Secular Sponsorship in AA


In this episode, I speak with Anne Porter about secular sponsorship in Alcoholics Anonymous. Anne has been listening to our podcast for years but was compelled to write after hearing my conversation with Ibby A in Episode 208 about Ibby and my reluctance to sponsor people or take them through the steps. Then after hearing my discussion with John Huey in which we both dismissed the idea of an “AA way of life”, she was even more interested in coming on the podcast to have her say.

Anne believes secular people in AA have should stay involved with the greater AA community and participate in activities like sponsorship, because doing so will help make AA more welcoming and inclusive for everyone. I enjoyed this chat and I think you will too.

Thanks for reaching out, Anne. It was nice to talk with you.


00:00 Secular Sponsorship in AA.
01:25 Anne’s impression from Episode 250 that I was disdainful of AA.
02:08 John explains he is not anti-AA but is not as involved with it as in the past.
03:01 Secular people in AA should think about what is it about AA that attracts people.
04:00 Anne does not view AA as “self-help” but rather a program of helping others.
05:58 Secular AA meetings don’t encourage sponsorship or reaching out to others.
08:05 John’s view of sponsorship.
10:15 Anne’s emphasis on service.
11:15 Why Anne is passionate about speaking out as an atheist in AA.
12:15 Anne uses the 12 Traditions to learn how to have healthy relationships.
13:48 A discussion about self-centeredness
15:12 Anne feels that other secular recovery programs don’t focus on reducing self-centeredness.
15:50 Difference between online and in-person meetings with regard to socialization.
17:12 How Anne sponsors people. 19:00 The reaction to Anne’s outspokenness about her secular view of AA.
20:20 Anne’s concern for the people who don’t speak out for themselves and leave AA.
22:05 Anne doesn’t have a higher power.
23:27 How John has come to understand the 12 Steps.
24:20 Similarities found in other mutual aid groups.
25:45 Anne used traditions to learn how to adjust.
26:08 Not the sponsor’s job to fix their sponsee.
28:40 Anne sees people run out of the rooms by dogmatists.
29:10 Anne’s concern about AA’s inability to change.
30:07 Why Anne thinks it is important for secular people to attend traditional AA meetings.
31:26 John’s reluctance to attend traditional AA meetings.
32:25 Anne understands it is difficult to speak out.
33:45 Not all AA groups are aggressively dogmatic.
36:30 John says AA culture won’t change.
36:55 Secular origins of the Steps.
37:20 John describes how people became dogmatic about the Steps.
38:10 Anne talks about Bill Wilson’s concern about creeping rigidity.
39:50 John talks about the good points of AA.
41:18 Laughing about the reading “How It Works” to start a meeting.
43:32 Reciting the Lord’s Prayer at meetings.
45:00 Anne stresses that speaking out is important for those who are willing.
46:35 Anne talks about the history of atheism in AA.
47:45 Singleness of purpose changed due to the opioid epidemic.
48:20 When Singleness of Purpose became a big deal.


Episode 208: Ibby A
Episode 250: Atheism and Sobriety