Summer 2013 International/National Outreach Trip

In the third week of my sobriety, I heard the words “to assure suffering alcoholics that they can find sobriety in AA without having to accept anyone else’s beliefs or deny their own” in a We Agnostics meeting in Hollywood, CA. This phrase has inspired me over nearly three years in what became my home group. It is the mission statement of our non-profit LLC set to launch the first We Agnostics and Freethinker International AA Convention (WAFT IAAC) on November 6 – 8, 2014 in Santa Monica, CA. I am the chairwoman of WAFT IAAC and also the president/member of the soon to be non-profit WAFT IAAC LLC.

The phrase truly encapsulates AA’s third and fifth tradition. Anyone is a member of AA if they say they are, and as members, our primary goal is to help the suffering alcoholic. Not having to accept others beliefs is arguably the reason why We Agnostic and Freethinker-style meetings are being formed across the country and around the world, and it is the same reason for putting on this convention and why WAFT IAAC is so important to the fellowship and the growth of AA.

The June 8th Meeting

Our first official planning meeting brought together small group of individuals from my home group, Ventura and two people from Maui, Hawaii, Rich and Joan. Their contributions would begin to solidify the path of recovery we can offer those who struggle with the dogma and religiosity some of us experience in the rooms. I was impressed with the positive impact Joan and Rich had on my home group, our planning meeting and the impact we Los Angelenos had on Joan and Rich. I thought about their trip for a long time and in the end I was aware of a powerful connection we made within the WAFT fellowship by meeting each other face to face. One alcoholic talking to another.

In the following weeks, I continued to do outreach work, on the phone, calling to follow up with contacts made through our mailings sent out earlier to the over 50 meetings worldwide that were listed on and in AA directories as We Agnostic or with cleverly coined names such as Happy Heathens. As I spoke to people, I kept wondering how I could reach more people, the quieter ones, who don’t necessarily speak out, but who believe in the promises brought them in WAFT AA. The answer was Hawaii! These were people I needed to meet! I needed to travel and give a face to WAFT IAAC and to answer any and all questions I could for people. I chose cities where there were large amounts of WAFT meetings and places where we had contacts in those areas.

New York and New Jersey

I had experienced a mix of feelings from many of the groups in New York City. Excitement about WAFT IAAC, but also caution had been expressed. I believe it came from the recent history that the NYC WAFT groups experienced in 2009. The groups were threaten with delisting if they continued to allow copies of the altered steps in their meetings. NYC WAFTs decided that they did not want to risk delisting and stopped handing out the different steps.

One of my contacts prior to my arrival to NY, was Jane. She was one of the first members of the We Humanist WAFT group back in the 1980s. We are speaking regularly about the convention progress in California and her work spreading the word a meetings in NY. I arrived in NY while she was away on vacation. But, that did not stop Jane from being my virtual NY guide and acting sponsor. She insisted I call her every day to report everything from meeting response to the announcements of WAFT IAAC to what food was I eating. Jane made a point to contact her AA family to ensure I had guides in the meetings and make sure I had directions and fliers for NYC but also for the next leg of the trip, Toronto, Canada.

On Jane’s advice, I had sent out an email to all our east coast contacts announcing my trip and arrival in NYC. One specific email response came from Mike W. asking me to speak at a meeting. It turned out that he was a We Ag old-timer from my home group in Hollywood. We don’t remember ever meeting, but having the common bond of the Hollywood group was comforting, specifically, because I was slowly starting to miss my home group.

At Mike W.’s meeting I met the webmaster of the infamous agnostic AA meeting list, Deidre. lists all the known agnostic/atheist/freethinker meetings worldwide. I learned later that Deidre and I had a lot of personal beliefs in common and she, like myself, is very active in AA around issues and concerns of WAFTs. She would be the first but not the last to say she was impressed by my traveling alone. I really never took that into consideration, but it reinforced my belief that this is important service work for AA and those who can benefit from WAFT IAAC.

In NYC I was asked progressively to speak at new meetings. Dianne M., a young, inspired woman, asked me to speak in Brooklyn, NYC. It would turn out to be the last time the meeting would meet in that location. People in Brooklyn were in a struggle to keep their local hospital open which is where they were meeting. The following week when people came for the meeting they found the doors of the hospital were chained closed. Rusty, a GSR in Brooklyn, who lives in New Jersey asked me to lead her meeting in Jersey City. I was excited! I got to add another state just as I started my trip. The Jersey City meeting was extremely excited about WAFT IAAC.

My email also resulted in Tisa from New Paltz, NY asking if I could speak at her meeting. Tisa was a joy. She had gotten sober in the young people’s movement within AA and saw herself as more of an activist AAer. Tisa gave me a historical tour of colonial New Paltz and showed me the church in the local grave yard where she was married. Tisa drove me to my bus and gave me a bracelet that she made that said “Sober Atheist,” I proudly wear it to this day!

I would later be asked to speak at the Bayshore meeting in New York. Brian had also received my email. He was kind enough to pick me up from the train station. The meeting was small yet Brian made a point to take me to fellowship with another member and gave me a night tour of where hurricane Sandy had hit the season before. He waited with me until 1a.m. when I was able to catch the train back to my hostel. My time in NYC had come to an end. All packed, with fliers from my NY virtual sponsor and homemade chocolate chip cookies, I took the bus to Toronto.

Toronto, Canada

As followers of know, the Toronto WAFT groups have faced controversies over the question of having altered steps. Their struggle has highlighted issues and concerns many WAFTs face. On my visit I felt a warmth and joy from the membership in Toronto for the upcoming convention. Many are 20 plus years sober. I believe the Toronto membership is eager to be seen as true members of AA who want to share their experience, hope and strength as WAFTs within AA.

Before I even reached Canada, Roger C. the administrator of AA Agnostica was a gregarious host. We texted as I was on the bus, getting to know each other. Once I got into Toronto, Roger guided me through Toronto to my next hostel. This hostel had a usable kitchen but charged for cooking utensils. Roger asked a WAFT brother for utensils and then bought me food to cook and lunch which was greatly appreciated.

Roger took me to his home group where I shard my experience, strength, hope and the goals of WAFT IAAC. There was a feeling of home here. How close the groups were! From that meeting onward the groups made a point to pass the hat to help me with my personal expenses. This was something my arrogant pride could not allow me to ask for, but this level of AA love and fellowship reminded me of the generosity we can nurture alongside the AA principles.

Larry K. and Joe C., who are founders of the WAFT meetings in Toronto made it a point to be the ultimate hosts while I was in town. Making sure I had rides, no members of the WAFT meeting allowed me to pay for anything, including giving me bus tokens, to giving me guided walking and driving tours of the city. Joe C. and his lovely partner Lisa even invited me over to their home and cooked me a vegan dinner.

While in Toronto I wanted to get to know the local more traditional AA meetings. I went to one and made an announcement about WAFT IAAC and stated how many WAFT meeting were listed on the NYC list in 27 states and 5 countries. After the meeting I was surprised to hear people outside talking about how they thought that WAFT groups were shrinking and not growing. That saddened me because that is was a strange lie.

WAFT groups have existed since 1975. Since WAFT IAAC was announced there have been four meetings formed and I have found more meetings in national directories. It did build my resolve because there are other WAFTs in those meetings that need to hear there are many paths to recovery and we are here, alive and strong! I was sad to leave the Toronto groups. I felt so welcomed that I wished I could have stayed but I had to get on to my next stop – Quad A.

Chicago, Illinois

The Quad A groups in Chicago are the home of the WAFT groups, as they were the first groups to welcome agnostics, atheists, freethinkers, and anyone who struggled with religion. I was filled with excitement and gratitude to be able to meet the group of people that saved my life and gave me my path to recovery. They were also the first among the WAFT groups worldwide to offer different versions of the steps at their meetings.

In the late 1970s a local Quad A member and lawyer took up the cause of defending Quad A from delisting by their local intergroup/central office. Quad A would get delisted twice in the early 1980s. The fight would last four years with the result of being Quad A permanently seen as a part of AA and not some fringe group of people who are trying to become “something else” nor a radical group trying to fundamentally destroy AA (which clearly hasn’t happened in the 39 years that the WAFT groups have existed). Quad A is the living example of tradition three. Anyone is a member if they say they are.

The history of Quad A includes a conference in 2009. It was for the local Quad A groups and did not aspire to be a national or an international event. They attracted about 100 attendees. The coordinating committee had planned on holding future conferences but sadly weren’t able to keep the momentum up. Instantly, I understood that WAFT IAAC is building on the foundation of the Quad A conference.

When I finally got to the hotel in Chicago, it was a far cry from the hostels I had stayed previously. I felt like I was in a mansion with my very own bathroom, iron and coffee maker. I couldn’t do anything but take a bath and lay in bed. I was so mentally tired that I felt paralyzed. The next day I would go to the Evanston Quad A meeting. I couldn’t know the thrill and surprise that awaited me.

The secretary announced it was a cross talk meeting with a theme of atheist and agnostics. I was now curious! I gave my announcement and was asked questions. At first I was worried about dominating the meeting but I was told that there was no format. The discussion revealed they clearly identify with AA on a few things – the power of two drunks talking to each other, being powerless over alcoholic, unmanageably, anyone is a member if they say that they are and the seventh tradition. Okay, I thought, that is definitely the spirit of the third tradition. Then, I heard that the Evanston group was considered the rebels of all the Quad A meetings. The Rebels of the Rebels…I was amused!

A newcomer with less than a week spoke and said he was referred to Quad A meetings because he was Jewish and couldn’t stomach doing the Lord’s Prayer at meetings. “Referred?!” I thought, “Really?” I asked the group if that was common. The answer was a resounding, “Yes.” With a tone of “of course they are. Where else would they go?” They continued and said that the local members of AA who are believers, the local military base, local judges and local rehabs constantly refer non-believers or anyone who struggles with religion to Quad A meeting. At the end of the meeting members gave me a copy of the altered steps.

Although Evanston was only 13 miles from where I was staying, I did not realize that unlike back in L.A., buses don’t run on Sundays out of the suburbs. I called a cab and figured I would either walk back or ask if anyone at the meeting could give me a ride. One of the traditions of my home group is part of the format set by Charlie P. The secretary asks if anyone needs a ride. You see, Charlie believed if anyone could get themselves to a meeting, the fellowship should make sure they would get home. In Evanston, a newcomer graciously provided me a ride back to my hotel.

I was able to attend a few other meetings which ranged from step studies, to round robins to speaker participation. After Toronto and NYC, I was a little disappointed that there was very little fellowship after meetings. I have relied on my We Ag group as my higher power and, hence, how important any and all kinds of fellowship is to me. I would later interpret that as a direct reflection of Quad A’s comfortable position within the local AA establishment.

Kalamazoo, Michigan

Another group of WAFT meetings that is a solid part of their local AA establishment are meetings in western Michigan. Kalamazoo is a college and factory town. I had met the founder of the WAFT groups in Kalamazoo via a Google discussion group for Atheists within AA. Curtis is a non-believer who formed the groups in Kalamazoo that meet every day of the week.

Sadly, I was only able to attend one of the meetings in Kalamazoo which was the off season for the college crowd. I was impressed that the group read from both AA literature and non-AA literature. I asked Curtis if he had experienced any issues with listing his groups with his local intergroup/central office. With a big proud grin he told me that he also founded the local central office and that he is the one who does the listings. I was also impressed that the group read from both AA literature and non-AA literature.

This made me think of Rich from Maui, HI. Rich is the local central office manager of Maui and he too would never think of denying ANY meeting the right to be listed in their directories. I left Kalamazoo realizing a few things. Through love and service work, WAFT and all AAer’s can make a place for themselves within AA as a whole.

Both Rich and Curtis’ roles as central office managers showed me that the groups having been denied a place in the AA directories may often have more to do with the prejudices and/or fears of the local intergroup/central office managers and staff and not AA as a whole. AA does not have any issues with WAFT meetings because of the commitment to service work Curtis has given the AA community. No one questions if the Kalamazoo or Maui groups are a part of AA or not.

As we move forward in planning WAFT IAAC, I am inspired greatly by Kalamazoo and Chicago. Their solid ground in AA speaks to the nature of what I envision WAFT IAAC to be, a convention helping those in recovery to find their path within an internationally recognized and legitimate part of AA.

I was moved and impressed with the local WAFT groups I visited and it was a pure joy to finally meet people in person. The most rewarding part of the trip was being able to bust apart people’s feelings of isolation as WAFTs, letting them know their city or their group were not the ONLY places that WAFT could meet, be free to be themselves without the need to hide or lie about their beliefs.

The same reason many of the group founders formed WAFT groups is really the same reason why the steering committee believes that WAFT IAAC is needed. Sadly, WAFTs often are fearful of traditional meetings. There can often be a divide among WAFTs and believers within AA. And, on top of this, most believers don’t even know there is a problem. That is because WAFTs leave the meetings and don’t return, either going out, or, hopefully finding a home group that is sensitive to their beliefs, such as a WAFT meeting. And, if we do find sobriety, we don’t venture back to those meetings to show we can have long term sobriety without having to repeat the dogma and without practicing faith.

Many Paths to Recovery” is a poignant theme for WAFT IAAC. There may be those who see WAFT IAAC as a pipe dream or an effort to shake up “traditional” AA. But, as one of our Hollywood We Agnostics old-timers said, “This IS real AA.” I envision the convention to be more of the momentum driven by emerging WAFT-style meetings, a cultural shift in AA, one that acknowledges there is no right or wrong way to be sober within AA’s program. To truly practice tradition three and five. If our primary purpose is to help suffering alcoholics, than it MUST mean ALL suffering alcoholics.

Our steps and traditions are our guides, but if there is a misstep, something that drives away non-believers, freethinkers, agnostics and seekers out of AA, then we need to put into action an event that fills that void. Otherwise, we are allowing individual practice that is not only deadly to individual alcoholics but also AA as a whole. This historic convention can begin the dialog that will heal the wounds of AA and will allow for the doors of AA to remain open to EVERYONE!

Yours in Service

Dorothy H.

Yellow Apple Seed Road Trip Report

The Country/Meet Up

The Yellow Apple Seed Road Trip was conceived through a conversation Jesse S. and I were having about outreach back in December 2014. The subject of AAs biggest event, International AA Convention, which happens every 5 years. Nearly 60,000 attended in 2010. I had heard that convention included a panel titled We Agnostics, which was based on Chapter 4 from the Big Book, which does not speak for anyone who identifies as a We Agnostics, Atheists, Freethinkers (WAAFT) within AA.

Jesse and I realized we could combine our outreach for We Agnostic, Atheists, Freethinker International AA Convention (WAAFT-IAAC) with a trip to Atlanta for the International AA Convention. Jesse' can-do attitude and determination spearheaded the efforts to raise funds for the project.

Jesse recalls: “So we then laid out our proposed mission to the contacts that we had on Facebook and through emails and asked for donations in the spirit of the 7th Tradition. Very simply put, we would drive to Atlanta and hand out fliers to every person that we saw and then come home straight home. It all seemed like it would be so simple. In the course of planning though, it occurred to us that we were going to be going through some cities that had secular groups in them, so of course we should stop in and say hi at the very least, maybe even stay the night if they had the room and patience for us. The planned route would also take us through Austin, TX, where the 2016 WAAFT-IAAC Convention is to be held and where we could meet up with our fellow board member, Nick H., who is the Host Committee Chair for the board of WAAFT-IAAC II. “

At nearly every stage of the planning we had to adjust just as we would on the trip.The planning took a sharp turn into the next level. We may as well take a different route back if we can get the gas money for it, and there are good friends of ours in Indianapolis, Kansas City, and Boise. Dorothy said repeatedly that face-to-face contact is what got people to the first one in Santa Monica, so this would all be well worth the effort that it would take.”  

I felt it was ironic that we would be meeting in Las Vegas. I had never been there and my first trip to the gambling and drinking capital of the world would be to start our journey for AA. We had hoped to meet up with members of the Las Vegas WAAFT meeting; sadly, we weren't able to. 

Jesse and I had only met briefly in Santa Monica, but from work with the Board of WAAFT-IAAC we had developed a friendship. The first time I saw Jesse, he was the first one to stand for election on the Board of WAAFT-IAAC on the first night of the convention. My first thought was “mmm...that's interesting...I wonder who he is.” I would come closer to answering the question on the road.

The Road Traveled

Jesse and I got to see the bulk of our country for the first time and were deeply moved by the opportunity. Along the way, we watched the land transform under us from the multidimensional shades of browns that comprised the deserts/plains of Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico to rich plush/vibrant greens of the South and Midwest of the USA. We witnessed the transformation of flat desert land (under the tires of Jesse' car that he lovely named the Blue Demon) evolve into hills then mountains then spilling out into the third coast and the Mississippi River. 

As the passenger, I marveled at the jagged cuts in the rock formations, the fluidity of the colors, how the landscape cut into the sky while Jesse was frequently in admiration of the sky and various cloud formations along the route. Jesse is from Nevada, which almost never gets any rain, so clouds are a rarity and something to be valued. 

Though we grew up in different states, I from Los Angeles, CA, and Jesse from Reno, NV, one commonality we had was that we were both from desert climates and live in and out of small desert communities in our youth. But I didn't stay in LA; I had a few geographics. One of them was to move to Detroit, MI, for 10 years. That is where I lived with lightning bugs and rainstorms. I often take pleasure in watching someone experience things for the first time. Such as Jesse said while in Kansas City, MO, “after going through a deluge of biblical proportions, I was surprised by my first encounter with a lightning bug. I thought that I was having tracers from cosmic radiation going through my eye, until I made out their little form and caught one. Weird little things.“

The interesting thing about the geography of a place is not just the land mass that we cut through while driving, there is also the culture of the environment we moved through. For Jesse and me, we both began to understand that we were in the South when we came into Texas. The radio and land ornaments made that clear as Jesse describes it:“I remember Texas vaguely; I-40 used to be Route 66. We drove in a straight line towards the sunrise, the radio’s music gradually faded out and was replaced by fervent broadcasters insisting that we repent or be destroyed, that we find love in someone that will kill us if we don’t, and other classic hits from the Christian genre. We also started seeing a smattering of crosses dotting the highway and the first (of many) handwritten signs telling us about the author’s opinion on our beliefs. We were definitely in Texas.”  

Or, again, when we had to travel through Kansas, “As we drove, it became more and more witch-doctory as signs on the side of the road proclaimed the coming of the Lord and warned us of burning in fire. I could hardly believe I’d been living in the same country as these people. For a country that prides itself on freedom, it is the height of irony to claim that you get to tell another person what to believe. I may have exceeded the speed limit by a few miles per hour here to get through it, I’d had enough. Dorothy and I began to joke in the middle of the long stretch that it didn’t seem to end and maybe this is just what we do now…wander the roads forever as nomads on a quest for sobriety.”

Where Jesse and I would differ in our admiration for earth's geography is large bodies of water; I am a Southern Cali girl after all. For me, the ability to stop and play in the third coast along the Gulf of Mexico in Texas and Mississippi was exciting, and then end the trip by visiting the water in Lake Tahoe, NV. One thing that would impress me about the planet earth, and terrify me at the same time, was the Grand Canyon. If asked to narrow down to one of the states we visited, I think we both would say we were in awe of the profound beauty of Colorado. In Jesse's words, our hosts in Colorado Springs, Sasha and John, “took us to tour the Garden of the Gods, a huge red rock formation that has sheered small rock hills into blades that jut from the earth that look as though they are trying to pierce the sky. The scenery between Denver and Grand Junction was incredible, I saw a fluorescent red mountain backdrop by an incredible storm, we were high in the mountains, and the trees were dancing in the wind urging us onward.”

We had planned and mapped out all the cities along the way in the hopes of stopping at ALL the AA offices along the way and maybe even catching a few meetings here and there. Sadly, we were only able to stop at a few non-WAAFTy stops. One of them was Amarillo, TX. “We figured that we should stop and find a Central Office to hang our flier in. It was what we had been sent to do after all, and we would still be there an hour early even if we took our time. My phone directed us to the location of “AA” that Google Maps knew of, and we walked in the only apparent door...right into the middle of a meeting. It would have been rude to hand out fliers and run so we sat and listened.” It was similar to the down home meetings that Jesse was familiar with in Nevada, “except the decor was very much like a church or a courthouse, with a raised dais above the podium where a very nice man was recounting his experience. After he finished, Dorothy raised her hand and strode to the podium, gave a brief description of who we were and what we were doing there and then asked to pass out fliers. As Dorothy was walking out of the room, a woman went up to the podium and genuinely thanked her for saying what I had said.” Jesse remembers, "I can’t say whether the looks were of surprise or appreciation at what she said, but they were certainly in awe. I made my way through a door in the back of the room after asking my neighbors where the front office might be, and there it was hidden in the rear of the building. I hung a flier after asking for a tack and went back to the front to meet with Dorothy."

WAAFT Meetings/Groups

My first impulse/desire is to walk through, in detail, the various meetings/groups and how each had their individual personalities. The youthfulness of Flagstaff, AZ, or Charlotte, North Carolina. I was also comforted to see how the majority of the meetings were attended by those with long-term sobriety. Alas, I will do my best to summarize the best I can all the wonderful people and events we went to. 

Something I found to be the most moving was watching Jesse come out of his stoic shell. Jesse started his sobriety within the Young People's movement of AA and to have our first stop to be in Flagstaff was very moving for him and very touching for me to see his genuine joy: “The meeting itself was light-hearted and fun and reminded me of the first time that I was able to breathe out in an AA meeting at WAAFT-IAAC when I had said that I don’t believe and saw nothing but friendly faces looking back at me from my reflexive cringe awaiting the onslaught of passive aggression that would usually follow such a statement. Everyone was sharing their day-to-day struggles; this was finally something real that I could feel like we were actually addressing our problems rather than putting a veneer of faith and hopefulness on it all.”

I take for granted that by three weeks of sobriety I was rescued by being directed to the Hollywood We Agnostics meeting. Watching Jesse's reactions to be able to attend WAAFT meetings for the first time outside of WAAFT-IAAC in Santa Monica, showed how vital and life saving it is for people to access to WAAFTS. “Again, once we got into the meeting I was blown away by how incredible it felt to be in an AA meeting that didn’t start off by giving praise! There was no need to pretend in order to be sober; I had known this inside my heart ever since I first started coming around, and here it was in action among people with anywhere from 30 days to 30 years. I felt the tension in my neck release just a little bit. The happiness that I was feeling from being around people of my ilk soothed the feelings of melancholy. I felt the kinship that I had remembered from my early days in AA. This was why I had stuck it out; I knew that there existed these sorts of gatherings with friends that would help me to heal and I had found it, finally!”

For meetings we couldn't attend, people like Jennifer, who is the co-founder of the Phoenix, AZ, AA Freethinkers, Atheists and Agnostics meeting organized a dinner, where people from as far as Yuma, AZ, where the meeting Skeptics & Freethinkers in AA meets. Joe, the founder of S&FAA, drove three hours to meet us! Along with people from Tempe and Tucson coming out to talk about WAAFT-IAAC II and our goals at the International. 

Then there was Sasha L., founder of the Happy Heathens of Colorado Springs, CO, who traveled to different WAAFT groups in Colorado to invite them to a dinner party for Jesse and me. The We Agnostics meeting in Indianapolis, IN, people drove two hours and left the dinner inspired to start a new meeting in their area. 

We listened to people's concern about how to move away from the “god Detox.” I define god Detox as the phase that all WAAFTS go through when they first discover a WAAFT meeting or just form a new WAAFT meeting where they have to purge themselves of the restraints and rhetorical dogma of religious AA. People understood it was part of the healing process, but were worried that it could dominate the meetings/movement and, in turn, could drive out inclusive Atheists and Freethinkers. Different women, some who are the founders of the meetings, confided in Jesse and me their concerns about how the meetings and the movement is not retaining women. The lack of women involvement was seen as a result of the god Detox and some bullies in the WAAFT meeting/movement making women feel emotionally unsafe and unable to comfortably gain what they need for their recovery. 

FreethinkersNot having to deny your belief nor accept anyone else's belief.”  

Concern for Freethinkers within our movement was a frequent discussion that people brought up to us. Freethinking as an identification defined in different ways. One as a concern that they will be pushed out of the movement due to people feeling emotionally unsafe to express themselves freely within the rooms of WAAFT meetings. Or it was defined as “freedom to believe, freedom not to believe, freedom not to care and freedom from religion all together!” How do we balance the need of atheists and non-traditional believers or people who just don't want to deal with religion/god in their recovery, but may think of themselves identifying with the complete archname of WAAFT, with an emphasis on the;

We Agnostics, Atheists, Freethinkers

Then there were those who deeply identify with the mission statement of WAAFT-IAAC: “not having to deny your belief nor accept anyone else's belief.” This idea originated with older meetings like Quad A groups in Chicago, IL, starting in 1975, Hollywood We Agnostics in 1980, the NYC meetings in 1985, and then Florida about the same time. Over the 40 years, each WAAFT group has dealt with these questions at the meeting level. What is different now is that the movement is breaking the isolation of each meeting, and building communication and contact with each other on a global level. The global WAAFT meeting interaction is igniting broad discussions among the young meetings and the older meetings that have not occurred to this degree before in the WAAFT-y world. WAAFT-IAAC in Santa Monica, CA was the first step into this global discussion. This question will be ever evolving as we grow in numbers and as we connect with each other. 

Good WAAFT Citizenry

I am not a meeting founder, nor I did understand the level of service that meeting founders give to guarantee that the meeting can withstand things like the god detox and the interpersonal struggles and fears of traditional AA retaliation. Wally K., who is one of the founders of the Boise meeting, Atheists, Agnostics and All Others, said to me that meeting founders have to be dedicated to a meeting for at least two years before it becomes its own identity and functions independently of its founders. 

The bulk of the meetings we visited were under 10 years old and many were formed within the previous two years. They varied from women, men, gay, and straight founders. Jesse and I even met up with the founders of a meeting that went dark because of low attendance and the members' feelings of isolation within their conservative town. One of the founders said, “The believers here tolerate us” where Jesse responded in a heartbeat by saying “I don't want to be tolerated, I want to be loved!” Yes! Jesse is correct, we all want the love and support that AA promises all those who suffer from alcoholism. 

We met and stayed with a gentleman, Ed C., who is interested in starting a meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ed has been doing 12th step work for years; he has taken alcoholics and addicts into his home who are non-believers and freethinkers--WAAFTs who can't get or stay sober because they couldn't “come to believe” or “fake it to you make it.” Or there is Tony S., who is a retired veteran who was doing 12th step work in the skid row of Charleston, NC, and literally had to fight off a fundamentalist Christian organization that attacked him and his meeting members for simply having an atheist and a secular meeting. Seven years later, Tony S. and his members are safe and sober. Then there's the inspirational growth of the Arizona meetings, the Tucson group went to WAAFT-IAAC in Santa Monica and were so inspired that they formed five new meetings in the state. Then there is John S. from Kansas City, MO, who not only founded the We Agnostics meeting there, but also does service work for his central office and is the GSR and has reached out to his local Judicial community to inform them of the WAAFT option in their area.

The daily intertwined service of their daily/weekly personal lives gives the lifesaving recovery that all WAAFTs so eagerly seek!

The International, Atlanta, GA

Unity not Uniformity

Sadly, much of the trip, Jesse and I were running against the clock in the attempt to meet up with people, get to meetings on time, or get to dinner parties held for us. Often we were late and deeply frustrated by our human limitations. Luckily, we had been working with Ed W. founder of the Columbus, OH, meeting. Ed and I worked to let people to meet up with us at a local restaurant. I am very grateful to Ed for his help. When we reached Atlanta, we were late. Over 25 people from across the USA and Canada very generously waited for us. I was particularly happy to meet the newly formed Vermont group for the first time. From there we all agreed to meet up at the We Agnostics panel the next day. All took fliers to take to their groups/meetings and to other events at the convention.

Jesse and I went to different meetings/events the first day. Jesse describes his experience: “I would go to the Young People’s meeting and Dorothy would go to the LGBT meeting, two audiences where we figured we would find sympathy for our cause. I arrived early at the room where the meeting would be and the Southwest Historical panel was wrapping its final half hour with sparse attendance, I began interlacing fliers with a message statement that we had written and made a plan on how I was going to hand them out. There being 3 doors, I couldn’t get them as they came in; so I started putting them into the (mostly) empty seats after the meeting adjourned and people were still milling about. After filling 1/3 of the chairs the room gradually became occupied with Young People in sobriety. I walked the aisles and asked people if they would like a flier, almost everyone did and no one even blinked at the content. I had one older gentleman come up to me, flier in hand, that I had assumed he had gotten from a chair, asking if what I was doing was AA. I said that it was and he responded 'Good. Because I’m beginning to think that this god stuff is a bunch of nonsense....I went to a Finnish language meeting because I found out it’s a part of my ancestry, and I’ve been trying to learn the language; I understood nothing they said beyond “hyvää päivää” and “minä olen alkoholisti.” I did learn the word alkoholisti.  

"When the time came that it appeared that people were saying some ritualized prayer, I looked around for the people that didn’t have their eyes closed. I only saw one, but unfortunately lost her in the crowd as they were leaving. I caught up to the next closest person that appeared to understand my English words and asked if they would take this flier back to Finland, throwing in an “anteeksi” and “kiitos” with mimed movements of pinning it on a board. He agreed, and read the flier with the muted look. His friend came over and asked what it said. I could hear him describe it with what are either loan words or words that have a common ancestry as I think I heard something like “agnostikki.” His friend gave a less muted and more critical look at it, but as I’ve heard about the Northlands he seemed to accept that it was a different way and left it at that.”

I attempted to go the LGBT meeting. Sadly, the doors were locked due to reaching capacity. But that didn't stop LGBT members who couldn't get into the room from holding their own meeting outside. Often I have heard people make comparisons to the LGBT struggles in AA to the struggles of WAAFT members. I never felt comfortable with that because how distinct each of the experiences are until I heard people share in that meeting. 

People talked about coming out of the closet, as alcoholics, tolerance for homophobes, how their LGBT meetings give them strength to attend "regular"/straight meetings. Replace the sexuality centric language with religious/traditional meeting it sounds just like every other WAAFT meeting that I have ever been at. 

Right after that meeting, I fliered people as they were leaving the locked room. That is where I meet with Gary from Republic, MO, who carries the message to his local prisons. Because AA has been deemed a religious organization, AA is not allowed into the prisons. Gary was excited about WAAFT AA because he can bring a secular AA option to inmates. Gary would join Jesse, me, and others for three hours as we talked about everything WAAFT-y.

Later, when I was fliering, I had various responses: A very old Gaelic-speaking Scottish man come up to me and asked if I was the one handing out this flier...a moment of fear ran through me as I looked down in my hands which were holding fliers and posters. I lifted my head, looked him in the eyes and gave a big smile and said, “Yes, sir!” He then pulled me close and gave me a kiss on my cheek and thanked me for my service. A woman who had met me in my Hollywood We Agnostics meeting, she brought her sponsee to my homegroup because the sponsee didn't believe in god. Another woman was a blogger and is interested in writing about the WAAFT world. I met a few people who were therapists who were believers but had clients that needed us. There were believers who had friends/family that needed us and people who had friends who attended WAAFT meetings in their area. That is not discounting WAAFTs who were relieved to learn about us and were excited to know that Austin awaits them in 2016.

I was moralized. 

My experience once again showed me that not we are not alone and that we have many friends within traditional AA who truly believe that recovery from alcoholism is possible and needed for everyone regardless of belief or lack of belief. 

The next morning was the We Agnostics panel. 

The We Agnostics Panel

I am someone who enjoys symbols and synchronicity in life. There were countless moments along the trip where they occurred. The first being Jesse asked an AAer he knows in Reno, NV if he would print the posters for us. The AAer in the past had called himself a Reverend. After the printing was done and Jesse went to pay the printer the Reverend told him that he had become an atheist the week before and was excited to learn about us and gave us a huge discount for the work. Or the fact that Jesse had torn apart his car to fix his engine and air conditioning before the trip and how the air conditioning/ overheated didn't until the second day he was home. There were countless little things like this that we had a running joke, “Well I guess god wants us to have an atheist/freethinker convention after all.”

When I was in Texas staying with another Board member and Host Committee Chair for Austin, Nick H., who was also the co-founder with Charlie Polachek of the wAAft groups. I learned that Polachek was actually the person who first started the We Agnostics panel in Montreal, CA in 1985. I found this exceptionally meaningful since I would gain and maintain my sobriety in the first meeting that Polachek would form in Hollywood and that the first We Agnostics, Atheists, Freethinker International AA Convention would happened in Los Angeles, CA. Then the second WAAFT-IAAC would be in the city where he moved to where he started meetings in his 90s. 

I remember saying from podium in Santa Monica, CA, with intended poetic flare that I, the original Steering Committee and the Hollywood meeting were children of Polachek and so was the convention. Not until Texas I did understand how true that was and how I and other wAAfts are following in the legacy that he has given our movement. 

July 3rd was the morning of panel. 

I was exhausted, my chest was puffed out, and neck held high...I was expecting fight because of how bad Jesse and I had heard “that the previous We Agnostics panel from 5 years prior was pedantic and condescending, the speakers implying that the non-Christian believer would 'get it' eventually. There were too many miles and days between here and there to think too heavily about it, but I did wonder for a moment what the tone was going to be like this time.” Once again I entered AA ready for a fight but was welcomed with open loving arms. 

We had gotten there early to make sure we could get seats and to cover the seats with our literature and give as many fliers we could to people before they entered the room. What impressed me the most was not just the nearly 2,000 people who attended and the panel actually had agnostics (no atheists, freethinkers or women mind you) that clearly affirmed their and others wAAfts place within AA. By telling their personal stories and giving literature citations. No, what moved me the most was the people that we meet in person for the first time on our first day and others that had been in contact with me to tell me they were going to meet us there. 

It was the core wAAfts that made sure that as many fliers were put out, that people entering the room had our information, made sure Jesse and I sat in the front, that they talked with the panelist, and made sure I talked to them before the start of the panel. “The first speaker. After being introduced, he picked up one of the fliers and said how happy he was to be there and how glad he was to see that there was this convention going on called….waaftiaa? It didn’t matter that he didn’t pronounce it the way that we do, it was now officially in the annals of AA history, our convention mentioned at the International!!

I was elated.  

He helped place us into AA's history by saying that on the recording.“  

I spoke to him afterwards and thank him for doing us a solid. He was thrilled to learn about us and even gave me a hug afterwards. The speakers got a huge exhale gave and a standing ovulation from the audience! Afterwords members of the audience thanked Jesse and I for our service. 

It made me proud to be able to be there for them. To give people a chance to rally around such a life saving cause. As someone who is prone to deep emotional isolation I deeply valued feeling apart of something bigger and more important than me. I can only hope that my continual service can in some way return what has been given me. The opportunity to see the country, to listen to wAAfts with an open heart across the world and to be able to possibility spread the word of our movement internationally, like that Scottish gentleman who will take the flier to Europe, the Finnish people Jesse talked to and others we fliered and give proof that you can be an open wAAft within AA and live a truly honest life, humbles me.

November 2016, Austin, TX

WAAFT-IAAC was always designed to be a fellowship owned event. That it belongs to ALL of us just as AA belongs to ALL AAers! So, I took the opportunity of the Yellow Apple Seed Road Trip as a chance to engage the wAAfts that we were interacting with to ask what people would like to see at the convention. The question I asked across the country, what speakers do you want to see, what topics for workshops and panels do you want to see? 

A few of the ideas that were brought up was to have a Freethinker panel. It's aim would be to help define what and who is a Freethinker and what role they can and do they play within the wAAft movement.  

A true WAAFT panel of Agnostics, Atheists and Freethinkers to talk about everything from their personal recovery to where they see our movement growing to.

The role of women in our WAAFTY world, how to we achieve a safe recovery environment for everyone in our meetings/groups?

What is the god Detox and how to grow past it.

I/we don't know the answer to these questions but the convention is the place were we can continue to address these and many other concerns our movement has. 

Another objective I had was to find people who would be interested in volunteering with WAAFT-IAAC to help spread the word far and wide and to encourage the growth of meetings and ultimately to sell tickets and hotel rooms (the hotel rooms will be on sale in December 2015) and fund raise. The truth is WAAFT-IAAC was funded by ticket sales and donations and we are in need of group and individual donations to cover our expediences before the convention happens in November. You can donate via paypal via or you can mail to our address at WAAFT IAAC Inc. P.O. Box 4071, Lancaster, CA 93539-.

Yours in Fellowship and Service

 ~ Dorothy H.

10 Days to the Zonie WAAFTY Celebration!!!

Greetings Fellow WAAFTIES!

We are JUST 10 days to the November 7, 2015 one day conference in Phoenix, AZ. The Zonies, as Arizona residents call themselves, are preparing what they are calling a WAAFT Celebration. What a great word to remind us that recovery is about living a happy, joyous, free, sober life. Here is what Jerry F. has to say about the WAAFT Zonie Celebration:

Looking through some papers from when we first began to consider a WAAFT-AZ Conference (and not finding what I was looking for) I see that we sometimes referred to it as an assembly and at other times a conference. It is both of those but what it really is, and how we regard it, is a celebration. Since the first International WAAFT Convention in Santa Monica we have seen the WAAFT groups sprout up around Arizona and we have seen some of those groups grow from one to three meetings a week. And we have seen some groups of three or four people expand to twenty-five or more every week.

So we are excited and we are celebrating. And, of course, we’re speculating. How many Arizona groups will there be next November? How many meetings will there be every week? What cities will begin to have WAAFT meetings that do not have them now? There were five or six of us Zonies that went to Santa Monica. How many will attend the Austin convention?

What we’re doing now is historic. We have good reason to celebrate and we have every reason to expect that, in November of 2017, our little party will expand to two or three times the size that it is this year. Yep, a celebration is exactly the word for it.

Jerry F.

Gilbert, AZ”

You can find the tentative schedule and buy tickets at If you are not able to make it on November 7, 2015 you can show your support for the WAAFT movement by buying tickets to the second, We Agnostics, Atheists, Freethinker International AA Convention (WAAFT IAAC) at
The WAAFT IAAC Board has been hard at work defining who we are. We have completed a draft of our bylaws, which you can read here, These bylaws will be voted on at the next convention and it would be very useful if as many of you who are interested looked over what we have done and offer input, corrections or suggestions before that vote takes place. Feel free to email us at In addition WAAFT IAAC Inc. has achieved 501 (c) 3, Federal non-profit status. Donations over $250, will be tax deductible. You can donate here,
We also working on a Treasury report that we will be releasing VERY soon!
Lastly, if you have visited it is a bit bare! It would be great any of you who attended the convention in Santa Monica could write a small description of that experience and submit it to us to include on that site. How did it change your view of AA? How did it change you? Were you inspired into enter into service for AA for the first time?

Looking forward to meeting everyone in Austin, TX, November 11-13, 2016!
Yours in Service

Dorothy H.

Chairwoman, WAAFT IAAC


A Call For WAAFT IAAC Speakers

Dear WAAFTies and Fellow Travelers,

The date for the 2nd Biennial WAAFT-IAAC is drawing nigh!  While November 11, 2016 may seem a long time from now, from a planning perspective it is practically tomorrow.  The speakers committee has come up with some names of potential main stage speakers for the convention.

However, we are certain that many of you will know of dynamic speakers who will not only add to our excitement and edification but will also inspire more people to attend our gathering.  We are looking to book three speakers, two keynote speakers and a main speaker. 

Because this is a fellowship owned event we want to hear who you like to see. Members of the speakers committee feel that we should reach out to speakers who are atheists, agnostics or freethinkers. While we prefer to have AA members as speakers we are not averse to inviting well known supporters of the Recovery Community who may have a message that will resonate with our members. 

We feel that having three big speakers are will be valuable in order to help draw in as many WAAFTs as possible to reflect the diversity of opinion within our fellowship.  We are looking for people who will not only be entertaining speakers but will also motivate everyone to carry wAAftyism across the world and will also potentially may help us to gain greater media exposure to spread the message of WAAFT AA farther and wider.

Once we get recommendations from you, we will be using a polling website for people can and who they like and people can vote on them. So, lets get started and make WAAFT IAAC 2016 an even BIGGER success!

Remember you can buy tickets and give tax deductible donations.

~Nick H.
Host Committee Chair
Austin, TX

Arizona WAAFT Invites The WAAFT World to join them November 7, 2015

Arizona Steps Up

The Arizona WAAFT groups are holding an AZ WAAFT One Day Conference on November 7, 2015. You can learn more here, You will need to buy tickets in advance because there is a cap of 75 people who can attend. David H. who is on the AZ organizing Committee wrote why he thinks it is important that our WAAFT movement continues to grow.

After the meeting yesterday a friend of mine asked me if I ever found myself beset with fears that this new flourishing of secular AA groups might be a will-o’-the-wisp—something to arise for a while and then be beaten down or suffer from declining interest after a once promising start.

He asked me if I had these same fears and I told him that I did sometimes, but that I also felt surges of hope that perhaps we are on the cusp of a revolution which will bring AA into the present century with a new openness to people of any faith whatsoever or no faith at all—a ‘big tent’ AA.

I told him that my ‘job’, as I see it, is just to make one less empty chair at as many agnostic meetings as I can get to, and to be ever mindful not to criticize or malign sober AA’s who happen to have a faith that they feel is crucial to their sobriety. As many of us feel that we often ‘don’t fit’ in the more faith-based AA meetings, I don’t want persons of faith to feel uncomfortable in meetings—that, I feel, would defeat our purpose.

WAAFT-IAAC Now A Non-Profit

If you can’t make it to the Arizona Conference you can still show your support by buying tickets and donating to the We Agnostics, Atheists, Freethinkers, International AA Convention at WAAFT- IAAC has been approved for 501 (c) 3 status making donations tax deductible. The second WAAFT-IAAC will be held in Austin Texas, November 11-13, 2016 and now more than ever we need your financial support to make it the amazing success we all know it can be!

Yours in Service,