Secular AA Pamphlets

By Roger C

Over the years, a small number of secular AA members, groups and organizations have created pamphlets.

Why have more pamphlets not been printed and shared?

Well, partly because it’s complicated work. And, if taken to a printer, the more elaborate ones can be expensive. But you can indeed print them yourself.

Pamphlets can be very helpful. Are you familiar with AA’s Tradition Five? Here it is: “Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.”

A pamphlet is a great way to carry the message about the existence of a secular AA group, and where and when its meetings are held. It’s also a great way to let alcoholics know about your meeting format. And, if you want, you can share that the meetings are not God-obsessed or allied with Christianity, and thus do not end with the Lord’s Prayer. Go for it!

Pamphlets can be placed on the Literature table at secular meetings. And they can also be shared at “traditional” meetings, at Intergroups and at AA Central Offices. I think we are finally getting to the point where it is understood that AA is meant to be for anyone with a desire to stop drinking.

By the way, that’s Tradition Three.

What follows are eight pamphlets. We begin with What is secular AA? put together by the We Agnostics group in Tempe, Arizona.

And then we move on to four group pamphlets, What is a “secular” meeting? by the Secular Sobriety Group in Traverse City, Michigan; A Newcomers Guide by the Atheists, Agnostics and All Others group in Boise, Idaho; Quad-A: Alcoholics Anonymous for Atheists and Agnostics, which was put together by groups in Chicago; and Freethinkers in AA, from Denver and Aurora, Colorado.

We are pleased to include two pamphlets by our recently deceased friend, life-j, and these are As Bill ALSO Sees It and Other AA Literature.

Finally, we close with a pamphlet created by John S that is all about the website AA Beyond Belief.

Below are images of exactly half of each one of the pamphlets. To see the complete pamphlet, just click on the image and you can then access a PDF and download it if you wish.

Here we go:

What is secular AA?

Secular AA is a movement within Alcoholics Anonymous that seeks to widen our gateway so that all who suffer may pass through and find long-term sobriety in AA regardless of their belief or lack of belief in a God… When anyone reaches out, we want the hand of AA to be there.

What is a Secular Meeting?

Because secular AA meetings are not religious, no one is asked to engage in any religious practices such as reciting prayers. This includes the Serenity Prayer and The Lord’s Prayer which comes directly from the Christian Bible. As part of the meeting format, no one proclaims: “there is One who has all power – that One is God. May you find Him now!”

A Newcomer’s Guide

Atheists, Agnostics & All Others was founded in 2008 by rebels/visionaries… to serve as an alternative, inclusive environment for people of all types of belief and non-belief in AA… We have grown and continue to serve as an oasis for atheists, agnostics, free thinkers and all others seeking sobriety within AA.

Quad-A: Alcoholics Anonymous for Atheists and Agnostics

“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…” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 46). Quad-A acknowledges recovering persons may have a valid and fulfilling sobriety with or without belief in a Higher Power.

Freethinkers in AA

Freethinkers in AA is an open meeting for those seeking help with their own problems with alcohol, as well as our supporters, individuals dealing with other addictions and others interested in how our program works. Our members share a common desire to embrace AA without the religious ideas and practices found at more “traditional” AA meetings.

As Bill ALSO Sees It

Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought AA membership ever depend upon money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group… (Tradition Three)

Other AA Literature

(The term Conference Approved) does not imply Conference disapproval of other material about AA. A great deal of literature helpful to alcoholics is published by others, and AA does not try to tell any individual member what he or she may or may not read. (Service Material from the General Service Office)

AA Beyond Belief

AA Beyond Belief is a home for agnostics, atheists, freethinkers, and all others who seek a secular path in AA. We publish personal stories written by secular members of Alcoholics Anonymous. We also feature a podcast and audio recordings of secular AA speakers. Let our stories serve as a beacon of hope to still suffering alcoholics who fear that AA does not have a place for them.

Again, click on anyone of the images above to see and/or download a PDF of the pamphlet.


16 Responses

  1. Neil L. says:

    Here in Silicon Valley I’ve had a meeting in my backyard for about 15 years. Since home meetings cant be listed in directories, I had business cards made to hand out to folks that might be interested. We aren’t strictly Secular, but are very open to all, and actively encourage sharing ESH on all topics typically considered “outside issues” at other groups.

    Several years ago I noticed that San Jose had no Secular meetings whatsoever. So I started two, one of which is a freeform book study of Martha Cleveland’s The Alternative 12 Steps: A Secular Guide to Recovery. I’ve taken dozens of people through them, and found a great amount of excitement regarding them from atheists, agnostics, panthiests, and Christian’s, all. Many of them have people they sponsor who are now using those same steps.

    These groups and tools are used so much now that I walk into the groups I started and am greeted by faces I don’t know, asking me if I’m new.

    It’s the most beautiful thing in the world, to know that the seeds I planted have succeeded so well that they’ve taken on their own personalities.

    All because one day I stumbled onto and bought one book.

    Thanks from hundreds of young, sober, Secular Steptakers for creating the foundation that saved their lives.

  2. Mike O says:

    This might be the most blasphemous thing I’ve ever said about AA (and I’ve said some things) but I’ve noticed that at THIS point in my sobriety (8+ years in) that the less often I go to meetings, especially traditional meetings, the emotionally healthier I seem to feel. It’s such a paradox because I love the fellowship, AA served a VERY important role in my life and absolutely helped me get my feet back underneath me when I was new in sobriety and very scared and vulnerable. I enjoy the company of many regulars and I’ve developed better habits and learned many great life lessons along the way. I will probably never stop going completely but I notice the longer I stay sober, the less impressive most of the “old-timers” with 15, 20, 25, 30+ years of sobriety who still almost obsessively go to meetings really are. I’d rather evolve into the type of old-timer who drops by from time to time to say hello and has a nice, gentle, moderate touch to his message and personality.

    AA often feels like training wheels for me, good and important and steadying when I was learning to live soberly but unnecessary, stifling and even crippling after I’ve long since outgrown them. I keep hearing in my head about how “the first step in a relapse is to stop going to meetings” and “meeting makers make it” and “those who stay in the center of the program don’t get picked off the herd” and all those other pearls of wisdom I’ve heard over the years. However, what I’ve ALSO learned, largely through my own efforts and investigation, is that being sober has allowed me to TRULY “pick what I want and leave the rest”. I’ve become more and more emotionally and psychologically independent and not found it to be scary or destabilizing but rather empowering and enlightening. Whether or not some random guy in a random meeting considers my time to be “real sobriety” or that I’m not working “real AA” is irrelevant to me. I come to this on my OWN terms, first, last and always.

    I don’t know everything about what happens for me from here forward but I do know that I will be okay as long as I don’t take that first drink. Everything else is always up for debate, interpretation and reimagination. Thank you to secular recovery (secular AA, SMART recovery, therapists, etc.) for helping me find my way. To thine own self be true, indeed! 🙂

    • Mike B says:

      What you describe is my experience from eighteen months ago, precisely. Having heard all the horror stories of those who forgot the lessons of AA the moment they stopped attending meetings, I was apprehensive, but – as you describe – finding myself going to traditional meetings feeling happy, joyous and free, but leaving restless, irritable and discontent.

      AA Agnostica has been a lifeline for me, keeping me in touch with the fellowship which taught me how to get and stay sober, but also educating me on AA history, providing essential context missing from all meetings I ever attended.

      I believe that if we hold on to the lessons learned, we can safely graduate from AA.

      I stay in touch with friends who are still going to meetings, I read here and comment occasionally, and I hold firmly to the principles that taught me how to get and stay sober.

      Good luck with your journey – I have nothing to regret from detaching with love from meetings, my life in sobriety becomes more fulfilled with every month that passes.

  3. Mike says:

    Very interesting, thanks for sharing these. If there were a secular meeting nearby I would probably not have walked away from meetings, finding the evangelism exhausting. Despite reading the traditions at every meeting, I remain amazed how little they are heeded, or even considered, and this was another reason I chose to take a break. There is a disconnect between the steps, describing the personal journey, and the traditions, which are viewed as a dry, disconnected framework.

    As one of life’s natural administrators, I’d spend what felt like hours in conscience meetings, just pointing out the answers to so many apparently insoluble conundrums were to be found in the traditions, if only they were interpreted appropriately.

    As an atheist, I often found it easier to take strength from the largely secular traditions, and undertook my journey through the steps via only one, four, five, eight, nine and ten, being willing to do the others should I ever be persuaded by the religious argument, and am now almost eight years sober, looking forward to remaining so.

    Had such a pamphlet been presented to any of the meetings I attended, which was all within about fifteen miles at least once, I’m certain tradition eleven would have been invoked as an argument against non approved literature. I’d reply that, if it’s on the literature table anyone with access to it had already been attracted, but admit that distribution outside of meetings might be more difficult to defend, much as I’d like to encourage such publications and ultimately see AA moving into the 1960s.

    Has anyone else any experience of the arguments against, which a reasonable, secular individual might find worthy of consideration?

  4. Bethany D. says:

    What an amazing resource – thank you for posting these! The Sober She-Devils – an online secular women’s group – has created a “Welcome Packet” for new members. It’s not in a pamphlet format since we are an online community, but in Word accessible via Google Sheets and contains links to all of our resources: SSD Welcome Packet for Newcomers.

  5. Lisa M. says:

    Thanks so much! I am saving them all to my ibooks and printing some to share in regular AA meetings as the need arises! Or as the opportunity arises!

  6. Bob K says:

    Until I heard about this article, I hadn’t given any thought to creating a pamphlet about my secular group, and a bit about the broader cause. Now I’m thinking about it. The existing brochures are nicely done, but there’s a challenge in the air. “What could be done even better?”

    I hope other readers are having similar reactions.

  7. Beth H. says:

    The Secular AA outreach committee is also working on pamphlets. We have one coming out soon for government employees (judges, probation officers, drug courts, licensing boards, employee assistance programs, etc) to let them know about secular meetings, and also why they should want to know. The law cited is for the US only, but others could modify it. I don’t know enough about Canadian law to do that.

  8. Tom says:

    There is also one called “The God Word” out of Great Britain I believe, it is also excellent.

  9. Courtney M. says:

    Your pamphlets have given me a renewed interest in my program, …priceless. My financial situation has changed dramatically due to an unexpected situation, and when it changes again for the better, I will rejoin. In the meantime … I can’t thank you enough!!!

  10. Jeffrey S. says:

    In Tulsa Oklahoma we also modified the Arizona pamphlet to include our meeting. Thanks go out to We Agnostics, Tempe. All members of We Agnostics, Tulsa have the pamphlet and hand them out regularly.

  11. CathyM says:

    And business cards with your group info and the secular websites.

    You can write your phone number on the back if appropriate.

    Easy to carry and hand out at end of mtg when I hear someone who doesn’t know, or isn’t sure, or doesn’t have… It’s OK to not know.

    There might even be a PDF anyone can modify.

  12. Teresa J says:

    Thank you! So much! life-j did so many great pamphlets and we went back and forth a bit about editing. His efforts were tremendous and I wanted the pamphlets perfect. With his generosity of sharing I’ve used some of his for sharing with others, letting go of my want of perfection.

    Now, there is the offering of these other pamphlets. Wow. I am so grateful for all the effort put forth by everyone involved in Secular AA. May the gate continue to widen for all.

  13. Ralph B. says:

    In Langley we took Arizona’s pamphlet and modified it slightly to include our websites and put our meeting information on it. It is very useful, thanks Arizona!

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