by Bree L.

Clayton was educated at a public high school in upstate New York. He found himself academically over his head once he started college. There was also a change in social class. He worried about fitting in and disappointing his parents. Alcohol offered a release from those anxieties. He started drinking more in earnest and sleeping also became a problem. Wine provided a better night’s sleep and after initiating this treatment he became a daily drinker. 

He was amazed how they knew what he was thinking

He was drafted into the military following college and once in the Army found drinking was an acceptable way of life with more opportunities to drink. Marijuana was also readily available. Once out of the military, he thought life would be easier and moved to San Francisco. He obtained a job in a credit reporting agency as a supervisor in the complaint department.  Those old feelings of not fitting in and not doing well enough returned. He drank himself out of that job after a prodigious six-month bender. 

After this experience, he was bound and determined not to drink. He invested in self-help books. Many focused on staying “off the sauce” and with their help he weaned himself off alcohol. A job with the tax board came along and things began to get better. He was given increasingly difficult assignments and assumed there would be promotions with his new tasks. This didn’t happen. He did not get a planned promotion and at the same time his girlfriend ran off and married another guy.

Clayton turned forty-five.  He felt stuck on a dead-end street, going nowhere. He was angry as his life seemed more than half over. He sought a therapist who looked at his alcohol consumption and said, “You’re an alcoholic. Are you willing to go to any lengths? Go to Alcoholic Anonymous.”

Before you go to bed, know where your next meeting is

He began his sobriety at the Noe Valley Ministry’s Sesame Step Study Meeting on December 8, 1992.  It was a speaker discussion. Clayton was amazed how they seemed to know what he was thinking. They shared intimately about drinking over angers, fears and problems. It was remarkable to hear such insights. Si Paine was present, and he said, “Before you go to bed tonight, know where your next meeting is.” Clayton took this to heart and found the Friday night speaker meeting and after that a morning meeting on Pierce and Clay. Going to any lengths, he went to meetings regularly. He found a sponsor who was a Navy Seal who took him through the steps, directed him to call every day and suggested saying a prayer for gratitude.

After the Navy Seal he found another sponsor who asked him, “When did the miracle happen to you?”

Clayton replied, “I’ve had no miracles.”

The sponsor said, “How long have you been sober? Eight months? Isn’t that a miracle?”

Clayton agreed and went through the twelve steps again. This time when he made his amends to his parents, he realized how his anger and selfishness had caused a lot of harm. When he made those amends, his parents cried.

Jumping into the program, he took on service commitments. He met more people and they in turn got to know him. His feelings of loneliness began to evaporate. 

They brought phone calls to people uncomfortable with Zoom meetings

At one stage, he needed something beyond the usual meetings. David C. invited Clayton to join the Sunshine Club and asked if he’d like to make arrangements for those unable to get to a meeting, which is what the club does. This was before the pandemic. Just as he saw how he needed something beyond the meetings, he saw there were alcoholics homebound or in the hospital.  He signed on as coordinator for the Sunshine Club. 

house-bound members benefited from ongoing meetings

There were many home-bound members who benefited from ongoing meetings, so along with Dorothy V. he started the Spirit of Service (SOS).  He gave up his commitment as Sunshine Club Coordinator only to return, once again. There were few volunteers in Marin so he started recruiting members there. This involved traveling to Marin for meetings. He started giving orientations to new Sunshine Service volunteers and had up to thirty people ready to go.

At the beginning of the COVID -19 crisis, they brought phone calls to people not comfortable with virtual meetings. Members who can get on Zoom are doing it, but there are those who regularly attended meetings but now cannot get to any. Some are still using a flip phone. Today there are three members who get five phone calls a week from an SOS member and there is a phone tree set up to contact them.

Clayton’s focus today is on coordinating those who want to volunteer with those who need to get the program but cannot connect via Zoom or other methods. There are several recipients from meetings in care facilities, but there is always a problem identifying new recipients. Clayton attributes his willingness to venture out and recruit volunteers to his work as a tax collector. People were not thrilled to hear from him awhen he was doing that job, so he has no problem with this easier ask—pitching members to volunteer for SOS or Sunshine Club.

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