Archives: Personal History
Name: .Don Q
Date of Interview: 1/12/07
Sobriety Date(s): 12/15/1975
Current Home Group & Location: Maple Shade Tuesday Night, Maple Shade, NJ
Locations lived in during sobriety: NJ & FL
- How and when did you get started in A.A.? Where did you sober up and go to your first meeting?
- It was a Monday morning and I was coming off a two-week drunk. I called the old Camalon Club at 93 Stewart St. They told me there was a meeting at noon; that if I wanted to get sober maybe I should be at that meeting. That was Dec. 15th, 1975 and I have not had the need to have a drink since.
- How did you first learn about A.A.?
- I saw an ad on TV. It was a very simple ad. It said if you have a problem with alcohol, call AA. It was about 2 ½ years before I got sober.
- Did you have a sponsor when you first came in? What type of sponsorship did you have?
- There was a man at the Camalon Club who reached out to me and helped me. He later became my first sponsor. His name was Watergate Frank. He was a member of the Maple Shade group. He helped me with the steps and traditions and the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. He got me involved with the Maple Shade group. He didn’t sugar-coat anything – he told me how it was and what I had to do to stay sober.
- 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 do not know exactly how many meetings there were but I would say there are at least 4 times as many meetings today. The formats were speaker, discussion, step & traditions, Big Book, and As Bill Sees It. The meetings were strictly about alcohol & alcoholism, nothing more – nothing less.
- 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?
- The Maple Shade group started in 1962. Meetings were held once a week. The Moorestown group had more than one meeting per week. The Camalon Club had meetings every day and every night. That was the only club in the area at that time. New groups were usually formed with a resentment, a coffee pot, and a need for the discussion of other AA topics.
- What else do you know about the growth of A.A. during that period of time?
- There were very few rehabs at that time. Burlington County had a detox and Camden County had a detox. The answering service at that time was at the old Camalon Club. The first formal Intergroup meetings were held at the shopping center across from Marcus Rd. in Cherry Hill. Dottie G was the chairperson.
- What contributions did you, yourself, make to the growth of the Fellowship? (Don’t be unnecessarily modest!)
- I became involved in the Maple Shade group, held most offices in the group. Over the years, I was involved in Intergroup. I was on most committees one time or the other. I was Unity chair twice and Trustee twice. I was in the workshop committee for South Jersey General Assembly. We did a lot of workshops with the Assembly and Intergroup combined.
- 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?)
- The controversies that stick in my mind were NA wanting to be incorporated into AA’s meeting list, and Double Trouble wanted to be a part of AA. This would of course violate some of AA’s traditions. Meeting places were acquired and rents collected strictly by contributions, no Bingo Games or gambling was used. There was one group that had a 50/50 raffle.
- What individuals were especially prominent in your sobriety and why?
- Watergate Frank – 1st Sponsor
- Noel LeC – 2nd Sponsor
- Jim M – 3rd sponsor and today he is one of my dearest friends.
- Al G, Tom G, Maggie B, Mary S, Bill M, Dan M, Bitchin John, & Bob D – there were many more that were a great help to me. These people showed me the things I needed to learn by example. These people had a degree of humility, peace of mind, serenity and above all, a great deal of integrity. These are the things I needed to learn and put into practice in my own life. These people didn’t just “talk the talk”, they “walked the walk” in every aspect of their lives.
- 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?
- At the time, the answering service was at the old Camalon Club and all 12-step calls came into the club. If you spent a lot of time there, you could go on as many as 3-4 12-step calls a day. We always went out in pairs. I do not know how many people I helped but it sure helped me to stay sober.
- 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?
- Part of the Maple Shade group inventory is to contact the local authorities in the Maple Shade area, the library and other public access forums to ensure they have AA literature, if they want it. We also leave [the name of] a contact person if they want it.
- 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?
- The “rehabilitation program” explosion that came about in the 1977-1980 period all started out with a 12-step format. Many of them had AA meetings there. The 12-step format seemed to change over the years.
- Did you seek the cooperation of other local community or professional agencies?
- The Maple Shade group’s attitude has always been cooperation without affiliation with any local or federal 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?
- There should be a clear understanding of the traditions before any type of media exposure can be considered. Personally, I do not believe in any exposure to the media.
- During the early years of your recovery, how did the community receive Alcoholics Anonymous?
- At that time, I believe there was a lot less tolerance than there is today.
- Do you think your group(s) has had an influence in your community? If so, how?
- By showing an example of sobriety, I believe the Maple Shade group has had a positive influence on the community.
- What do you remember of early conferences, assemblies, and conventions? Can you recall opening intergroup or central offices?
- I remember the early conventions being overwhelming. The first one I attended in early sobriety was the Northeast Regional in Washington, DC. I also attended the conventions in Ocean City.
- Have you had any contact with G.S.O.? Please elaborate.
- The Maple Shade group has contacted the GSO over the years to gain insight on different issues.
- 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 Maple Shade group has a Beginner’s meeting that shares with the newcomers what AA is and what it is not, that AA is about alcohol & alcoholism and that AA has but one primary purpose; to carry the message to the alcoholic that still suffers. We also share with newcomers the 12 steps and 12 traditions so that they have a clearer understanding of the program of AA. We use the Beginner’s format from the GSO.
- In what ways has A.A. changed over the years?
- The program of AA has not changed – the fellowship has changed. We allow individuals to speak about things that have nothing to do with alcohol & alcoholism. There is not enough emphasis when it comes to the traditions and why they are important. People today are of the mindset that they can conduct their own personal interpretation of the 12 steps & 12 traditions and stay sober; without structure. The program of AA, as it is outlined in the Big Book and the 12 & 12, needs to be emphasized more in order for people to have and maintain sobriety.