By Roger C

Our dear friend life-j passed away last month, on December 14. Below you will find a section with a bit of his biography and another section with a list of the articles he wrote that were posted on AA Agnostica.

But first, here is an article he wrote for the Grapevine.

Eight Principles of AA

The 12 steps have helped many people in AA. They seem to work particularly well for people that need, or want, to be told what to do and for people of a religious inclination. Others in AA find them less helpful and rely instead on the fellowship. Either way, there could have been 10, or 14, or 8 steps, and it would have been fine. The important thing is that we work earnestly at changing our lives.

I’m not going to go into whether or not Bill Wilson “accidentally” wound up with 12 steps, like he said, but there seems to be a certain obsession with that number. I have even seen “12 Promises”. But I would like to encourage a bit of thinking outside the groove and I think it may help loosen things up a bit to suggest that not everything has to come in twelve’s. To that end I have picked eight principles which guide almost everything in our program, and eight principles which make AA work:

Honesty, Open-mindedness, Willingness, Humility, Service, Living by the Golden Rule, Gratitude and Acceptance.

They are familiar to all and are, in a sense the basis for the steps. This is what we work toward, and the steps can be a good framework for working toward those principles.

But which are the principles that make AA work? If we know what works, what really at bottom makes AA work, then we can be more effective. Here are some of the most important:

  • An alcoholic will trust another alcoholic more than they will trust just about anyone else – spouses, parents, kids, friends, clergymen, therapists, teachers (never mind cops, judges and probation officers) and so as alcoholics we’re in a unique position to help each other in recovery.

  • Helping other alcoholics with their sobriety is one of the best ways to increase our chances of staying sober ourselves.

  • Most of us need a tribe to belong to, and we greatly increase our chances of staying sober by going to meetings and by associating with other recovering alcoholics. If the tribe is defined in such a manner that we are made to feel that we belong, then most of us will indeed feel that we belong, and we are more likely to stay.

  • Don’t take that first drink, that’s the one that leads to a drunk. And there is no problem so bad that alcohol can’t make it worse.

  • For most of us it is not enough to merely stop drinking. First of all, we need to stop doing things that make us want to drink. But then we need to make some real changes in our lives. And it helps our recovery if we can contribute to making this a better world, especially for other alcoholics and their kin. Having a plan or a program of some sort can make it much easier to do.

  • We need to work toward peace and balance in our lives. Neither despair nor hedonistic elation. Neither grandiosity nor self-flagellation. But while it is important that we accept and allow ourselves to feel where we are, where we actually are right now, a life with plain, ordinary, peaceful happiness with time and space for contemplation would be a good goal.

  • Take it one day at a time, one hour at a time, even 5 minutes at a time if that’s all you can do. You can postpone that drink 5 minutes, or the argument, or whatever other stupid things you’re thinking about getting yourself into.

  • Doing the right thing helps keep me sober, because I will have no reason to feel bad about myself. At least I won’t be adding to the reasons for feeling bad that I showed up here with, and even those will slowly fade away if I keep working on really changing my life.

Let’s try to keep it that simple.

Life (Leif) Jensen was born in Denmark on February 26, 1951. He lost any faith in religion which he may have had around the age of eight. He moved to Berkeley when he was 26, and settled in Oakland for much of his working life and his worst drinking years. He got sober there in 1988. In 2002, he moved to Laytonville, a small coastal mountain valley village in Northern California.

He spent part of his life as a building contractor, part as a technical translator, and dabbled a bit in art work and writing. Retired, he lived with his sweetie, dogs, chickens and gardens on a small homestead, his beloved Dragonfly Farm. He is survived by his mother and his uncle in Denmark, his daughter in Italy, his son in Seattle, and his sweetheart and partner, Jane, at the Dragonfly Farm.

Service in AA. He was involved in service work of every kind all along, but decided that the most important work was to help atheists, agnostics and freethinkers feel safe and welcome in AA, and hopefully to do at least a small part in helping AA change with the times and to remain alive and well in the 21st century.

Several years ago, in 2012, he launched an AA Freethinkers Meeting which he eventually moved from Laytonville to Willits. His partner, Jane, who has very kindly contributed a great deal to this biography, had this to say about life-j and his meeting:

In Willits it started with 3 or 4 people and grew to about 10. He was very proud of that, and was secretary until about 8 months ago when he realized he was just too weak and tired to carry that responsibility. So he passed it along to someone else and still tried to get to the meetings. I started driving him there, and he would drag himself out of the car, hobble in to the meeting leaning on his cane, and when I picked him up he came out with a smile. It was so good to see that because the cancer was really getting the best of him. He was not able to do much anymore, and just getting to a meeting really made his day.

He struggled for a long time with stage 4 liver cancer. After liver surgery in 2014, he was cancer free, but it metastasized to his lungs. Still, he went to the secular AA conference (Widening the Gateway) in Olympia, WA, in January 2016. He attended the International Conferences of Secular AA (ICSAA) in Austin in 2016 and Toronto in 2018. He also attended the Secular Ontario AA Roundup (SOAAR) 2017 in Toronto and some eleven months ago (February 2019) was at the Symposium on AA History in Los Altos, California. As one of the speakers at the symposium, Joe C, reported: “he was laying down in the back for my presentation.”

Over the last year the cancer spread to other parts of his body. Life passed away on December 14, 2019… peacefully and at home, as he had wished.

Thank you, life-j.

As part of his mission, life-j wrote a total of eighteen articles posted on AA Agnostica over a period of six and a half years and these are:

He also wrote fourteen articles for the website AA Beyond Belief:

  • AA and Special Needs (December 29, 2019)
  • Eight Principles of AA (November 17, 2019)
  • AA and What Really Works (November 3, 2019)
  • Does Everyone Need a Higher Power? (September 1, 2019)
  • The Thing About AA (August 4, 2019)
  • Conference Approved (January 27, 2019)
  • Some Thoughts About AA in the 21st Century (December 2, 2018)
  • Fix Broken Self-esteem with Ego Deflation? Huh? (November 18, 2018)
  • AA and the Art of Automobile Maintenance (November 11, 2018)
  • As Bill Also Sees It (November 7, 2018)
  • A Call for Better Networking (April 19, 2018)
  • About Being Here (July 2, 2017)
  • Don’t Fix It If It Ain’t Broke (April 9, 2017)
  • The Sinclair Method (November 22, 2015)

Most of the earlier articles are available in a book put together by life-j. The book can be read and/or downloaded as a PDF right here: My Collected Published AA Stories.

In July of 2019, life-j also published a book on Amazon. And an Introduction and Reviews of that book can be accessed here: About Being Here.

18 Responses

  1. Dee says:

    Life-J’s work gave hope to agnostics and atheists trying to live sober. I’m grateful for AA Agnostica for making Life-J’s writing accessible to us all. I extend my deepest sympathies to Life-J’s friends and family – I’m sorry for your loss. I wish I had met and talked with him. May his memory be eternal in the work he did and the people he touched. PEACE.

  2. Jack Blair says:

    And so life-j returns to the energy of the cosmos. Beware Cosmos; a deeply loved man with a formidable consciousness is headed your way. You will need your “A” game when interacting with him.

    Personally, I am deeply humbled by his candor and prescience.

    My heart breaks for all those who are counted as his friends, most particularly his sweetie. We extend our most special touches to you. May you find some peace…

    With most gentle and deepest regard,

    Jack Blair
    Vancouver, B.C.

  3. Joy says:

    So grateful that I got to meet life-j in Austin. It makes me smile now that I too asked about his name when I met him.

    He was — and surely still is — a happy and loving soul.

  4. Adam N. says:

    I am sorry to hear of the passing of Life-j. I very much appreciate his freethinking, intelligent contributions to our ongoing dialogue regarding addiction and recovery. He was a wise and outside-the-box kinda guy. My favorite. His ideas effected my own, and I am a better man for it. I will not pray for him, you can be sure of that. But my loving thoughts and fond memories will certainly continue on as long as I do.

  5. Tom D. says:

    With tears in my eyes … I feel I’ve lost a close friend. Nice work, brother.

  6. Bob K says:

    life-j had an interesting life. I know he LOVED writing for AA Agnostica and AA Beyond Belief. I can relate to that. He will be missed, and he will be remembered.

  7. Bob K says:

    Re: the 12 Steps, here’s an excerpt from “The Secret Diaries of Bill W.”:

    “I got comfortable on my bed with pens, a fresh legal pad, and my notes. In a relatively short period of time, I had broken down a process of recovery into steps, and there were eleven of them. That would never do. I have on many occasions given much thought to spelling out very specifically my best vision of a process of recovery, none of the individual parts of which would be overly complex, or overwhelming.

    The number was always going to be 12, or possibly 10. Those numbers have gravitas. You couldn’t have an 11 or a 9 step program. You certainly couldn’t have 13 steps! After some adjusting, I had my 12 Steps. All of this hadn’t taken terribly long, probably about an hour . . .

    Rereading what I had written, I thought that the Steps were pretty much perfect, but almost immediately my mind went to memories of the mauling my writing had met with on other occasions. I really didn’t want these steps to suffer the same treatment. Over the years, I’ve said a variety of things about the writing of the Steps:

    ‘I relaxed and asked for guidance . . . With a speed that was astonishing . . .I didn’t seem to be thinking as I wrote . . . The words just flowed out of me . . . The whole thing was done in about a half hour, even though my stomach was churning and my head was cloudy . . .’

    All of this was intended to lead to an inevitable conclusion:

    I’ve come to believe that these Steps MUST have been inspired.


    My fiction is closer to the truth than Bill’s fiction. 😉

  8. Deirdre S. says:

    Damn! I’m so sorry to here this. He fought his challenges nobly. life-j Presente!

  9. Mario M. says:

    You have not died J. Life. You have passed to the permanent memory of our lives. With much appreciation you will be present ALWAYS. And as AA I tell you the steps. I met you in Toronto and I keep your humility that you demonstrated tenderly towards alcoholics. Thank you for existing and your writings will make you transcend.

  10. Mario M. says:

    No has muerto J. Life. Has pasado al recuerdo permanente de nuestras vidas. Con mucho aprecio estarás presente SIEMPRE. Y como AA te digo los pasos. Te conocí en Toronto y guardo tu humildad que demostraste con ternura hacia los alcohólicos. Gracias por existir y tus escritos te harán trascender.

  11. Richard K. says:

    I never knew Life J. Wish l had. May he rest in peace.

  12. Rob T says:

    About 8 or 9 years ago I googled “12 steps and atheists” which led me here and to a few other places and one of the first essays I read was written by life j. I am grateful. Thanks.

  13. Donald says:

    Thank you Life. you will be remembered. Peace

  14. Mikey J says:

    Oh no, this is such a loss for our family. He will be missed but his wonderful writings will live in to inspire and ignite.

  15. Shawn L. says:

    He helped me. I am grateful he was here.

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