Ed grew up in New York in a typical New York family with the typical New York dysfunction. As a teenager, he somehow avoided the rite of passage of getting drunk at keggers in the park, and it wasn’t until after he had been in college for six months that he began to experience heavy drinking. By the time he was 25, he thought he had it under control, but before long he found himself drinking at work, and then waking up with a drink to start the day.
After a year of blackout drinking, Ed went to his first AA meeting at his old neighborhood in Brooklyn where he was cornered by a group of men he now refers to as the Unsolicited Advice Brigade (UAB). Though the men meant well, Ed found their approach more than a bit off putting. They were too authoritative, and gave too many instructions of what he must do. Ed left that meeting and his alcoholism continued to progress.
Ed’s blackouts began to frighten and worry those who were close to him, and though he might stop for short periods, in no time he would be right back to where he had left off. After a two-day binge of running around New York completely drunk, Ed felt his body go numb, and it was then he realized that if he were to continue drinking, it would kill him.
After drying out for three days, he went to another AA meeting. This time it was a small meeting consisting of Ed and two other men, and instead of the Unsolicited Advice Brigade, he was told to take it easy and that all he needed to do is not drink just for today. At that meeting they asked Ed if he could go to a meeting the next day, a speaker meeting at Bed-Stuy. He went to the meeting and says it was attended by a church going crowd, some of whom openly spoke of Jesus Christ as their higher power, though he says he didn’t feel that anyone was pushing their beliefs on him.
A benefit of living in a city like New York is that there are a lot of meetings and a lot of different types of meetings. Ed searched the Internet for atheist AA and found the Agnostic AA NYC site where the city’s agnostic AA meetings were listed. He attended his first agnostic meeting at the LGBT Center, and then he went to Brooklyn Sober Agnostics which became his home group. Things were going really well in his life. He was getting involved in General Service, and served as the GSR for his group.
Though, he really enjoyed the Saturday meeting in Brooklyn, it wasn’t a good time for his schedule. Most of the agnostic meetings take place at noon or 6:00 pm when people get off work. Still the night owl, Ed was looking for a late night meeting. There weren’t any at the time, so he helped start This Ungodly Hour, which meets at 11:00 pm every Friday night at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, located at 275 North 8th in Williamsburg. The meeting got off to a slow start, but there were always at least three people at every meeting. After about a year, attendance started picking up as people began to learn about more about the meeting and agnostic AA.
This past Sunday, we posted an article authored by Ed, in which he describes agnostic meetings as having three characteristics; we don’t pray, we have the freedom to find recovery without having to conform to the beliefs of another, and we don’t, at least for the most part, find much use for the Big Book and Twelve by Twelve. He believes the best description for our meetings is “no prayer” because that’s the primary difference between our meeting and the traditional AA meetings. If you haven’t yet read the article please check it out: Agnostic AA 101.
What a fun conversation this was! I will definitely need to make a late night visit to Brooklyn on my next trip to New York and check out This Ungodly Hour.
Thank you Ed for writing the article and participating in this podcast. We are grateful to you for your contribution, and for your service to AA.
Link to the meeting app that Ed and I were discussing at the end of the program: Meeting Guide
Link to the Interactive Map for NYC Agnostic Meetings
Link to This Ungodly Hour Facebook Page