Archives: Personal History
Name: Bob P.
Date of Interview: 6/26/2022
Sobriety Date(s): 11/13/1981
Current Home Group & Location: Red Lion, Medford
Locations lived in during sobriety: Somerdale, Marlton, Medford
How and when did you get started in A.A.? Where did you sober up and go to your first meeting?
First meeting ever was August 1972, Saturday night meeting at St. Bart’s on rt 70. Didn’t stick with it.
In 1981 he hit his bottom and started going to meetings in Moorestown. Felt like he didn’t belong and almost left, but his buddy (who he used to drink with) spotted him in the meeting and talked him into staying, then took him out for coffee at a diner till 2am to help him from going to the bar. Made a point of going to beginners meeting in Moorestown for 2 years.
How did you first learn about A.A.?
His father was a member of AA since 1971. His mother encouraged him to go to a meeting.
Did you have a sponsor when you first came in? What type of sponsorship did you have?
First sponsor was a Vietnam vet named Carl, had 6 months more time than Bob.
Second sponsor was Bill, was a cofounder of the Red Lion group. Went through the steps with him. Bill died of cancer after a few years.
Third sponsor was Eddie.
How many groups or meetings were in existence? Can you recall the formats used at some of these early meetings? How were they run?
Discussion and topics at beginners’ meetings. Simple stuff like “one day at a time.”
Some Big Book meetings, not as popular.
A number of step meetings.
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?
Red Lion Group, Bob was an original member.
Bill & George were both cofounders of the group, these men were important to Bob in his early years of recovery.
What contributions did you, yourself, make to the growth of the Fellowship? (Don’t be unnecessarily modest!)
Him and buddy took 2 newcomers on a last-minute road trip to Florida to see Joe & Charlie speak. The hotel was out of rooms and there wasn’t much space left inside so they set up in the pool area of the hotel and listened to the seminar on speakers they had set up on the patio. Ended up sleeping on the beach.
Summer 1993, spent a few months helping to restore the Wilson house in Vermont. People donated time and money and lots of supplies to fix up this hotel that was close to be demolished. Also attended the Canadian 50th Anniversary of AA national convention in Toronto that summer.
Helped get weekly AA meetings from multiple AA groups to Beacon Hall, an adolescent rehab. He told me about a young woman who he first met when she was 14. She struggled to get sober for a few years, but she now has 35 years sobriety and is still friends with Bob.
He knew multiple people that would travel over to Philly for a midnight meeting. One night, at a meeting in Philly, he counted 17 people that were from south Jersey so they decided to start their own Friday night midnight meeting at the ODAT club in Mt. Holly, NJ. He says there was 50-60 people showing up. This was in 1988.
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?)
Dual addiction was an issue at national level, not just in South Jersey.
What individuals were especially prominent in your sobriety and why?
Lefty, his friend that kept him at that first meeting.
Eddie L, Red Lion member, very funny guy.
George, cofounder of Red Lion. Bob says that before there was an intergroup office the phone for intergroup was in Georges kitchen!
Bill, cofounder of Red Lion.
Frank M, archivist in NY, would raffle off first edition Big Books at seminars.
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?
Old-timers would direct newer guys on how to act, and a lot of it was about welcoming new comers. Lots of focus on making the new guy feel involved. “Grab the new guy and bring him along.”
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?
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?
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?
Bob says at the time it was “very fashionable to have a recovered alcoholic at your dinner party.” Says AA had a great reputation and most people knew of it.
Have you had any contact with G.S.O.? Please elaborate.
Yes! 1983 he became GSR for Red Lion group. Used Billy F, a cofounder of Red Lion, as a service sponsor.
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?
13th stepping: Someone told him very early on that men should not bother the new women. He insinuated that someone might beat you up in the parking lot if you didn’t leave the women alone.
Bob felt like addicts other than alcoholics wanted to widen AA, and the old-timers didn’t want any part of that. Old-timers would aggressively tell people not to talk about drugs or other addictions. He said it got pretty serious and there was a lot of talk of splitting up. But he said cooler heads prevailed, and they realized they could still help each other.
One of the first NA meetings was held in a warehouse in the Ellisburg Circle shopping center.
In what ways has A.A. changed over the years?
Media now talks more about celebrities and their recovery. There is not as much anonymity. He says that didn’t happen as much back then.