“Alcoholics Anonymous Struggles to Stay Relevant as Secular Programs Gain Momentum”


A recent issue of the Colorado online newspaper Boulder Weekly carried an article about LifeRing that made our hearts beat a little faster: “Alcoholics Anonymous struggles to stay relevant as secular programs gain momentum.” See the article by clicking HERE.


The piece featured the founder of LifeRing in the Denver/Boulder area, Kathleen Gargan, who has served LifeRing as the starter and convenor of many meetings, a former Executive Director and Board member of the organization, and still a key guiding force for the group. It spoke of the declining (but still huge) membership in AA and the rapid growth of secular recovery groups. The article focused primarily on LifeRing. We can only hope that similar articles will appear regularly around the country and the world as time goes on.

Kathleen points out a couple of small errors in the article: she has been sober since 1981, not 1991; Tom Jarrell is misnamed Tom Gerald, and Secular Organizations for for Sobriety (S.O.S.) doesn’t have a presence in Colorado, contrary to what the article states. But minor errors shouldn’t detract from the highly positive nature of the piece.


  1. Cassie on January 21, 2018 at 10:09 pm

    I grew up in a religious cult, and wanted nothing to do with God when I got sober more 30+ years ago. I started in AA, and I just saw this website because of one of my mich younger brothers recently got sober. I also have a sister, who attends Smart Recovery. Being raised in a religious cult, really screws you up with the God stuff.

    To the point of my reply, everyone makes AA out to be religious when is not. It firmly states “a God or Highpower of your own understanding”. It did take me years to define that saying the word “God” doesn’t necessarily mean religious. I did find I it much easier to say than “Higherpower.” For those who try to preach from the podium in AA, I’m not afraid to speak up and indicate an outside issue. This is not about Jesus Christ or whatever they believe, it’s about finding a power greater than yourselve to help restore you to sanity.

    For others to blatantly put AA down, is not ok. As we can all see, sexual harrasment is everywhere, not just in AA. Unfortunately, AA is supposed to be a safe place, but so is a police department. I can’t tell how many cops wives I know that have been beaten and raped by their own husband, And, none of these women are in AA.

    Smart Recovery doesn’t knock on AA because it doesn’t work for some of them, why should you? We all have our own paths to recovery. No one should be judging the others, who seem to help.

    I think lLifeRing is helping my brother stay sober, just as Smart Recovery helps my sister, who is now sober 4 years. I have another brother who also goes to AA.

    We should all learn, that when pointing one finger out we have got three pointing back at us.

    I wish you all the best in your paths along to Recovery.

    • Craig Whalley on January 22, 2018 at 6:45 am

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. LifeRing is not “anti-AA”. We seek only to offer choice in recovery paths,This story was about a newspaper article discussing LifeRing. Our post contained no criticism of AA — perhaps your concern should be directed at the website that posted the article if you think it was unfair.
      — Craig W.

  2. George Devine on January 20, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    Are there LifeLock meetings in New York?

    • Craig Whalley on January 20, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      LifeRing (not LifeLock, although that wouldn’t be a bad name!) currently offers meetings in Harrison, NY, and across the border in Greenwich, CT.We haven’t yet found the combination of a willing convenor and a place to host a meeting. We do have active online support resources you may be interested in. If so, drop me an email at cswhalley@lifering.org.
      — Craig W.

  3. fredt on December 27, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    and AA will continue to work for the religious and religious tolerant, while the remainder of us develop something that works for the rest of us or not. AA provides a system of like minded who are obsessing with sobriety, providing a replacement sober social group, and a safe network. Along with the change in attitude required for recovery comes the belief that AA is the only way. Gratitude for sobriety is the hallmark of the program, and that is not so much for the secular groups. Oh well, it does not matter how we get sober, it is the staying that is difficult without support and a suitable social network.

  4. Steve W. on December 26, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks for posting! What a refreshing article! Nice picture of our leader Kathleen (above) too!

  5. Bob Gordon on December 25, 2017 at 2:56 am

    We need LifeRing in Huntsville/Madison Alabama. This isn’t a typical Southern Baptist town and with all the rocket scientists that are employed here LifeRing would fit in perfectly. I am an unsatisfied and disappointed member of Madison Hopeful group in Madison. Lately I have stopped attending due to the cult like rules and responses to my shares at meetings. Personally I did attend LifeRing in Kaiser Rehab in Oakland, CA and that format is a much more powerful tool and meeting format than the traditional AA mantra.My email address is dolphanbob2003@yahoo.com if there is any information that can assist heading up this venture.

    Merry Christmas,

    Bob Gordon

    • Craig Whalley on December 25, 2017 at 10:11 am

      The only requirements for convening an official LifeRing meeting are six months of continuous sobriety along with a commitment to our basic principles. But even without much sober time or the resolve needed to hang in for the long term, there’s nothing to stop someone from starting an unofficial meeting that draws on the LifeRing approach. If you know of one or two others — maybe from the Madison Hopeful AA meeting — that might be interested, invite them to your home or to coffee for a trial run and see how it goes. It might be worth a try and it could take on a life of its own.
      — Craig W.