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Secular Sobriety, The Final Frontier

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At eighteen years sober, I wanted to get trustworthy with the truth that I used to be an atheist, praying to a god I not believed in was pointless. I’ve come to comparable private crossroads of directional determination in sobriety many occasions earlier than however this was in all probability probably the most difficult. 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 image?

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

The phrase ‘program’ is usually utilized in shares at AA conferences corresponding to, “I work this system”, “Are you on this system?” and “You want a program to remain sober”. In lots of situations I sense that ‘program’ has a ‘strain to conform’ connotation to it. The current proliferation of questionable Huge e-book research guides, sobriety worksheets and the like solely add additional strain, notably on newcomers. Sobriety appears to have turn into onerous work and really educational compared to my early years in AA the place I used to be informed to not decide up the primary drink, go to conferences and help.

For me ‘program’ is not more than a phrase used to explain the entire shebang of what I do to get and keep sober. It’s the conferences, fellowship, sponsorship, studying, listening to C90 tapes/CD’s/USB’s/podcasts, service work. In a nutshell it’s my very own private and distinctive expertise of sobriety that you simply gained’t discover written within the steps, huge guide and even the secular literature.

What follows is my try to explain what received me sober and retains me sober. Phrases could be blunt devices when describing sobriety, so bear this in thoughts when studying. If nothing else, I hope to reveal that sobriety could be fulfilling, you’ll be able to also have a snigger. 


Earlier than coming to AA conferences, I had by no means 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 used to be at fault”, “I used to be powerless over alcohol”, “I used to be dishonest”, “I wanted to make amends” and “I wanted to take stock”. The phrases that the majority amazed me and gave me a flicker of hope have been “You’ll be able to depart this assembly tonight, want by no means decide up a drink and be comfortable”. The phrase glad was not a phrase I used to be very accustomed to within the remaining throes of my consuming. As an alternative, I might have used extra apt phrases like depressing, lonely, bereft, resentful, self-pitying and afraid.

And but, regardless of turning up at AA feeling this manner, I instinctively sensed that these AA’s may need one thing I may benefit from. The type of honesty I heard of their shares caught out like canine’s balls in my world of dishonesty, deceit and deception. I used to be so filled with pretense and ego pushed denial about how dangerous my consuming had turn into. I wouldn’t dare admit to anybody what was actually happening and I didn’t should at AA both. The one 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 however assume to myself, “If they will do it, so can I” and I started to hope. I had a racing thoughts so couldn’t focus lengthy sufficient to learn any of the literature. Regardless of this and shaking my method by way of early withdrawals I might recognise a heat, welcoming handshake. I used to be open to the AA message of sobriety as a result of I didn’t need to drink once more, the third custom. I nonetheless had reservations about accepting the very fact I used to be a ‘actual alcoholic’ being a cease/begin periodic drinker. When in a single my dry spells, I had little interest in alcohol. However as soon as I had only one mouthful of grog, the bodily compulsion to drink kicked in and I used to be on my method once more. It took eighteen months of sobriety to put that one to relaxation. However the place is the sobriety schedule that claims we should obtain any predetermined, preset aim at any given time? I’m an imperfect human alcoholic, an important factor I’ll ever do is to put a sober head on the pillow at night time. That’s what I have to do every 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 spouse who was terminally ailing with most cancers. She acquired a nasty untreatable type of most cancers with a three-months to reside prognosis. He stated to her, “The worst factor that may ever occur to me is you dying”. She responded, “No it’s not, the worst factor that may ever occur to you is you choosing up a drink!”. I’ve by no means forgotten this profound assertion.


Identification with different alcoholics’ shares and the accompanying affinity I really feel with them is the important thing that opens the door to sobriety. I do know I’ve discovered my tribe, alcoholics like me who perceive. Once I heard Invoice from Paddington say, “I wanted a drink to get a drink”, I knew that he knew. My thoughts instantly transported me again ten years to an evening in Dublin. I used to be supposed to satisfy a gaggle of buddies in Kavanaghs pub however as I used to be walked in the direction of the pub, I felt more and more nervous and knew I might not be capable of stroll by means of the entrance door. No drawback, I knew easy methods to repair this. A fast detour to the Brian Boru, for 4 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 turn into teachable and take heed to what alcoholics in AA recommended to me. Don’t decide up the primary drink it doesn’t matter what, come to as many conferences 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 one thing concerning the steps. I used to be reminded that sobriety is long-term and most significantly, I might be fortunately sober. I even found the sheer pleasure of laughter, one thing I hadn’t completed for a very 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 stay in mattress whereas 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 right into a blackout and when he got here to was puzzled to seek out all of the cider bottles empty.

In an Irish AA assembly, I heard a bloke say he had an unimaginable worry of heights, simply standing on a chair made him dizzy. Throughout certainly one of his consuming escapades, he went right into a blackout and when he got here to, he discovered himself mendacity on his again on the roof of a four-story constructing together with his neck resting over the sting of the roof gutter, terrified.  A involved passer-by on the road under referred to as the Hearth Brigade to rescue him. They quickly arrived, parked their hearth engine and prolonged a ladder as much as the roof the place our good friend lay. The hearth chief shouted up, “Okay, now you’ll be able to climb down”, “I can’t” stated our good friend”. “Why not?”, “I’m afraid of heights!”. “How did you rise up there?”, “I don’t keep in mind!”. Our terrified good friend was carried down, slung over a fireman’s shoulder like a sack of potatoes.

Ron had a horrible childhood involving abuse, establishments, violence and grownup homelessness. Regardless of his nasty experiences he remained a sort hearted human being whose story telling made us all snicker. 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 cleaning soap to work up a sizeable quantity of suds. I ought to 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 got here into the bathroom and noticed this apparition standing on the sink, they couldn’t take a pee and get out of there fast sufficient. Ultimately the curiosity of one among them received the higher of him and he stated to Ron, “Hey mate, what the f**okay are you doing?”. Ron paused, holding his razor in mid-air and replied,” I’m doing the most effective I can at some point at a time!”. 

Skilled assist

Along with utilizing the AA steps in sobriety, I’ve availed myself of professional assist as wanted. I’ll describe these skilled experiences simply briefly and usually phrases. They mirror my private expertise, this will likely not go well with you, the reader. In twenty plus years of sobriety I’ve consulted psychologists 5 occasions, every session interval 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 next weeks an implementation of that plan. I’ve had substantial success through the use of skilled assist nevertheless it has by no means 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 session room earlier than they completed their sentence.

Generally, most of my issues have been unresolved childhood points compounded by a scarcity of grownup maturity. Once I picked up a drink at nineteen, I simply didn’t develop up as my friends did, hiding within the backside of a bottle as an alternative. Psychological remedy recognized issues of self, management and fears which are equally described within the massive e-book. Moreover, I wanted to look at my Catholic upbringing with its accompanying unrealistic outlook on life whereas on the similar time not getting right into a blame recreation. Similar with my mother and father and household, no blame, simply figuring out influences and results.

In hindsight, I can see the place 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 recognized these underlying causes, outlined a plan of motion to make behavioural modifications that solved lots of my life issues. This course of is admittedly getting right down to the nitty gritty of making an attempt to turn out to be extra mature and main a extra satisfying life.


Massive topic, and I’ve had quite a lot of concepts on this one. I used to assume, extra hope, that alcoholism was curable however it isn’t, simply treatable. I assumed there was an alcoholic character, not so. I assumed there have been underlying causes of alcoholism or somebody I might blame for it, I liked to try this. No, not so both. This specific blame bubble was burst by an alcoholic nun at an AA assembly who shared that she knew why she was an alcoholic. My ears pricked up at these phrases as I anticipated a really complicated reply. As an alternative she merely stated, “I’m an alcoholic as a result of I’m one of many 5 to 10 % of the inhabitants that suffers from alcoholism.”.

In recent times I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s my physiology not psychology that influenced my downward spiral into alcoholism. This concept was crystalised for me once I learn, ‘A Freethinker in Alcoholics Nameless’ by John Lauritson. Moreover, John’s ebook refers to a guide titled, ‘Beneath the Affect: A Information to the Myths and Realities of Alcoholism‘ by James Robert Milam and Katherine Ketcham. These books have been a watershed learn for me as they give attention to the all-important bodily aspect of alcoholism, a component typically overlook and ignored within the area of alcoholism. My physique reacts in another way to alcohol by a mix of my genes, hormones, enzymes, mind and physique chemistries. It’s this irregular response to alcohol felt as a bodily compulsion that units me aside as an alcoholic. Moreover, these books present wonderful recommendation on methods to maintain our our bodies, dwelling healthily to stop relapse again into lively alcoholism. Lots of you readers might nicely disagree with this description, however it’s merely my understanding or lack of information of alcoholism. The essential level is that it really works for me and as Campsie Mick used to say, “You and I can disagree”.

Service work

In my expertise, the significance of service work in getting and staying sober can’t be overstated. In early sobriety, I used to be taken on a twelfth step name by an previous timer to take a newcomer to a gathering. On the time I used to be dwelling alone and assumed everybody else in AA did the identical, no household at house. We knocked on the entrance door of the prospect’s home and his spouse opened the door holding a child. I almost fell down in shock because it dawned on me that he had a household. He was a really huge broad-shouldered bloke who crammed the doorway whereas he stood and spoke to us. His son who was about six years previous, stood beside his dad together with his arms wrapped round 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 ready arms saying, “Daddy I really like you!”. I felt extraordinarily privileged to witness this valuable show of affection and affection between a father and son. I used to be given a glimpse of the potential impact of an alcoholic’s sobriety on these near us. This expertise created a burning want inside me to place my greatest efforts into my sobriety.

Lastly, I hope readers will profit from studying this text even when it’s a description of what to not do. I’m 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 think about myself one of many lucky few who caught round lengthy sufficient, to get nicely sufficient, to understand what AA has to supply.

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 confirmed to be a mainstay of his sobriety, with the tried and examined formulation of sharing in a basic means what we was like, what occurred, and what we’re like now. He’s a member of the Brookvale Secular and Ryde/Eastwood Secular AA ID conferences, two pleasant areas for these unsure concerning the god bit.

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