Bruce’s Story: Atheists Can Recover Here

by Bree L.

When I first came to A.A., I was pretty desperate, and wanted to get out of my life. I’d been drinking steadily at my Tenderloin apartment and been kicked out of my third marriage with no friends or anyone else that cared. I had a bottle of sleeping pills ready if A.A. didn’t work: Plan B was suicide. I ended up at a Grab Bag meeting on Pierce and Clay, in the basement of a church in the children’s kindergarten.

I ended up at a Grab Bag meeting on Pierce and Clay

The idea of a Grab Bag is that everyone puts a piece of paper with a topic into a hat and then they choose one item as a topic for the evening. I put in the question, “What if you really don’t believe in God?” They took that idea and answered it nicely.

Here were these people I’d never met, people from my neighborhood and my thought was, “I belong here.” When the meeting ended a bunch of folks came over and surrounded me with welcoming words. They said it was a disease and although I’d been drinking for 40 years, I’d never realized this. I took the pamphlets and as I walked out of the church, the sky was bluer, the grass greener and the words in my head said, “I don’t ever have to drink again.” My sobriety date is July 4, 1986.

I put in the question, “What if you really don’t believe in God?”

I was working for the State of California and found meetings before going to work, then one at noon and another later another into the evening. I made friends, got to know people and discovered a whole new community. Eventually I moved out of the Tenderloin to Park Merced and attended meetings along Brotherhood Way at my new location. 

My sponsor recommended that I get into service quickly and I did. Mostly, I was active in neighborhood meetings, but I also joined the Public Information Service Committee. This meant going out to different places and talking about A.A. to people who didn’t know about our program. This is not leading meetings but sharing what A.A. meant for me. I continued, with this whole time my whole time in San Francisco.

Photo credits available upon request to thepoint@aasfmarin.org

Right after I came into the program, at three years sober, I saw a flyer that invited members to have a meeting with people from Russia. A fellow from Russia had a connection with the Russians and we had simultaneous meetings with members in Russia. Then I ended up going directly to Russia nine times. This entailed going across 11 time zones to carry the message. Another time we took the program to China and then to Cuba. In Cuba there were six interested members, but they eventually went out. Miraculously, the program survived and the last time I went to Cuba, there were 300 meetings and more than 3000 members. Last January I moved from San Francisco to be closer to my daughter after my cardiologist told me I was going to die. Thus far I’ve been doing just fine and feeling better than ever.

My daughter wrote me a note that said, “Atheists can recover.”

I knew I had been an atheist all my life. I eased myself out of a job as a clergyman in the Episcopal Church because I didn’t believe what I was teaching. At one point my daughter wrote me a note that said, “Atheists can recover.” I fully agree and found with a bit of revision and the 11th step, I could stay sober and still be an atheist. That has been my belief over the years and it’s been a full and wonderful life.

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