My name is Beth H. and I’m an alcoholic. I’m one of the founding members of this secular AA group. Not the main one or the most important one, but I’m only speaking for myself as to why this meeting was started.
I was raised in a Christian church and had no problem with it, nor do I have any resentment toward it or bad memories of it. But one day in about 10th grade I stopped believing. I’m a very skeptical, analytical person by nature. I don’t go in for supernatural explanations. I believe in coincidences.
Anyhow, when I got sober in 1985, I tried very hard to become a believer again. I pursued it for many years because I was told I had to or I would get drunk. I attended three different churches over the years. I studied cultural anthropology, thinking that if deep down inside every person there is the idea of God, I would learn how to strip away the cultural trappings and uncover the essence. I ended up with a master’s degree but all the more confirmed in my belief that cultures invent higher powers to suit their purposes. Remember, this is my personal belief and I do not speak for all the group members. The point is, I was open-minded and did my due diligence to become a believer, but the bottom line is that I cannot just make myself believe something no matter how much I may want to.
After a while, I started feeling like a second-class citizen in AA. I beat myself up mercilessly over being close-minded as Bill called it, having too much intellectual pride as Bob called it. When I got to AA I had really low self-esteem and believed I was a defective human being, and this part of AA was feeding right into that instead of helping with it. It is pretty miserable to feel like you don’t fit in anywhere, and then you find AA, and then you realize you don’t fit in there either, especially if it’s the last house on the block.
But I did fit into AA in every other respect. I love AA. I love the fellowship. I love meetings except when the topic is Higher Power, and I definitely tune out when they read How It Works or say the Lord’s Prayer. I love that everyone admits they are flawed, and we meet on this common ground and love each other back to health. I have definitely had a psychic change. All the promises have come true for me. I would only change one word, that AA, not God, is doing for me what I could not do for myself. I attribute my good fortune to the magic of one alcoholic talking to another.
After I’d been sober more than 20 years, I finally gave myself permission to be who I am. Our chips say, “To thine own self be true.” Apparently it is possible to stay sober without a higher power, because I’ve been doing it. I decided not to beat myself up over it any more.
I discovered a website called aaagnostica.org. I found that there were others like me. It was wonderful to be able to speak freely and not be ashamed. I learned there was going to be the first ever international conference of We Agnostics and Freethinkers in AA in November of 2014 in Santa Monica. I attended the conference. I learned that there are hundreds of people who have stayed sober for decades without a higher power. It is AA’s best kept secret. I ran into three other people I knew from the East Valley (but had no idea they were nonbelievers) and a few I didn’t know. When we got back we started the Tempe We Agnostics meeting.
We Agnostics has been going since January 2015. We meet on Fridays and Sundays at 1:30 at the Pigeon Coop, and Tuesdays at 6 :40 pm at the Valley Alano Club. After we read the AA preamble, we read our own preamble.
AA agnostic meetings endeavor to maintain a tradition of free expression, and conduct a meeting where alcoholics may feel free to express any doubts or disbeliefs they may have, and to share their own personal form of spiritual experience, their search for it, or their rejection of it. In keeping with AA tradition, we do not endorse or oppose any form of religion or atheism. Our only wish is to ensure suffering alcoholics that they can find sobriety in AA without having to accept anyone else's beliefs, or having to deny their own.We are very much a part of AA. We participate in EVI and GSO. I truly appreciate the East Valley Intergroup for not even balking at putting us on the meeting list, because some agnostic groups in other locations have not been so fortunate. We are not trying to change AA. We are making AA more inclusive. The only requirement is a desire to stop drinking. You will not hear God-bashing at our meetings except for the occasional new-comer who needs to vent. We just share what has worked for us. I don’t want other like-minded newcomers to have to go through what I did before they can find peace and joy in sobriety. I would have found it much sooner if just one other person had told me, “It’s OK if you don’t believe. You can still stay sober, and you belong.”
The second We Agnostics, Atheists and Freethinkers International AA Conference will be held in Austin this coming November. You can get more information at our meetings or on the aaagnostica.org website.