Episode 25 features a chat with conference committee members, Pam W and Dianne P, looking ahead to Austin, November 11th to 13th for the second biennial We Agnostics, Atheists & Freethinkers International A.A. Conference. Addiction comes with identity issues. Holding a particular worldview comes with identity. We explore identity, beliefs, worldview and we look for cues from feminism and LGBTQ culture in aid of our own identity in recovery from addiction/alcoholism.
It’s July 2016. Every year in Toronto, July kicks off with the Pride Parade. Prime minister Justin Trudeau and other dignitaries marched with Toronto’s Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender and Queen community. Not everyone in the world is all about inclusion and “free to be me” and the 2016 celebration in Toronto was shadowed by the 49 shooting victims in Florida last month. “We can’t let hate go by,” said the prime minister at the 36th annual parade. “We have to speak up anytime there is intolerance or discrimination.”
This isn’t a liberals vs. conservatives issue when it comes to discrimination, harassment and hate crimes in a liberal/pluralist society. While Toronto’s conservative mayor John Tory voted for the other guy in Canada’s 2015 Federal election, he echoed Trudeau’s thoughts. Tory said the Orlando mass shootings showed that "we've got things to do" to promote tolerance and inclusion.
Andrew Solomon is a New York Times writer and author of Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity. Solomon says:
“There is always someone there to take our humanity away and always someone to restore it. Oppression breeds the power to oppose it. Identity politics always works on two fronts. First it gives pride to someone who has given characteristics and secondly, it causes the outside world to treat such people more gently, more kindly.”
It is so frustrating to know that in light of all this, Toronto Intergroup is committed to defend it’s right to discriminate against AA members who hold a minority view. Toronto Intergroup in some kind of McCarthy era puritanism sees inclusion and tolerance as harmful to local AA. How can anyone or any service body be so far off of current cultural and political values?
Well, it turns out that beliefs aren’t that easy to sway. OMG, addicts/alcoholics should know that. Why wouldn’t I see that drugs and drinking were leading me down the wrong road? In this episode, we listen in on psychotherapist, Mel Schwartz who talk about how when we’re persuading others to evaluate their thoughts and feelings, we miss the bigger part of the iceberg under the water (See illustration). At our core, is our worldview. Some call it a paradigm and others call it our core-beliefs. Our worldview informs our beliefs. Our beliefs steer how we interpret and experience the world.
And when it comes how marginalized members of society can be “doin’ it for themselves,” we don’t have too far into our history to go. Let’s look at the feminist’s movement and how leading women in recovery made a home of their own under the 12-Step umbrella. Thanks Joanne for lending me Charlotte Kasl’s in 1992 modern-era classic, Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the Twelve Steps which I’ll read from in our podcast. Here’s a great tidbit:
A fundamental question arises at this point. Is a spiritual path as suggested in twelve-step programs necessary for someone who wants to cease their addictions to substances or behavior? The answer is, not necessarily. Atheists, agnostics, and lots of other people stop their addictive use of alcohol and drugs without even attending twelve-step support groups. Put in its simplest form, sobriety is sobriety and a spiritual journey is a spiritual journey. Many people who become sober decide to embark on a healing journey but it is not necessarily the criterion for sobriety.
The early 1990s were what I would call the age of reasonable thinking. The Alternative 12 Steps: A Secular Guide to Recovery published by HCI Books came out around the same time, as did Philip Z’s A Skeptics Guide to the 12-Steps (Hazelden Publishing). What do owe the good fortune of reasonable, enlightened literature?
Well, what sits well with my worldview of cause-and-effect would be that the conservative, protectionist, unfriendly movement in AA gave rise to enlightenment. Maybe the previous 1980s era of 12-Step culture was influenced by the Moral Majority rhetoric of the Regan/Thatcher/Mulroney era of true blue politics across the USA, Canada and the UK, where much of AA is found. But leading up to the era of enlightened literature from members of our recovery community, tension was rising at AA Headquarters.
Who remembers this stern warning from steward, Bob P who’s story is in the Big Book and his AA service dates back to the Bill W days. As he bid farewell to the General Service Conference, let’s remember that he felt a reason for us to be concerned in 1985:
If you were to ask me what is the greatest danger facing A.A. today, I would have to answer: the growing rigidity -- the increasing demand for absolute answers to nit-picking questions; pressure for G.S.O. to "enforce" our Traditions; screening alcoholics at closed meetings; prohibiting non-Conference-approved literature, i.e., "banning books"; laying more and more rules on groups and members. And in this trend toward rigidity, we are drifting farther and farther away from our co- founders. Bill, in particular, must be spinning in his grave, for he was perhaps the most permissive person I ever met. One of his favorite sayings was, "Every group has the right to be wrong." He was maddeningly tolerant of his critics, and he had absolute faith that faults in A.A. were self-correcting.
But our show doesn’t end on a downer. Bigotry, like we see in Toronto Intergroup, can’t keep evolution down. We are reminded that while we need vigilance, great things are happening as more is being revealed in the 12-Step community. We’re looking forward to Austin—it will be a celebration, like Pride in Toronto this month. Yes, there will talk about how we can and must do more. But we are in the age of reason and those of faith ought to know that we’re great bedfellows - not enemies.
It’s always fun to introduce listeners to great new music. After our Thursday Beyond Belief Agnostics & Freethinkers AA group meeting this week, I had the pleasure of bringing some fellow AA’s to enjoy some sober musical fun and listen to some brit-band friends of mine, Moulettes who are on a cross-Canada festival tour in support of their new album, Preternatural.
As always listen if you like. Weight in if you like. We’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s subject(s); we’re all in this together.
"Let us never fear needed change. Certainly we have to discriminate between changes for the worse and changes for the better. But once a need becomes clearly apparent in an individual, in a group, or in A.A. as a whole, it has long since been found out that we cannot stand still and look the other way. The essence of all growth is a willingness to change for the better and then an unremitting willingness to shoulder whatever responsibility this entails.” Bill W. A.A. Grapevine July 1965, As Bill Sees It p. 115
Episode 24 of Rebellion Dogs Radio looks at change and Alcoholics Anonymous. This show includes:
Today we muse about a fictional look at The Tao (The Way) which encourages compassion, moderation, and humility. According to Christopher Moore's absurdist fictional work, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, the point of these three enlightened attributes is that compassion begets courage, moderation begets generosity and humility is the key to leadership. Is this true? We look at the state of AA stewardship today. Are we slaves to inaction or do we possess the courage to change? Visit www.RebellionDogsPublishing.com for links and community.
Because a failure to understand our history damns us to repeat it, Episode 23 of Rebellion Dogs Radio is delighted to present two recovery writers/historians from this era.
Jackie B. is a playwright. Glenn Chesnut, author/historian/professor says, “Jackie B is one of the best recovery historians of the new generation and a master storyteller.” Jackie's most resent Recovery Works production is Our Experience Has Taught Us: A Sensational History of the Twelve Traditions. What a crafty idea; while many of feel it is worth every AA's while to learn about our history, sitting through a Tradition Study meeting is not on the bucket list of many. So why not entertain people? This play does just that.
If William G. Borchert isn’t a half-way household name, his works certainly are. My Name is Bill W. (1989), staring James Woods as Bill W. and James Garner as Dr. Bob and When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story (2010) staring Winona Ryder are among the most watched TV movies every. William has a new book about how families are impacted by both addiction and recovery, How I Became My Father: A Drunk.
So we are delighted to share these conversations with these historical writers to share about their own recovery journey and life as writers.
Visit http://www.RebellionDogsPublishing.com for links to both writers,
Often Wrong but Never in Doubt: Welcome to the Toronto Intergroup story. What makes for a healthy society. Well according to New York Times Best-seller Arthur Brooks gave a Ted Talk in February 2016:
“It's not good enough just to tolerate people who disagree. It's not good enough. We have to remember that we need people who disagree with us, because there are people who need all of us…”
There are people that need all of us? Now if it's true that our strength is in our differences, which of the two views of AA below, has a future that you want to be part of?
Spiritual - not religious:
Bill Wilson (letter to Father Ford, May 4, 1957)
“To begin with, the Steps are not enforceable upon anyone—they are only suggestions. A belief in the Steps or in God is not in any way requisite for A.A. membership. Therefore, we have no means of compelling anyone to stay away from A.A. because he does not believe in God or the Twelve Steps. In fact, A.A. has a technique of reducing rebellion among doubting people by deliberately inviting them to disagree with everything we believe in.”
Religious - not spiritual:
Toronto Intergroup (GTAI) from tribunal filings February 17, 2016
“GTAI, submits that its purpose is to practice the 12 steps and practice a belief in God. In order to be part of GTAI, a group must be prepared to practice the 12 steps and thus the members of the group must have a belief in God.  GTAI also submits that it is a bona fide requirement that groups that wish to be part of this Intergroup must have a belief in the higher power of God.”
Is that the same AA being talked about? Five years ago, Intergroup cast out agnostic constituents, Five years later, it's judgement day. Be clear that no one has been found to be guilty of anything at this juncture. But as we've seen, newspapers and the blogosphere Toronto's being brought before the Human Rights Tribunal has created quite a buzz.
In an hour we look at the key players: Toronto Intergroup, AA World Service, Toronto's whistle blower, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal + us, what's the role of rank-and-file AA members?
For links, a transcript and details for Episode # 22, visit http://www.rebelliondogspublishing.com
Bob k, author of Key Players in AA History is our guest today. We're delighted to chat with this next generation of addiction/recovery historian. Many key players in AA history aren't in AA and Bob brings us perspective and context in terms of how Twelve Step culture didn't evolve in a vacuum. March 4th - 6th will be the History Symposium of AA at Sedona Mago Retreat. Does that name rings a Tibetan singing bowl? That's where we hosted, "An Atheist & a Theologian go on a 12-Step Call together." This time it's more like Spring Break for AA Geeks. This isn't a bowing at the alter of 164 pages; there will be presentations of Marty Mann, LGBTQ and people of color in AA, Lois Wilson, Bill Wilson - psychic to psychedelic, AA in the armed forces and how this brought AA to new international frontiers, one-on-one with Ward Ewing, I do a presentation on unbelievers in AA and more. So if you're a geek like me, pack your sunscreen and we've got details. I'll be talking about the insatiable appetite of atheist/freethinker groups in AA. I'll borrow Roger C's notes from his recent presentation in Olympia Washington, January 16th,Widening the Gateway: Overcoming Barriers to Joining the AA Family. I also have some research material on two other topics: For 40 years GSO has wrestled with meeting the fellowships need for agnostic/atheist literature by AA agnostics and atheists; "We Agnostics" International has had the stage at AA's World Convention since 1995 and we'll be doing for ourselves again in Austin in November 2016. We give thanks and celebrate a modest milestone. Rebellion Dogs Publishing is pleased to announce that Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life is now found on 5,000 bedside and coffee tables, smartphones and eReaders. Many people have recommended Beyond Belief, wrote reviews and told people who told other people. It takes a community to raise a child and it takes a community to nurture a DIY (Do It Yourself) book by an indie writer. Thanks so much. Visit Rebellion Dogs Publishing for links to topics discussed including Bob k's Key Players in AA History as well as a transcript of this show.
Tapestry explores the different worldviews of our pluralist society. This segment is 16 minutes of a one hour show that included a typical AA story about a lawyer and her fall from grace and then AA redemption, a recovery rabbi and Joe, Roger and Joanne from Beyond Belief Agnostics & Freethinkers AA Group in Toronto after they got kicked out of the Toronto meeting list.