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 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

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

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:

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.


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