Bill O’B.

Archives: Personal History

Name: Bill O’B.
Date of Interview: 11/14/06
Sobriety Date(s):6/19/76
Current Home Group & Location: Thursday Night Step Study- Maple Shade, NJ
Locations lived in during sobriety: Willingboro, Cinnaminson & Maple Shade, NJ

How and when did you get started in A.A.? Where did you sober up and go to your first meeting?
The last time that I drank, I was drunk at the Friday Night Springside Rancocas meeting in Burlington on 6/19/76. I was drunk and in and out of a blackout and crying at the meeting. I had been going to meetings for about two years at that point but never really stopped drinking unless I was in a detox or rehab.
My first meetings were in Starting Point Farm in the summer of 1974 when I was there to dry out.
How did you first learn about A.A.?
In 1974 I was working as a Public Defender in Burlington County, Mt. Holly. One of my clients committed a serious crime while drunk and was at sentencing involved in AA. He had his sponsor and Noel L. from Starting Point speak for him.
After listening to these witnesses speak, I realized I was in bad shape and needed help just like my client.
Did you have a sponsor when you first came in? What type of sponsorship did you have?
I had several sponsors: Jack McN., Jim McM., Perry N., Noel L. and Ron S.
I needed someone who was strong and would not put up with my lies and empty promises.
How many groups or meetings were in existence? Can you recall the formats used at some of these early meetings? How were they run?
I never remember not being able to find a meeting. There seemed to be a lot of them, not as many as now, but still a lot.
Mostly they were discussion, some step, some Big Book, candle light, speakers meetings. All were smoking meetings. They were run the same way as now.
When was A.A. started in your town or area? How often were meetings held? Who were some of the people playing important roles in the formation of new groups? Can you explain the differences that led to new groups being formed in your area?
I was living in Willingboro at the time and there were at least 3 meetings per week in Willingboro. Monday night, Sunday afternoon and one other day, but I can’t remember when.
What else do you know about the growth of A.A. during that period of time?
I remember that a lot of women started to come to meetings. They didn’t talk about their drinking except in General terms.
Also, I remember new groups starting to address people from special or distinct backgrounds. Gays, Lesbians, Alcoholics who are children of alcoholics, women’s meetings, men’s meetings lawyer’s meeting, etc.
What contributions did you, yourself, make to the growth of the Fellowship? (Don’t be unnecessarily modest!)
I served as an officer in several groups that I joined over the years.
I did the incorporation for the ODAT Club when it moved to Mt. Holly and bought the building on Washington Street.
I started the Maple Shade Thursday Night Step Study Group.
What controversies over issues addressed in the Traditions can you recall people wrestling with? (How were meeting spaces acquired? Was rent or other funding obtained by gambling sessions, Bingo games, etc? How did the membership resolve these affairs?)
I was never aware of any questionable practices associated with paying our expenses.
We always passed the basket and got enough to support ourselves.
What individuals were especially prominent in your sobriety and why?
Jack McN., Perry N., Ron S., Jack McM. & Noel L.
These guys never gave up on me even though I kept drinking for the first two years in the program.
How were new members contacted? What kinds of Twelfth Step work were going on? Are there any Twelfth Step anecdotes that stick out in your mind that you’d care to share?
Some of us stared H&I commitments years ago. We have regular visits to hospital detox and rehab and meet a lot of new people in that way.
When I was practicing law, I would often represent a lot of clients, many in criminal cases who had severe drinking problems. I would also try to 12 step these people in the direction of AA without revealing much of my own background as an alcoholic.
Today, A.A. is well known to, and supported by police officers, judges and corrections officials. What kind of relationship did A.A. in your area have with local authorities? How has that changed since you sobered up?
I always remember a close and good relationship between AA and judges, police and probation.
The authorities clearly saw the good work that AA does and always respected AA’s involvement.
Treatment facilities nowadays frequently host A.A. and other Twelve Steps meetings. Did any of them use a Twelve Step format or incorporate meetings into their structure?
Yes. All of them that I am aware of.
Did you seek the cooperation of other local community or professional agencies?
Today, radio and television public service announcements for A.A., as well as Internet Web sites, are becoming commonplace. When you first got sober, how did A.A.s interact with the media? Have you had any profound experiences sharing your relationship with alcohol with the public? What cautions might you have for young A.A.s today regarding media exposure?
During the early years of your recovery, how did the community receive Alcoholics Anonymous?
Very well. I was always accepted as a recovering alcoholic and everyone was happy to see me getting better.
Do you think your group(s) has had an influence in your community? If so, how?
All positive. AA is a good community resource to help deal with the problems caused by problem drinkers.
What do you remember of early conferences, assemblies, and conventions? Can you recall opening intergroup or central offices?
Have you had any contact with G.S.O.? Please elaborate.
Today, Conference-approved literature is available to help A.A. members deal with a wide variety of challenging questions. In the early days of the Fellowship all we had was the book Alcoholics Anonymous, common sense and your compassion. How did early A.A.s treat newcomers? How did your group(s) treat constant slippers? Thirteenth steppers? How were people, wishing to talk about multiple addictions during your meetings addressed? How about nonalcoholic drug addicts walking in off the street for their first meeting?
When I first came to AA in 1974 and got sober in 1976, there was always a lot of literature, so I do not agree with the above statement. (In the early days of the Fellowship all we had was the book Alcoholics Anonymous, common sense and your compassion.)
AA worked 30 years ago exactly the same way it works now. I can speak only for myself, but I always helped anyone that needed help even if they had drug problems.
I think any old timer that rejects drug problems or cross addicted people have no understanding of AA or the steps and traditions. I have always rejected the intolerance of those AA Nazis and I will continue to do so. It has not hurt my sobriety in any way!
In what ways has A.A. changed over the years?
Hopefully it has gotten more tolerant and compassionate to dual addicted people. We should not act better than anyone else simply because we are only alcoholics.
We should keep our hand out to help anyone.