Episode 43: Joe C. Talks AA Service

This week, we speak with Joe C., author of Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life, a co-founder of Canada’s first agnostic AA group, Beyond Belief, and host of the podcast Rebellion Dogs Radio. Joe writes articles for various publications, presents a seminar on AA history at the Sedona Mago Retreat, and much, much more.

I have to say, I was a bit nervous about this podcast, only because I have such tremendous respect for Joe and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to hold my own in a conversation about AA service work. I mean it was only a few years ago when I had absolutely no interest in service, and it was actually Joe’s podcast that first inspired me. I remember he was talking about AA stewardship which was something that up until then, had never crossed my mind. Now, I talk about AA stewardship as if I invented the idea.

Service work has been an important component of Joe’s recovery since he started answering phones for his intergroup in 1977. He likes that for the most part service work is secular, and it provides an opportunity to work side by side fellow AAs in a common purpose. Nobody is concerned about any dogma or philosophy or belief. It’s all about getting the work done that helps facilitate carrying out our primary purpose — to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

It was interesting to hear Joe’s views on AA Tradition, especially when it comes to Social Media and the Internet. Individual AA members are participating in online communities by the thousands. We have Facebook Groups, Twitter feeds, podcasts and blogs. Yet, despite our ubiquity online, the General Service Conference seems reluctant to use the Internet for public information. It seems like the Conference is open to the idea, but they never fully take the plunge into the 21st Century.

We also talk a little about underrepresented groups in AA. Why for example is AA population so disproportionately white? In the 2014 membership survey, it was found that only 4% of AA’s are black, yet 14% of the US population is African American. NA doesn’t seem to have this problem. Joe suggests that because our literature is more dated than is NA literature, that NA is doing a better job attracting people of color. Our literature is older and written from the perspective of white, Christian men from the 1930’s.

I think that if we are going to be true to our primary purpose of helping other alcoholics achieve sobriety, then we should be reaching out to all alcoholics, not just the white, middle-aged male. It is through General Service that we can work on improving AA by continuing to break barriers to widen the gateway to recovery even further.

I hope you enjoy the conversation and get something from it. As far as I’m concerned, if just one person is inspired to get involved in General Service as a result of listening to this, then this was time well spent. Please forgive the sound quality at the beginning of the podcast, it gets much better after the first couple of minutes. Also, we will be adding a transcript sometime next week. We are working on that right now.

Thank you Joe for agreeing to take part in this. I enjoyed the talk a great deal, and I’m grateful to you for your service to AA, and for all the encouragement and support that you have given me over the past couple of years.

Podcast Transcript

You can read the transcript by downloading the pdf file.