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 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. 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 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. 

Up next; William Shaberg has written The Writing of the Big Book: The Birth of Alcoholics Anonymous. It was 11 years of research about what early AA was like, from 1937 when the book was floated as an idea until April 1929 when it was printed. There will be some folklore challenging and myth-busting as Bill goes through with us, his process of testing all those stories we’ve heard and told – and sometimes told from the source – and how these “stories” measure up to contemporaneous data by way of letters in archives, Lois’s diary, etc. It’s a scholarly look, something that hasn’t been done about early AA since Ernie Kurtz gave us Not God: The History of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1979. After listening to this week’s Rebellion Dogs Radio, click on the hyperlink above to sample a chapter of Writing of the Big Book. 


Find out more: 

William White Papers 

Lily Frost music 

Recovery Capital Conference 





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 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:

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 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)



[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 



[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:

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, "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 (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. 


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)


The Recoverying with Leslie Jamison on Episode 38  

This is Episode 38. Leslie Jamison is our featured guest. Touring her latest book, The Recovering, I got a chance to talk to her in the lobby of the King Edward Hotel. Se was in Toronto June 2nd, for the In Her Voice Festival hosted by Ben McNally Books. In this show, we’ll listen to that interview I had with Leslie Jamison about The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath[i]. 

We are focusing on the question, "Is booze the muse? Or, will I find creativity in sobriety?" Americana literature and the  drunkard storyteller(s) is our setting which includes Leslie Jamison’s own what it was like - what happened - what it’s like now. Who among us didn’t fear that without our drug of choice we would stand naked to the world, without our mojo? 

From Amazon “About the Author” … 

Leslie Jamison is the author of the essay collection The Empathy Exams, a New York Times bestseller, and the novel The Gin Closet, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Harper's, and the Oxford American, among others, and she is a columnist for the New York Times Book Review. She teaches at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with her family. 

We also explore the fear about stage fright and the inspiration for content-creation that entertainers suffer through in early sobriety—indie artists and legacy rockers, fine artists, comedians and, of course writers. We’ll talk to Lucy and Steve from Acid Test. If addiction is a family disease, then it’s a band disease too; this 90s buzz-band was interrupted, in part, by addiction. Acid Test's "Recovering" includes a new record, Just ‘Rite which we’ll share from to finish off the show. We’ll borrow from William White’s recent work and writer Jessica Lamb-Shapiro’s study of self-help America. 


My thumbs up for The Recovering is not universally felt. “This much-touted literary love letter to Alcoholics Anonymous is too moral in its argument for the superiority of the sober,” is how Rick Whitaker starts his review in The Guardian. We challenge some of The Guardians seemingly erroneous assumptions on our show. You can read the whole 2018 article HERE[ii] 

Maybe the problem for some critics is the blurring of genres. You’ll hear Leslie Jamison sharing about how some readers want more memoir and others want more historical journalism from her book.  Some readers protest that one ought not drift into the other lane; it’s distracting. Rebellion Dogs regulars remember how critics butchered, Drunk Mom: A Memoir (2014) by Jowita Bydlowska. You can do a "mumoir"; you can do a crash-and-burn drunkalogue. But don’t be candidly writing about waking from a blackout and not knowing where your panties or baby are.  That’s open season for righteous indignation. By the way, the 2014 Drunk Mom still has that new-car smell and is still a Rebellion Dogs top-dog-pick today, if you haven't read it already. 

Anhedonia: Loss of the capacity to experience pleasure. The inability to gain pleasure from normally pleasurable experiences. "Anhedonia" is derived from the Greek "a-" (without) "hedone" (pleasure, delight).[iii] 

Nikki Sealy in writes, “Anhedonia doesn't make addicts throw up, feel achy all over, or break out in a sweat. Instead, the condition makes addicts feel flat and unable to find any joy in life. The unchanging and perpetual feelings of depression can make them feel emotionally empty and somewhat lost in the world. Things that would normally make most people smile don’t have the same effect on people who are struggling with anhedonia – especially during early recovery”[iv] 

Graham Isador of (2017), “What happens when you finally stop drinking on stage?” Mark Maron (comedian), Drew Thomson of Single Mothers.[v] 

“On a recent episode of Marc Maron's WTF Podcast the comedian announced he had celebrated eighteen years sober. I decided to reach out and see what Maron thought was the main difference between when performing sober compared to when he was using. His email response was short and to the point: " I'm not hiding." 

Of Drew Thomson, lead singer or the band, Single Mothers, Isador was told, “Most of my accomplishments I've done while in a deep haze of booze. Drunk Drew. Drunk Drew started a band. Drunk Drew is on stage. It's Drunk Drew's band. I never gave sober Drew any credit. I was scared I couldn't do it sober. 

When I drank I thought I was filling a prescription …The booze keeps you thinking you need it.” Regarding sobriety, Thomson says, Oddly, I have almost zero stage fright now. I used to think, 'Oh no I haven't had enough to drink I don't want to go on,' but that's when I thought booze gave me some kind of superpower. I was under a spell. Now that the spell has lifted—I know I can play great sober or sick or tired—I don't really give a fuck now, just let me on the stage and I'll do my best. It's a personal choice. I have no problem at all being around people who are drinking, usually it just reminds me why I stopped.” 

Alice Cooper talked to Craig Furguson about the stage fright of early sobriety while they were on The Late Late Show in 2005[vi]. Alice was 23 years sober, looking back at his relationship with Whiskey and wondering at the time, “How could Alice be sober?” 

Stevie Ray Vaughn - Jim Washburn of the LA Times in 1988 about Eric Clapton’s 12-Step influence. "He'd been sober for a time when we first met, and I was drinking heavy," Vaughan said. "He didn't tell me what to do or not to do, he just looked at me drinking and said, 'Yeah, I guess sometimes you've got to go through that, don't you?' He knew I had to hit bottom myself before I could get up. And some of the things he told me turned out to be principles of the program I use now."[vii] 

Emilie Modaff is a songwriter, actor and produces the WBEZ podcast, Pleasure Town. In “Being A Sober Artist” for “Who would have thought that refraining from drinking myself into a blackout and snorting coke for breakfast would result in better quality work? Weird.”[viii] 

In Promise Land: My Journey Through America’s Self-Help Culture Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of Chicken Soup For The Soul, a best-seller that went from book, to brand(series) and then Tony-Robins-esque seminars on how to make a million dollars telling people what they want to hear. “As Americans, self-help reflects our core beliefs: self-reliance, social mobility, an endless ability to overcome obstacles, a fair and equal pursuit of success, and the inimitable proposition that every single human being wants and deserves a sack of cash.”[ix] 

The self-help genre yields over $10 Billion in the USA alone each year and the average Amazon indie author makes $100/year.[x] 

Lindsay Myers (Brain Blogger) “In addition to high revenues, self-help also has a high recidivism rate, with the most likely purchaser of a self-help book being the same person who purchased one already in the last 18 months.”[xi] 

William White (June 1, 2018 William White Papers), “Vague but passionate promises of a new approach always garner more hope than the known limitations of current efforts. And any industry that has attracted substantial financial capital will draw a subset of individuals and organizations who will sacrifice public health and safety for personal and corporate profit… Aware of such risks, most fields develop standards of organizational and professional practice that maximize effectiveness and elevate ethical decision-making.”[xii]  

From IndieCan Radio (SiriusXM) interview with a band who has opened for Nine Inch Nails, 54-40, Snow, Acid Test’s Jus’ Rite[xiii]. 

Thanks for being part of Rebellion Dogs Radio. Feel free to re-post, download or email this show as you see fit. 














Drunk Mom: A Memoir AMAZON link

Tracy Chabala from TheFix on Rebellion Dogs Radio 37  

Our guest today is writer/journalist, from Los Angeles, Tracy Chabala a Technology, food and addiction/mental health writer, now working on an upcoming novel. We’ll talk about the craft of writing, the writing industry, some of the nuances of the addiction/recovery media world. Recently charged Tracy to write about researcher, Sarah E. Zemore et alia’s “A longitudinal study of the comparative efficacy of Women for Sobriety, LifeRing, SMART Recovery, and 12-step groups for those with AUD(Alcohol and other Drugs).” 

Much of the resistance to AA from people in treatment centers is the perceived religious or spiritual component and so AA effectiveness was compared to non-religious, spiritually benign or secular fellowships, that have formed to meet the need for secular peer-to-peer or mutual aid support. Who’s come up with a better modality to concur alcohol and other drug use disorder? Or does AA have something that yields better results today compared to these newer options? 

I’ll talk with Tracy for the bulk of our time together. First, here’s some up-dates on recent activities (March/April 2018) that I’ve been posting about on Rebellion Dogs social media… 

AA Road-warriors who “carrying the AA message” in various ways gathered in Sedona Arizona to talk about the future of AA. Attendees included circuit speakers, past delegates/trustees, GSO workers, treatment industry workers, AA historians, researchers and people working within the General Service Structure today. Sobriety varied from 11 years to 50 years, from all over America, from Iceland, Denmark and Canada. 

Discussion points included AA’s changing culture, the question about our literature being up to the task for future newcomers and what might be altered or improved, spirituality and social media. 

I was on an outreach trip for ICSAA 2018, in Toronto this August 24 – 26, the International Conference of Secular AA, formerly known as We Agnostics, Atheists & Freethinkers. 

Prior to the USA S/W outreach leg the host committee was in Toronto at the Ontario Regional Conference at the Area 83, Eastern Ontario International Assembly in Kingston and North Bay’s We Agnostics Group, 150 miles north of Toronto. Later this Month, it’s Alberta with meeting stops in St. Albert (near Edmonton) and Calgary Alberta.

The musical offering today is an LA pop-punk foursome called The Regrettes.


Notes & Links CLICK for links:

The FIx article:

The Regrettes band:

Photo credit: For (Sirius XM Radio) Wendy L. Rombough Photography

The Journal of Substance Abuse Therapy

Tracy Chabala on After Party Podcast with Anna and Danielle




Parallel Universes: Rebellions Dogs Radio36 with David B  

February 15, 2018 is the launch of a new memoir about addiction, about recovery called, Parallel Universe: The Story of Rebirth. Author David B. Bohl, like all of us, has an incredible personal adventure to share. Everyone confronts certain demanding existential questions: who am I, what am I doing here, who are these others? My personal sense of identity has been a prerequisite to sanity, integrity and a satisfying, purposeful life. 

“’Who’s my biological mother?’ I asked my adoptive mother as a child,” David recounts on page 16 of Parallel Universes

What are the catalysts to the life we lead, overachieving, underachieving, addiction or recovery? Duality and addiction and later duality and recovery are challenging dance-steps for any of us. How much more challenging is an integrated sense of identity if you’re adopted; if much of your pass is locked away in a filing cabinet in an office that you have no access to.

“Two Parallel Universes, two realities. I was marked for life, destined by my circumstances to have my perception warped from the get-go.” 

For anyone who's still waiting for a previously hinted about show, here's an update on the Ten-thousand Beyond Beliefs Blog: most of a show done about  our book, Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life was finished over a month ago. The episode recounts how it was conceived, written and some notable facts/stats upon reaching the 10,000 mark of paperbacks and eBooks now on people’s mobile devices, reading nooks and bedside tables. We reached that milestone in December. I’m going to do this story, as some of you have requested. It will include a few ideas to anyone else thinking they have a book in them. The problem is, like today, I have another book or another subject I want to talk about way more than my own efforts. There is a wealth of good books and stories going on.

Another writer, Anne Fletcher, needed help with addiction late last century. So, I would guess two things about her: First assumption: she may not have an executive-style health care benefit plan whereby no treatment cost is prohibitive. I’m a writer and I don’t have a fancy employer-sponsored health plan. Secondly, it’s natural that she might want to channel her lived experience into a narrative. That’s what writers do. From treating obese patients to penning, Thin for Life, Fletcher championed medicine, folk-wisdom and subjects held up as examples that she called masters of weight control.  Thin for Life comes from the consumer/lifestyle/wellness genre whose titles flirt with best-seller-ness often. Hers became its own franchise of follow up books that inspired and helped 100’s of thousands. Channeling the Thin for Life winning formula Anne M. Fletcher, found in her own life-challenge, a new project, the 2001, SOBER for Good

“Along the way I tried some of the conventional solutions for alcohol problems. Though I was impressed with how helpful AA was for others and I’d benefited from the support, I’d come home from a meeting feeling like the odd one out. My take-responsibility attitude—along with my tendency to challenge the status quo and want to do things my way—didn’t mesh with the program’s twelve-step philosophy. I wasn’t ‘in-denial.’ I was looking for help but felt I had nowhere to turn. So I crafted my own rather lonely path to resolving my troubles with alcohol, with the help of some open-minded therapists who did not demand that I become abstinent or that I attend a recovery group but respected my ability to make the decision to stop drinking and encouraged me to develop my own strategies to do so.”[i] 

SOBER for Good, went on to quote and interview people in long term recovery, provide a consumer guide and overview of the recovery world, with—or without—AA style peer-to-peer. In 2013, she followed up with Inside Rehab after doing more research. As a respected writer, she was invited to observe in and out-patient programs and she reported her findings from the campuses of Caron, Hazelden, Promises and other infamous facilities. 

I think it’s great that people investigate, criticize and report on addiction/recovery modalities. Skepticism isn’t cynicism. Yes, some find fault like there’s a reward for it; we know enough about recovery from addiction to separate the attention getting nay-sayers from sincere outcries to aid addicts seeking help.

And story-telling - be it alcoholic to alcoholic, eyeball to eyeball or print, documentary or social media accounts of experience, strengh and hope - is one of the best lessons learned from the 1939 Alcoholics Anonymous. Sharing our experience can empower others.

Similarly, to Anne Fletcher, and many of us, David wasn’t a by-the-book alcoholic that fit nicely into a by-the-book recovery.

First, David’s worldview didn’t fit the popular 12-Step recovery narrative of an intervening higher power that “could and would if He were sought.”

Secondly, imagine how one takes inventory or reconciles one’s past where “nurture” happened in an adoptive family home and “nature” is out of the reach of personal scrutiny? 

Today we’re going to hear from David, who is stepping up to share his story, his memoir, Parallel Universes: The Story of Rebirth. We’ve talked with other authors on this podcast and it never gets old. This one’s special for me because David is a friend of mine. I came to know him the same way I have come to know many of you, online at first and eventually in the rooms. David and I, and some of you, were among the 300 or so who attended the first Secular International gathering of AA in Santa Monica in 2014. Since then, I’ve been to meetings in his hometown and he’s been to meetings in mine. 

I loved David’s Parallel Universes. I sometimes take public transit and on my way to Toronto Intergroup, I was transported by the tale of David landing in India, an alcoholic on the run again. I missed my bus stop; I missed three of them. Four stops later I sufficiently snapped back to my universe and start my mile, or so walk back to my destination, in a Toronto winter. I didn't mind the unplanned walk at all. It's gave me time to think more about the book.

Just like in Anne Fletcher’s quote above, David didn’t feel right at home in AA either. He felt different because he was different; we’re all different. That’s something I trust Anne Fletcher found in her research… there is no universal solution but instead there are many paths and many absolutely fascinating stories to be shared.

If you don’t know David he as a Masters of Addiction Studies and he’s a member of the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC). I’ll let him tell you how that happened. Here’s David on the phone and me at my desk, talking about life and recovery and his new book, out now, called Parallel Universe: A Story of Rebirth.


UPDATE: ICSAA 2018, The International Conference of Secular AA in Toronto Hashtag #OnToToronto is six months away.

I happen to be your host-committee outreach coordinator. I’m working with Thomas, the outreach coordinator for the Secular AA board. I’m saying this because I am inviting you, if you are willing, to be a local liaison for your home group or the Agnostic/Atheist groups in your region. Send me your email and maybe a physical address too.

The site has meeting info but not always phone numbers, contact names, etc. So, I need people to get the word out at your own group and maybe your district table or your local intergroup. Not all of the secular AA community belong to atheist/agnostic/freethinker groups and we want to reach anyone, anywhere.  

The Toronto ICSAA 2018 conference is just around the corner and the host committee is ready to help people plan their trip. Check out Facebook and Twitter for info on things to do in Toronto. While we’re meeting August 24th to 26th in Toronto, the Canadian National Exhibition is on before, after and during the conference. Maybe you’d like to take an extra day this summer and attend Canada’s national exhibition. There are walking or bicycle tours, art galleries, museums and shopping walking distance from the Toronto Marriot Eaton Centre Hotel.

Niagara Falls or Canada’s Wonderland are short drives away. We have local intel on how to get here by bus, plane or train but we need—I need—people to help get outreach to your local meetings. Toronto is an expensive North East city but from first-class to starving artist, there is lots to do on any budget. So check the show notes bellow or come register at and send us an email with your contact info.


Since posting this podcast, David B's book was reviewed by fellow Memoir writer, Thomas B, click to read it on AAagnositica.

March 1, 2018 David B was the guest of John S on AA Beyond Belief Radio. Listen Here

LINKS for Episode 36 of Rebellion Dogs Radio Click the words and enter "Parallel Universes."

Rochester (pictured at the Mod Club Theatre, Toronto Canada photo credit: Wendy L. Rombough, APPLE MUSIC - SOUNDCLOUUD.

Helschel Haus Books.

David B Bhol website.

Register for ICSAA 2018 August 24 - 26 HERE




Thanks for being part of Rebellion Dogs Radio. See you on line, see you in the rooms,

[i] Fletcher, Anne M, SOBER for Good. 2001: New York, Houghton Muffin Company 


Think, Think, Thinking about Truth & Reconsiliation  

Think Think Think: The Truth and How to Reconcile

“Think, Think, Think…” Show me another AA slogan that doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Everyone loves, “Easy Does It,” and “Live and Let Live.” I’ve seen sober club houses that hang “Think, Think, Think” upside down. What is that supposed to mean? Meditation isn’t Step One in AA so perhaps it’s a more advanced tool in the kit than, “First Things First.”

On Epiosode 35 of Rebellion Dogs Radio we are think, think, thinking about Truth and Reconciliation. We borrow from Science, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Dave Chappelle's waxing philosophical in Los Angeles, lessons learned from Apartheid in South Africa and Canada's indigenous Truth & Reconciliation.

We look at a AA - history, current conflicts and we ponder about how our actions today will shape our future. We compare AA's current day personalities with Refuge Recovery mindfulness.

Nelson Mandela, in his 1990, The Struggle is My Life said this:

"Since my release, I have become more convinced than ever that the real makers of history are the ordinary men and women of our country; their participation in every decision about the future is the only guarantee of true democracy and freedom."

So fellow ordinary men and women; it's up to us... let's talk. Episode 35 is about an hour of chitter-chatter, you can help yourself to a PDF or online transcript from Rebellion Dogs BLOG. As always, share, re-post, download or stream and if you feel inclined, join the conversation.


Woman in AA and the Recovery Community with Trysh Travis, PhD on Episode 34 of Rebellion Dogs Radio  

“More than just a professional historian, as a Women’s Studies professor, I’m a professional feminist.  That means that my orientation to history is informed by an awareness of the unequal distribution of power between men and women, and a desire to reveal, critique and correct that inequality. Feminism works for me as what Ernie [Kurtz, Not God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous] called a filter—it colors the questions that I ask and the answers that I formulate.” Trysh Travis: 2017 AA History Lover's Symposium, Sedona Mago Recovery Series. 

The history of woman in AA (and throughout the larger recovery community) is the focus of  Rebellion Dogs Radio #34. Rebellion Dog's 21st century look at 12-Step Life welcomes, from the University of Florida Center for Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies Research, Trysh Travis. Having just come back from Sedona Mago Retreat (Arizona), I can tell you that the place is still buzzing from Trysh Travis' shared research and insights on women and the 12-Step community. 

Working on culture and literature book # 3, Trysh Travis authored The Language of the Heart: 12 Step Recovery from AA to Oprah Winfrey, and more recently Re-Thinking Therapeutic Culture. Add to that, as Managing Editor Emeritus of Points: The Blog of the Alcohol & Drugs History Society, our 12-Step culture has never been too far from this researcher's gaze. Today, it my rebellious and dogged pleasure to share my recent conversation with Trysh Travis about some of what her extensive research can tell us about women, addiction and recovery. 

Respecting your time, I compromised my way from what could have been the "longest Rebellion Dogs show ever" to a "longer than usual Rebellion Dogs Radio show." That's the great thing about podcasting; we don't have to break away to the news at the top-of-the-hour. Still, I understand you are a busy person, too. What to cut and what to showcase is never a pleasant decision when the content is so rich and important. With some good fortune, episode 34 won’t be the last we hear from Dr. Travis. If you care about any particular marginalized populations in the addiction/recovery community, or if you are intrigued by AA and other 12-Step history, you are in for a treat. This might be one of those, "I have to listen twice to catch it all," shows. 


PhD, Yale University, American Studies, 1998   
MA, Bread Loaf School of English, 1995   
BA, New York University, Gallatin Division, 1987 


University of Flordia 

CLICK the PIC to Visit the Blog Post, "Points" 

Two Books (and counting) by Trysh Travis 

“Readers who come to this book looking for blanket condemnation or praise will be disappointed.” Trysh Travis from Language of the Heart.  

Also by Trysh Travis: anthology Rethinking Therapeutic Culture (co-edited with my friend Tim Aubry 2015) extends my work on popular self-help and other “mental hygiene” movements.