A little something different for weekly discussions…

Instead of doing our normal Beyond Belief inspired discussion, I’d love to hear from readers out there what they get out of secular sobriety and secular AA.

Some questions to consider:

  • Have you been to traditional meetings? If so, for how long?
  • What role has secular AA played in your sobriety?
  • What does secular sobriety mean to you?
  • What does recovery without theism look like to you?

I would love to hear your thoughts!

Loving and Being Loved

Welcome to our discussion based on Joe C.’s Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. We post choice quotes from the daily reading, as well as the discussion questions, and encourage you to think on it and respond in the comments. Please keep our community guidelines in mind while commenting.

Solitude is a lifestyle choice; isolation is a defense…Isolation occurs when human connection feels impossible. Foisting ourselves onto others to have our needs met is no solution to this problem.

…There is no step in the Twelve Steps on domestic or romantic bliss. Being able to play nice is one of the secondary benefits of recovery. Step Eight reveals how we are, in part, the architects of our own romantic misfortune. Forgiving ourselves and forgiving others opens the door to harmony in a relationship or in solitude. In Step Nine we express the regret we uncover for how our needs made us selfish, manipulative and cruel. Our pain and our hunger are not excuses. We aren’t negotiating forgiveness. We are coming clean and acknowledging the harm we have done.

Discussion questions

  • Do the lyrics, “come to your senses…let somebody love you, before it’s too late,” resonate with me?

Heroism and Our Values in Recovery

Welcome to our discussion based on Joe C.’s Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. We post choice quotes from the daily reading, as well as the discussion questions, and encourage you to think on it and respond in the comments. Please keep our community guidelines in mind while commenting.

“The hero is the one who comes to participate in life courageously and decently, in the way of nature, not in the way of personal rancor, disappointment or revenge.”

-Joseph Campbell

…Much of the fight to recover involves our own internal struggles–rewiring programmed messages about what was demanded and/or forbidden. Wrestling our demons doesn’t make us heroes. We have to fight decently, with no personal rancor or revenge.

Do we confuse having chips on our shoulders with being heroic? Are we clamoring for attention or control? Are we overcompensating for negative self-images? Are we playing the roles of martyrs, rescuers or saviors? In our addictions, we raped, plundered and pillaged, calling it taking our comfort. Are we now the keepers of our brothers and sisters? We must always be mindful of our intentions. Even if we want to be good in the world and make up for our parasitical pasts, we think about Campbell’s quote to ensure that what we might see as “heroic” is truly decent.

Discussion questions

  • What would I like to be remembered for?
  • What do I admire most in others?
  • Who are my heroes and why?

What Does Recovery Offer Alcoholics and Addicts?

Welcome to our discussion based on Joe C.’s Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. We post choice quotes from the daily reading, as well as the discussion questions, and encourage you to think on it and respond in the comments. Please keep our community guidelines in mind while commenting.

We move from the “evil” of addiction, clear the wreckage of the past and live in the light–nice! Who wouldn’t want to leave it at that? We put on sunglasses and bask in recovery’s peace and happiness, not regretting the past nor wishing to shut the door on it–sweet!

Some of us don’t know much about that. Why? We are seekers, and when we find peace, we just can’t stop seeking; we seek truth, not pleasure, and as we peel away layers we discover it’s not all pretty underneath. Some of us will get shit on. Cornered and blindsided, our happy, joyous and free passes are snatched away without consent. We did not sign up for more abuse. But if we are faced with evil and find the courage to move forward, we may find (or create) meaning from suffering. Dignity and integrity constantly get tested. There may be no end in sight but we will make it through, gradually. At some point, we will be asked to show up for a loved one facing some kind of unthinkable evil. A problem shared is a problem halved. Good listeners can bear witness to great truths, too.

Discussion questions

  • Do I know that recovery promises a life–not a good one or an easy one–but one to make my own?

The Roles We Play and Finding Purpose

Welcome to our discussion based on Joe C.’s Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. We post choice quotes from the daily reading, as well as the discussion questions, and encourage you to think on it and respond in the comments. Please keep our community guidelines in mind while commenting.

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid.”

-Marcus Aurelius (121-180)

Our man Marc would be called an apatheist today. Proof that God is either a myth or a reality would not change his deeds or behavior. Apathetic to the answer, he lived righteously. If the big question is irrelevant, why spend so much time on it?

…Psychologists suggest that a sense of purpose or self-worth comes from feeling we add value to a world of meaning. More than economic or social stature, a purpose enhances our self-esteem. Life-scripts and role play come with built-in definitions. Transactional Analysis scripts like persecutor (disciplinarian), victim and rescuer are interchangeable roles that most of us act out at home, school, work and in meetings. Taking inventory of the hats we wear and the triggers and rationalizations that support these roles enhances self-awareness.

Discussion questions

  • “What am I doing here?”
  • Looking at the script I follow today, to what extent is my life determined by environment or habits?
  • Do I feel trapped by my social caste, or free to do as I please?

The Roles We Play and the Sober Identity Crisis

Welcome to our discussion based on Joe C.’s Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. We post choice quotes from the daily reading, as well as the discussion questions, and encourage you to think on it and respond in the comments. Please keep our community guidelines in mind while commenting.

“Because I’m not perfect looking, I get to play better roles.”

-Juliette Lewis

For seekers, the following three questions have philosophical and psychological relevance: Who am I? What am I doing here? Who are tehse others? In recovery, we reassess these three pivotal questions about our identities.

…We have life-scripts that we follow for cues. Some roles were crafted by directors we worked under in childhood. In adolescence, we began to craft our own identities, taking over the roles of writer, director and actor. We craft roles and scripts for those around us, too. We have an idea of how they should be fitting in. In finding or forging our roles in life we try to answer these three nagging questions about identity, purpose and how we interact within our setting.

Role models have a lasting impact on us too. We see ourselves as autonomous decision makers and that is partly true. Parents will consciously resist the scripts imposed by previous generations, but it is hard work not to react to what we lived. Some actions/reactions happen like muscular reflexes. We are slaves to some persistent life-scripts that prompt our reactions before free will is in play. It’s like we are in character even when we are off the set.

Discussion questions

  • Am I in the midst of an identity crisis, or do I know who I am, what my role is and where and how I fit in?

What is an Addict’s “Natural” State?

Welcome to our discussion based on Joe C.’s Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. We post choice quotes from the daily reading, as well as the discussion questions, and encourage you to think on it and respond in the comments. Please keep our community guidelines in mind while commenting.

“Being healthy is a natural state and the means for achieving it is in the grasp of each one of us. I believe that a judicious mixture of hard work, clear thinking, humor and self-confidence are the ingredients of effective living.”

Your Erroneous Zone, by Dr. Wayne Dyer

…Restless, irritable, discontented–isn’t this the natural state of an addict’s mental health? If there was only one promise it might be that working the Twelve Steps will make us less miserable. Positive Psychology moves away from dysfunction to focus on accentuating our positive, functional selves. Dyer’s book and concepts inadvertently describe the value of working the program. Hard-working, clear-thinking, humorous and self-confident–are these not the qualities of those who we admire?

Discussion questions

  • Is mental and physical health a natural state for me?
  • If not, do I see how it can be cultivated?

 

Alcoholics Anonymous or Curmudgeons Anonymous? On Being Happy With The Now

Welcome to our discussion based on Joe C.’s Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. We post choice quotes from the daily reading, as well as the discussion questions, and encourage you to think on it and respond in the comments. Please keep our community guidelines in mind while commenting.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

-Vivian Greene

….”If only” this, “if only” that. Bitch, bitch, bitch! Sometimes our moods are such that we could brighten up a whole room–by leaving it…”If only” is a copout if it stands between us and the start of a spiritual (or some would say natural) journey. Our lives are here and now. We are good enough right now, the world is far enough and we have enough to get by for today.

Perfectionism is customary among addicts. There is a Twelve Step trap some addicts fall into: approval and the need for it. We will overcompensate, we will act as if, we will set unrealistic goals and we will feel ashamed for not meeting them. A thirst for approval interferes with our abilities to accept life as it is. It gets worse with time if we fancy ourselves powers of example.

…Unconditional self-approval can start now. We are imperfect. Life is chaotic. The future is uncertain. This is here, this is now and this is as good as it gets.

Discussion questions

  • Can I see myself being happy no matter what the circumstances?

Sacrificing Relief for the Right Action

Welcome to our discussion based on Joe C.’s Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. We post choice quotes from the daily reading, as well as the discussion questions, and encourage you to think on it and respond in the comments. Please keep our community guidelines in mind while commenting.

Being right, or seeking oblivion, comfort or numbness, as we learned in Step One, can be obsessions that form a power greater than us. Many of us planned on stopping tomorrow, or being good tomorrow. But when the rubber hit the road we clung to the familiar, sought relief and put off the right action for another day.

Discussion questions

  • Do I put people, places and things in front of being good for goodness’s sake?
  • Is being good more righteous than getting good rewards?