My Simple and Secular AA Program

A few years ago, after concluding that I’m an atheist, I started to think about my experience in Alcoholics Anonymous and how I would approach the program going forward. Line by line, I went through the Big Book with a black magic marker, redacting all references to a god or other supernatural phenomena. As I did this, I realized that the religious language in the book was irrelevant to the practical action of the Steps, and it was evident to me that what I do is far more important than what I believe.

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Looking back I see patterns and themes. Though these four poems form an arc about emotional storms and my relationship to rage, they come to a place of awareness, acceptance and peace that I find in recovery. They Individually were written months and sometimes years apart. Bearing witness to the extremes of recent flooding near my home and prompted by watching Hurricane Florence unfold, I rediscovered these and humbly share them with you. 

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Alcoholics Anonymous Dogged by Dogma and Argument

“Hi, I’m John, welcome” a kind man said to me as he extended his hand in friendship. Instinctively I responded in kind, saying “I’m PJ” extending my hand in turn to receive a very warm handshake. For the next hour and a half, I sat and listened to alcoholics share their stories in a general way to disclose what they used to be like, what happened and what they are like now. John came up to me at the end of the meeting and simply said “Whatever happens, try not to pick up the first drink and come back to another meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous”.

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Recovery Through Poetry

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My writing seeks to let readers take what they need and leave the rest, to share my awareness as unfiltered as I can, to avoid telling the whole story and just focus on as much of the purity of my awareness as I can, to leave insight and clarity to the reader. I began writing poetry when I was newly sober. I think that it grew from three primary motivations: 1)to be with raw and painful feelings that until getting sober, I was able to numb or avoid by drinking alcohol,2) to create a bridge between science and spirituality, 3)to explore how I am in the universe.

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Monkey Mind and Beginner Mind

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Long before I got sober, in fact, long before I had alcohol use disorder, I fancied myself Buddhist because I meditated a few times, a week to relax and I had The Art of Happiness, by the Dalai Lama. I knew about four noble truths and the eight-fold path. When I was first trying to get sober, Buddhism, especially the eight-fold path seemed like it might be a way for me to take ‘the steps’ to get and to stay sober.

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