginning of the meeting) and you will be invited to join in the Lord’s Prayer (at the end of the meeting). This is called a “traditional” AA meeting.

“How much and how often did we fail them?”

And oddly enough the suggestion that AA might be somewhat “religious” is invariably met with some form of denial. When the General Service Office of AA is asked about various Courts in the United States that have ruled AA to be religious, it refuses to respond because the matter is an “outside issue”.

No it’s not.

It’s an “inside issue” and it needs be dealt with honestly and now.

Which is not to suggest that the Big Book ought to be revised or rewritten. It is what it is. It is a kind of memoir written by middle-class white Christian men seventy years ago. The book shares the experience, strength and hope of these men and of others in AA. And in so doing it does something historical; it lays the foundation for what does work for alcoholics: the very human power of one alcoholic talking to another alcoholic. The support we alcoholics find in the rooms assists us in working towards “a personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism” and is the very essence of the fellowship of AA.

And that has everything to do with sharing our stories.

Indeed, many people like the Big Book not for its first 164 pages, but because of the roughly three hundred pages that are devoted to the personal stories of fellow alcoholics in recovery. That section begins with the subtitle: “How Forty-Two Alcoholics Recovered From Their Malady”.

We are inspired and we learn from hearing about “what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now” from those with the common affliction of alcoholism and addiction. And thus the definition and purpose of AA: “Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism”.

Our dear friend, the late Ernie Kurtz, said that storytelling is in fact “the practice and indeed the essential dynamic of AA”. It is the way we AA members support each other and help guarantee our ongoing recovery.

Thus this book.

The stories in this book are all, of course, by AA members who do not believe that an interventionist deity – a God – had anything at all to do with their recovery from alcoholism. As readers will discover, many struggled mightily “in the rooms” with the idea of God or a Higher Power, wanting to fit in, as Alcoholics Anonymous was their last hope.

Some were nonbelievers from the very beginning. Others, as the life-saving “personality change” in recovery took effect over time, abandoned a belief in God. Most felt unable to be honest at meetings, afraid that what they said would be attacked. If they did “come out of the closet” the consequences were hurtful: other members of AA would often take a condescending Dr. Bob approach (“I feel sorry for you”) and warn them that they would pick up again if they did not find God. They often felt dismissed, disparaged and rejected in the rooms of traditional AA.

But they stayed, as so many do not. And survived. And are here today to share their stories.

As readers make their way through the book, it will also be noted that a number of writers talk about doing their own version of the 12 Steps.

This too is not without controversy in AA.

So let’s start off by asserting that nobody wants to change the original and official Steps of AA, published in Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939. No vote needed, understand?

However, it is perfectly normal – indeed inevitable – that the Steps will be interpreted and personal versions created. If God is meant to be “as we understood Him” then surely it goes without saying that we shall do the Steps “as we understand them”. The author of the Steps understood that but, somehow, the point is missed in traditional AA: “We must remember that AA’s Steps are suggestions only. A belief in them as they stand is not at all a requirement for membership among us. This liberty has made AA available to thousands who never would have tried at all, had we insisted on the Twelve Steps just as written”. (Bill Wilson, Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, p. 81)

And so from time to time, our writers will share their own versions of the Steps. Interestingly, creating one’s personal version of the Steps can often be liberating. Neil F. in Chapter 19, “My Journey”, writes: “Due to my fear of not fitting in, of not being accepted in AA, I was not open about my atheism when speaking in AA until after I wrote an article ‘Personalizing the Twelve Steps’ that was published on AA Agnostica in January of 2013. This article was really my full disclosure of my atheism, my becoming totally honest”.

Dear readers, the issue of being “totally honest” is at the very heart of this book.

There are a total of thirty stories in Do Tell! None of them have been sanitized nor are they cliché-ish in the way that many AA stories appear to be in either the AA Grapevine or in “Conference approved” literature.

No, these are personal and honest stories. All unique, all different. The stories in the book alternate between those by women and those by men and so we discover early on – if we did not appreciate this already – that the factors involved in addiction and recovery are often quite different in the lives of men and women.

Moreover, the style and tone of each author is different. As a consequence, readers will like some stories more than others. That’s okay. Early on in AA we learn to take what we need and leave the rest. Nevertheless there is without doubt something in each one of these stories that will resonate with those of us who have lived part of our lives in the struggle for recovery.

The authors come from all parts of North America and the United Kingdom. The length of sobriety of each of them varies considerably, much like at a regular AA meeting, with the average being roughly twenty-one years. Five of the writers have more than forty years of continuous sobriety.

So why this book? Why now? And why is it published by AA Agnostica?

The answer to these questions comes in two words, “refusal” and “failure”.

Over the past 70 years the AA Grapevine has published approximately forty stories by agnostics and atheists in AA. That’s just a bit better than one every two years. A formal request was made to the Grapevine to publish this collection of stories – spanning the years from 1962 to 2015 – in a book. They had published similar books in the past such as, for example, Sober & Out, a collection of stories by gays, lesbians and the transgendered in AA.

The AA Grapevine Board of Directors met on January 29, 2015, and, after a “lengthy discussion”, refused the request. No reason was provided.

That’s the “refusal” part. Now the “failure”.

The General Service Conference is the purported “group conscience” of the AA Fellowship. It meets annually and is composed of approximately 20 directors and staff at AA and the Grapevine, 21 trustees and 93 delegates representing various areas across North America. The Conference, via its Literature Committee, decides on the contents of pamphlets and books which will be published by Alcoholics Anonymous, otherwise known as “Conference approved” literature.

Let’s put aside the appalling and inevitable element of censorship in the process just described, at least for now, and point out that over the past forty years, numerous requests have been made to the Conference to publish literature by and about agnostics and atheists in AA. The requests began in 1976 when a subcommittee of the trustees Literature Committee wrote that literature of this kind “is needed to assure non-believers that they are not merely deviants, but full, participating members in the AA Fellowship without qualification”.

The requests have been ignored or explicitly denied. Given the rather obvious and growing need for such literature this can only be described as a repeat “failure” on the part of the General Service Conference.

Thus, again, this book.

And perhaps everything is exactly as it should be, in the end.

AA as an organization is a non-organization or an inverted triangle with authority at the grassroots, at the membership and group level.

And at that level there is an explosion of agnostic, atheist and freethinker AA groups that have been formed over the past few years. You can find these now in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France and Japan, with more bursting forth every day.

Moreover, in 2014, the first We Agnostics, Atheists and Free Thinkers (WAAFT) international convention was held in Santa Monica, California with three hundred people from around the world in attendance. Another convention is in the works for 2016 in Austin, Texas.

Five years ago there was no literature at all for atheists and agnostics in AA.

Now there is a plethora of good literature: Waiting: A Nonbeliever’s Higher Power by Marya Hornbacher (2011); An Atheist’s Unofficial Guide to AA by Vince H. (2011); A Freethinker in Alcoholics Anonymous by John Lauritsen (2014); Common Sense Recovery: An Atheist’s Guide to Alcoholics Anonymous by Adam N. (2015); Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life by Joe C. (2014); and, The Little Book: A Collection of Alternative 12 Steps by Roger C. (2014).

To name but a few!

And now this book, the one in your hands that you are reading now, Do Tell! Stories by Atheists and Agnostics in AA.

And one of the points of the book, dear readers, is this: We are not going anywhere. Atheists and agnostics are members of AA. Because we say so. As Nell Z. puts it in Chapter 1, “Carrying the Message to the Nonbeliever”: “All other factors aside, whenever there is a desire to stop drinking, the answer to the question, ‘Can AA work for me?’ is a resounding YES. I am an agnostic and a proud member of Alcoholics Anonymous”.

For we agnostics to feel at home in the rooms of AA we must inevitably be a part of reshaping the AA culture. We need to be a part of bringing our fellowship into the twenty-first century and helping it let go of its increasingly quaint religious origins.

Alcoholics Anonymous can indeed widen its gateway and be inclusive of all, including atheists and agnostics.

And for that we are responsible.

Things change.

Do Tell! [Front Cover]The paperback version is available at Amazon USA.

It is available as both a paperback and eBook via Amazon in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Also available online as a Kindle or Kobo, etcetera and as an iBook (for a Mac or iPad).

31 Responses

  1. life-j says:

    Just got the book, and sat down and read the first handful of stories, and I am absolutely amazed and moved. It is all so beautiful. While “Don’t Tell” was a book for us to voice all our frustrations, “Do Tell!” is truly a positive book. I think we’re finally moving toward the light rather than fleeing from the darkness and I am grateful to you for having rode the wave of transformation we’ve all been going through, and giving it a voice via AA Agnostica and now this book.

  2. Dan L says:

    Two questions I would like to ask the theist majority are:
    1) What are the protocols and precedent for denying AA membership to anyone who wants it?
    2) Why are religious people attempting to impose their personal principles on AA when the literature specifically says they must not? There is absolutely no directive for doing such a thing and there are many “suggestions” (like the steps are “suggestions”) strongly recommending the opposite.
    Thanks, Dan.

    • Shari says:

      Dan, I have been told many times inside AA or at breaks in mtgs that I had to believe in a god. Because I am Buddhist & practice the lotus sutra, I chant aloud in Sanskrit. I live in a sober living house & have been accused of “witchcraft” devil-worship, & etc… It’s very tiresome, believe me!

      • Dan L says:

        Thank you Shari. Somehow I can imagine without too much trouble just how tiresome that would be. Reads like an episode of Hymn Sing!. (For our US and other non-Canadian readers Hymn Sing! was a long running Sunday afternoon TV show on CBC. A choir of people much more square than any Lawrence Welk fan sang christian hymns for an eternal hour.)

        I have frequently wanted to conclude meetings with a soulful rendition of Barnacle Bill Wilson The Salesman.

        • Shari says:

          Thanks for the support! I really need to get out of this sober (crazy) living house. Been sick in bed with a fierce cold the last few days so I’m looking forward to my womens’ mtg. tonite. Take care & stay sober—no matter what!

      • John R. says:

        If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend One Breath at a Time by Kevin Griffin. One of the best books on combining Buddhism with the 12 steps.

  3. Denis K. says:

    This is a wonderfully written piece; I congratulate you for it.

    My greatest hope is that our “trusted servants” in Toronto and Vancouver who delisted our Agnostic AA Groups read this piece with an open and generous mind then reconsider the hurtful and harmful decisions that were made to delist our groups in the first place. We simply request they open the doors of AA to all who suffer from alcoholism, to allow them to share their stories and hear our stories of recovery.

    As Bill W. put it in 1965:

    Newcomers are approaching AA at the rate of tens of thousands yearly. They represent almost every belief and attitude imaginable. We have atheists and agnostics. We have people of nearly every race, culture and religion. In AA we are supposed to be bound together in the kinship of a common suffering. Consequently, the full individual liberty to practice any creed or principle or therapy whatever should be a first consideration for us all. Let us not, therefore, pressure anyone with our individual or even our collective views. Let us instead accord each other the respect and love that is due to every human being as he tries to make his way toward the light. Let us always try to be inclusive rather than exclusive; let us remember that each alcoholic among us is a member of AA, so long as he or she so declares.

    “Responsibility Is Our Theme,” The Language of the Heart.

    I recently celebrated 40 years of recovery as a sober AA member and am grateful to the Fellowship for these years, however I am saddened and shocked by the closed-mindedness of those who have taken this less than generous position of the two Intergroups.

  4. Shari says:

    I am really trying to help a sister atheist/agnostic who cannot or will not attend a “regular” AA mtg. I really need to find her an atheist/agnostic AA meeting in south Orange County. Do you know of any?

    • Roger says:

      If such a meeting exists, Shari, you would likely find it by clicking on the image below, which takes you to a list generously maintained by agnostic groups in New York:

      Worlwide agnostic meetings in AA

  5. Duncan says:

    I am sure that the Broad AA will read our message. How can they not if they are open minded?

    I would like to see a similar book on Chapter 4 – To the Agnostic. How can anyone see it if we don’t tell them?

    Certainly as an atheist I found that particular chapter insulting.

  6. Thomas B. says:

    I totally agree with you, Roger, and many here who congratulate you and us, that the publication of Do Tell! is a milestone in the history of AA. As we have been doing more and more openly since the delisting of the Toronto groups in 2011, we are gathering strength, fortitude and courage to tell our truth and not be intimidated by the vast majority of believers, a small number of whom hate and condemn us as heathen miscreants deserving their god’s alleged wrath.

    The creeping fundamentalism in the rooms of AA in North America may continue for awhile, but I’m convinced that in time – when we bleeding-deacon baby boomers finally die out – that the more enlightened generations of nones behind us will slowly but surely steer the Fellowship of AA into more progressive and inclusive waters. Thank goodness we are protected from our more doctrinaire brethren and sisteren by the 3rd Tradition and the Responsibility Declaration.

    At Portland’s Beyond Belief this morning we had three more newcomers, one who had longtime recovery and has recently come back to the rooms after a horrid and lengthy relapse. The past several weeks this person has been trying to reintegrate into the now much more dogmatic and doctrinaire AA than when she first got sober 25 years ago and was in despair that she would not be able to swallow “the god-bit,” much more prominent than she remembered when she first got sober. She left our meeting full of hope and conviction that with us other non-traditional believers she too could achieve again a satisfactory recovery in AA.

    This is why we do what we do – not only for ourselves but also for the many people who are constitutionally incapable of swallowing “the god-bit”. . . 😉

  7. steve b says:

    I think it would be a good idea to revise or rewrite the big book, to make a new, more rational version complete with unbiased information on AA’s successes and failures and information on how AA accords with science-based medicine. If you still want to read the old big book, why, be my guest!–who’s stopping you?

    And, as for the suggestion that no one wants to change the original AA steps, it’s apparent that no one asked me. I think that, even stripped of their flagrant religiosity, they are open to question. Has any scientific study ever shown that each and every step is crucial to recovery? I personally pay little attention to the steps except in a vague or general way, and strongly suspect their value is quite limited.

    For me, the value of AA is that in it like-minded people help one another to stay sober. I think it’s good that a more rational, nonreligious group of people are coming together and producing their own literature, and I think that nothing in AA should be considered sacred: let’s write a new big book, let’s scrutinize the steps, and let’s look at new ideas, and see what works.

    • life-j says:

      Steve, all your points well taken, probably the main thing that works is “one alcoholic talking with another” – now as for the steps, I will tend to agree, with one general caveat.
      You probably know about the Washingtonians – that recovery program which from 1840 to 45 made the 600,000 mark, but then disappeared. It appears that Bill Wilson didn’t know about them at all until maybe around 1946, that’s how far into obscurity they sank. They made a few mistakes, none of which so far AA has made, it is making it’s own (!) but one prominent one was they did not have “a program” – It appears that a program is necessary, something intent on self improvement of some sort, maybe it hardly even matters what it is so long as it gets a person to work on themself. The steps do that. Now, it probably doesn’t matter much how we do it, or how we redefine them to suit our purposes, or whether we have 6 or 12, though 12 is such a nice number because of the apostles and all, or whether we rewrite them entirely, but it does look to me like we need to 1) let go, 2) take inventory, 3) share our story with other alcoholics, 4) make restitution, 5) develop some sort of, well someone is probably going to jump on me for the use of that word, but I think it encompasses enough to be passable – spiritual practice, something to unwind and focus inwardly, searching for strength and balance.
      We could also sum up the program as honesty, openmindendness, willingness, humility, service, living by the golden rule – and action of some sort. A program means action, and I just think we do need a program, whatever it is, so long as we HAVE it.

      • steve b says:

        SOS and Life Ring, both of which are nonreligious alcohol recovery groups, tell their members to seek their own path to sobriety, and don’t suggest any particular program of self-improvement except for members to help one another. As far as I know, both groups are reasonably successful at keeping participants sober. But, as neither group has the name-brand charisma of AA, they remain small and obscure.

    • daniel says:

      I think for the benefit of being transparent to any newcomers on this forum we have to say that hundreds of thousands in AA over 80 years have gotten sober through the big book and the 12 steps and they carry that message how they got sober.

      We don’t have to rewrite the big book just write a new book and carry the message how agnostics and atheists get sober. Cheers, Daniel.

  8. Mark C. (Mark In Texas) says:

    Roger, and all of you who participated in this publication, “THANK YOU” for all you do, and are doing!

    Thank you, to each and every one of you who are HONEST and OUT about who you are, especially in conventional AA home groups.

    May Courage, Honesty, and Tolerance, continue to widen our gates to “ALL” who may suffer.

  9. life-j says:

    Roger, yes, very well written, and I look forward to reading the book. It should certainly be a great help to all non-believers. As for its impact in AA in general, it will probably be limited because it is for us non-believers, not for AA in general.

    It’s difficult to see us branching off into trying to put out literature for AA in general, but that is probably what it would take for us to have much impact, but they have put us down to such a degree that I’m sure none of us are eager to undertake such a project. All the more because it would, by and large, be unwelcome. So it is unlikely that AA will change because of us. On the other hand, this book will undoubtedly save many non-believer lives, and that in itself is of course a monumental improvement.
    Thanks again.

  10. Dan L says:

    Thank you so much Roger. (I have not yet gotten around to paying for and collecting a copy which I am pretty sure Neil F. has for me.) Funny but I know I will enjoy it immensely. It is worth noting that your introductory quote from Bill W. recognised one of the main failures of AA (60% by his own admission) in 1965! In 1965 I had hardly perfected my booze stealing techniques and had some years to go before I could legally be an alcoholic.

    Anyway, a problem a founder publicly identified 50 years ago has never been addressed. The Back To Basics crowd completely ignore this and continue to inflame the problem of religiosity and what I like to call “mission creep” in AA. They some how wish to return to a “golden age” that never was. How convenient it is that those who went before us in that “golden age” or “dream time” are now safely gone so they can practice their shenanigans without contradiction.

    I was taught in treatment at a very progressive and scientific (read modern) treatment centre that “doing the steps” was a matter of figuring out how I, as an individual, theist or atheist, was going to achieve their rather elaborately camouflaged goals. I was permitted to strip them of their god-baggage and see them as positive human oriented goals that would help me get better. I have no problem using other programs as much or as little as I want. AA is NOT my life and I don’t think it should be. Sobriety and recovery are. As Bill told us about 15 years late (Appendix II) the actual essentials are not god and piety and prayer but honesty, open mindedness and willingness. I did not suffer from lack of god or lack of power but I surely had a lack of those three essentials. I remember how much I enjoyed finding in the back of “The Little Book” the different interpretations of the meaning of the steps from different individuals, especially Drs. Berger and Maté. I still read them, in their simplicity, frequently. Thanks again, AA Agnostica has really made me feel better about being in AA and better about life in general. Being in the company of thinking individuals (so many AA’s are “proud” not to “think”) lets me believe that can I think too and it is okay.

  11. James says:

    I am so excited right now. This website and the literature I am finally finding here is saving my life! I have been in and out of the rooms for 6 years now with little success because of the tormenting pull back and forward over the higher power concept. I literally thought many times “well I obviously am not desperate enough because I cannot chose to believe…” This website and all the posts and suggested books have affirmed my decision to stay in AA. I hope that I can one day relate to a newcomer in a way this website has related to me letting them know that the only requirement or AA membership is the desire to stop drinking. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! I finally feel a part of and my recovery is becoming more and more meaningful!

  12. Joe C. says:

    This book celebrates a certain democracy in AA. Members came together to tell our stories because it’s healing to tell our story and it’s healing to hear/read our stories. This book celebrates out freedom to come together. In some ways, publishers, like AA aren’t the gate-keepers they once were. The whole world has grown more democratic thanks to technology.

    Was it necessary? Yes; under the circumstances, especially. I am going to AA archives next week to do some research. I want to see for myself what the relationship and history has between committees, the Conference and non-theists through the years. It seems obvious that what we have done for ourselves here with this book, we have, over the years asked our trusted servants to do for us, to treat us equally to all of the other minorities in AA that make us a mosaic and not a melting pot.

    I don’t know that the Big Book is any more archaic or revolutionary than other books written in 1939. Should the original text be retired and replaced? Should it’s integrity be respected to accurately reflect it’s voice in a certain place and time? Should we campaign over reforming historic documents or keep writing newer ones?

    We don’t have to agree on these views or approaches, not even in our subculture. The thing about unity is that we respect each other and celebrate our differences instead of being threatened or dismissive of them. Does that sound unrealistic?

    I see that there has been a proliferation of literature. It seems to have stared in the 1990s and it’s really catching steam now. I hope this collection of stories is one of many over the next few years. When collected and published for the right reasons there can’t be too many; AA has 2 million worthy stories and they are worth telling and worth hearing/reading. Podcasting, blogging, collections like Do Tell!, conferences, online meetings, f2f meetings, it’s all the same thing really, isn’t it? It’s what we’ve been doing for years. It’s the message that matters, not the medium. The great thing about how “things change” is our imagination finds newer ways to do good.

    I think we’re more likely in the middle of AA history and it’s still being decided. I expect this book will really resonate with a wide audience. As a part of history being made I expect it will contribute to better living and more open minds.

    Thanks to everyone who contributed the time to put this together, the stories that were selected here were but not all that were offered and there is plenty of time in our on-going history for those stories and more stories to be told.

    • Christopher G says:

      I was thinking along the same lines this morning as I was reading from Experiencing Spirituality: Finding Meaning Through Storytelling by Ernie Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham. They quote Barry Lopez here:

      Remember only this one thing… The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memory. This is how people care for themselves.

      We all have a story. It’s a true connection to be part of the storytelling legacy. Thank you, Roger, for the pipeline.

  13. John R. says:

    Thanx, Roger. Looking forward to reading the whole thing. We ordered two of them for our local Freethinkers Living Sober meetings, which continue to grow in our small conservative town!

  14. brien says:

    I ordered Do Tell I should have it next week.
    Here I am in liberal northern California and with the fundamentalist attitudes I find in AA I seen no hope for change AA. It is A God thing in Santa Clara County and in the meetings I have been met with scorn and suspicion.
    Thankfully there are Lifering and Smart Recovery meetings in the area as AA is no longer an option for me.

  15. Steve says:

    Yet another series of “sighs of relief” as I read this intro. I had already purchased the book and have started reading it. I’m taking my time because I want to savour it, story by story.

    I’m starting week 20 in this. And for those of you who have been pioneers in making this a safe place to land for atheists and agnostics, I just want to say Thank You.

    You are making it a lot easier to succeed in this. That literally saves lives.

    Thank you.


  16. Tommy H says:

    Well done, Roger.

  17. Adam N says:

    Thank you so much for making this happen, Roger!

    Any modicum of freshness which the big book retains, for me, has to do with the stories, brought up to date fairly regularly. I relapsed for a few years once a while back and, upon my return to AA, found that they had changed all the stories. Just for me! I was so pleased. They were so much more up to date, all multi-cultural and diverse. Still not one atheist or agnostic in the bunch, but, hey, waddya gonna do? Progress, not perfection, right?

    Anyways, this morning, as I was reading this excellent Introduction, I started to wonder: what if the stories never changed, if they were the same old 1930’s white guy stories. Perhaps the book’s obsolete, antiquated nature would be more obvious to people. Perhaps the book would not have survived as it has…

    I believe that, rather than ever hope to change the conference approved conservative canon, we are creating an alternate canon. I am hopeful that this will become a go-to library for present and future folk in recovery.

    I myself previously wrote along the lines of “accepting the things I cannot change”, strategizing and struggling to change myself in order to fit as much as possible into the AA mold.

    Now I find my writings are much more along the “courage to change the things I can” line, as I and others challenge antiquated models of recovery while, at the same time, cultivating alternate non-theistic, evidence based understandings of alcoholism, addiction and the process of recovery.

    Thanks again to Roger for being such an amazing component in this vital and important movement. I cannot wait to read this new work.

    Adam N.

  18. Lon Mc. says:

    Thanks, Roger. Your introduction to “Do Tell!” is about as clear, as rational and as comfortable a flow of our concerns as it comes. I can imagine a future in AA where those of us who have been biting our tongues (when a senior fundamentalist Christian member sees fit to put us in our places) might give rise to our up and coming rationalists feeling just as “right” to openly leave the fundamentalist to stew in his own flawed thinking while we expose views which can be a new revelation to him… if he ever decides to generate some objective evidence-based self-honesty.

  19. John F. says:

    Perhaps Agnostic AA should “go it alone” with more public exposure! It is great to have a “pattern” to use while developing! Isn’t traditional AA really an outgrowth of the Oxford approach steeped in the evangelical basics? Wouldn’t it be nice to have two AA phone numbers available?

  20. Anton D. says:

    Articles like this one provide me with the precious commodity of hope for my continued sobriety. A commodity that is all but absent from most of what I see and hear in the conventional, back-to-basics, “Akron style” meetings that seem to be all that is available in my community.

  21. Peggy H. says:

    I just received my copy of DO TELL yesterday. I can’t wait to start reading it. We need to keep insisting that the presence of atheists, agnostics, humanists and freethinkers is not only legitimate but we every right to be part of AA. I hope the bigwigs at GSO and Grapevine “Come to Believe” this and start publishing our experiences, strength and hope by publishing them in a series as we attempted to have done for over 40 years…

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