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Secular Sobriety, The Final Frontier

At eighteen years sober, I needed to get trustworthy with the truth that I was an atheist, praying to a god I not believed in was pointless. I’ve come to comparable personal crossroads of directional determination in sobriety many occasions before but this was in all probability probably the most challenging. All nicely and good to get trustworthy with my atheism however this elementary shift in my sobriety raised the query, how do I keep sober with god out of the picture?

What adopted was a reevaluation of my sobriety to date by reflecting on my experiences in AA, figuring out what had been holding me sober all these years. The most blatant consistent think about my sobriety was attendance at and participation in conferences of AA. The human energy of fellowship in Alcoholics Nameless is the pressure that acquired me sober and keeps me sober. The third custom is what retains me coming again, I don’t need to drink alcohol. It’s just that straightforward for me. What I have acquired from AA is far, rather more than freedom from the lash of alcohol.

The word ‘program’ is usually utilized in shares at AA meetings comparable to, “I work the program”, “Are you on the program?” and “You need a program to stay sober”. In lots of situations I sense that ‘program’ has a ‘pressure to comply’ connotation to it. The current proliferation of questionable Huge ebook research guides, sobriety worksheets and the like solely add additional strain, notably on newcomers. Sobriety seems to have grow to be arduous work and really educational in comparison to my early years in AA where I was informed not to decide up the primary drink, go to conferences and help.

For me ‘program’ is no more than a word used to describe the whole shebang of what I do to get and keep sober. It’s the meetings, fellowship, sponsorship, reading, listening to C90 tapes/CD’s/USB’s/podcasts, service work. In a nutshell it’s my very own personal and unique expertise of sobriety that you simply gained’t discover written within the steps, massive ebook or even the secular literature.

What follows is my try to describe what acquired me sober and keeps me sober. Words may be blunt devices when describing sobriety, so bear this in thoughts when reading. If nothing else, I hope to reveal that sobriety might be pleasant, you possibly can also have a snicker.


Before coming to AA conferences, I had never heard individuals converse truthfully about themselves in the best way we do. Usually, the self-honesty I heard expressed in shares was a totally new vocabulary to me; Statements like “I was at fault”, “I was powerless over alcohol”, “I was dishonest”, “I needed to make amends” and “I needed to take inventory”. The words that the majority amazed me and gave me a flicker of hope have been “You can leave this meeting tonight, need never pick up a drink and be happy”. The word completely satisfied was not a phrase I was very conversant in within the last throes of my consuming. As an alternative, I might have used more apt phrases like miserable, lonely, bereft, resentful, self-pitying and afraid.

And yet, regardless of turning up at AA feeling this manner, I instinctively sensed that these AA’s may need something I may benefit from. The sort of honesty I heard of their shares caught out like canine’s balls in my world of dishonesty, deceit and deception. I was so filled with pretense and ego driven denial about how dangerous my consuming had turn into. I wouldn’t dare admit to anyone what was really happening and I didn’t need to at AA both. The solely factor I used to be requested to confess was my first identify, even at that I might have refused or given a false one.

By sitting in these AA conferences, surrounded by the dwelling proof of many years of sobriety I couldn’t assist but assume to myself, “If they can do it, so can I” and I started to hope. I had a racing mind so couldn’t focus lengthy sufficient to read any of the literature. Regardless of this and shaking my approach by way of early withdrawals I might recognise a heat, welcoming handshake. I used to be open to the AA message of sobriety because I didn’t need to drink again, the third custom. I nonetheless had reservations about accepting the very fact I was a ‘real alcoholic’ being a cease/start periodic drinker. When in one my dry spells, I had little interest in alcohol. But as soon as I had only one mouthful of grog, the physical compulsion to drink kicked in and I used to be on my means again. It took eighteen months of sobriety to lay that one to rest. But where is the sobriety schedule that claims we should achieve any predetermined, preset objective at any given time? I’m an imperfect human alcoholic, an important thing I will ever do is to lay a sober head on the pillow at night time. That is what I have to do each day regardless of imperfections or errors.

This level was powerfully illustrated to me in early sobriety by a bloke I heard share on the Saturday night time Mortdale assembly. He had gotten sober, educated, employed, met and married the love of his life and had youngsters, a sobriety dream come true. That night time he had simply come from hospital having spent the day together with his wife who was terminally ailing with most cancers. She obtained a nasty untreatable form of most cancers with a three-months to reside prognosis. He stated to her, “The worst thing that can ever happen to me is you dying”. She responded, “No it’s not, the worst thing that can ever happen to you is you picking up a drink!”. I have never forgotten this profound assertion.


Identification with different alcoholics’ shares and the accompanying affinity I feel with them is the key that opens the door to sobriety. I do know I’ve discovered my tribe, alcoholics like me who understand. Once I heard Bill from Paddington say, “I needed a drink to get a drink”, I knew that he knew. My thoughts immediately transported me back ten years to a night in Dublin. I was supposed to satisfy a gaggle of buddies in Kavanaghs pub however as I was walked in the direction of the pub, I felt increasingly nervous and knew I might not have the ability to stroll by way of the front door. No drawback, I knew easy methods to repair this. A fast detour to the Brian Boru, for four fast gin and tonics. Now fuelled by gin, I marched into Kavanaghs with confidence to get that drink.

Affinity with different alcoholics via identification allowed me to develop into teachable and take heed to what alcoholics in AA advised to me. Don’t decide up the primary drink no matter what, come to as many meetings of AA as you’ll be able to, be a part of a gaggle and become involved. Get on the twenty-four-hour plan and in time attempt to do something concerning the steps. I used to be reminded that sobriety is long-term and most importantly, I could possibly be fortunately sober. I even found the sheer joy of laughter, something I hadn’t achieved for a long time.


Humour and laughter in AA shares smoothed my shaky path of early sobriety. I keep in mind Peter telling us how he was so grog sick he needed to remain in mattress while consuming giant bottles of cider. He was unable to get away from bed to go to the bathroom so as an alternative when he had drunk the primary bottle empty, he peed into it. He continued on consuming and peeing as he went. Then he went into a blackout and when he came to was puzzled to seek out all of the cider bottles empty.

In an Irish AA meeting, I heard a bloke say he had an unimaginable worry of heights, simply standing on a chair made him dizzy. During one among his consuming escapades, he went into a blackout and when he got here to, he found himself mendacity on his again on the roof of a four-story constructing together with his neck resting over the edge of the roof gutter, terrified.  A concerned passer-by on the road under referred to as the Hearth Brigade to rescue him. They soon arrived, parked their hearth engine and extended a ladder up to the roof where our pal lay. The hearth chief shouted up, “Ok, now you can climb down”, “I can’t” stated our pal”. “Why not?”, “I’m afraid of heights!”. “How did you get up there?”, “I don’t remember!”. Our terrified pal was carried down, slung over a fireman’s shoulder like a sack of potatoes.

Ron had a terrible childhood involving abuse, institutions, violence and grownup homelessness. Regardless of his nasty experiences he remained a sort hearted human being whose story telling made us all snigger. In early sobriety, he went to the lads’s bogs at Sydney Central Railway Station to scrub and shave. He crammed the sink to overflowing, utilizing copious quantities of soap to work up a sizeable amount of suds. I should inform you that he was stripped right down to his underpants as he stood there together with his face lathered in cleaning soap suds. As blokes came into the toilet and noticed this apparition standing on the sink, they couldn’t take a pee and get out of there quick enough. Ultimately the curiosity of one among them received the better of him and he stated to Ron, “Hey mate, what the f**k are you doing?”. Ron paused, holding his razor in mid-air and replied,” I’m doing the most effective I can someday at a time!”.

Skilled help

In addition to using the AA steps in sobriety, I have availed myself of professional assist as needed. I will describe these professional experiences simply briefly and typically phrases. They mirror my private expertise, this will likely not go well with you, the reader. In twenty plus years of sobriety I have consulted psychologists five occasions, every consultation period lasting about six weeks. Week one is often my outlining what’s going on, then week two is the psychologist explaining the issue and outlining a plan of motion with the following weeks an implementation of that plan. I have had substantial success through the use of skilled help however it has never changed AA, solely supplemented it. A phrase of warning right here, the professionals I’ve consulted have been very professional AA. Have been any of them to inform me that I don’t have to go to AA any extra I might be out the door of their consultation room earlier than they completed their sentence.

Usually, most of my issues have been unresolved childhood issues compounded by a scarcity of grownup maturity. Once I picked up a drink at nineteen, I simply didn’t grow up as my friends did, hiding in the bottom of a bottle as an alternative. Psychological remedy recognized issues of self, control and fears which might be equally described within the massive ebook. Additionally, I wanted to examine my Catholic upbringing with its accompanying unrealistic outlook on life whereas at the similar time not getting right into a blame recreation. Similar with my mother and father and family, no blame, just figuring out influences and results.

In hindsight, I can see where the steps fall brief on this regard. Even when I actually believed in god, which I don’t, simply asking to have my defects of character taken away is ineffective with out understanding the underlying causes of conduct. In distinction, psychological remedy identified these underlying causes, outlined a plan of motion to make behavioural modifications that solved lots of my life issues. This course of is absolutely getting right down to the nitty gritty of making an attempt to turn into extra mature and leading a more satisfying life.


Massive topic, and I have had quite a lot of ideas on this one. I used to assume, more hope, that alcoholism was curable but it isn’t, just treatable. I assumed there was an alcoholic character, not so. I assumed there have been underlying causes of alcoholism or someone I might blame for it, I liked to try this. No, not so either. This specific blame bubble was burst by an alcoholic nun at an AA meeting who shared that she knew why she was an alcoholic. My ears pricked up at these phrases as I anticipated a very complicated reply. As an alternative she simply stated, “I’m an alcoholic because I’m one of the five to ten percent of the population that suffers from alcoholism.”.

In recent times I have come to the conclusion that it is my physiology not psychology that influenced my downward spiral into alcoholism. This concept was crystalised for me once I read, ‘A Freethinker in Alcoholics Anonymous’ by John Lauritson. Additionally, John’s ebook refers to a guide titled, ‘Underneath the Affect: A Guide to the Myths and Realities of Alcoholism‘ by James Robert Milam and Katherine Ketcham. These books have been a watershed read for me as they give attention to the all-important physical factor of alcoholism, an element typically overlook and ignored in the subject of alcoholism. My body reacts in another way to alcohol by a mix of my genes, hormones, enzymes, brain and physique chemistries. It’s this irregular reaction to alcohol felt as a bodily compulsion that units me aside as an alcoholic. Additionally, these books present wonderful advice on methods to maintain our bodies, dwelling healthily to stop relapse again into lively alcoholism. Lots of you readers might nicely disagree with this description, but it’s simply my understanding or lack of know-how of alcoholism. The essential level is that it works for me and as Campsie Mick used to say, “You and I can disagree”.

Service work

In my expertise, the importance of service work in getting and staying sober can’t be overstated. In early sobriety, I was taken on a twelfth step call by an previous timer to take a newcomer to a meeting. At the time I was dwelling alone and assumed everybody else in AA did the identical, no household at house. We knocked on the front door of the prospect’s home and his wife opened the door holding a baby. I almost fell down in shock as it dawned on me that he had a household. He was a really massive broad-shouldered bloke who crammed the doorway while he stood and spoke to us. His son who was about six years previous, stood beside his dad together with his arms wrapped around his dad’s left leg, like a tree trunk.

As we headed in the direction of the automotive to go away for the assembly the son ran in the direction of his dad, leaping into his waiting arms saying, “Daddy I love you!”. I felt extremely privileged to witness this valuable show of affection and affection between a father and son. I was given a glimpse of the potential effect of an alcoholic’s sobriety on these near us. This expertise created a burning want within me to put my greatest efforts into my sobriety.

Finally, I hope readers will profit from reading this text even if it’s a description of what not to do. I am eternally grateful to the web secular AA group for his or her freely given friendship and help. A help that enabled me to seek out my secular ft within the broader AA group. I contemplate myself one of many fortunate few who stuck around lengthy enough, to get properly enough, to understand what AA has to offer.

Concerning the Writer

PJ migrated to Sydney, Australia from Eire in 1989 and obtained sober in 1993. Having come from an Irish custom of oral storytelling he naturally gravitated in the direction of the fantastic Sydney AA storytellers, who shared their expertise, power, and hope. This has proven to be a mainstay of his sobriety, with the tried and tested formulation of sharing in a common approach what we was like, what happened, and what we are like now. He is a member of the Brookvale Secular and Ryde/Eastwood Secular AA ID meetings, two pleasant spaces for those unsure concerning the god bit.

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