Archives: Personal History
Date of Interview:9/19/18
Current Home Group & Location:TGIF – Oaklyn, NJ
Locations lived in during sobriety:New Orleans, LA and Audubon, NJ
1. How and when did you get started in A.A.? Where did you sober up and go to your first meeting?
Easter Sunday 1987 I went to my 1st meeting though I don’t remember anything about it. A woman followed me out as I was fast walking to my car. I remember feeling “Oh no, go away and at the same time-Oh thank God. This individual took me to my 1st “sober” AA meeting at the Lambda Center. It was an all lesbian group (many of these women would later become my friends) but it sure gave me my 1st opportunity to proclaim “I’m not like these people” (LOL)
2. How did you first learn about A.A.?
I knew very little except they were the people that didn’t want you to drink AT ALL. For this reason, I never tried it. I tried therapy, the mental hospital, and any other self help method to control my drinking. Without success.
3. Did you have a sponsor when you first came in? What type of sponsorship did you have?
My 1st sponsor said “call me if you need me” (as if I would know when that would be- I’m very independent) The best thing she did was to say YES. Then I got a sponsor who took me through the steps. I didn’t believe in God then but decided to turn my “will and my life over” to him. While I have a male sponsor, he is gay. In the beginning I was kind of afraid of him and had to call him EVERY day. This daily call kept me from having to decide when I should or shouldn’t which was actually a big relief. It turned from fear and respect to a deep friendship and to love. I adore my sponsor. He showed me that I too could have a spiritual experience of the educational variety- my whole attitude about life changed. He taught me how to sponsor others and to see sponsorship as an honor and privilege. Looking back- he had 3 years more sobriety than I did but he seemed like such a wise “oldtimer” He is my sponsor to this day.
4. How many groups or meetings were in existence? Can you recall the formats used at some of these early meetings? How were they run?
Too many to count. Most registered AA groups had elected officers-Secretary, Treasurer, Intergroup Rep, GSR, Literature and Grapevine representatives. There was a monthly chairperson who procured a leader who spoke for about 10-15’ on a topic of their choice for the meeting. The last day of the month was reserved for Traditions. We had quarterly speaker meetings where a group member was chosen by the group to tell their story. Stories were told for an hour to 75 minutes then group members would provide feedback We had monthly business meetings, and annual group inventory and an Anniversary dinner.
5. 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?
I don’t have any idea when AA was founded in New Orleans, LA- NOLA. I got started in 1987 and there was at least one group that had been around for 50 years. My group was founded by myself and about 9 other individuals because of a resentment we had with other groups in the club house. (like so many other groups- resentment put to good use.)
6. What else do you know about the growth of A.A. during that period of time?
There were more and more D&A treatment centers popping up in NOLA. There were mostly “closed Meetings) in the area most likely due to treatment center influences. We needed to adhere to our singleness of purpose, alcohol and not drugs- a drug is a drug. Later, there was a group from a treatment center that had a philosophy of getting your rage out. These individuals would identify as alcoholics, but when they shared, they raged. We had to add more rules to our opening statements to exclude raging. Mostly- they left and went elsewhere.
7. What contributions did you, yourself, make to the growth of the Fellowship? (Don’t be unnecessarily modest!)
Served as Group Secretary and Treasurer, sponsored about 20 people, participated in workshops such as Traditions, Singleness of Purpose and Sponsorship, and did some local circuit speaking, accepted leadership opportunities for Annual Deep South Conventions.
8. Can you explain the differences that led to new groups being formed in your area?
9. 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? How did the membership resolve these affairs?)
I have already talked about some of the controversies, but our group got caught up in “Rule 62- don’t take yourself too seriously”. We added more and more announcements (rules) than were necessary. I mean, there are 12 Steps, 10 Commandments, and 7 deadly sins, but we must have had 20 things members should and shouldn’t do. One of our group inventories was almost the end of this. I remember crying and running out, and it was MY house! Looking back, I think we had too many bleeding deacons and too few elders. The person with the longest amount of sobriety had 5 more years than I did. We didn’t fold. I came back (afterall I lived there) and we decided to breathe and remind ourselves that it was the higher power who was supposed to direct our group conscience. We compromised and just added 2 more rules!
We had our 7th tradition basket but no real fundraisers for our group. There were 2 fund raisers for Intergroup- the Fall Festivals and in the Spring -AA Day in the Park.
10. What individuals were especially prominent in your sobriety?
My sponsor, my Homegroup and a small circle of about 15-20 friends- you know that people I would never have been seen dead with! Of these my most inner circle is 7. I am sober 31 years an we’re all around the same time. The youngest having 29 years. When they told us to stick with the winners, who’d have thunk it was us? Though these friends are still living in NOLA, and while we don’t get together like we used to (every weekend and at least 3 days during the week) But we are as close today as in those early years. As one member of our circle says, “when we were together all the time and partying all the time, we were really standing in the rowboat and hanging on to each other for dear life!” (my family lived in New Jersey so they weren’t a part of my early sobriety)
11. 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?
We had a group phone list. Many of us sponsored multiple people, phone duty (back when you had to sit right by the phone for the entirety of your shift) Our group always made an announcement ( one of the better one) that we would be “going for a bite to eat or a cup of coffee” after the meeting and to see a group member for a ride or more info. Since we did this religiously, newcomers and shy individuals would often join us and were able to participate in the craziness that we were- they could see that there was a lot of fun to be had in sobriety.
There was one 12th Step call that was to a member of our close friends-a person I sponsored. About 5 of us went to the house where she lived with her boyfriend (who called us) She was locked in the bathroom screaming she was going to kill herself. I’m a nurse and another is a physician and we went to the coroner’s office together to secure commitment papers and had her committed. She called me while committed to tell be she hated me. A week later we got together and picked up where we left off and are still friends today. A newer person that came with us on the call, said that he was going to join our group because this group was serious about sobriety and even if you drank, they came after you. He too is 30 years sober today.
12. 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?
As today, judges sent DUI’s to AA and some police knew where we could be found especially around Mardi Gras. NOLA is a City and emergency rooms knew where we were as well.
13. 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?
14. Did you seek the cooperation of other local community or professional agencies?
Not that I remember.
15. 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?
There was no internet or even cell phones and we had not contact at the level of press, radio or television.
16. During the early years of your recovery, how did the community receive Alcoholics Anonymous?
Well. In a town that’s made for drinking, there had to be strong sobriety.
17. Do you think your group(s) has had an influence in your community? If so, how?
Yes. To those who came or were sent to AA meetings.
18. What do you remember of early conferences, assemblies, and conventions? Can you recall opening intergroup or central offices?
Quarterly a member of our group would be asked to speak at Intergroup- Intergroup and Central office as well as our Annual Conventions were well established when I arrive.
19. Have you had any contact with G.S.O.? Please elaborate.
Not personally but received information from my homegroup rep.
20. 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?
The Big Book, 12 and 12, Living Sober and AA approved daily meditation books and multiple pamphlets
Newcomers were always seen as the most important people at our meetings. With constant slippers we were always glad they were back but a group member with some time would approach them to see if they has a sponsor, a homegroup and sometimes- “why the hell do you keep going back out? What will it take and what can I do? Those talking about drugs were referred to the Closed Meeting Statement. If someone walked in off the street, we’d welcome them and ask them to just listen, then someone would speak with them after the meeting. Now about 13 Steppers, a later to be friend kept going after my and my girlfriend’s sponsees. We invited him over to my house to lecture him on this manner and we also included our sponsor’s and his-like an intervention of sorts. It really didn’t stop him except he left ours’ alone.
21. In what ways has A.A. changed over the years?
The differences I have noticed seem to have more to do with geography than time. Like most people, I think the was I got sober was the only or at least best way. Some of the basics that I miss was having a guest just start off at meetings with an AA topic. The hardest this though has been that in NOLA, when people tell their story they must have at least 1 year of sobriety and they go on for an hour +. My homegroup here indulges me and I give a pre story warning. Funny thing is that I have had 2 NOLA friends visit my homegroup where they have been asked to speak and they speak for at least an hour!. At least now they know I haven’t been exaggerating.
Thank you so much for asking me to participate in this Old Timer’s survey. I don’t know that it has highlighted many changes in AA -which I think may be a good time. When I sponsor we still start with the 1st forward of the 1st edition at work the steps as outlined in the Big Book and illuminated by my sponsor. I figure it worked for me an so many others that there is no need to change. It was a nice walk down memory lane. I’m happy to be an elderly Deacon now and I never take myself too seriously.