Freethinkers Meetings in Austin, Texas
-Tuesday 8:00 p.m. Open Discussion
617 Clifford Drive
Austin, TX 78745
Children of Chaos
- Monday Noon: Big Book Study
- Tuesday Noon Literature Study
- Wednesday Noon: AA Literature
- Thursday Noon Beginners
- Friday Noon Open Discussion
Austin Galano Club
6809 N. Guadalupe
Austin, TX 78752
Contact: Nick H. 512-577-2509
Austin Galano Club -
Austin, TX 787522
From page 166-167 of the book AA Comes of Age, published in 1957, Bill Wilson describes a scene that took place in early 1939 in which early members of New York AA, after reviewing the multilith draft printing of what would eventually become our Big Book; beat out the compromises that were made in writing the steps:
Just before the manuscript was finished an event of great significance for our future took place. At the time it looked like just another battle over the book. The scene was Henry’s (Pankhurst) office in Newark, where most of the writing had been done. Present were Fitz (Mayo), Henry, or grand little secretary Ruth (Hock), and myself. We were still arguing about the Twelve Steps. At this time I had refused to budge on the steps. I would not change a word of the original draft, in which, you will remember, I had consistently used the word “God,” and in one place the expression “on our knees” was used. Praying to God on one’s knees was still a big affront to Henry. He argued, he begged, he threatened. He quoted Jimmy (Burwell) to back him up. He was positive we would scare off alcoholics by the thousands when they red those Twelve Steps. Little by little both Fitz and Ruth came to see merit in his contentions. Though at first I would have none of it, we finally began to talk about the possibility of compromise. Who first suggested the actual compromise words I do not know [usually attributed to Jim Burwell] but they are words well known throughout the length and breadth of A.A. today: In Step Two we decided to describe God as a “Power greater than ourselves.” In steps Three and Eleven we inserted the words “God as we understood him.” From Step seven we deleted the expression “on our knees.” And, as a lead-in sentence to all the steps we wrote these words: “Here are the steps we took which are suggested as a Program of Recovery.” A.A.’s Twelve Steps were to be suggestions only.
Such were the final concessions to those of little or no faith; this was the great contribution of our atheists and agnostics. They had widened our gateway so that all who suffer might pass through, regardless of their belief or lack of belief.
FreeThinkers Story http://www.aamolly.org.uk/free.htm
A Freethinker in AA
When the "Brown Bag Lunch" had been replaced by the "Two Martini Lunch" there was little
thought about the problems ahead. Soon thereafter a glass or two of wine came with the noon
meal. Of course there was that Cognac to finish off a nice lunch. Not long thereafter a great
discovery was made, it was called "Happy Hour" where my "Lunch Bunch" could get together
and discuss, in a more enlightened environment, our business dealings of the day. Pretty soon
we found a new place for lunch which had the added advantage of starting "Happy Hour" a 2 pm.
Needless to say, this was appended to the lunch hour on many occasions. Of course our old
hangout had "Happy Hour" from 5 to 7 pm which your could not neglect. Work was deferred for
another time, like Saturday or Sunday morning, which had an added advantage. When managers
would on occasion show up, seeing us hard at work, they came to the conclusion that our work
load was excessive. Hello good life!
After numerous years, this lifestyle started to influence not only my quality of work, but also my
health. I came to realise that something was just not right and I had this sneaking suspicion that
it may have something to do with alcohol. A memo to all employees addressing alcohol or
substance abuse and offering help was published about that time. So at one of our lunches, I
broached this subject. After a lengthy discussion, the consensus that this was an attempt by our
organization to identify substance abusers and alcoholics. Those requesting help would constitute
a reserve pool of employees which could be the first terminated, should downsizing become a
reality. It certainly made a lot of sense to me and any attempt to find help was promptly disbanded
and the "Good Life" continued.
A few years later, I met an old friend and after the normal lunch, asked me if I had a problem with
alcohol, which I somehow admitted to. He told me to give AA a try and the subject was dropped.
I had absolutely no idea what AA was all about nor how to contact them. I knew that they sent
drunk drivers there and I also knew that they continued to drink. Thus the rational conclusion:
They teach you how to drink without getting drunk all the time!
Anyway, it was the holiday season and you just have to wait until it’s the next year. Then it was
the Super Bowl and finally there were no more excuses except how to find AA. Now where can
I find an alcoholic? A bar of course! Since my old hangout had nobody going to AA, I hit the other
bars in town, which was also more desirable, since nobody there knew me. Two weeks and having
been asked to leave several of these establishments for bothering the paying customers with AA
questions later, I found someone that was attending AA meetings, courtesy of some idiot judge.
While driving to the meeting place alone, I worried about how I could get into the meeting in case
my friend did not show up. What if I don't know someone there? KNOW SOMEONE THERE!!
PANIC!! What will he think of me! Well, he did not show, but some kindly soul took me inside and
told me a bit about himself. We had both worked overseas in several places, but at different times
and had several mutual acquaintances. It did make me feel a bit more at ease, however he left at
the break and I was on my own.
There was a speaker and he told some story about drinking that rang familiar and then some
prayer was said and I returned home promising myself to return. My sobriety lasted four days,
then stayed dry for the next meeting. This time I understood very little, except that they read the
same thing out of a book, that I had heard the week earlier, how dumb. This was repeated the
following week, however a new secretary announced anniversaries as " having had his/her last
drink on .....". Say Hey, what is this, they don't actually mean "abstinence?" A very nice old
gentleman answered this question with a look I imagine he would give and extra terrestrial.
YES, absolute abstinence it was, and lo and behold there were other meeting places within
the Greater LA Area! The "Good Life" had certainly come to an end.
The local AA clubhouse, a small converted residence, was only a few blocks away and after
several tries in finding it, finally succeeded, attending a "Beginners Meeting". I truly loved the
place, windows thick with smoke that billowed all around me, 40w lights that barely illuminated
the room and a corner where the guy at the lectern could not see me. A big hand tapped me on
the shoulder, welcomed me and told me that I wouldn't have to ever drink again (what the hell
does he know). After the meeting I was cajoled into going to the local coffee shop, where boxed
in by other members I heard about an hours worth of AA until faking a trip to the mens room,
I escaped. My regular bar was just down the street so there I went to recover. The bartender,
a dear friend of mine, asked me where I had been for the past few weeks, and I told her. So she
refused to serve me but gave me an ice tea. My drinking buddies were there, but for some
strange reason their normal, highly intellectual conversation, had deteriorated somewhat
during my two week absence. I had this distinct feeling that they were ignoring me purposely.
The hell with them, who needs them anyway. And I didn't drink. For thirty days I sat in my little
corner and listened, came back the next night and repeated the process. Participation, why?
I have nothing to offer. Sponsor, how? All they talked about is Higher Power (God), Big Book,
yes I bought one, even had a chapter devoted to Agnostics. But the guy who wrote that sure
didn't know anything about Freethinkers and Free Religion. The book did serve a purpose,
reading just a few paragraphs cured my insomnia.
And then the Steps. Okay, so I'm an alcoholic, but hell I'm managing my life ok, didn't I have a
great job with decent income and my real estate holdings were managed quite well by me, the
tenants were paying their rent, weren't they.
Forget about the next step until my life has become unmanageable. Then I'll complete that first
step. By the end of the third month, the fog had cleared a bit and with that came the problems.
I had, in my first month of sobriety, taken down the old bicycle and was riding it to work and back
after a short training period. This had given me much time for thought about AA and my place in it.
The conclusion: AA is a program which is highly religious, didn't they say a prayer before and at
the end of the meeting? The constant GOD and HP talk was driving me crazy and looking at the
rest of the steps, it was sure to get worse. But I was about to take a long vacation in Europe and
would check out how meetings were conducted there, surely they are more humanistic and
therefore more tolerant with the non-believer.
The flight was a nightmare, first a five hour delay at the airport, the bar looked inviting. Shortly
after takeoff the pilot announces that the delay was due to a bomb scare, but assured us that
no bomb was found after a thorough search. And the booze cart had already passed by me;
so I didn't drink and stayed sober.
With my cousins help we located a meeting in the nearby town on the following Sunday, two long,
long days away. The wait was almost intolerable, and when the time came, I found the town totally
blocked off to all vehicle traffic due to a parade. So I walked, only to be denied again when I could
not cross the last street because of this damned parade. By the time I got there, the meeting was
over but the schedule showed a meeting the next evening. Somehow I felt relieved, and I didn't
drink. The meeting was a bit different, it was what we could identify, typical German. The
introduction was followed by a minute of silence (by stopwatch!). Election for officers were
discussed, there was an actual hierarchy. Cleanup detail for the newcomers, a year sobriety
for the coffee maker, two years to bring the mineral water, three year for secretary, four years
for treasurer and five years for GSR/CSR. There was no break and the meeting adjourned over
three hours later, when everyone had a time to share. Sharing was like most meetings, problems
with the neighbor, drinking, the boss, sobriety, the husband, the wife, sobriety, god, hp...etc.
Then they closed with the Serenity prayer (I use the condensed version-- accept
the things I cannot change--). It felt good and I didn't drink.
On my return, an AA friend mentioned that there are Agnostic meetings in the area. No opening
nor closing prayers, no reading and praising the Big Book except for Appendix II. But there was
also a big disappointment, it was an Atheist/Agnostic meeting. Very little talk about drinking,
sobriety and solutions to the problem with booze, lots of talk on God and HP from an atheists
point of view. So I better look somewhere else and this was called SOS. This did not vary much
from the Agnostic meeting, except hat the emphasis was on getting that court card signed, the
police and courts just don't understand, the sobriety test was not performed correctly and on
and on. Back to AA, but now I found a small meeting where everyone had to participate, even
if it was just "I pass". There were many , what I considered "Old Timers" (over a few years
sobriety)! Hardly any talk of HP and god, but lots of tolerance and acceptance
Another 6 months later an acquaintance with views similar to mine told me of another Agnostic
meeting which he guaranteed me was more acceptable, and it was. Actually it was great, the
lights were dimmed to near darkness. At times it reminded me of a seance, with the voices of
those sharing coming out of the dark. This in turn led me to other Agnostic meetings which I
attended "religiously"<pi>. I finally asked someone with lengthy sobriety to be my sponsor.
Sponsor, NO, he replied, friend YES. If there is one single thing I will always remember was that
after telling him about some resentment I felt because so-and-so said this-and-that to me he
responded: "It is his/her problem NOT yours". Translated it means acceptance and tolerance.
I found and collected, in AA approved literature, many stories and articles of how to stay sober
without the judeo-christian intonations, even steps a hard-core atheist could learn to live by.
IMHO an atheist, agnostic or plain non-believer has a much better chance of staying sober in
AA, he can not rely on prayer and a belief in rescue by some supernatural force, he has to
take the actions required to overcome adversity.
Being elected by my meeting to serve as GSR, I was always happy to introduce myself " My name
is "xxxxx", I represent the Monday night AA meeting We Agnostics of ......". At the beginning
there were some that appeared shocked, but they accepted me and I stayed sober. Sorry to say,
the meeting was disbanded when the church, in financial difficulties, had to rent the room at a
higher fee than we could afford.
I had to visit regular AA meetings during this time, having learned to take what I could use
and reject the rest. When asked to speak, I am always happy to oblige. My "pitch" touches
lightly on the drinking days, hell everyone has gone thru some phase of it, so why waste the
time. I try to keep the focus on honesty, open-mindedness, tolerance and acceptance in
recovery. Always mention my lack of belief in a HP or god, if only to show that it is not mutually
exclusive in leading to recovery and a sober and productive life.
Appendix II of the "Big Book" is my favourite. I do not wish to quote it here since it may infringe
on its Copyright, but the quote below, I believe, may be used.
"There is a principle, which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all
arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance--that principle
is contempt prior to investigation"
- Attributed to Herbert Spencer-