Episode 53: I'm new here, tell me about secular AA  

A “Welcome” letter to people new  to secular recovery. 

Have you notices that secular AA zoom meetings have a lot more participants lately? Me too. Episode 53 of Rebellion Dogs Radio welcomes people new to our irreligious brand of Alcoholics Anonymous. 

Some of these new participants are new to AA: sober curious. If this is you, you’re not so sure about signing up for a life-time AA membership. Either you’re confronting—or someone else is confronting you about—your alcohol (or other substance) use disorder. Be skeptical; check it out. Try ten or twelve meetings before you make up your mind. We hope you like us. But that's not what's important right now. Addiction isn't in lock-down during the COVID-19 pandemic. Either does recovery. Welcome. 

Maybe you know all about AA. Some of you went—or go—to meetings. Maybe you like the recovery community. But you outgrew the "Just let go and let God," talk, or you never really bought into it. You have thought about or already left AA a while ago, feeling you couldn't relate to the idea of a prayer-answering, sobriety granting higher power. And now - like the rest of us - you have some time on your hands. And you're secular-curious... if you don’t mind the label. Maybe you’re wondering, “What have these Godless heathens done with the AA you grew up on?” Well, welcome, one and all.

This show covers the basics of AA recovery without subscribing to the idea of a prayer-answering, sobriety-granting higher power. We read Reality Check: Being Nonreligious in America. It's a survey and report about life for atheists and agnostics in the Christian nation of the USA.

The survey reports that, people needed to be closeted about their beliefs, even with loved ones.

People got asked to go along with religious rituals and asked not to rock-the-boat... awkward.

People were belittled, ignored or discriminated against.

Does this sound anything like AA stories about nonbelievers getting the fish eye or cold shoulder? Episode 53 looks at this study and some recent AA history and how members are adapting. AA members are creating groups and writing literature to foster the community of AA without god or gods.

Recovery is more accessible than ever for a growing non-religious population who prefer a practical approach to faith-based recovery. It's not better, it's not revolutionary but it's legitimate and has a long, long track record.

In 1965 Bill W was talking about now AA ought to get more accustomed to both atheists and non-Christian believers who were accounting for much of AA's growth. In San Francisco, Dr. Earle of "Physician Heal Thyself" infamy was writing Steps and opening the door people who weren't interested in Divine intervention and also to newcomers with drug problems other than alcoholism. AA was changing. AA was growing. Today, on zoom, there over a dozen secular AA meetings throughout any given day where people can find recovery without having to accept anyone else's beliefs nor having to deny their own.


For the latest from Reality Check: Being Nonreligious in America and for a brief how, why and history of secular AA, please press Play and welcome. We're glad you're here.

Yes, we have music. The Montreal punk band, NOBRO has a new song out - a theme song for our pandemic... It's called, "Don't Die."



Read along (PDF) while you're listening. CLICK HERE

Check out the Reality Check: Being Nonreligious in America survey - great stuff. CLICK HERE

Visit NOBRO the Montreal Punk Band featured with their new song, "Don't Die." CLICK HERE

Picture Credit from IndieCan.com by Wendy L Rombogh Photography




Sarah E. Zemore, Lee Anne Kaskutas et al. (2018) https://www.journalofsubstanceabusetreatment.com/article/S0740-5472(17)30490-7/fulltext 





More on Dr. Earle M: https://rebelliondogspublishing.com/home/blog/musings-from-san-francisco-march-2019-rebellon-dogs-blog 

AAWS, Our Great Responsibility: A Selection of Bill W.’s General Service Conference Talks 1951—1970, New York: 2019  









Peer2Peer in Pandemic Times - Zoom mutual aid meetings  

Episode 52 of Rebellion Dogs Radio (April 2020) looks at mutual-aid groups in a social-distance world.

Peer-to-peer groups, navigating substance use disorder and mental health--which notoriously isolated us--are now navigating recovery without the face-to-face support. Our home group has gotten us through personal or collective uncertainty and grief, before. Hello, AA, NA, SMART Recovery, Life Ring, Dharma Recovery, SOS, Women For Sobriety and countless other self-help/mutual-aid fellowships.

Our more marginalized community members have long-embraced online alternatives, accommodating social anxiety, shift-work or travel, or because  shut-in is a daily reality because of the health or mobility issues they--or a loved one--face. Many long-term recovery peers minimize social media, podcasts, YouTube and phone or video recovery as a fill-in for "real" human contact but never as good as the real thing. That's just not universally true. From pen-pals in the mail to telephone therapy to self-help that is more "self" by necessity, while gathering together a prearranged times in prearranged places is popular, what proof is there that it's better? 2020's COVID-19 pandemic may answer some of these questions.

My own home group, Beyond Belief Agnostics & Freethinkers AA group was nudged into the Zoom online meeting platform to maintain one alcoholic talking to another and like anything, some take to it better than others. So, if you hear your sponsor's voice, "online activity does not replace face-to-face meetings," now this folk-wisdom is being put to the test.

April's podcast will feature guests. Like AA itself, experience -more so than expertise - is our currency of Episode 52. Our Peer-to-Peer in a Pandemic Zoom round table isn't right about everything we're talking about; this is our  experience, in our own words. Courtney S is Information Technology Services Chair for SecularAA.org. Willow F, helps host her group's Many Path's secular online AA meeting in urban Washington State. Marina, from the Sober She-Devils a long-running online secular women's AA meeting, joins us from her phone on the road, in the middle of deliveries. Angela B, from the Boise Atheists, Agnostics and all Others AA groups is also Inreach Chair for the Board that stewards the biennial International Secular Conference of AA (ICSAA). We round off with John S of We Agnostics, Kansas City, also a SecularAA board member. John's best know to online community as host of both My Secular Sobriety and AA Beyond Belief.



With the  popularity of Zoom meetings, Zoom-bombing has emerged: unwanted intruders and pranksters who disrupt the meeting with vulgarity, pornography and morbid images or in some cases, attempt to install malware or data-mine. This is more than a nuisance;  Zoom-bombing is illegal. Zoom provides security features to reduce, frustrate or eliminate these Zoom-bombers.  We'll talk about our experiences with these threats and counter-measures available.


Here's some borrowed Coles Notes to get you started:

from IGNY: Inter-Group Association of A.A. of New York

PDF running an AA meetings on Zoom basics: Click Here

PDF safety and security measures on Zoom for groups, hosts, co-hosts (chairing a meeting): Click Here

From Zoom.us

Zoom is enabling the password setting: require a password for Personal Meeting ID (PMI). Zoom will also be enabling the following password settings which are on by default, but previously could have been disabled: 

  • Require a password when scheduling new meetings (which also applies to webinars) 
  • Require a password for instant meetings 
  • Require password for participants joining by phone 

[My limited experience is already scheduled meeting don't have passwords imposed on them--you can create a new invite and Zoom will do that if you want. Also, in Edit Meeting, you can customize the password to numbers or letters. Numbers of course can be used for everyone from home computers to landlline phones.]

These settings are designed to prevent unwanted participants from joining your meeting or webinar.

For previously scheduled meetings or webinars with a unique one-time meeting ID, there is no need to enter a password when joining or resend the invitation. These meetings and webinars will not be impacted. For meetings previously scheduled with a calendar integration, you will need to resend the invitation or share the password with the participants. Invitations will not be automatically updated. 
All newly scheduled meetings and webinars, regardless of using PMI or a one-time meeting ID, will require a password by default. This password will be included in the invitation. If a participant manually enters the meeting/webinar ID, they will be prompted to enter the password. 

Manually entering a meeting/webinar ID will always prompt the user to enter the password.

Zoom is also enabling the Waiting Room feature by default. Waiting Room allows the host to control when a participant joins the meeting. Waiting Room is one of the best ways to control who’s entering your Zoom meeting by giving you the option to admit participants individually or all at once. We highly recommend using this feature to secure your meetings and prevent unwanted participants if a link is shared outside of the intended participants. Learn more about Waiting Room. 

If you do not want to use Waiting Room, you can disable it for your own meetings, an individual group on your account, or the entire account. Waiting Room can also be enabled or disabled at the time of scheduling and during a meeting. This change will not impact any of your previously scheduled meetings.

Our round-table podcast on Episode 52 of Rebellion Dogs Radio will include:

# 1) The basics: Zoom meetings on home computers seem to have the most functionality. Everyone can download the Zoom app or enter a meeting from a browser. Landlines can phone in and punch in the Meeting ID (and password). For phone participants: Press *6 to mute or un-mute. Press *9 to alert the host you would like to share.

#2) We talk about ZOOM-boming: internet trolls and present-day pranksters

#3) Old habits & New opportunities  - what's the silver lining of one addict talking to another over the internet?

#4) The meeting: Purpose and Means. 

  • The newcomer 
  • The tech-phobe 
  • Outreach to the community 
  • Business meetings and cooperation within service structures. 
  • Other gatherings—roundups, conferences, workshops, retreats 

#5) Zoom Security measures

  • Passwords
  • Waitng Rooms 
  • Lock Meeting 
  • Host controls... "Open the door and let 'em in" - to allow members to gather before or after without the meeting host? Meettng before the meeting? Meeting after the meeting? 


“You think Zoom bombing is funny? Let’s see how funny it is after you get arrested,” Matthew Schneider, the US Attorney for the Eastern Michigan district, said in a statement. “If you interfere with a teleconference or public meeting in Michigan, you could have federal, state, or local law enforcement knocking at your door.” The Verge.com 

As large numbers of people turn to video-teleconferencing (VTC) platforms to stay connected in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, reports of VTC hijacking (also called “Zoom-bombing”) are emerging nationwide. www.fbi.gov

Zoom videos

Waiting Rooms

Zoom Passwords and Security (April 2020)

SPREADSHEET Zoom Meeting Links (a work in progress - updated everyday

Not to be too AA-centric, here is a link to SAMHSA Virtual Recovery Resources with links to Life Ring, NA, Self-Management and Recovery Trainting (SMART), Sobergrid, Reddit Recovery, Reguge Recovery, Marijuana Anonymous and more

Every end-of-days pandemic needs a soundtrack. Rebellion Dogs Radio (complements of IndieCan Radio) tries to find mood music to meet the situation. Enjoy, "Who's Your Maker" by Toronto's A Primitive Evolution (Toronto). What seems like a lifetime ago, I wonder now if their March concert at Lee's Palace with ON, Phantom High and Sulpher (UK) was the last Rock 'n' Roll show on earth...



Widows-In-Law Michele W Miller on Episode 51  

Widows-In-Law - a chat with author Michele W. Miller about her new book(s), writing and recovery  :-)

Pod-0-matic Link

Episode 51 of Rebellion Dogs Radio: Widows-In-Law by Michele W. Miller 

Clean and sober for 30 years, author Michele W. Miller has been on our radar since her 2013 zombie apocalypse travelogue, The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery. Zombies aren’t my favorite flavor of dystopia, but this book tickled my funny bone and charmed me with it’s sideways commentary of the 12-Step recovery culture in an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it plot line. 

I saw on Twitter that Michele's latest, Widows-In-Law was coming out on paperback this week and I though—what a great opportunity to catch up with this New York city writer. I got the book, binge read it, loved it and what we have here is our little chat about the recovery community in New York City over the last three decades, her inspiration and writing style, and of course, her new book.  

Our musical guest is Toronto Indie artist Sarah Siddiqui who I caught up with at Indie Week in a West-end Toronto club on a November afternoon in 2019. She shares her title track for her new record, No More Waiting Rooms. Click the pic to stream or buy music.

Visit Michele W Miller website HERE 

Widows-in-Law Buy or view eBook, Paperback, Hard Cover or Audio Book on Amazon Now.

Check out Michele W Miller's The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery (Click pic)

Also mentioned in this episode: Zoe Heller's The Believers

By the way... for number crunchers, Michele and I talk about 12-Step recovery effectiveness - how many people try meetings/program and find lasting sobriety. Here's some numbers for your note pad.

In 2008, Arthur S, Tom E and Glenn C wrote a report called, AA Recovery Outcomes: Contemporary Myth and Misconception. This study was based on AA triennial surveys (available to anyone at AA Archives at the General Service Office of AA in New York, NY). Comparing surveys from 1977 to 1989 the report notes that 50% of alcoholics who stay three months are still sober at one year. 

In Pathways to Recovery and Desistance: the role of the social contagion of hope(2019), Professor David Best reports, “...reviewing the evidence around the prevalence of recovery; with the strongest supporting evidence coming form a review for the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) by Sheedy and Whitter (2009). They concluded that of all those who experience a lifetime substance dependence, 58% will achieve stable recovery. Although White’s (2012) review of 415 papers researched a more conservative conclusion that just over half of those with a lifetime substance disorder will eventually achieve recovery.” Best also reports of a pessimism among front line workers. Before presenting his recent research, and the findings of others, to treatment workers, an audience was asked, “What percentage of clients do you predict eventually find sustainable recovery?” The average given was 7%. So there is a popular negative bias about outcome rates and expectations from people caring for persons with addiction.



Episode 50 - Carry the message beyond the meeting  

 Rebellion Dogs Radio Episode #50 – January 2020 Download a PDF if you like (click here)

“Carry the message” beyond the meeting 

Warm wishes to you for 2020, Happy New Year, happy new decade, happy one-day-at-a-time. Episode #50 of Rebellion Dogs Radio and this corresponding blog is/was composed in the early days of the new year and a new decade. 

We’re going to reflect a wee bit on what’s happened in the last ten years and pontificate a bit on what our next decade may hold in store. 

“Sea change or sea-change is an English idiomatic expression which denotes a substantial change in perspective, especially one which affects a group or society at large, on a particular issue (Wikipedia).” 

For members of secular AA, we may be both the “group” and the “issue” mentioned in this sea-change definition. Secular AA has grown but we are not well known. How can we bring our message out of the closet and into the mainstream? 

Maybe secular AA isn’t a secret shame of recovery advocates, but we would likely fail a “brand-identification” test if we surveyed caregivers who help alcoholics: Employee Assistance Program workers, correctional and law-enforcement workers, treatment professionals and other medical workers. Our obscurity isn’t anyone’s fault, but our lack of outreach won’t correct without “a program of action.” 

Can we look at the first twenty years of the millennium as the growth-stage of secular AA groups? The 20-year growth has been remarkable. 

As far as the number of meeting times for AA atheists and agnostics goes, in the year 2000, under 50 secular AA meeting times were offered worldwide. At the end of the first decade of Century-21, we doubled to about 100 meeting times of atheist/agnostic AA groups. In the last decade, wow: according to secularaa.org we freethinkers meet 524 times a week worldwide in secular AA meetings. 

At a natural time of reflection such as this, a five-fold growth over a decade is something to think about. 

There was no International Conference of Secular AA in 2010. There were limited books, blogs and podcasts for nonbelievers. 

This past decade has seen a proliferation of content for and from secular-minded AA members. The God Word: Agnostics and Atheists in AA is one of the newest pamphlets available for the literature table and the Grapevine’s One Big Tent: Atheist and Agnostic members share their Experience, Strength and Hope had the most pre-orders of any new Grapevine book. 

Many of us depend on secular recovery podcasts that didn’t exist in 2010. There may have been zero dating back to 2000. Not all secular 12-Step literature is “conference approved.” Many AA’s are writing memoirs and secular 12-Step books, stories and collections of stories. The “reading room” page of RebellionDogsPublishing.com has—while not every great offerings---dozens of great godless recovery literature written, in many cases by AA members who don’t believe in a sobriety-granting, prayer-answering higher power. In fact, the Rebellion Dogs website didn’t exist in 2010. Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life was being written but would not be published until January of 2013.   

I don’t mean to single out Beyond Belief; it is one of many books that have altered the 12-Step and greater-recovery community. There was no way to know these remarkable books would mean so much to so many.  At this new-decade time of reflection, I am humbled by your reaction to our book of musings. Beyond Belief crossed over the 16,000 copies mark. This volume of sales is not game-changer material as far as the publishing biz is concerned. AA’s own Daily Reflections sells 150,000 copies every year. Other daily devotionals outsell AA’s own. If I wanted to sell more books, I would have written a daily reflection book for the theistically inclined. That market is bigger, hungrier and spends their way to spirituality. But I wrote a book that I wanted, that I needed, but could not find in the marketplace. I wrote a book because there seemed to be an unmet need. 

I didn’t know if it would appeal to dozens or thousands; that wasn’t the point. I don’t know 16,000 people - but you do. The books success has been due to fans who buy many and give them away or recommend books to loved ones. Thanks to booksellers and book lovers because I know you are sharing your enthusiasm. This isn’t what I wanted to blog about today, but at this time of reflection I just wanted to say, “Thanks.” Here is one letter I got this week—no last name or location is used. I don’t mean to embarrass anyone, but I want to say thanks to Pat H and all of you. I love introducing loved ones to books and music. You have made it clear that I’m not alone. Here’s what Pat wrote this week: 

Dear Joe C, 

Today I read the daily reading from Beyond Belief knowing that tomorrow I will start at the beginning for the fifth time. The book is a bit grubby now but still so important to my recovery. 

I go to an Overeaters Anonymous meeting in Anonymous-town, England and have got at least three more people in my group reading Beyond Belief, all of us appreciating it very much. 

So a great big thank you for this most important and helpful resource. 

I wish you well in 2020. It is a good work you and your team do there at Rebellion Dogs. Thank you. 

With all good wishes, 
Pat H 

Good wishes to you too, Pat. And thanks to everyone who shares what they read and also, those who share what they write. I am inspired by so many of you. That concludes this blog’s look in the rearview mirror. 

There is no prescribed AA “right” way or “wrong” way. Each of us uses what is best for ourselves—without closing the door to other kinds of help we may find valuable at another time. And each of us tries to respect others’ rights to do things differently. 

Living Sober © A.A World Service


Let’s talk about what might be next for secular AA and the larger addiction/ recovery community. Not everyone is a reader and that’s where AA meetings come in. Secular AA meetings offer that human connection that AA is infamous for and bypasses one of the classic objections to AA: “But isn’t AA religious?” 

This Living Sober passage was 30+ years of AA’s collective experience, at the time of printing. This remains to be true in AA; I see many examples of AA pathways that work; we all do. Let’s talk about the value of secular AA gatherings and how we can transform from being the best kept secret in recovery to becoming common knowledge in recovery. 

We aren’t starting at zero. Some healthcare professionals already include agnostic/atheists AA groups (along with other special purpose AA groups) as a tool in what Joe Nowinski calls, developing “an individualized health plan.” Dr. Nowinski writes in his handbook, Twelve Step Facilitation: A Therapeutic Approach to Treatment and Recovery (Revised 2017) 

Diversity and Democracy: Anyone wishing to implement TSF [Twelve Step Facilitation] should be aware of the great diversity that exists within the Twelve Step culture, as this awareness can add to the effectiveness of the program. Today, it is easy, especially in urban centers, to find fellowship groups specifically for women, for men, for the LGBTQ community, for young people, for older people, for clergy, for agnostics and atheists, for nurses or doctors, and so on. There are also Twelve Step groups for any number of cultural and ethnic groups. Looking at the official literature of Twelve Step fellowships reveals themes common to addiction and recovery, but meetings themselves are run differently and vary greatly. This is one reason why newcomers to Twelve Step fellowships are encourages to ‘try out’ a number of meetings—to explore and find one or more groups where they will feel most comfortable (p 21). 

Other scholarly findings… 

Some atheists and agnostic clients reported AA-related benefit … there are multiple pathways for behavior change in AA, not all of which rely on spiritual beliefs and practices.” 

Journal of Studies on Alcohol (2002)[i] 

 “A.A. is so decentralized that in a very real sense, there really is no such single entity as “Alcoholics Anonymous”—only A.A. members and local A.A. groups that reflect a broad and ever-increasing variety of A.A. experience. ... The number of registered secular AA meetings in the U.S. has grown from a few dozen in the early 2000s to more than 400, and two international conventions of atheist and agnostic AA members have been held to date.” 

William L. White (with Ernest Kurtz, PhD)[ii] 

This decade, NAADAC (National Association of Addiction Professionals) amended their Code of Ethics reflecting the duty to accommodate a more diverse clientele. Here is a sample of the NAADAC Code of Ethics language: 

Principle IV: Working in a Culturally Diverse World 

Addiction Professionals shall be knowledgeable and aware of cultural, individual, societal, and role differences amongst the clients they serve. Providers shall offer services that demonstrate appropriate respect for the fundamental rights, dignity and worth of all clients. 

 So, the message—a responsive AA that speaks a contemporary language that we believe will better resonate with today’s newcomer to recovery—won’t fall on deaf ears. Professionals who come in contact with persons with alcohol and other addictions are looking for more arrows in their quiver to individualize service and meet changing client/patient needs. 

This is a good time for members of the secular AA community and professionals to chat. Can the helping professionals find us; how easy are we to find? Is the time and location of your secular AA group, or mine,  known to all professionals making referrals to our fellows who are currently suffering from alcohol use disorder? 

AA is a household name but in the outreach I do, it’s news to many that meetings are available that cater to potential members that prefer an irreligious meeting format. You and I know that today, while there isn’t a secular AA meeting within a thirty-minute drive of everyone yet, most urban centers have one or more secular AA meetings and new meetings continue to get started. Online meetings are growing in popularity, too and filling the gaps where geography is still an issue. 

In the first two decades we’ve gone from less than 50 to over 500 meeting times. Maybe the next decade, the 2020’s, will be looked back as the getting-the-word-out era. You and I have a role to play in our local community. Small efforts can lead to substantial results. 

I chair an outreach committee as part of my duties on Secular AA, the board stewards our biennial ICSAA. We have some other duties and AA service to do, between our International Conference dates. Not all the outreach committee members are board members. Anyone can join the committee if you’d like to be the local outreach contact for your area, or if you’d like to work behind the scenes—not everyone that helps with outreach has to be a public face of AA. Maybe, you are aligned with a professional organization; some of our committee are in health care or work in the legal system. Right now, we’re working a few initiatives in both healthcare and the criminal-justice system. We are working on literature and guides for local and national efforts. 

Like the larger AA service structure, we’re not top-down. You can do your own thing independently and you don’t need permission. But if there’s anything we can do to help, outreach@secularaa.net is a good way to start a conversation. 

So, getting involved in this committee is one way to get proactive. We have no geographic boundaries. Current committee members are from Canada and USA, but this is just as a result of who has stepped up, so far. 

Hate committee meetings? I understand. Here is an incomplete list of things you or I can do personally, or with the support of our home group’s business meeting. 

  • Be more active in your existing General Service Structure by volunteering in putting on meetings in hospitals and institutions or joining your local PI, CPC or treatment committees. 
  • Plan a special open-house meeting at your group and call it, “invite a professional.” If members are comfortable discretely disclosing their own membership in AA with your family doctor or treatment counselor or lawyer, once a year, your group could put on an open-house meeting with a speaker or two and an abridged meeting format that includes some short description of what AA is and how we operate and how secular AA fits within AA-as-a-whole. 
  • Your group can create its own business card, postcard or trifold as a hand-out. If you’re comfortable, have a contact name or email for anyone wishing to refer a client/patient to your meeting.   
  • Attend a community health fair and speak with people at the various booths. After you’ve been to your first local health fair, you may discuss the idea with your group of having your own booth at the next health fair. If AA is already there, volunteer your group members to do shifts to be available for anyone who has questions about AA for atheists and agnostics. 
  • Create a webpage, social media page and/or blog to help potential members find you, along with those who refer us to meetings. If you already have a website, consider a ‘for professionals’ page. 
  • Speak to your meeting landlord. Are you in a community center, a school, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation? Maybe they would welcome a poster or notice in the next newsletter or have a couple of you come to a speaking engagement at one of their events. 
  • Write a blog or newspaper article about secular AA. 
  • Ask a local treatment center if they would like your group to host a service meeting for their clients. 
  • Your home group or mine could design, fund and run a Google or Facebook ad informing interested parties of where and when our group meets. Yeah, AA has always been in telephone directories or ran small ads in the personal section of local newspapers. Such a public information effort is still attraction, rather than promotion. 

Here’s some guidelines from our General Service Office… 

The Public Information (P.I.) Handbook[iii] addresses Why? and How? 

“We carry the message by getting in touch with and responding to the media, schools, industry, and other organizations which can report on the nature and purpose of A.A. and what it can do for alcoholics. 

This workbook will guide you through the Public Information process. The pages that follow suggest ways individuals can organize and perform P.I. work, as well as activities that have been successful for local P.I. committees. 

Those undertaking P.I. work for the first time, whether it be at the area, district, group, or intergroup/central office level, are encouraged to read and take guidance from the information contained here. It is suggested that members taking part in P.I. work should have several years of continuous sobriety. 

The first Public Information committee in A.A. was formed by the General Service Board in 1956. At that time, the following statement of ‘A.A.’s movement-wide public information policy’ was written and approved by the General Service Conference: 

In all public relations, A.A.’s sole objective is to help the still suffering alcoholic. Always mindful of the importance of personal anonymity we believe this can be done by making known to him, and to those who may be interested in his problems, our own experience as individuals and as a Fellowship in learning to live without alcohol. We believe that our experience should be made available freely to all who express sincere interest. We believe further that all efforts in this field should always reflect our gratitude for the gift of sobriety and our awareness that many outside A.A. are equally concerned with the serious problem of alcoholism. 

As our co-founder, Bill W., wrote: Public Information takes many forms — the simple sign outside a meeting place that says ‘A.A. meeting tonight;’ listing in local phone directories; distribution of A.A. literature; and radio and television shows using sophisticated media techniques. Whatever the form, it comes down to one drunk carrying the message to another drunk, whether through personal contact or through the use of third parties and the media. The needs and experiences of people in your own area, large or small, urban or rural, will affect what you decide to do. The suggestions in this workbook are just that — suggestions — to spark your thinking on how best to work at carrying the message.” 

PI has been around longer than Cooperation with the Professional Community (CPC) which was an offshoot of PI started in 1970. The CPC Committee Manual[iv] goes on to say: 

A.A. has always valued friends in the professional fields. These associations have been mutually beneficial and completely in keeping with the A.A. Traditions.” 

As a practical matter, check these manuals for guidelines about Traditions (anonymity, attraction – not promotion, etc.), and suggested goals for you and/or your CPC committees. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel; most of what AA-as-a-whole has learned over the years can be applied to any efforts that you or I embark on to inform the public about secular AA meetings. We are like any of AA’s special purpose groups. There is a role for women’s meetings to outreach to women’s shelters or treatment centers, young people’s groups are best suited to outreach to teen/youth social services, LGBTQ+ positive group members will speak as peers, talking about AA in the queer community and the AA role in addiction and recovery. For the same reason, who better to talk about a secular approach to AA that atheist and agnostic members. 

The pamphlet Speaking at Non-AA Meetings[v] is a good guide, too. What a group of nursing or psychiatry students need/want to know about AA is different than the details you might go into with a newcomer. In part, it reads: 

One question frequently asked is, ‘Should I tell my story?’ Those who have had experience in speaking to nonalcoholic audiences have learned that the average person wants to know what Alcoholics Anonymous is, what it does, and what he or she can do to cooperate, rather than to hear the personal-history type of talk that a member might give at an A.A. meeting. 

On the other hand, experienced speakers have found that it is helpful to relate incidents from their own drinking history to illustrate a point. Citing the progressive nature of alcoholism or summarizing your case history can lend conviction to the rest of your talk. 

Starting on page 15 of this pamphlet, you will find a list of questions that are usually asked by non-A.A. audiences. These are based on the results of a survey made by your General Service Office among groups and individuals in different parts of the United States and other countries. The number of questions you cover will depend on the speaking time you are allotted and whether there will be a question-and-answer period after your talk. 

The topics that you will select for discussion may also depend, to some degree, on the particular audience that you are addressing…” 

I first started talking about AA in high schools in 1977 along with a more experienced AA because I was a teenager. The other member would explain what AA was and wasn’t, anonymity, how we cooperate with professionals, how our peer-to-peer structure differs from medical intervention, how to find meetings, what an open or closed meeting means, our relationship with Al-Anon and Alateen, etc. When I spoke, I would share what it was like, how I came to AA, what life’s like now. 

While there is no right or wrong way give a Public Information (or CPC) talk, I’ve seen a few things over the years that I felt left room for improvement. I have seen people do talks to  high school, police academy or medical students and the speaker goes into  details about their own step-work, about AA being spiritual, not religious and personal details that would interest a prospective AA member but I don’t think focuses on what the public wants to know. Professionals aren’t overly enamoured with what Bill W said in 1935 or 1965. AA members are interested in the personal journey; professionals want to know how AA members found out about AA, how many meetings they go to, the demographics, the variations in meeting styles/formats, etc. The A.A. Membership Survey[vi] is specifically designed by the PI trustees’ committee to answer the kind of questions the public wants to know. Referring to it as a guide for outreach can be very helpful.


I remember a great song writing teacher who had years of music production and been in many bands. About song writing, he would say, “My father taught me that if you want to catch fish, think like the fish.” What he meant is as a fisherman, he might like a certain part of the lake or being out on the water at a certain time of day. He might have a favorite lure or bait. But for best results, pick the location, time and lures that fish prefer.  The message to songwriters was to not write the music and lyrics that meet your own needs—write what the listener on the other end of the radio wants to hear. If you think listeners want to hear how you feel, maybe some do. But for hit songs, you better show listeners that you know how they feel. 

The lesson from song writing applies to AA outreach; know your audience and gear your communications accordingly. What they want/need to know will be different from what you or I want to hear when we’re at a meeting. 

Doing outreach work specifically about secular AA, I would explain briefly about special purpose meetings in general, how long AA for atheist and agnostics groups have been around, how some of our members attend other AA meetings, or participate in other mutual-aid or therapeutic care, while some of us find everything we need at our atheist/agnostic group,  literature and/or secular AA conferences. 

We can create our own flyers, pamphlets, postcards or websites. A lot of existing AA outreach material is fairly secular already. 

The pamphlet, AA as a Resource for the Healthcare Professional[vii] won’t make claims like “real alcoholics can’t recover from alcoholism without conscious contact with God.” The pamphlet states, “But no belief in God is necessary; atheists and agnostics find plenty of company in A.A.” 

So have a look at what’s already available and if you need to, or prefer to, create your own handouts or internet-messaging. 

A General Service newsletter to professionals, currently available, is called, About AA[viii] In a recent issue (Summer 2019), we hear from Nancy McCarthy one of our nonalcoholic (Class A) trustees. Her expertise is as a corrections professional who has worked in the criminal justice system within the greater St. Louis area in addition to working with Florida State University on new models for individuals coming in and out of prisons. 

Nancy highlights a recent article titled ‘Public Intoxication: Sobering Centers as an Alternative to Incarceration, Houston, 2010–2017,’ in the American Journal of Public Health, in which the authors conclude the following: ‘misuse of substances has a significant impact on public health, directly contributing to crime, health issues, and lost productivity.’ Starting in 2000, several cities in California, Texas and elsewhere established ‘sobering centers’ as a form of public-health intervention. …This past spring, Leslie Backus (another nonalcoholic trustee), a health treatment provider and CEO at a rehab facility located in Savannah, Georgia, attended the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) gathering in Orlando, Florida. Over 2,300 attendees participated in this conference, and over 200 visitors stopped by the booth, asking questions and collecting in-formation about A.A. ‘It was a great opportunity to assist local A.A. committees to meet and communicate with professionals.’” 

I always find something new in these newsletters and just as two alcoholics talking together can relate best, professionals, hearing about AA from other professionals bridges the knowledge gap, effectively. Previous About AA newsletters focused on AA for the older alcoholic, the armed forces and common misconceptions about AA. From Spring of 2017: 

“‘Medication-assisted therapy is big in the treatment community and there is a misconception that A.A is somehow against medication; This is not true. A.A. as such has no opinion on what medication is appropriate for an individual. While it is true that some people may substitute addictions — pills for alcohol, say — many A.A. members truly need medication, and Alcoholics Anonymous does not offer medical advice. This is spelled out in the pamphlet The A.A. Member — Medication and Other Drugs, which clearly shares our experience of both situations — the possibility of alcoholics abusing other substances and the clear reality that some A.A. members need prescribed medications. It also suggests that it is the responsibility of our members to be honest with their doctors about their alcoholism and how medication affects them, and that all medical advice should come from a qualified health professional. I have shown this pamphlet to treatment professionals who seem surprised to see it. They have said: ‘That must be a brand-new pamphlet.’ But, no, it has been around since 1984 and was updated in 2011.’” 

If ever there was a time to be talking to professionals about secular AA, isn’t it now? 

Here’s what is, was, and will be in the news in the year ahead and will be on the minds of professionals who come in contact with persons suffering from alcohol use disorder: 

  • Pew Research[ix] “the share of “nones” – religiously unaffiliated adults who describe their religion as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has reached 26%, up from 17% a decade ago.” 
  • Canadian Broadcasting Corporation[x] “Atheist nurse wins fight to end mandatory 12-step addiction treatment for health staff in Vancouver.” 
  • Legal Professional Blog[xi] “Treatment Obligation Violates Religious Rights: [James] Lindon raises the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in his objection to the condition that he re-engage with OLAP [Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program] … Lindon states that he is an atheist and that OLAP programs are substantially based on Alcoholics Anonymous, and similar programs that have a religious aspect to them. He notes that AA’s 12-step program includes prayers and recitations from the Bible.” 

In our outreach efforts we may wish to avoid engaging or appearing to be engaged in the salacious public controversy. But with these type of stories in the news, there is no better time to communicate the role of secular AA and how we fit into AA-as-a-whole. 

There are more options than ever before available for irreligious approaches to recovery from addiction. AA would neither endorse nor oppose Life Ring, SMART, Women for Sobriety nor any other secular approaches to recovery. We aren’t in competition for a limited supply of alcoholics. What we AA’s have going for us is that AA is ubiquitous; we’d be hard pressed today to find someone who’s never heard of AA. The added knowledge about AA “without a prayer” ought to be well-received by caregivers in 2020. Professionals will already have come across studies and data endorsing AA as improving outcome rates. What we can add is that secular AA offers these benefits without fear of clients/patients being influenced to embrace prayer and theological philosophy. 

Our current AA literature can help carry the message. Here’s just a few excerpts: 

 “I came into the Fellowship seven years ago as a self-proclaimed atheist. … I get what I need from the members of this Fellowship and the tools of the Twelve Step program; I can give this healing process a chance.” Sheila’s Story, The ‘God’ Word 

“In Step Two, the ‘power greater than ourselves’ meant A.A., but not just the members I knew. It meant all of us, everywhere, sharing a concern for one another and thereby creating a spiritual resource stronger than any one of us could provide.” Jan, (agnostic) alcoholic from Do You Think You’re Different? 

 “I don’t need God to have a higher purpose in my life and to practice the principles of the Steps. I simply need to believe that with help from the Fellowship and my inner resources I can change my own attitude and actions and continue to enjoy the enormous benefit that change has brought into my life.” Alex M., Grapevine, October 2016 

If your new year includes a resolution and that resolution includes getting active in service work, maybe you’ll consider spending some time and energy in carrying the message about secular AA in our communities. 

In the last year, I have been a guest on podcasts, been referred to a journalist for the Canadian Atheist Magazine, spoke at United Church congregation run by an atheist minister, I volunteer at a treatment center, talked to the director of the Physicians Assistance Program in Ontario, attended the Recovery Capital Conference in Vancouver and Toronto and started a draft for a secular AA outreach handbook. Once I got going, other people referred me, and opportunities present themselves. I like service work in mainstream AA. I find service work has less religious talk than Big Book meetings; go figure? 

There is so much more I’d like to do. Our group is at U of Toronto; they teach doctors, psychologists and teachers. We should really have an annual information day for students and faculty. 

Not everyone who loves AA will be happy or comfortable doing outreach. Just coming to meetings on time and welcoming newcomers is such important work. Some people are hyper-cautious about being seen in public talking as an addict. Stigma is real and some of us stay behind the scenes. There are both front-of-stage and back-room roles for outreach work in AA. So, think about it. Talk about it at your business meeting. Let’s see what we can do to help the still-suffering alcoholic, deploying the tools and opportunities available in 2020. 

Join the conversation. If you’re already making headway, please share; if you wonder how you can help and where to start, get in touch. You can reach me at outreach@secularaa.net and/or news@rebelliondogspublishing.com 

Music on today's show is from Toronto indie artist, Jeremy Voltz. Visit his website HERE

Download a PDF if you like (click here)

[i] J. Scott Tonigan, W.R. Miller, Carol Schermer, “Atheists, Agnostics and Alcoholics Anonymous” Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 9/2002 

[ii] http://www.williamwhitepapers.com/blog/2018/03/the-secular-wing-of-aa.html 

[iii] https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/M-27i_PubInfWorkbk.pdf 

[iv] https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/m-41i_CPCWorkbook.pdf 

[v] https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/p-40_speaknonAAmeet.pdf 

[vi] https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/p-48_membershipsurvey.pdf 

[vii] https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/p-23_aaasaresourceforhcp1.pdf 

[viii] https://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/about-aa-newsletter-for-professionals 

[ix] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/12/13/19-striking-findings-from-2019/ 

[x] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bc-byron-wood-nurse-12-step-religious-discrimination-settlement-1.5391650 

[xi] https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2019/09/ohio-considers-atheism-defense-and-sex-with-client-in-two-bar-cases.html

Writing the Big Book-talking with author William Schaberg  

Have you ever seen someone pick up The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous and say, "How did I get sober? The same way as the first 100 members did, working the Twelve Steps, exactly as written in this book!"

Fun fact - or more accurately, fun facts about what we believe to be "facts." This narrative above is a compelling story; convincing, especially if you hear it repeatedly. In so many words, I've heard this, from the podium, from across the table, in coffee shops. The speaker is sincere; I don't doubt that this is how they got sober - working the Twelve Steps, as outlined in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous. But is that how the original 100 got or stayed sober? Well, we're going to talk about that on Rebellion Dogs Radio.

It's been 40 years since a scholarly account of early history was made available to us. It was Not God: The History of Alcoholics Anonymous by Ernie Kurtz. As of November 5th, the latest, Writing the Big Book: The Creation of A.A. by William Schaberg revisits early AA by comparing the stories we've all heard against contemporaneous records, letters, documents and the Lois Wilson , Bill W's wife, all tucked away in different archives.  

I’m a rare-book dealer,” William Schaberg tells us. “I bought a Multilith copy of the book Alcoholics Anonymous which was printed two months before the book was published. I needed to know the rarity of what I held in my hands, so I went searching to find out how many copies were printed. I got mixed information; some said 100 copies, 200, 300, Bill Wilson himself once said there were 400 copies circulated. I applied to the General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous archives to do some research. In one of the 1940 AA reports it said that it cost $165 to print the copies so I was looking for the invoice to show me how many copies they got for their one hundred and sixty-five bucks. 

I never found the invoice. It’s not to be found in GSO in New York or in Stepping Stones (Bill and Lois Wilson’s home in Bedford NY). Looking at the back story, what I did find were documents from 1939, 1938 and going back further, 1937. So much of what I was reading contradicted what I had heard over the years, what Bill Wilson himself had said in recounting the early years of AA. I was fascinated with the fact that these documents didn’t stack up with what I thought to be AA’s history. I thought I’d write a book about it. I thought it would be a 250-page book, focused on just an 18-month period from the book’s conception, October of 1937, to April 1939 when it was printed. Now it turned out to be a very big book—600 pages of text; that’s because there was so much raw data from primary documents, I just couldn’t drive by some of that stuff.”

On Rebellion Dogs Radio Episode 49, author William Schaberg takes us through his great reveals of eleven years of primary document research. Schaberg challenges what many have been told about the “running blind” days of AA. He’s not fault-finding; he’s fact-finding. "The truth will set us free," right? Some of AA's most re-told stories are accurate and some of it is parables, the essence of what happened but not exactly factual; in some cases, mythical. 

Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Ketcham, wrote in 2014: 

“What is the relationship between narrative and myth? Myth often presents itself as narrative… Does that somehow invalidate it? Perhaps, for some individuals. But if we remember that ‘a myth is something that never happened because it is always happening,’ the narrative wrapping may be deep truth’s best alias. There is something about how people hear such stories.”[i] 

So, I believe the person who tells how they got sober, while waving The Big Book in their hand. I believe what they mean - but not all of what they say. Following the Steps, as laid out in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, that was their salvation. About that: this dutiful adherence to Big Book instructions as roadmap to recovery may be truer of our most recent 100 AA members than it was of our first 100.

However, "by the book" isn't my story; it isn't every AA story of recovery. I worked the AA program to the best of my ability. I never read the Big Book or heard it quoted as borrowed authority by 1970s Montreal AA members, where I came from. We AAs talked about AA and the Steps in their own words based on our own worldview. I was sober over ten years and living in Toronto before I ever owned or read, Alcoholics Anonymous. Hearing this pervasive chorus of "as described in the Big Book" over and over again for the last 30 years, it sometimes made me wonder if there wasn't something wrong with me or how I got sober. Was there a place in AA for me?

Was I so strange? 

Was my sobriety on shaky ground? 

Wait until you listen to Episode 49 for the rest of this story.

You'll hear AA mythology tested against what documents reveal about the going on of 1937 to 1939 AA. Bill Schaberg unpacks some of our persistent myths: Myth # 1) the Big Book - a collective writing. Why have we been told that Bill W was "the umpire" as all of AA was petitioning for their own slant on the the book? It's not a conspiracy; it's the normal way storytelling is shaped.

“Victory has many fathers; failure is an orphan.” Count Galezzo Ciano, 1942[ii] 

Myth #2, the genesis of the Twelve Steps of AA. Myth #3, the co-founder myth, still makes Schaberg crazy when he hears these stories repeated. We'll let him tell you all about it.

William Schaberg reflects, "The idea that we have to read the first 2 ½ pages of “How It Works” at every meeting-if you’re going to four or five meetings every week it becomes blah, blah, blah-I’ve been to meetings where people just skip the first ten minutes of the meeting because it’s the same stuff being read every meeting. So why are we doing that? 

AA is a mystery, and I’m happy that it’s a mystery. But as long as AA keeps evolving and I hope this book is at least a small element in the way AA evolves over the next 20 or 30 years—hopefully. We need to start opening up and talking. Whether you like this book or you don’t, if you rail against the heresy of it, and I’m sure there will be people who do that, we need to start talking about this stuff.

We need to get to a place where we can survive. The longer we go; the longer the time distance from 1939 when The Big Book was first published, the more incomprehensible it is to people, the less relevant it is to people."

Fact Check/Correction:

Around 55 minutes into the podcast I misquoted AA's own statistics from GSR. I was referring back to a blog "Founders, Followers and Flounderers," when I talked about how AA has grown in America this century and we've suffered losses in Canada and Internationally. I said "there are less groups in Canada and Internationally today, compared to the turn of the century. To correct, it's 16% less members in Canada and 31% less members Internationally (non-USA/Canada).

HOT OFF THE PRESS: William Schaberg Q&A on TheFix.com

Order Writing the Book

Visit WritingTheBigBook.com

[i] Kurtz, Ketcham, Experiencing Spirituality: Finding Meaning Through Storytelling (2014), p 156 

[ii] Italian diplomat Count Ciano quoted this local proverb in 1942. JFK, in a 1961 reaction the Bay of Pigs also said, “Victory has 100 fathers, defeat is an orphan.”




Recovery Capital Conference 2019 on Rebellion Dogs Radio 48  

 Rebellion Dogs Radio Episode #48 – October 2019 View/Download as a PDF CLICK HERE

Recovery Capital Conference “chimes” in with the latest in recovery policy and practices 

”Hello, from the New Westminster 2019 Recovery Capital Conference main-stage,” Pictured here are Dr. Ray Baker and Jessica Cooksey talking about Recovery Oriented Systems of Care to treatment professionals, policy makers and harm reduction care givers. 

A warm shout-out to my NAADAC friends (American Association of Addiction Treatment Professionals) who met in Orlando for the 2019 annual conference. Sorry I couldn’t make it this year – I have been lurking at social media and presentation materials on the http://www.naadac.org site. It looked from We The North like another great year. 

Last year, at Recovery Capital Conference in Canada, we talked with Giuseppe Ganci (Conference Chairperson) of Last Door Recovery Society about this conference. The feeling among organizers was that we get together to talk about addiction a lot; how about a conference to explore, study, brainstorm about recovery? That’s what the Recovery Capital brand is all about. Dr. Ray Baker will join me on Rebellion Dogs Radio for a recap of his Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, Halifax and Toronto stops for the tour. Jessica Cooksey and he were on the program at every stop. 

But first, Step One: let’s talk about the state of addiction or more broadly substance use, today. Here’s some findings from the 2018 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) study of drug use and health[i]. 

Here’s some big numbers for context: This is just substance use, so it includes recreational use as well as addiction. 60% of people surveyed use alcohol, tobacco and prescription or street drugs. So, there is 109 million who didn’t use anything in the last month – 109 million sober people – so much for excuse #1: Everyone’s doing it. Of 165 million people who use mind/mood altering substances, alcohol is #1 with almost 140 million Americans drinking, 60 million smoke tobacco and 28 million smoke weed. The misuse of pain relief medicine make up 3 million and another 1.7 million misused prescribed stimulants. Two million’s drug of (no) choice was cocaine. Then the numbers go down for methamphetamine, hallucinogens and heroin at the bottom with 354,000 Americans who used in the last month. 

News pegs are all about opioids and tobacco but booze is #1. Let’s get into our area of interest where alcohol is concerned and these numbers may play out for other substances, too.  Of 140 million drinkers, 67 million are binge drinkers (48%). “Heavy alcohol users” are estimated at 16.6 million – that’s 25% of any of the binge drinkers and 11.8% of all users. 

Here are some noteworthy findings: 

The percentage of people with Alcohol Use Disorder in the past year has declined from 2002 to 2018. 
18 to 25-year-olds are the most likely to have AUD than any other age group. 
For people “aged 12 or older with a past year substance use disorder”, 15 million Americans have an alcohol disorder, 8 million are affected by illicit drugs, 4 million with marijuana, 1.7 million with pain reliever-misuse. 
Total past-year Substance Use Disorder (SUD) cases adds up to 20.3 million people. “Double winners,” people with both alcohol and illicit drug use disorder are 2.7 million people. 

My point here, before we turn to talk about recovery, is to identify the clear and present need for people who may be trying to transition from substance use disorder to recovery. 

And recovery is working. Psychiatry.org reported that while we’re going to meetings, they are taking notes and compiling data: 

A new meta-analysis examines 20 randomized controlled studies of spiritual or religious based programs for substance use problems. Previous research has identified spirituality and religiosity as having important roles as a protective factor against substance use and in recovery from substance use disorders. Spiritual/religious based interventions, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), are commonly part of treatment for substance use problems. This study is the first systematic review and meta-analysis looking at the efficacy of spiritual/religious based interventions for substance use problems. 

This report recognizes AA/NA, etc. as religious. That might not be your experience or my experience, especially if you mainly go to secular 12-Step meetings but as Joe Nowinski, author of If You Work It, It Works!: The Science Behind 12 Step Recovery report: studies show that, while atheist/agnostics are less likely to attend 12-Step meetings, those who do attend, respond and do as well as our more religious members. 

The Psychiatry.org report from this fall[ii] goes on to say: 

The researchers looked at two types of outcomes – substance use reduction/abstinence and improvements in psycho-social-spiritual outcomes (such as spiritual coping, depression, anxiety, employment, relationships). 

Most of the studies in the meta-analysis involved Twelve Step Facilitation programs. These programs involve a series of counseling sessions with a professional counselor based on principles of 12-step fellowships such as AA and NA… Based on their analysis of these programs, the research authors conclude that … spiritual/religious based programs were more effective at reducing or eliminating substance use and equally as effective as other programs on broader measure of wellness and function. 

Separate studies compare 12-Step approaches to SMART, Women for Recovery and Life Ring and these studies find that a “group of drunks” by any other name, gleans the same positive outcomes. 

Episode # 48 includes Dr. Ray Baker, chatting with you about this year’s conference. Ray is a retired addiction medicine doctor and soon-to-be author. Ray (doing most of the work) and me (coaching and publishing) are working on a book together that will be new for 2020 about Recovery Capital. Along with Jessica Cooksey, he was speaking to people about “What is Recovery Capital and what is a Recovery Oriented System of Care?”   

I joined Ray and the whole New Westminster BC (Vancouver if you don’t know the Lower Mainland of British Columbia) for the 2019 kick off two-day event. A highlight was the presentation of recent research by David Best, Professor of Criminology in the Department of Law and Criminology at Sheffield Hallam University and global expert relating to the addiction recovery field and for the Recovery Movements in the UK and Australia. David Best is the author of nearly 200 peer-reviewed academic papers and another 70 technical reports. This Fall, his new book comes out: Pathways to Desistance and Recovery: The Social Contagion of Hope. I can’t wait. 

David Best argues—based largely from his findings—that recovery includes identity change, and four other factors. Research shows that for people emerging from rehab and/or detox, if they know just one person in recovery, this significantly improves outcome rates. From a 2011 British Journal of Psychiatry, David Best reveals the five CHIME “charms” that enable recovery: Connectedness, Hope, Identity, Meaning and Empowerment.   

David Best aims to advance a social identity model as a mechanism for understanding the journey to recovery or desistance and the centrality of reintegration into communities for a coherent model and public policy around addiction recovery,[iii] to quote him directly. 

I’ll get the exact details that follow wrong and I am undertaking to arrange an interview with this guy to assure I get the facts straight, but I am confident I’m in the ballpark. A study was done—Maybe the UK, USA and Australia—as an extensive longitudinal study that identifies, of persons with substance use disorder who reach out for help, what percentage will be living in recovery five years later—or was it attained five consecutive years—that’s why I need this book, and Dr. Best, if you’re out there—call me; let’s talk. But the percent that met this standard of this study was 58% making it. So, you have a problem with alcohol or other drugs and want help? Chances are it will work; you have better than a 50-50 odds at recovery over addiction. 

These same researchers went to, or back to, treatment professionals who helped facilitate these findings. People who treat us were asked, “What percent of people transitioning from addiction to recovery will make it five years?” 

Frontline workers were asked how they thought we’d do, and their answer was—on average—7%. 

That’s pessimistic. Professionals have a negative bias when they start their day at our detoxes and treatment centers each day. Now in part, this is forgivable; they deal with the chronic recidivism, the retreads that keep cycling through the system. Addiction counselors don’t work with people who are quickly transformed to high scores of recovery capital. These people don’t need ongoing or recurring care. 

Best sees optimum care as being three stages: Measure, plan and engage. The presentation was a dose of sober second thought and I will endeavor to have David Best as a guest soon. 

But we have Dr. Ray Baker on Rebellion Dogs Radio this show; so “One day at a time!” From beautiful downtown Toronto, Ray will give us a city by city comparison of the problems each area is facing and the audience that attended, plus we’ll talk a bit about his presentation, our upcoming book and where to search the web for resources—and how to guard against mis-information. 

Being a do-it-yourself independent publisher, we try to draw attention to indie musical artists, too. Episode 48  ends with a tune from Toronto songstress, Lily Frost with here song, “Red Flag,” a sort of codependent’s anthem about what to do with cheats and addicts like us. This his from her 2017 recording, Rebound.

Find out more: 

William White Papers 

Lily Frost music 

Recovery Capital Conference 

[i][i] https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/NSDUHffrBriefingSlides2018_w-final-cover.pdf 

[ii] https://www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-blogs/apa-blog/2019/09/twelve-step-based-programs-effective-for-substance-use-problems 

[iii] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/16066359.2016.1185661


What was Rebellion Dogs Publishing barking about at NAADAC last Fall? Cultural Humility, ethical and legal peril to treatment professionals facing a growing demand for a more secular approach to Twelve Step Facilitation.  

Episode 47 of Rebellion Dogs - a YouTube version of the NAADAC 2018 Annual Conference (October 7, in Houston) presentation: No God? No Problem! Meeting the growing demand for a secular view to Twelve Step Facilitation. 

What is the legal peril for Employee Assistance Personnel, Treatment Therapists and Parole Officers who say, "AA is spiritual not religious," when an irreligious client objects to praying to a higher power?

How does the NAADAC Ethics Code other-oriented care standard get tested when and addict says, "I don't want to go to AA (or NA, etc); it's too religious"? 

With the growing demand for a secular view to Twelve Step Facilitation resulting from a less religious generation, what resources are there in mutual-aid to meet this growing need for recovery without prayer or God-talk?

I whip through a lot of slides (and add a song) in just over an hour. If you're really interested in this topic you might want to download and read the slides again at your own pace. If you're a NAADAC member, you can access the slides at NAADAC.org If not, email Joe at news AT rebelliondogspublishing dot com

This is a review of a presentation I gave in Houston Texas October 7, 2018 at the NAADAC (National Association of Addiction Treatment Professionals) delegates. We look at some legal & human rights cases that will test "Is AA religious?" And if it is, would pressuring a non-theist to attend when they object to all the God-talk be willful-blindness, unethical or would it violate First Amendment Rights in the USA or Human Rights according to the Human Rights Code in Canada? We'll look at some other cases that have settled and what the consequences were.

It's not all fire-and-brimstone. The peer-to-peer community has already accommodated a rising appetite for secular sobriety inside AA and newer fellowships, too. There has never been a better time for AA-sans-God.

This presentation was well received by addiction professionals, policy makes, academics and corrections personnel from around the world. NAADAC's Code of Ethics was revised in 2016. If it wasn't in reaction to recent court orders for treatment facilities to compensate nonbelievers in the treatment infrastructure, these changes certainly help prevent ethical and legal peril for today's practicioner.

Our feature artist/song this episode is the song Ride by 2Day. Rising up from the addiction and poverty of East-Toronto life, 2Day found a way out through music.


I meant to get this YouTube video posted ten months ago. I just kept finding other content that I though deserved attention. Not the least of which was the first post-NAADAC 2019 podcast featuring fellow presenter, Dr. Laura Walsh (ADHD), Letter to My Mother art exhibitor, Branislav Jankic, The new CEO and president of Women for Sobriety, Adrienne Miller and singer-songwriter John McAndrew who is the Recovery Music Specialist at Cumberland Heights in Nashville Tennessee – which offers both in and out patient drug and alcohol treatment. CHECK THAT SHOW OUT HERE

Come back for more links and more show notes sometime before August 15th.



July Blog: Founders, Followers, Flounderers - Today's AA  

VIew or Download as PDF HERE

Since 2012, Rebellion Dogs has brought to light some interesting recovery ideas along with the challenges and turmoil facing AA. This includes divergent factions in AA, each of whom feel their view of AA is what’s best for AA; and those others—they’re closed minded and dangerous to newcomers and AA’s future. Today, we ask if our more liberal and conservative extremes, both eyeing the other with suspicion, aren’t nourishing AA instead of tearing us apart. Body temperature requires homeostasis mechanisms to maintain balance when we get cold or warm. Let’s see if Twelve Step/Twelve Tradition societies suffer from, or thrive on, equal and opposite forces. 

The sun sets on another June; another Founders Day: June 10, the earmarked symbol that would mark, Bill W helping Dr Bob to get sober and in so doing, saving himself from the craving of drink, as well. That infamous June of 1935 was 84 years ago now. We enter our 85th year as Alcoholics Anonymous which caps off with the Motor City (Detroit) quinquennial self-congratulatory gathering, June of 2020. I expect I’ll be there. Hope to see you.

We will look back. We call the pioneers of AA, “founders.” Dead now, we tip our hat to founders, recognizing the efficacy of their leadership. Simply stated, the fellowship they left behind, remains, today. Bill W, in his self-effacing way, referred to himself at public appearances as a co-flounderer. This dismissive language got a laugh but also fended off efforts of others to put him on a pedestal. 

When I was a small-business person, mentors said to me, “The quality of your leadership can be best measured by how well your business runs when you’re not there to run it.” That sounds smart and snappy; if it’s true, Bob and Bill are gone and we can look at their roles as leaders, or founders. Stewardship of AA is forevermore in the hands of AA followers, not our founders. Googling “pioneers” and “followers” online, we will see that qualities and personality traits of leaders and followers differ from each other. How does the AA leadership of us followers, differ from the days of all the “big trouble” being brought to the attention of AA pioneers? AA’s cultural makeup matured, from two or three fledgling groups, to groups with a few pamphlets and a book. Rules were added, these same rules would be revoked, Traditions later protected members and groups from rules and subordination. 

The style that the founders left the fellowship to us in is called cultural determinism. A tendency, as a society ages is a longing for cultural imposition. 

We’ll look at the differences, their relative merits and ponder what may serve AA best. Keep in mind, is our role as stewards to preserve AA exactly as it was in the 1940s? Is our duty to better prepare AA for the newcomer still to come? Are these approaches oppositional? Or does this yin vs. yang create homeostasis, or an equilibrium that makes us stronger? 

AA was a teenager in years and Dr. Bob was dying with Cancer. Before succumbing to illness in November of 1950, Bill and Bob talked about turning AA over to the membership; what would look like and what guidance might be available to lean on in times of real (or seeming) crisis? Jimmy B was an early AA archivist and history-speaker. He recalled how the old-timers learned to get out of the way and leave the operations of AA to the two-to-five-year (sober) members. Here’s a bit from Bill W in New York, writing to Rosa and Jimmy B., who lived in San Diego, August 23, 1949: 

“What you say is not surprising for we old-timers, nearly all of us, are getting frightfully stale. I know that’s very true of me. I have worked far too long in the trouble department of AA. Anybody who does enough of that will finally go sour or crack up entirely. It is so everywhere. The oldtimers situation is getting to be a real problem. In a sense, it means we all have to start over again and get back to first principles. I am glad to see at the group and intergroup levels that our service affairs are in the hands of two to five year old people. Moreover, these folks wer not so badly burned as we oldsters. As a class they are not so screwy.” 

“The spirit of rotation” was learned from experience in Alcoholics Anonymous. There are pamphlets, Grapevine articles and Twelve Tradition essays about these very issues. Rotating leadership (service) is now part of 12-Step/12-Tradition ethos.   

But… you’re waiting for a but, aren’t you? 

A leaderless society is not without risk. Pioneers have a higher risk tolerance than their followers. Vision is a key motivator to pioneers; fear—fear of change, as an example—is a key motivator for followers. Innovators, certainly AA founders, are not proprietorial – imitators and adaptors don’t threaten or offend leaders. Here is just such an example.   

The first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous was a big red book. Another visionary, Ed W wrote The Little Red Book a study guide to the Big (red) Book. There was no conference to approve or disapprove such new initiatives when The Little Red Book was written; there was an idea of group conscience but certainly no Traditions or Concepts of World Service. This Little Red Book was still shared around with and by some members, when I came around in the 1970s. I hear it quoted and see it passed around less today, but it’s still around. Hazelden currently publishes it. It’s grown into a franchise by those devoted to it. Bill P wrote a study guide (to the study guide) in 1998. Karen Casey and (another) Bill W in 2004 wrote, The Little Red Book For Women

How were such things handled and what was felt about these unsanctioned side projects by the stakeholders (the royalty recipients) of our Big Book? Here’s what Bob and Bill had to say about this new “kid on the block,” The Little Red Book[i] 

Bill W November 1946: “Everybody who has read it seems to like it very much—which of course was to be expected!” 

Dr. Bob December 1946: “I have enjoyed your little book very much and know that it will prove to be a lot of help to many.” 

Pioneers, for the most part, welcome more pioneering. While followers might be more inclined to reify work, canonize founders and dismiss new approaches, founders are hungry for better outcome rates and new ways of doing things. The importance of the cause and not the credit is what motivates many innovators. Ed had identified a need, whereby some might want a more cohesive Step by Step narrative—for it’s day. Pioneer Bill showed no inclination to supress Ed’s efforts. Bob and Bill never said, “Nice book; but it has no place in an AA meeting!” or “Don’t call it AA.” 

Written accounts reveal Bill W’s concern for the suffering alcoholics, that we failed to satisfy in the AA of the day. Why would he be insulted or threatened by Ed, and presumably others? In fact, maybe Bill was inspired by Ed. Some time after Ed’s book, Bill’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (1953), was published. At the time, the Twelve Traditions was what Bill really wanted to advance but who would buy, read, or pass around a book about Twelve Traditions? It wouldn’t be a best-seller. 

When was the last Traditions meeting you attended? Anyone out there: have you been to even one Twelve Tradition meeting in the last month? It’s been more than a month for me. 

How much of Bill’s thought process to start the book off with essays on the Steps was informed by the warm reception enjoyed by The Little Book? We only know what Bill wrote, “Everybody who has read it seems to like it very much—which of course was to be expected!” 

Now, this idea of turning any fellowship over to the members is a visionary’s idea, that’s for sure. Is it the right thing to do and if it is, what are shortcomings we need to look out for? 

Let’s go back to the business comparison. The head of a capitalist concern doesn’t turn the power over to the employees. Instead, leaders find another visionary to take over the reins. The new visionary doesn’t follow the first leader’s rule book; they forge a new path. Over years and decades a company is led by a succession of visionaries. The rank and file employees make slight adjustment to the leader as she or he adapts to, or anticipates, a changing marketplace. 

What if Henry Ford turned his car company over to the employees? 

Ford may have been honored for his nonconformity, maybe even been canonized. The anniversary of the first time assembly-line production were matched with automotive production, might be celebrated by employees, worldwide, every five years. And… with follower's love for preservation, the Ford Motor Company might still be exclusively making and selling Model T’s. 

“If it ain't broke, don't fix it!” the Ford group-think of today would assert. “We’re going to preserve the legacy of Ford, whose work was inspired by the hand of God.” 

Followers don’t have vision—not to the extent that pioneers do. Pioneers aim is on a moving target. Followers see a still image.  This is some of what caused organizational reification. Bill W would continue asking how can we alter or improve. We who followed, cast his message into an enduring—and unyeilding—monument. 

Circa: 1953… Bob S has died and AA’s General Service Conference (GSC) is three years old. The Fellowship is indeed in the hands of the next generation. Bill W and other early adapters are on hand, when called upon. But the voting delegates, trustees and staff will carry the day. 

Context: In 1953 there were nearly 6,000 groups attended by 128,000 AA members—twice the members and three times the groups since five years prior. With growth comes promise… along with alarm and growing pains. 

To the 75 delegates from USA and Canada, Bill opened the Third GSC with:

“We are standing on the threshold of maturity… No one can say in truth that we are really mature yet. This process of maturing will go on as long as we last.” 

The GSC would consider 40 new suggestions, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, was hot off the press and conference attendees had business to deal with including new trustees, Grapevine, other literature and financial issues. One of two hotter issues of the day that Bill was asked to address was about variations of the Steps and Traditions among members and groups. 

AA members of the day weren’t adhering the the Twelve Steps exactly as written. Some Swedish groups had a Seven Step AA alternative, adapted by a sister fellowship inspired by both The Oxford Group and early AA called, The Link Movement. Their Seven Points, as one variation of AA’s Twelve Steps, formed one example, discussed at the 1953 General Service Conference. We will go into them in slightly more detail, later in this discussion. 

Buddhists took the word “God” out of AA’s Twelve Steps and used “Good.” Seafaring AAs preferred a Six Step program in meetings held on vessels and at dock. 

Hot off the AA press:

Our Great Responsibility – Rediscovering Wisdom from A.A.’s Co-founder[ii] is all of Bill’s General Service Conference talks from 1950 to 1970 

The followers—now in charge of AA—were concerned; what was AA to do? How were we to get these nonconformists in line? Bill was asked to speak. A summary of Bill W’s impromptu comments has been recorded in Conference Highlights: Special Report for the Groups on the THIRD GENERAL SERVICE CONFERENCE of A.A. You can read the report HERE. 

In August 2018, we discussed Bill’s talk on Variations on AA’s Twelve Steps and Traditions, at AA Beyond Belief (Click here: https://www.aabeyondbelief.org

Now, with the recordings of Bill’s conference talks transcribed, we can hear exactly from the founders mouth, “on the question of whether this program of ours is frozen as solid as an ice cube or whether there is any elasticity in it or not: whether we are going to get into the business of insisting upon conformity, whether we are going to get into the business of creating an authority that says that these Steps and Traditions have to be this way” in agenda item: Variations in Form of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Here are some segments from AAWS’s newest conference approved Bill W collection—in his own words: 

  1. “And then, rather gingerly in the old days, because so many were in fear of being God-bitten, we would sort of sneak it up on the boys that, well, you can't really make this program stick in the experience of most of us anyway, unless you depend on some Higher Power—call it God if you wish, call it the group if you wish, but it won't work very well without that.” 
  2. “[before the Traditions] a lot of the membership rules that the group had was to force conformity to those Twelve Steps. In other words, it would be rules like this: to be an A.A. member you must have done all the Twelve Steps, or you must agree with the Twelve Steps. Well, of course, long experience now tells us that there shouldn’t be any ‘musts’ in A.A. In fact, happily, the original suggestion was a suggestion only: twelve suggested Steps. So today we say, ‘Well, this sums up our experience and the more you do with these, the better off you’re going to be.” But folks, its minced, apple or plum: it’s up to you, really.”   
  3. “It amazes me how in distant lands this same pioneering story is being reenacted. Some years ago the Twelve Steps came to the attention of a Swede… he takes a look at this program and he thinks that we don’t need twelve steps. His idea was that you needed only seven. So in Sweden today, they have seven steps. Do you think that we should write these Swedes and say you can’t belong to Alcoholics Anonymous unless you print those Twelve Seps the way we got them? No! They are merely going through the old pioneering process that we went through.” 
  4. “There is one of these Traditions that really guarantees every A.A. group the absolute right to violate all of them if they wish to. We say here, ‘Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.’ And you must remember that these are suggested Traditions. When we say each group is autonomous, that means in effect that it has a right to be wrong from the viewpoint of the rest of you. My feeling is that the more we insist on strict conformity with these Steps and Traditions, the more resistance against them we create.” 
  5. “And if any improvements are to come, who knows: We may get them from anyone.”[iii] 

This wasn’t the only controversy Bill was asked to speak about: 

On Interracial [AA]: “The sole question is this: How can each locality, from the point of view of its own customs, afford a better opportunity for colored people to get well? The big thing that each us needs to remember concerning this phase of our program is the respect that one section of A.A. ought to accord to the other in the view they hold locally.”[iv] 

At the time, AA culture wasn’t so different than the rest of 1950’s North America. Discussion on race and AA ranged from excitement in D.C. over the success of their “colored group”. One southern delegate said that the “colored people” in his state “weren’t alcoholics” and the topic shouldn’t be on the agenda. In the Midwest a delegate referred to Chippewan Indians suggesting “they aren’t typical alcoholics”. 

There is much of our past—and present—that calls for inventory and reconciliation in our AA society. 

Revisiting the 1953 GSC reveals hostility or worry deeply felt by AA followers. They showed concern or distain for adaptation of AA, even though it was their fellow AA members making these changes. What is widening the gateway to one is a chaotic existential threat to another. 

Yes, there is a difference between innovators and adherents. Bill W wasn’t blind to this and he adapted AA to this reality. As a guard against censorship or banning individualism, Traditions protect members and groups from rules. We members point fingers at those others who violated this Tradition or that one—as if Traditions are rules. Traditions are our collective experience. They are designed to guide members, not bind us. Furthermore, Bill W reinforced every members’ rights in the Twelve Concepts for World Service. Warranty Six (Concept XII) reaffirms: 

“… the extraordinary liberties which the A.A. Traditions accord to the individual member and to [their] group: no penalty to be inflicted for nonconformity to A.A. principles; no fees or dues to be levied—voluntary contributions only; no member to be expelled from A.A.—membership always the choice of the individual; each A.A. group to conduct its internal affairs as it wishes—it being merely requested to abstain from acts that might injure A.A. as a whole; and finally that any group of alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group provided that, as a group, they have no other purpose or affiliation…”[v] 

Have you ever seen a celebrity speak directly or indirectly about their AA membership publicly? Were they excommunicated from their home group? Of course not. They might take some shit from fellow members, but their seat is still waiting at the home group, and they still get one vote in business meetings, just as always. 

Cultural determinism vs. cultural imposition: 

A Rockstar who talks about working his 12-Step program on the late-night talk show is an example of cultural determinism. The AA group sets its own rules, anonymity might be one of them; the member follows or ignores the rules. Twelve Traditions and the Warranties makes room for different applications of AA coexisting in the same AA; Live and Let Live is the societal style is called cultural determinism:[vi] each group, being a unique culture that is shaped primarily by the ideas and values of their members, defines its primary purpose. And each member can reject what they like or embrace what they like. Central offices can and have rallies to oust a bad-apple group in the name of AA purity but that comes with unintended consequences. Generally, the ousted group is reinstated – if it wants to be—and sometimes the hostility towards the group attracts attention, and in some cases, more support. Cultural imposition—setting rules or governing groups—rarely lasts and AA tends to correct back to cultural determinism. 

Groups are asked to be considerate of neighboring groups and AA-as-a-whole. But even if you or I worry that our neighboring group’s overly liberal or overly conservative approach will be the ruin of AA, we live and let live. Back in 1953 we see Bill engaged the conference delegates with the question, “whether we are going to get into the business of insisting on conformity, whether we are going to get into the business of creation an authority.” By design, so far, AA has no mechanism for excommunicating groups (or members) for being unpopular and/or non-compliant. 

So, everything should be good between our AA groups, right? We all have all the autonomy we want; why would we care what others are doing in that group, right over there? 

The Spring 2019 Box 4-5-9 (linked below), reveals that today, we see these 1953-esque squabbles continue to be wrestled with. In one case, local backlash was directed at a group who voted 40 out of 40 members to end their Lords Prayer closing ritual. Other local groups—feeling as if they had AA Traditions on their side—told the other home group, “to get out of AA if the don’t like God.” 

Rescinding group autonomy, intimidation, the tyranny of the majority, these are expressions of cultural imposition. 

Racism, sexism, other discrimination, exploitation and abuse happen in AA, all ranging on the bad-AA-0-meter from microaggressions in the 2-4 out of ten in the bad-AA-0-meter to harassment and discrimination in the 7-9 out of ten bad-AA-0-meter range. AA groups are informed by, and a reflection of, the community just outside the meeting doors.  Here is an example of underrepresented populations in AA suffering the same systemic discrimination we hear about throughout society. 

From the Spring 2019 Box 4-5-9 on a discussion about Inclusivity: 

“Garrett closed by saying that serious problems remained, however, and while he believed that A.A. was capable of becoming more welcoming, it had not happened yet. 

Fast forward to 2019, and there have been only eight black trustees in A.A.’s 80-year history. And, though the number of black delegates to the General Service Conference has been increasing, many African Americans, among other groups, can still feel excluded or set apart in A.A. 

While it may seem an intractable challenge that has remained with A.A. for its entire lifespan, there are, if not solutions, steps that can be taken to ensure that the hand of A.A. continues reaching out to anyone, anywhere.” 

In 1953 AA invited Bill to weigh in on two topics: Should we limit group autonomy in terms of how each group conducts itself and can we bend or impose rules on groups or AA-as-a-whole to overcome racism and/or other discrimination. The fight for cultural imposition vs. cultural determinism (for the good of AA) has always been a question for the AA followers that have been AA stewards for most of our history. The General Service Office doesn’t have the power to impose rules nor the will to mediate local skirmishes. Bill’s idea of an egalitarian AA was—as we see it today—not a list of rules in which to conduct our meeting, dictated by AA World Services, Rather, 120,000 sets of meeting rules are currently being talked about by 120,000 home groups. 120,000 is the number of AA groups and that’s how many lists of rules there are. The only rules upon a group are rules we set for ourselves through group conscience. 

Bill Wilson wasn’t phased by a tendency towards reification. Who’s seen this excerpt from a 1961 letter from Bill to a member? 

“As time passes, our book literature has a tendency for conversion into something like dogma, a human trait I am afraid we can do little about. We may as well face the fact that AA will always have its traditionalists, its fundamentalists and its relativists.”[vii] 

Is AA held back by a constant struggle between more liberal factions and more conservative factions, each demanding that everyone saves time and sees it their way? It is possible to me, that while counterintuitive, AA’s polarity might be held together instead of held back in terms of what contributes to strength and longevity for AA. 

Homeostasis – more AA Yin begets more AA Yang 

From the East: Wikipedia describes the strength and harmony that opposition fosters in the Chinese philosophical idea of yin and yang which, “is a concept of dualism in ancient Chinese philosophy, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.” 

From the West: The idea of Homeostasis isn’t as old, going back to 1865 France[viii], and Dictionary.com describes “the tendency of a system, especially the physiological system of higher animals, to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus that would tend to disturb its normal condition or function.” 

I might be bending a physiological principle here or a philosophical word there to make a point here about how our 12-Step culture depends on divergent views. In nature, as in AA, seemingly opposing pressures maybe both complementary and interdependent. 

Bill W said that we best face “the fact that AA will always have its traditionalists, its fundamentalists and its relativists.” Fundamentalists feel that AA, or in some cases, their brand of AA is the only winning formula in the fight against alcoholism. Traditionalists may take chapter and verse from the book Alcoholics Anonymous literally and see “the” purpose of AA as following the Big Book as an instruction manual, exactly as written. Relativists say this kind of dogma is a turn off to forward thinkers and we’d be more effective applying flexibility in our practice of AA, maybe the wording, too. 

In Homeostasis, our outer body temperature gets too cold and we shiver to warm up our core. When we have a fever, we sweat to cool off. It could be that more Back to Basics AA inspires the forming of more Freethinkers/Secular AA groups and vise-versa with a result whereby we “maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of [AAs] parts to any situation or stimulus that would tend to disturb its normal condition or function.” 

Take-what-you-like-and-leave-the-rest is a way of the relativist. Our adaptation of plyable principles is limited only by our own imagination. Here’s just a few approaches to Steps in 12-Step meetings: 

  • A LGBTTIQQ2S+ group (or conference or other AA gathering) adapts AA’s Steps to rewrite “God as we understood Him,” replacing Him with a non-binary gendered higher power. 
  • A mostly Islamic AA groups replaces “God” with “Allah.” 
  • “Goddess” is used in place of “Him” in a women’s group. 
  • One atheist/agnostic group never reads or posts any AA Steps. 
  • Another atheist/agnostic group rewrites and reads their own secular version of AA’s Steps. 

AA relativists are protected by embedded cultural determinism. These adapting Yin groups may never have started if the heat had not been turned up by a fundamentalist Yang group beating their drum about “exactly as written in the Big Book.” 

Of course, many special purpose groups that are making a safe-space open to serve a specific demographic (gender, sexual orientation, age, minority religion, non-religious) may read the steps exactly as written in the Big Book. Why couldn’t they be both traditionalists and gateway wideners? This is cultural determinism, too; one group of underrepresented AAs doesn’t have to do as other same-spirited groups do—not all young people groups or secular groups or women’s groups have to march in lockstep with each other.  Some take a relativist approach, others like a traditional meeting format and let the individuality express itself in the group discussion. One group may symbolize their identity by customizing AA language to better include themselves. But for some special purpose groups, 1939 language has no oppressive power over them, changing the words to a new—but just as codified—wording isn’t a meaningful way of asserting their AA freedoms. 

The 1953 Conference questioned the wisdom of turning a blind eye to nonconformity in AA. An example that Delegates looked at were some Swedish seven-point program groups that dared to call themselves AA: 

  1. You must admit, that you are an alcoholic. 
  2. You must believe in a power which is greater than your own. 
  3. You must change your outlook on life. 
  4. Undertake a thorough investigation of your moral concepts. 
  5. Discuss those affairs of yours which are unsatisfactory, and acknowledge your faults and shortcomings with another person. 
  6. Settle issues with all persons with whom you have unsatisfactory relations. 
  7. When you have come away from the alcohol, and you have, if you work on following these points, then you have experienced something which you can not thank any individual human being for. You must express your thanks through helping other alcoholics, and that is the only thing we demand of you. 

Is that Seven-point program the same principles as Americans expressed in the 1939 Twelve Steps? 

If you say “yes” maybe you’re a relativist. 

If you were at the 1953 Conference and you feel the Seven Steps are a bastardization of AA, maybe you’re a traditionalist. Maybe being informed by the proliferation of such groups would disturb and motivate you to go back to your home group and bring up a motion in your group’s business meeting to “only read from conference approved literature,” to avoid this kind of liberalism that might reshape your meeting. 

There exists today Ten Step AA groups, secular Step and no-Step reading groups. We have Back to Basic groups that feel the Big Book is AA’s only legitimate message and other Back to Basics groups that read the Wally P guide to Alcoholics Anonymous. We have groups of atheists that consider themselves spiritual and groups of atheists that will tell you that AA recovery is practical—not supernatural. We have groups that don’t pray and “our more religious” spiritual—not religious groups that pray at the start, middle and end of the meeting.   

So even inside the traditionalist, fundamentalist and relativist tribes, Yin voices pull Yang chains and resentment + coffeepot = a new AA meeting—diverging forces aid in the growth and diversity of AA-as-a-whole. Thinking about Yin/Yang, Homeostasis or as Newton would say, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (Third Law of Motion),” through this new pair of Homeostasis glasses, let’s look at any of these positions that follow; what’s the likely outcome to be? 

  • A traditionalist group says to adaptive groups, “If you don’t like AA the way it is, why don’t you go start your own fellowship?” 
  • A secular AA group badmouths the Big Book fundamentalist groups, “No one wants your misogynist, patriarchal, homo-normative, religious, outdated literature; you’re why AA has stopped growing.” 
  • Subcultures petition that only the AA literature that speaks to them be kept and the other literature, preferred by others, be discontinued: Re-write the Big Book and discontinue the current version, Discontinue printing the watered down AA of Living Sober and eliminate “About Alcoholism” from The Grapevine

Each intolerant voice of AA is saying, “That’s the one, that group is the cancer that’s going to ruin it for everyone if we don’t stop them!” Will their outburst gain the intended result? How much of Gay Pride is born of homophobia? In AA, be it faction vs. faction or infighting within each faction, attempts to assert our will over the larger group may mobilize an opposite forces, “to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus that would tend to disturb its normal condition or function.” 

Even within subcultures, AA’s singleness of purpose police don’t all agree on what the purpose is or how to achieve it. Will all freethinkers, atheists, humanists, agnostics, et al agree on what “secular AA” means? Some see a broader highway; some want to keep it pure. 

Rebellion Dogs Publishing has talked/written about “the extraordinary liberties which the A.A. Traditions accord to the individual member and to [their] group,” but what does the average “My name is Joe” rank-and-file AA really know about their membership rights? 

When I was new, I assumed that there must be a list of what is sacred and what is forbidden in AA. I saw similarities in the first 20 to 50 meetings I attended so I assumed they were following a list of rules that, although I hadn’t seen these rules, others had read them and agreed to what we had to do, and must not do, in our group. 

And I heard people start sentences with, “In AA we always _______” or “In AA we never ________.” Did I challenge these members for evidence? No, I assumed they knew what was right. Rules seemed intuitive to me.  

It seems counterintuitive that AA could run without any rules or penalties for failure to comply to said rules. I think that most members, even those starting their first meeting, haven’t read The A.A. Service Manual Combined With Twelve Concepts of World Service cover to cover. For starters, reading the service manual isn’t a rule. 

Naturally, there is tribalism within AA; is it so bad if people claim they are members of the best group in the city? Be proud. This is the cultural determinism we enjoy in AA. But anytime you or I want to petition for more of our kind of AA and less of those stubborn and delusional AAs over there, we might not get what we bargain for. 

How about those annual group and member numbers and some comparisons for context-sake? 

A look at AA’s latest membership/group stats comparing to growth/decline since the start of the millennium. “World” refers to non-USA/Canada members and groups. If numbers don’t add up exactly, institutional (prison) and loner groups/members are not counted.

AA Membership worldwide is about the same over 19 years, while USA population has grown 16%. American AA has increased 17%, about the same as the country as a whole. Everywhere else, AA is in decline. Canada has 16% fewer members and non-USA/Canada members is -31% over 19 years. This makes AA a more American-centric fellowship that two decades ago. 

Canada has lost almost 14,000 members. Outside USA/Canada members have fallen off 189,796 members. There are just under 200,000 more American AAs than at the start of the century.

And while membership totals stays the same, we are dividing up into more, smaller group.

AA added 25,000 more groups over 19 years while having about 30,000 fewer members. 

We may want to resist putting too much of own biased meaning into why these numbers are what they are. Fundamentalists, Relativists and Traditionalists may all want to blame the others for AA’s declining populations compared to world population growth. Again, is “We need more of my kind of meetings and less of that one over there,” going to help? 

Online members and groups are not counted in this comparison. “Survey says …”

Musical Feature: The Fast Romantics "Do No Wrong." Buy their music or find out more click on the pic

View or Download as PDF (click)

[i] https://www.facebook.com/groups/246417729261168/ 

[ii] https://www.aa.org/newsletters/en_US/en_box459_spring19.pdf 

[iii] AAWS, Our Great Responsibility: A Selection of Bill W.’s General Service Conference Talks 1951—1970, New York: 2019 

[iv] Special Report for the Groups on the THIRD GENERAL SERVICE CONFERENCE of A.A. p. 22 

[v] https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/en_bm-31.pdf 

[vi] https://www.asanet.org/sites/default/files/savvy/introtosociology/Documents/Glossary.html 

[vii] Kurtz, Ernest, Not God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous, Note 67

Bill W film makers and Jackie B from AA History Symposium Ep. 45  

Rebellion Dogs Radio #45 goes back to California for The Fifth A.A. History Symposium from the San Francisco Bay Area February 1-3, 2019.

Welcome to Rebellion Dogs Radio Episode 45.

Rebellion Dogs Radio is a contemporary look at recovery from addiction, now with less dogma and more bite. Our focus on our April 2019 episode will be the second episode devoted to the Fifth Symposium on A.A. History, held February 1, 2 and 3, 2019 in San Altos at El Retiro San Inigo, a Jesuit monetary/retreat center. 

Click to listen to stream Rebellion Dogs Radio #45 with our guests: Filmmakers Dan Carracino and Kevin Hanlon along with writer/director/researcher, Jackie B.


Dan Carracino & Kevin Hanlon co-produced and directed the Emmy-winning PBS documentary film Bill W: The Creative Force Behind Alcoholics Anonymous. In making this film, Dan and Kevin visited over two dozen archives and private collections and interviewed over 75 people during the eight years they worked on Bill W. For some time, we have looked forward to bringing these two filmmakers to Rebellion Dogs Radio. If you’re inspired to see the documentary, from listening to their interview, we’ll hook you up with links et al. 

Jackie B. (San Francisco, CA), historian and playwright, had her hands full as committee chair for the Fifth Symposium on A.A. History. We talk to between the end of the February weekend symposium and the opening of the tenth anniversary of her first recovery play, In Our Own Words. Jackie’s plays have been enjoyed from AA Conventions in San Antonio (2010) and Atlanta (2015) to black box theaters and county jails. Some attendees of the Toronto International Conference of Secular AA in the summer of 2018 could tell you that Jackie is one of the leading historians of under-served populations in A.A., having done primary research on early LGBTQ, people of color, young people and women in the fellowship. Her presentation in Toronto was considered a highlight to those in attendance.


Buy, watch on demand or see the trailer for Bill W: The Creative Force Behind Alcoholics Anonymous CLICK HERE

Learn more about - keep in touch with A.A. History Symposium CLICK HERE 

From the AA History Lovers Symposium page you can buy individual presentations or the whole collection for $20 (for MP3s).

On this show we talk more about Dr. Earle M's Physician Heal Thyself: 35 Years of Adventures in Sobriety by an AA ‘Old-Timer’ 

Here’s a gem from the book on p. 203 

 “All of my life I yearned to meet someone who would simply hear me—not advise me, not criticize me, not even agree with me—just hear me. And my listening, nonjudgmental friend does just that. Being heard this way makes me eager to tell more. And my friends know that through really listening, he or she will connect with me. So, he or she listens to me with even more intensity. 

And the two of us connect through the art of listening.”

See an interview with Dr. Earle CLICK HERE

From the Album Canary in a Coal Mine, we heard from Tomato Tomato, the Kite Song. Like to add it to your playlist? Apple Music, Band Website

More Musings on San Fran: February 2018 - our March Blog CLICK HERE

Read more

Symposium on AA History - The Debate Over Special Purpose Groups  

If it sounds weird or nerdy to you, we Rebellious Dogs understand..Yes, it's true: The Fifth Symposium on A.A. History sold out. That's right, even if you wanted to invest an entire weekend listening to speakers presenting their primary research on Alcoholics Anonymous, the Symposium sold out and had to turn people away. We love this stuff even more than our fondness for urn made coffee so we have some content we wish to share with you.

Today, we offer an hour of February 1 to 3, 2019 in Los Altos California - the Saturday 11:00 AM to Noon session - "The Debate Over Special Purpose Groups."

Each session from Symposium-5 had an AA sharing their lived experience on the subject before someone else presents their findings from primary research.

Mily T of San Francisco has a remarkable story about the LGBTQ community in AA, then and now, setting the mood for Joe C's presentation on the chronology of women's, young people's LGBTQ, aboriginal/native North American's atheists/agnostics, doctor's and lawyer's gatherings. We whip through some of the slides that are richest in content so, if you like, pause and read the rest of the slides. If you want a copy of the slides for review, email us. 


Other presentations included Dr. Bob's Letters with Michelle Miriza, GSO archivist, Carrying the Message to Latin America, AA on North American Reservations, AA in san Quentin Prison, Early Group Problems, Bill W's curiosity about the Paranormal and a reenactment of the Rockerfeller Dinner. It was awesome to spend time with filmmakers, journalists, archivists, academics, playwrights, and others who do research AA. We hope the recording gives some idea of what fun it was.

To get MP3s or CDs of any all of the other presentations: https://www.aahistorysymposium.org/

CLICK above to listen and watch the slide show. Click below for audio only. 

Rebellion Dogs 43 Practical vs Supernatural Recovery + Parenting Teen Addiction  

Episode 43 of Rebellion Dogs Radio says: Relieve the February Blues with February Twos, February 2019's books of interest and subject matter for this episode:

Killing The Bear: Surviving Teen Addiction by M. Andrew Tennison

Staying Sober Without God: The Practical 12 Steps to Long-Term Recovery from Alcoholism & Addiction by Jeffrey Munn





Click to find out more about the band Sleepless Nights - This band brought us the finale song, "Kids on Drugs."

And our mid-way song by Tokyo Taboo has a dark side of addiction pang to it that  we are sure you're recognize in the song: "No Pleasure Only Pain." "

We talk in this Episode about Rebellion Dogs most recent contribution to TheFix.com, "Is AA Too Religious for Generation-Z?" Click to read

Rebellion Dogs Episode 42: Drunks with author Chris Finan  

In the book, Drunks: The History of Alcoholism and Birth of Recovery, Christopher Finan recounts America’s history of alcoholism which dates back to the first days of settlers and indigenous peoples sharing cultures and goods. America's search for sobriety  began among Native Americans in the colonial period, when liquor was used to cheat them of their property. We meet the first of a colorful cast of characters, a remarkable Iroquois leader named Handsome Lake, who dedicated his life to helping his people renounce hard liquor. Carrie Nation, the wife of an alcoholic, destroyed bars with an axe in her anger over what alcohol had done to her family, as well as the idealistic and energetic Washingtonians.

There's a gold-cure, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence who was the first doctor to advance the idea of inebriates suffering from a disease - not a moral failing nor demon possession. From Handsome Lake to Benjamin Rush to Marty Mann, then William L White, to alcoholism's freedom-fighters today, Chris M Finan has created the heroes journeys this is our heritage - not a mere chronology of wet and dry facts.

Technically, you'll notice our Chris Finan interview has some background noise. Sorry Chris: sorry listeners. We've done what we can to mitigate the annoyance. Can we recommend tea during the listening over coffee to reduce aggravation. Hang in, we assure you that the message quality trumps the medium shortcomings. If not, next coffee is on Joe C. We'll try to be better in the future.

This is a good 'dry run' for Rebellion Dogs as we gear up for AA History Lover's Symposium February 1-3, in the San Francisco Bay area. CLICK Here for more information on the Symposium. If you're looking for an extended mid-winter getaway, go from AA History Lovers to the International AA Women's Conference the next weekend in Los Angeles. That's what I'd do, if I could. 

For more information on Chris's captivating book, Drunks, CLICK HERE for ChrisFinan.com (audio book, hardcover, paperback, eBook) or contact Chris, he'd be happy to chat online.

The Velveteins is an indie rock band from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. We go out with their song (to celebrate Recovery - my interpretation) called, "Don't ya Feel Better" Show The Velveteins some love by CLICKING HERE

Want more Chris Finan talking about Drunks? Visit AA Beyond Belief for Chris's chat with John S CLICK HERE

Does the intro or transition music have you're curiosity? Visit Joe C's guitar-slinging @ The Chronicles "Chronic Malcontent" CLICK HERE to stream free


Mere Addiction and The Acid Test Story - Rebellion Dogs Radio 41  

Is there an attitude shift around addiction and mental health? I sense a healthy move from lip-service accountability about mental health and substance use disorder to a growing compassion and duty to our fellows. The idea of an  altering zeitgeist is the theme of Episode 41 of Rebellion Dogs Radio:


Two people are taking a stand to help end the stigma—and systemic discrimination—around addiction and mental health.

Meet Lucy, likes to rock 'n' roll by night/ addiction & mental health  treatment by day. 

Meet Michael, lawyer representing those with untreated addiction/ mental health conditions in the cross-hairs of Canada’s criminal justice system, someone who's been a law-making public figure, one who's been a defendant in the same legal system he helped author, and wait, there's more, an author in long-term recovery. 

“Given that addiction and recovery remain an enigma to most lawyers and judges,” Michael Bryant writes, “there is a tendency to randomly embrace or reject any submissions on point. The discomfort with the subject is high. Eggshells everywhere.” In his new book, Mere Addiction, Michael J. Bryant offers an insider’s candid commentary about how abstinence bail conditions are a set up for failure and recidivism, leading many addicts/alcoholics to battle the stacked odds of overcoming addiction without support. Another senior lawyer I know in recovery refers to making drinking a violation of an alcoholic’s bail or parole as the criminal justice system’s means of “manufacturing crime.” 

Lucy Di Santo's music is no stranger to Rebellion Dogs Radio; we've played Acid Test on our show. But do you know her story; her band's story?

Lucy is lead singer of Acid Test, signed to Sire/Warner Records in the 1990s, toured the UK, USA and Canada with Nine Inch Nails, Grace Jones, 54-40 and Snow. Then a series of rock 'n' roll road blocks curtailed the tour bus including - no stranger to the music biz - addiction would befall not one, but two band members. But of course, addiction is not suffered by  ½ a band; addiction impacts the whole band. Just like one member of a family doesn’t suffer from addiction; the whole family suffers.

In the case of Acid Test, one substance use disorder pat led to recovery, and the other, premature death. The 2012 loss of band-mate Mike Harland AKA DJ- Jus’ Rite brought disbanded Acid Test survivors together and eventually the seed was planted for a new record dedicated to their late colleague.

At the time of posting Episode 41, this news-peg-du-jour which speaks to shifting consciousness about mental health awareness. In June, after the shocking suicides of one TV and one fashion celebrity Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins emailed all of his employees about the matter of mental wellness and coping with mental health issues. Here’s how it was reported by Christina Farr for CNBC[i] 

“In light of recent tragedies, I wanted to step away from Cisco Live for a moment to talk about the importance of mental health,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, we all know friends, family, and coworkers battling mental health conditions, or maybe you’re going through your own struggles.” 

Robbins, who took over the CEO role in 2015, encouraged employees to “talk openly and extend compassion,” asked that they “have each other’s backs,” and told them that professional support is available. Robbins had no idea what was about to happen. More than 100 employees responded to his note within days, some sharing in painful detail their own personal struggles. 

“I didn’t understand the magnitude of the problem,” Robbins told CNBC in an interview. “The volume of responses we got back led us to be more active.” 

Roughly one in five adults in the U.S. per year suffer from mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The costs to treat depression, stress, anxiety and other ailments exceeds $200 billion a year, and for many employers the number of sick days and lost productivity associated with mental health represent one of their biggest expenses 

But relative to physical sicknesses, there remains a stigma in publicly addressing behavioral health. Insurers and corporations have been slow to recognize its importance, and many qualified health professionals, including psychologists and psychiatrists, don’t accept insurance, even in Cisco’s backyard.” 

Large employers across the country are just beginning to prioritize it through their benefits programs as part of a broader focus on employee wellness. Technology companies in particular are adopting new health programs as another way to attract and retain talent in the hyper-competitive market for engineers. … 

The article goes on to explain Cisco’s 7/24 access to professionals, meditation, yoga and paid leave. 

One CEO says enough is enough and he won’t stand idly by, pretending that he can will or hope away  the financial and productivity costs of mental health problems. Cisco makes it okay to speak up, say, “I have a problem or think I might; who can I turn to for help?” Cisco suggests that this position adds shareholder value and is not a dragging cost to his company’s operations. Cisco talked about, CNBC reported on it, now we're talking about it. It sure looks like a movement, to me.

I found myself swept up by this, “if you see something, say something” new-attitude, this month. I have a modest profile in the North American music scene but a voice nonetheless. Unless someone is blatantly reaching out for help when I'm on the job, I’m discrete about living in long-term recovery. This is the music biz; it’s artistic, counter-culture, a lot of the sponsors that pay the artists are booze companies. Before we know it, cannabis retailers will be sponsoring pop music tours.

So why would I want to be a buzz-kill? Why would I brag about my sobriety? Well, the music industry isn’t spared from tragic premature deaths due to alcohol and other substance/process addictions. The 27-Club took baby-boomer icons Janis, Jimi,Brian Jones and Jim Morrison. GenX lost Kurt Cobain, Millennials lost Amy Winehouse: all lost to substance use disorder at the age of 27. Music is one of the few professions you can drink on the job and not be punished for it. So, just like Cisco’s leadership saw something and said something, IndieWeek, an annual music festival and music business conference added a health and wellness day to it’s Indie_101 conference schedule. So, what could I do? I had to ask, “Would attendees be receptive to hearing from professional musicians I know who currently negotiate a clean & sober path in the music scene? IndieWeek said, “Yes.” 

So, I moderated “Second Chances: Recovery over Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Rob Laidlaw plays bass for 80’s A-list touring stadium acts. He also produces and writes songs with today’s emerging artists. Lucy Di Santo seemed like the perfect add on. She's in a 90's come-back band and an addiction treatment counselor with whom I volunteer in her Wednesday morning after-care at Bellwood Health Services

As it turns out, the panel date and all of Wellness Day got moved from Friday to Wednesday, conflicting with Acid Test’s Fall tour: Wednesday in Montreal, Quebec, Thursday in Kingston Ontario, Friday and Saturday as delegates and performers at IndieWeek. So, to make up for this change, Lucy and I did a short YouTube video together for Indie Week delegates. That left Rob and I to hold court with IndieWeek attendees.

Rob shared his lived experience, how snorting lines with record label executives over record contracts, the Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll life's wearing on his performance and reasoning. Rob found himself sucking back a few late-morning drinks at an airport bar before a flight and he was quite embarrassed that his band-mates didn’t concur that mid-day shots was not the way to fly. Rob looked for help.

Getting sober, Rob wondered if he had a future in the music business. How could he live the life and stay sober? It didn’t seem possible. But he found a way and got threw the first awkward sober live performances and back stage shenanigans as a straight-edge, all while the party raged around him. 

At the IndieWeek conference, I disclosed that IndieCan Radio wasn’t my only broadcasting gig and music isn’t my only form of journalism to which I draw upon lived experience. I can prepare for, and cope with, people getting high and tipsy around me when we’re all there for music because I’ve come to be comfortable around music, regardless of the environment it’s being performed in. When there are free beer tickets offered, I give them away. But when the music’s over and it’s after-party time, more about the booze and drugs, I go home.  

Click to listen or download our interviews with Michael Bryant and Lucy Di Santo as well as teasers for Episode 42: No God No Problem, Accommodating the Growing Demand for Secular 12-Step Facilitation. This was a presentation I put on at NAADAC 2018 (Annual Conference of Treatment Professionals) in October. You and I will chat next episode about the timely role secular AA plays in a professional environment of more inclusive ethical standards, a search for better outcomes and best practices and... how to avoid legal jeopardy suffered on facilities with outdated practices. AA may have once been the lone last-house-on-the-block. Today, we have neighbors: Women For Sobriety, SOS, Refuge Recovery, SMART Recovery, Life Ring. Still, AA is ubiquitous and secular AA meeting make up a growing subculture and thus, are another helpful arrow in addiction treatment quiver. 

[i] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/18/cisco-ceo-chuck-robbins-sent-employees-emails-about-mental-illness.html

Visit Rebellion Dogs Reading Room for links to Michael Bryant's books HERE

Acid Test The Band, The Music Click HERE

The Interrupters "She's Kerosene" + More HERE

See Lucy's story on YouTube

Hear the interview with Michael Bryant on CBC Metro Morning

IndieWeek (Canada) Indie 101 Conference Schedule

Edgewood/Bellwood Health Services

NAADAC and Rendezvous With Madness brings two songwriters, two therapists and one artist/photographer to Episode 40  

Rebellion Dogs Radio, a contemporary look at addiction, recovery and mental health – Episode 40 is a cross-border mental-health and addiction/recovery trip, from NAADAC (The Association for Addiction Professionals) October 5-9, 2018 in Houston Texas to Rendezvous With Madness addiction & mental-health film and art festival in Toronto, Canada October 10-21, 2018. Today's adventure is as told by two songwriters, two therapists and one photographer - a story of lilved experience of moms, dads, addiction, mental-health, recovery, treatment and art. I know, it's a lot for one show. It will all be clear in the interview with Dr. Laura.

In order of appearance: 

Catherine MacLellan singer/songwriter is @ Ted Rogers Hot Docs Cinema on World Health Organization's International Mental Health Awareness Day, for the #RWMFest 2018, we saw the  premier of The Song and the Sorrow. This documentary looks at the life of Catherine’s father, award-winning songwriter whose songs have been sung by Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Joan Baez, Ann Murray and at least 96 other performers.

“People ask me to perform his music;” daughter, Catherine MacLellan says in the documentary, “but I’ve been processing his suicide and I didn’t feel ready.” But on this day, producer/director Millefiore Clarkes and Catherine MacLellan shared the film that chronicles Catherine’s search for answers about her fathers and her own depression. 

Dr. Laura Walsh presented in Houston at this year’s NAADAC Annual Conference about A.D.H.D.  and addiction, two troubling conditions that, when comorbidity presents itself in a client, exacerbates the need for care and the challenges of treatment. Let's just say I sometimes share a wee bit of lived-experience about these things... so does Dr. Laura.

Letter to My Mother is a visual and literary body of work created by artist Branislav Jankic that seeks to raise awareness of and change the conversation around addiction, lifting the stigma and create an international support system for those suffering from substance use disorders. When the artist’s mother, a former prescription drug and alcohol addict, was diagnosed with lung cancer in November 2012, Jankic, who had experienced his own struggles with addiction throughout his teenage years, began writing a letter to his mother expressing his regrets for their dismantled relationship and his misunderstanding of her struggles, hoping to show both love and forgiveness. What came from this was a photo-exhibit, a book and a film, all of which were featured at NAADAC 2018 and we share our one-on-one with Branislav. 

The new CEO and president of Women for Sobriety, Adrienne Miller is our guest, this episode, too. Women for Sobriety was founded by Dr. Jean Kirkpatrick in the 1970s, as Dr. Kirkpatrick saw that women’s needs in recovery over addiction were different than what men need. Adrienne Miller picks up the reins of stewardship and Joe C and Adrienne talk about new duties and talk about this year’s NAADAC Conference. 

The life of this year’s NAADAC party was singer-songwriter John McAndrew who is the Recovery Music Specialist at Cumberland Heights in Nashville Tennessee – which offers both in and out patient drug and alcohol treatment. John presented about the brain, music and recovery, did some singing and got the whole audience singing as demonstration of the relationship between music and wellness. 

We will also enjoy the music of both Catherine MacLellan and John McAndrew in Episode #40, too – all in less than an hour, so hold on tight. 


Letter to My Mother - A short-film was viewed on the Saturday night of NAADAC called, Letter To My Mother. Shot during the first photo exhibition of the project in New York in June of 2016. Following its screening to us in Houston, artist Branislav Jankic, producer Goran Macura, Ben Levenson of the Levenson Foundation, and Sherri Layton, a pioneer who’s worked in treatment since 1977 and along with other hats, works on policy, advocacy and leadership.IndieCan Radio The film and the panel sparked a heartfelt post-viewing discussion. Mothers photographed in the project were in attendance, and they shared, too. This touching exhibit was a large part of why I set my sights on coming to Houston. I had the good fortune to chat one-on-one with Branislav Jankic 

CLICK below for links...


Women For Sobriety

The 2017 If It's Alright with You - The songs of Gene MacLellan performed by Catherine MacLellan + other Catherine MacLellan music

John McAndrew Music

John McAndrew The Ties that Bind



See the movie trailer: The Song And The Sorrow

The Song and the Sorrow opened the 26th annual Rendezvous With Madness, a film and art festival devoted to addiction and mental health. Workman Art’s Bruised Years Choir, a collective of singers with addiction/mental health lived-experience, opened the night with a couple of songs at the Hot Docs Cinema on Bloor W in Midtown Toronto. The documentary played,  The film’s producer/director Millefiore Clarkes and Catherine MacLellan were on hand to talk about the film and field questions, Catherine played a few songs from her and her dad’s collection. Then I had a chance to talk to Catherine MacLellan for IndieCan Radio.

Mining, utilizing and sharing Recovery Capital - Rebellion Dogs Radio # 39  

September 13thand 14th, Recovery Capital Conference.

Recovery: A return to a normal state of health, mind or strength; the action or process or regaining possession or control of something lost. 

Capital: Wealth or other assets possessed by a person or available to contribute to a particular purpose. 

We spend some of Rebellion Dogs Radio show understanding Recovery Capital by talking with organizers and presenters of Recovery Capital Conference, Canada. Science and research on one side, anecdotal wisdom from lived experience on the other side - are these oppositional forces?

Not according to Rebecca Jesseman, Director of Policy at the Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction and not according to Gord Gardner, Executive Director of Community Addictions Peer Support Association; different styles, yes, different goals, no. Dr. John Kelly, Elizabeth R. Spallin Associate Professor of Psychiatry in Addiction Medicine at Harvard University presents recent research that suggests some folk-know-how is now corroborated as evidence-based practices. Some will say, "I knew it!" Others, "You don't say?". Read, listen and/or join the conversation. Emerging research supports the concept that Recovery-Oriented Systems of Care demonstrate improved mental and physical health, improved quality of life, pro-social behavior, and a dramatic reduction in human and financial cost to the community.

Rebellion Dogs was "in the house" for the annual ICOAA Seminar, a mulit-day workshop where AA Intergroups and Central Offices share ideas. This year, Montreal was the host. Area 87 runs the Greater Montreal Area central office. We have a look at some new AA literature produced by Montreal Quebec’s Area 87 and we unpack some common myths about Intergroups and their place in AA service. 

Along with radio show #39, visit AA Agnostica for a review of this year’s Recovery Capital Conference, September 13th and 14th at The Carlu in downtown Toronto, Canada. As a preview, we heard from: 

Dr. Manuel Cardoso, Deputy General – Director of SICAD Decriminalization and Portugal Public Health Policy (pictured below)

Ann Dowsett Johnston, author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol (pictured above Building Resilience with Recovery Capital with Betty-Lou Kristy, Tristan Johnson and Habib Hass).

Dr. Julian M. Somers, Simon Fraser University, presentation on Recovery Capital: When Wealth and Poverty Have the Same Price. 

Dr. J Kelly, Harvard Dr. John Kelly –Professor of Psychiatry in Addiction Medicine at Harvard University 

Arthur C. Evans, Jr., PhD, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice President, American Psychological Association 

Building Recovery Capital: Mining, Defining and Utilizing with co-presenters: Gord Garner. Executive Director, Community Addictions Peer Support Association and Rebecca Jesseman, Director of Policy Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. 

All about Recovery Coaching with Dr. Ray Baker, MD, Consultant in Recovery Medicine 

Workplace Wellness with Christine Burych, President of Starling Brook Leadership 

Yoga and Mindfulness breaks with Evonne Sullivan 

Hamish White + Dr. Michele Pole on An Integrated Treatment Model for Addiction and Trauma/PTSD 

Addiction, Recovery and Youth with Dr. Emily A. Hennessy, Vanderbilt University, Angie Hamilton of Families for Addiction Recovery and Kristen K. Harper, Executive Director for the Association of Recovery Schools.

Dr. Jean-Pierre Chiasson, founder and Medical Director, Nouveau Depart, EHN Canada 

Dr. Brian Rush, PhD, Scientist Emeritus, CAMH and Principal, VIRGO Planning and Evaluation Consultants Inc.


AA Agnostica Coverage (Click here to read, download and/or have your say)

A short segment of Dr. Evan on Philidelphia - a case study HERE

More about Recovery Capital Conference of Canada

Dr. William Miller from Vancouver 2018 Motivational Interviewing & Recovery Capital (one hour)