KSSG sq snip

Kelowna Secular Sobriety Group: Two year anniversary & fundraiser!

Kelowna Secular Sobriety Group celebrates two year anniversary 

For the Kelowna Secular Sobriety Group (KSSG), January will mark two years of helping local people tackle their addictions. The first non-religious addictions peer support group in Kelowna follows the SMART Recovery program which encourages self-empowerment by providing a safe, respectful and anonymous setting for anyone who wants to work towards becoming and staying alcohol and drug-free.

Unlike 12 step programs, SMART promotes self-empowerment, and teaches self-directed, science-based techniques that help individuals learn how to change their situations, improve relationships and achieve lifestyle balance. It includes information on exercise, healthy eating, getting proper sleep, and identifying and resolving underlying problems. All while supporting and respecting individual differences in recovery. (More info here.) The essential difference is between self-empowerment (Smart Recovery) and dependence on a higher power (12 step) approach.

The KSSG is facilitated and coordinated by Van Hill and supported by the Okanagan branch of the Centre for Inquiry. For more information about the KSSG, contact Van at soberkelowna@gmail.com or, if you’d like to attend meetings, join their Meetup group. Anyone looking to get and stay sober is welcome.  Meeting details:

Tuesdays 7 pm Downtown
101-1456 St. Paul Street (CNIB offices)
Van 250-859-4300 soberkelowna@gmail.com

Thursdays 7 pm Rutland
760 Hwy. 33 W, at The Bridge (portable #2)
Paul 250-575-8585 paul.hearnden@hotmail.com

Over the past couple of years, the group has helped many local people who have been struggling with addiction. And what better way to celebrate its anniversary, than with the birth of new SMART Recovery support groups! One regular participant in KSSG meetings, Tim, found the group so helpful in getting and staying sober, that he has recently trained as a SMART Recovery facilitator himself and is starting a couple of new groups in the New Year.  Tim can be contacted at: smartkelowna@gmail.com.

CFI Okanagan chatted with Tim about his experiences.

CFI Okanagan: How long have you been coming to the group? How often did you come?

Tim: I initially came to a few Smart meetings last Fall, but never seriously worked the program at that time. I guess I still thought I could handle my problems without outside assistance. I mostly stayed away from the meetings until this Summer, when after another relapse, I took it much more seriously and attended the meetings weekly, and worked through the handbook and the program. Since I began working through the program I am pleased to report that I feel a thousand percent better than I used to, in a fairly short period of time. The program provides simple but powerful self-analysis tools that were a real eye-opener for me. I am now committed to sobriety and look forward to volunteering to help SMART meetings continue in Kelowna in the future.

CFI Okanagan: How long did you have a problem with addiction(s)?

Tim: I was a heavy drinker most of my life, but it became a problem for the last 10 years. 2 stints in detox at Crossroads, one month at a recovery centre, around ten trips to the hospital (and many to the doctor) during that time. It’s lucky actually that I am still alive today. Last time I went to the hospital my blood alcohol level was .89 – lethal for just about everyone.

CFI Okanagan: Did you try AA?

Tim: I have indeed tried AA. I estimate that I have been to around 40-50 meetings, but none of the meetings I went to made me want to stop drinking. To be honest, some of them made me so uncomfortable that I left them feeling like having a drink. Let’s call it a bad fit for me. As a freethinker, I was immediately uncomfortable with the religious foundation of the AA philosophy, infused throughout the Big Book, the Twelve Steps, the Twelve Traditions and the Serenity Prayer. Many times during meetings participants and leaders praised God (and sometimes Jesus) for their recoveries. For a freethinker, that was not an option for me. I was advised by some at the meetings (leaders and participants) that I needed to follow the God-based program to the letter in order to recover, and conversely, some others told me just to invent a ‘higher power’ or lie and say that I have a ‘higher power’ just to participate in the program. I was not about to start lying about what I believe just so I could fit in with the group. Lying is one of the main issues of addiction that alcoholics need to fix. Therefore, in order to fit in with AA, I would be continuing my addictive behaviour by being dishonest with myself and others.

Reading the ‘Big Book’, I could tell that this program was written in the last century and in serious need of updating, given all the advances in science and psychology that we have made in the last many decades. I was told that AA will never change its philosophies, and it was up to me to accept them or never recover.

Needless to say, I definitely welcomed the appearance of a rational-based recovery group in Kelowna, and want to help to continue to see it flourish, since the alternative is not suitable for me (and I suspect many others).

CFI Okanagan: Can you say what you found valuable about the group?

Tim: Aside from being non-religious and rational based, I find the group a comfortable arena to discuss my history of addiction issues without judgement from others. Just simply talking/admitting my problems in the SMART group allowed me to feel less guilty about them, especially in a room with others sharing similar stories. In AA I found there to be pressure to not only to become spiritual/religious in my recovery, but also to conform to the group which has already bought into the spirituality of the program. When I speak at the meetings it is always about what I can change for myself in order to assist my recovery, and hear and assist others in their recovery with sharing and suggestions. No pressure to conform in order to fit in. Just people sharing of themselves and helping other people with similar issues.

CFI Okanagan: You have said that the group facilitator, Van, has inspired you. Can you say a bit more?

Tim: Van is a very good communicator and discussion moderator. He does not judge anyone and has empathy for all involved in the recovery group. His own history/experiences validate the helpful words of assistance that he offers to others including myself.

We at CFI Okanagan are very proud to have supported the Kelowna Secular Sobriety Group for the past two years and we look forward to continuing that support in 2015. We are currently fundraising for the rent for the group’s weekly meeting space here. Please donate if you can! Thank you in advance.


Praying won't help. Doing will.

Good Without God: Winter Clothing (etc) Drive

The first few flakes of snow are now falling in Kelowna and, thanks to our Good Without God Winter Clothing (Etc) Drive, some people in need will soon be receiving some winter clothing and other necessities.

Thank you so much to everyone who donated clothing, food, cleaning supplies and cash! And thanks to volunteers, Belle, Blythe, Dan and Nina, who drove around town picking up the donations. Thanks also to Cat, who let us use her space for storage.

The donations were delivered to Inn from the Cold, the Kelowna Women’s Shelter, the Kelowna Community Food Bank and the Martin Avenue Boys and Girls Clubs on Monday. It was a challenge to squeeze everything into the car!

Thanks again for your help in making the world a better place!
3 Good without God 2014
4 Good without God 2014

Did Jesus Really Exist? An Historian’s Perspective

In this presentation, Dr Richard Carrier will summarize his groundbreaking new book, On the Historicity of Jesus, the first book extensively challenging the historicity of Jesus to be published by a peer reviewed academic press (through the University of Sheffield). He will briefly summarize his thesis and argument, explaining why we should suspect Jesus never existed as a historical man, but was originally an archangel known only through visions and scripture, and only later were earthly stories invented about him, which later churches then sold as the truth.


Tickets will be $5 cash at the door for unreserved seating. Tickets for reserved seating may be bought online in advance at Eventbrite. The event is 7:30pm on Friday 17 October at 702 Bernard Ave (French Cultural Centre), downtown Kelowna.

Richard Carrier is a world-renowned author and speaker. As a professional historian, published philosopher, and prominent defender of the American freethought movement, Dr. Carrier has appeared across the U.S., Canada and the U.K., and on American television and London radio, defending sound historical methods and the ethical worldview of secular naturalism. His books and articles have received international attention. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University in ancient history, he specializes in the intellectual history of Greece and Rome, particularly ancient philosophy, religion, and science, with emphasis on the origins of Christianity and the use and progress of science under the Roman empire. He is also a published expert in the modern philosophy of naturalism as a worldview. He is the author of On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt; Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus; Sense and Goodness without God; Not the Impossible Faith; Why I Am Not a Christian; and Hitler Homer Bible Christ, and a major contributor to The Empty Tomb, The Christian Delusion, and The End of Christianity, and for his copious work in history and philosophy, online and in print. He is currently working on his next books, Science Education in the Early Roman Empire and The Scientist in the Early Roman Empire.

We will also be holding a “Guess the Weight” contest for some very special prizes for people who appreciate ancient history and the history of Christianity! $5 for each guess. Cash only. Prizes will include some wonderful ancient coins! One is a rather scarce coin issued by Pontius Pilate in Judaea at the time standardly claimed for Jesus’ crucifixion. The other is one of the earliest coins issued with a Christian symbol on it (the Chi-Rho) from just after the time of Constantine the Great, during the reign of his son, Constantius II. The Chi-Rho can be seen on the standard held by Emperor Constantius II, on the coin below. This is a close-up photo of one of the actual coins that you will have an opportunity to win, which was minted between 348-350 AD.

R4534 copy

Please do not use the Safeway parking lot, it is for customers only and frequently checked. There are Impark lots nearby, on  St Paul and Bertram, or else on street parking is often available in the evenings.

The French Cultural Centre is not endorsing or sponsoring this event in any way. We have simply rented their space for the evening.

News about the Kelowna Secular Sobriety Group

CFI Okanagan volunteer, Van Hill, facilitates weekly meetings of a SMART Recovery peer support group — the Kelowna Secular Sobriety Group. The team leader of the Substance Use & Urgent Response Programs at Kelowna Mental Health invited Van to speak to BC Interior Health counsellors to tell them all about the SMART Recovery program.
Van gave a presentation to the counsellors earlier this month, and the response from the audience was very favourable. Counsellors appreciated that the program depends on cognitive behavioural therapy techniques, as these techniques are also used by the counsellors in their own work with clients. Counsellors in attendance also mentioned that since the Kelowna Secular Sobriety Group meets in the evenings it nicely complements anything that Interior Health could offer, which is limited by a 9 – 5 schedule. The counsellors stated that they plan to recommend the Kelowna Secular Sobriety Group to anyone they judge may benefit from attending.
Van’s impression was that it was a worthwhile event, and that the IH counsellors were positive and receptive about the SMART Recovery alternative to AA.
Learn more about SMART here and here.

The Science of Mindfulness

Dr Janice Snyder, a psychology professor at UBC Okanagan, will be giving a presentation on the science of mindfulness: What happens when we meditate? What’s the evidence for the benefits of mindfulness meditation?

7pm, Thursday 18th September, Rotary Centre for the Arts, 421 Cawston Ave, Kelowna.

Donations will be very gratefully accepted at the door.


(The wonderful photo of the Buddha statue was taken by Michael Hoefner. We are grateful to the photographer for making this work freely available on Wikimedia Commons.)