My experience with the AA God

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By Gisele B.

Hello, my name is Gisele, 61 years old, living in Canada, the province of Quebec. I have been a member of AA since 1992.

I came to  Alcoholics Anonymous because I desperately wanted to stop drinking, I wanted to know what was wrong with me. I was seeking help and someone suggested I go to an AA meeting. I went in the door sincerely hoping that I would find a safe place to go to, people who would understand me and tell me what I needed to do. And right from the beginning I felt I had found the spot I was looking for.

When I started out I was a devout believer in the God of the Bible but now, due to circumstances that have shaken my conscience about reality, I have come to not believe in any “God” or Higher mystic power of any kind. Finding out on Internet about the AA Agnostica website and groups that are not religious in their thinking or practice came to me just at the right time.

This new way of living the AA way of life now suits me just fine.

What I would like to share with you is that even from my religious point of view in my early days, there where occasions when I felt awkward in my approach to try and help a person who wouldn’t have anything to do with God. While on my way in recovery I quickly picked up on the importance of lending a helping hand to any alcoholic in need.

As I got into reading the AA literature I sometimes became confused with the discrepancies and contradictions, especially when it came to the fellowship’s position about whether believing in the God they would strongly suggest us to cling to was necessary or not.

One thing I had noticed soon enough was the phrase “to the care of God as we understood Him” in the third step. This part and the tradition saying not to engage in any controversy made me feel at ease in that I could believe anything I wanted to and so could anyone coming in, so we could concentrate on the most important thing: the only requirement to be an AA member is to want to stop drinking.

Then there was also the suggestion to look towards the strength of the group as a higher power, so this could be shared with someone without religious beliefs. But after a while a very important fact I noticed was that some members would not practice the twelve steps as they were presented mainly because they had no interest in dealing with Godly direction.

What also happened with my practice was I read the way these steps where written and understood that even though a person would confide in their God the writers pointed out that you have to also take action and help yourself. Tell another person, preferably your sponsor, about the nature of your wrongs. That your defects of character would not just, miraculously, go away but that you had to honestly do what you could to better yourself. That an invisible, silent God who more often than not wouldn’t answer sincere prayers was of no use.

Then there came a time when I stopped going in meetings and put the AA way of life aside.

I went for alternative ways of healing I could relate to. I also had to deal with my personal issues in coming to not believe in a God anymore, which I felt I couldn’t share with AA members.

Recently a good AA friend of mine reached out to me and her intervention prompted me to come back to the steps; now it time to try and take God out of the picture. I did some research on the net about the AA God. What I discovered was that lots of atheists were coming out about the problems they faced with this issue in AA. And so am I.

So, here I am now sharing my thoughts on an atheist AA site and very glad to do so. I believe that there is this synchronicity, an energy between a person’s actions and the needed answers that will come to attention that is fascinating. My text is a resume of what I could go on talking about, as I am interested in the cause. Sincere thanks to all pioneers who are doing what it takes to help non believers find their place in AA.

Keep on rockin, one day at a time!

Gisele is 61 years old and came to Alcoholics Anonymous in November of 1992. She is living happy retirement in a nice countryside with her boyfriend, their cat and a chihuahua dog. For the last few years she has come to terms with her change of heart and mind about switching from faith in God to an atheist standpoint in the practice of the AA way of life. Gisele is glad to have found agnostic AA members online and to share her thoughts on the matter with them.

11 Responses

  1. Tom says:

    Is there a difference between a religious life and a spiritual belief?

    • Roger says:

      Yeah, one is dogmatic and the other is experiential. You can figure out which is which…

    • G.B. says:

      To absolutely have to believe in a certain God and live by the book, its religious way of believing and to think, act accordingly.

      Or to believe what you personally consider as spiritual.

  2. Oren says:

    Thank you, Gisele. It is good to read the story of your recovery. Welcome to secular AA.

  3. life-j says:

    Thank you, and yes, hopefully AA as a whole is on a path toward some real change.
    And to that end I think it is real important that we both work on alternative forms of AA, AND keep going to regular AA to promote change. Regular AA will never change from us agnostics having meetings of our own if there isn’t also crossover sharing.
    Regular AA is, after all still the place where most people go to get a little of what they do need and a lot of what they don’t.

  4. Jimmy L says:

    We form a circle holding hands and say the most widely know Christian prayer and still try to maintain that’s it’s not religious. Maybe, but not to this member.

  5. Hi Gisele,
    I got sober on the west island of Montreal, going to meetings mostly from Ste. Anne du Bellevue to Westmount and St. Henri. I left Montreal for a summer in 1979 and, while I planned to come back, I was flattered to be offered a management position with the Calgary job I’d taken on for the summer. Some of my original AA friends are still alive and well, many more are now dead. AA seems to have regional personalities – the meetings in one town have something in common that is different from most of the meetings in a town across the Province or State.

    I don’t remember the AA that I leaned on in the mid-late ’70s as being particularly formal or focused on gods and such. Yes people believed and others didn’t and no one seemed bothered by the others. I’ve been to meetings (more rarely than I would like) in Montreal from time to time in the last couple of decades and they seem different. I remember meetings being more about sharing one alcoholic to another or to the group and now the meetings I’ve been to are more AA book focused, more structured and formulaic.

    I don’t know if that’s good or bad. No one really cares what I think about their group(s). Things change as an organization ages I suppose but there is a lot I miss about the style of AA, then.

    Je me souviens.

    But hey, now there’s no smoke and that suits me fine.

    Members, like yourself, speak up and we share our own experiences and like minded people will find their way to each other. So it has been with this growing freethinkers community. It’s a thrill to hear from another from Quebec. Thanks for sharing your story.

  6. Helen L says:

    Hi Gisele

    I also switched from practicing the steps as a believer to practicing them as an atheist. Happy to also report that it works both ways! Here in Southwest Connecticut, I speak up and share my experience at meetings for the newcomers who may also be atheist. It is so validating to also find online meetings for us nonbelievers!

    Helen L.

    • Marty N. says:

      Helen, How ’bout coming to one of our meetings in northeast Conn.? We would also be very happy to help you get a meeting started in your area. We will travel to you if you would like us to. Please call Marty @ 860-974-9892.

      • Helen L says:

        Thanks Marty that meeting invitation sounds so like my old timer friends who traveled to visit other meetings where I got sober in Maryland – warms my heart!

        A while back, I invited a couple fellow atheists in Fairfield CT to start one here but at the time they were less keen to step out on that limb with me. I used to drive as far as Meriden for the area 11 meetings and I had also checked out a freethinkers meeting down in NYC. I have since found the online meetings, but I am not opposed to a daytime / daytrip meeting.

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