Sad Ending to a Story August 20, 2007

Sad Ending to a Story

A while back, I wrote about a person concerned about his brother-in-law’s alcoholism.

This is the letter she sent me:

I received a disturbing phone call from my sister-in-law yesterday about her husband, my brother-in-law.

Seems that my bro-in-law is experiencing difficulty with alcoholism, but he is reluctant to attend AA meetings because of their insistence that in order to be successful in the AA program, you must submit to a higher power – a power greater than yourself – God. Of course, you are permitted to define God anyway you choose, yet you are reminded in the chapter “We Agnostics” from the “Big Book” that “As soon as we admitted the possible existence of a Creative Intelligence, a Spirit of the Universe underlying the totality of things, we began to be possessed of a new sense of power and direction, provided we took other simple steps.”

Seriously, is AA the only non-profit group out there that addresses alcoholism? Is there no god-free group that is focused on addiction? Surely there must be someplace an addicted atheist or agnostic (or secular humanist, pagan, or other) can turn to for assistance with addiction.

I am hoping that perhaps you or one of your readers can offer some advice on what I might communicate to my bro-in-law and his wife about such a support group… one that preferably doesn’t have a huge fee attached to their services.

A lot of people wrote in with their comments and suggestions.

Lee, the original letter-writer, just sent me this:

Around the end of May of this year, I sent you a message about my brother-in-law and his battle with alcoholism in addition to his aversion to Alcoholics Anonymous due to their God fixation. The comments included input from his wife, who is also a blogger at

I am sorry to say that on August 13th, sometime around 5:30pm (by investigator estimates) my brother-in-law was killed in an accident. He drove an asphalt mixer (a very high temperature substance), and he was in a 4-truck convoy in the Ozarks on some treacherous mountain roads. He had fallen behind in the convoy – his truck was bringing up the rear, when, according to the investigator’s theory, his load shifted, causing his truck to move onto the soft shoulder of the road. He could not recover from the shoulder and he went over the cliff.

Nola, his wife, has had his remains cremated, as she plans to scatter his ashes near her father’s lake house. This is also her plans for her own remains, so I think it is fitting to memorialize him this way. His memorial service was on Friday the 17th.

Thanks to everyone for their earlier posts concerning Jon and the alternatives to AA.

I take comfort in knowing that Jon’s life had taken a distinct turn for the better in the three months prior to his death. He had begun anti-depressant treatment and was progressing very well.

I’m sorry for your family’s loss, Lee. Thanks for giving us the update.

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  • Richard Wade

    To Lee, Nola and to Jon’s family,
    I am very saddened to hear of this tragedy. In the long conversation on the previous post about all your challenges I came to care about each of you. I can only hope that the process of healing that Jon and all of you had started will continue. The best tribute to someone who has come to the premature end of their struggle is to continue our own struggle with the best of their example to encourage us forward. May your own paths of healing be widened and smoothed.

    Please accept my heartfelt condolences.

  • Lee

    Ah, laughter through tears. I’ve had my share of that this past week – mostly in remembering things about Jon, or in listening to the memories of others.
    I forget about the masculinity of my name – I am female – Jon is my husband’s brother. Hemant has assumed my gender as male, but I’m not offended – I think it’s funny.
    I suppose I should begin addressing myself in posts in this way: The female Lee
    I am woman – hear me whine.

  • Valhar2000

    Well, at least Jon did not succumb to The Bottle, and even managed some measure of victory. Accidents will happen; that’s the way it is. You have my condolences as well.

  • Richard and Valhar,
    Thank you for your concern. All well-wishes are a salve to a wound. Richard, you are quite eloquent, as always.

  • HI everyone ,Alcoholism is one of the most common addictions in the present-day world. Once an alcoholic has identified him or herself as such, then it’s time that they reach out for help for their addiction.Here is one good website which caught my eye, where you can find some more relevant information in getting the addicted person into a recovery state.

  • Whoops! I changed the reference to Lee (the female).

  • Nyah, nyah, Hemant! Too late… you messed up and we witnessed it. Now, go into the corner and hide your face in shame.

    Me? I’ll just go find the nearest courthouse so I can change my name to something decidedly female… like Jane, or something else. Or maybe I’ll choose some pole-dancer name – like Candy (no offense to anyone who goes by that name).

  • Tammy

    Lee, I’m very sorry about your family’s loss. I missed the original thread concerning your brother-in-law, but a while back, for reasons of my own, I was researching an organization like AA but secular in nature. What I found was, and apparantly they’re pretty widespread. I live in rural PA, and if weren’t for the wonders of technology and the internet, I never would’ve found out about it. There are SOS chapters in most states, according to their website, and they sell books and encourage people to start up new chapters if need be. They have to have a secular organization like this in prisons for anybody who’s court-ordered to follow through a program. Because of separation of church and state, there has to be an alternative to the faith-based programs like AA.

  • Mriana

    They are out there, but I don’t know what the programs are. I’m not sure if Hope Humanists board listed them or if I saw them listed on another board. Give me a few minutes and I’ll go check out both boards for you.

  • Mriana

    Whoops! 🙁 Sorry, I didn’t read very closely. I’m sorry to hear about your brother. OY! The Ozarks. 🙁 Those roads are not good roads at all even in the part of the Ozarks I live. Do you know what part of the Ozarks was he driving? Missouri or Virginia or some where in between?

  • Jon was in Northern Arkansas on his way to Russellville on Route 27. His company was Clever Stone from Clever, Missouri. His obit is found in his wife’s blog at

    Yesterday my husband called his cell phone number just to hear his voice… it broke my heart to see this. I spoke to Nola yesterday and found out she had also called Jon’s cell just the day before. Both Nola and Keith left messages.

  • Mriana

    OY! That IS a bad area. I’m in S.W. Missouri in the Queen City of the Ozarks with relatives close to the Arkansas border. My uncle/godfather died in that area in similar circumstances. He was the foreman of the Arkansas Hospital at the time. That area if very bad and has one of the highest rates of automobile deaths. 🙁 I am so sorry.

    Oh you do know of the Queen City. He lived where I do. I had no idea there were others here from my area. I’d say cool but this doesn’t seem like an appropriate time. Even so, I do know that area and it’s a bad area. 🙁

  • There are other times when religious groups try to rope people into their cause. Alcoholism (or another addiction) is one example. Another such time (at least here in Dallas) is when you’re Out Of Work and seeking the help of others.

    The majority of the job search groups meet in churches during the (M-F) week. Sometimes the religious element is never mentioned, while other groups make no apology for injecting dogma every chance they get. I attended one where several hundred people had gathered, and was appalled to hear (“children’s”) fables from the Christian Bible (Daniel and the Lions’ Den, etc) as examples of how to conduct a job search. I waited for the intermission and quietly slipped out the back door, never to return.

    These groups prey (not pray) upon the individual during a weak point in their lives. It would be so much better to wean them from dogma at that point, but that’ll never happen.

  • Mriana

    These groups prey (not pray) upon the individual during a weak point in their lives. It would be so much better to wean them from dogma at that point, but that’ll never happen

    I agree. They really do and I find it an abhorrance. I don’t think that will ever end unless religion were to slowly die out and become of less importance to people. It’s terrible what the religious do to people psychologically. 🙁

  • Huw

    Thanks for the link to !! I work in a recovery programme here in NC and we need more such resources to have for our clients who come from no or any religious tradition.

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