Call for stories to update “A.A. for the Older Alcoholic”

The 2019 General Service Conference recommended that “the pamphlet ‘A.A. for the Older Alcoholic – Never Too Late’ be updated with a revised introduction; current and inclusive stories; reference to online A.A.; and an updated ‘How Do I Find A.A.?’ section.”

The trustees’ Cooperation with the Professional Community/Treatment and Accessibilities Committee is seeking stories from a broad cross section of older A.A. members to make the pamphlet more representative of the Fellowship.

Typed manuscripts should be 500-800 words, double spaced, in 12-point font. Handwritten manuscripts should be approximately 5 to 6 pages. Please include your complete name, address and email/phone information; The anonymity of all authors will be observed, whether or not their story is selected for publication. Please email your sharing to: access@aa.org and put “A.A. for the Older Alcoholic” in the subject line of the message. Or, you may mail it to Access Assignment, General Service Office, Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163.

The deadline for submissions is December 15, 2019.

Intergroup News | August 2019

This is an unofficial summary of the August 2019 Intergroup meeting provided for convenience; it is not intended to be the completed approved minutes. For a complete copy of the minutes and full committee reports see “Intergroup” on our website aasfmarin.org.

Our Intergroup exists to support the groups in their common purpose of carrying the A.A. message to the still suffering alcoholic by providing and coordinating services that are difficult for the individual groups to execute.

The Intercounty Fellowship has been organized by, and is responsible to, the member groups in San Francisco and Marin for the purpose of coordinating the services that individual groups cannot provide.

The meeting was held on Wednesday, August 7, 2019, at St Andrew Presbyterian Church, 101 Donahue Street in Sausalito. The meeting was started with a call to order and the Serenity Prayer. Baskets for dinner were passed. The July 2019 minutes and the August 2019 agenda were approved.

Standing Reports

Board Chair, Alan G. $75 has been approved to The Point Committee for remainder of this year. A lot of excitement around the Marin County Sunshine Club. Orientations to be held in Marin soon. The CPA gave the yearly report on Form 990:

  • Where do we get our contributions?
  • How are the funds allocated?
  • Who is overseeing the organization (conflicts of interest)

Another Safety workshop is moving forward in October. Teddy B-W, delegate, is suggesting outreach to African American alcoholics – Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Workshop.

Vice Chair, Taran R. Regarding the Job Fair: we got through 2/3 of our committee presentations / temperature. How do we feel about next month job fair pitch (mostly up twinkles)? Safety workshop in San Francisco and Inclusivity: how do we feel about Intergroup putting on a D&I workshop? Question from Allison: what would it include? Answer Taran: good approaches for how to include people, and techniques for inclusivity. What are barriers that keep people out of A.A.? We have had recent car break-ins. Don’t leave belongings visible in car.

The $8.06 Challenge (see Executive Director slide related to Self-Support): Question: is it per individual or group? Answer: the individual. Jim: Reminded the group of the fact that it’s a grassroots effort and NOT from GSO. Brian: Brought up issues with money going to Marin 2020.

Treasurer, Renee T. (See handout) Rating is “Excellent” based on current unrestricted cash position, but if revenue continues to decline, that rating will be downgraded. Question from Michael: Has there been a decline in the number of Faithful Fivers? Answer from Renee: know we lost a few when we converted payment systems, but doesn’t think we lost many. Explained that budget is based on last year’s contributions and we received a couple large one-time contributions.

Intergroup Committee Reports

Fellowship, Elena R. The next Safety Workshop will be in San Francisco. Looking at October 5, 2019, located at 777 Brotherhood Way. Sending around a volunteer signup sheet. Also, liaison for H&I Committee: on track financially. There is literature to be used! San Quentin project is going well.

Archives, Kim S. Gave an explanation of Archives: pitching oral histories and other things that archives need from groups/members. During the Western Roundup Living Sober gathering, there will be history talks during that weekend.

The Point, John B. The Point is receiving allocation of discretionary funds to print copies; thanks the Intergroup Board. Call for articles. They will prepare a budget for 2020 and track use of paper copies.

SF PI/CPC, Molly J. Gave a description of PI/CPC. The committee is always looking for speakers and plugged the committee meeting time, 2nd Mondays, 6:00 pm, Central Office. Current focus: Now they get to focus on action! The committee is adequately staffed at this time. Sunday Streets in the Mission was successful. The upcoming Sunday Streets is in SOMA on August 19. Fact: Big Books are often stolen from libraries; committee is supplying Big Books to restock libraries.

Orientation, Trevor J. Made an introduction of new Intergroup members and alternates. Service keeps you sober! Passed around the buddy sheet for sign-ups.

Sunshine Club, Clayton B. The Sunshine Club brings meetings to people who cannot make it to regularly scheduled meetings. We are currently building the Marin County membership. A Marin County orientation will be on August 25, 10:45 am at the Marin Alano Club. Would your meeting like to sponsor an orientation?

SF Teleservice, Taran R. (filling in) Gave an update via the PowerPoint slides.

Technology, Taran R. The Chair position is open and we need a graphic designer. Also, a Web servant is needed for Northern California H&I. Almost 13,000 people found us on Google (and presented other stats).

Service Committee Liaison Reports

General Service District 6, Steve The 5th edition Big Book has been tabled but still seeking group consciences. Would groups want a pamphlet addressing Transgender issues? The opening of online registration for the World Conference in Detroit will September 9, 2019. Also getting ready for the Summer Assembly on September 14, 2019.

Marin Teleservice, Carlo Our treasurer is currently dispersing funds. We have been discussing better ways of doing the phone transfer. We plan to have a booth at the General Service conference. Gave the business meeting plug.

Marin PI/CPC, Andrew Public Information this past month created an email newsletter. We had 12 new people at the last orientation. New developments: we are working on our relationship with Child Protective Services. We discussed the Inclusivity Report (African American community outreach).

Old Business

Discussion of Bylaws – Surfaced a reminder of the Consensus process. Taran R. read the actual Bylaw paragraph. Up Twinkle fingers regarding Election of Intergroup.

Election by Intergroup Assembly – Intergroup will vote to elect a chair. Michael P. provided background as to the history of committees going “rogue.” So, if a committee is not going well, then Intergroup needs to step in.

Off-topic break from Old Business and detour to Marin 2020 discussion – Jim stated he attended an H&I meeting at the Marin Alano Club and discovered Marin 2020 has a liaison to H&I. Taran R. paused to explain what Marin 2020 is and what they’ve been trying to do. Alan also added some context to the discussion. Scott has been attending Marin 2020 and reminded our group not to spread inaccurate info. He said their plan is to provide local activities and fellowship, and anything more they collect will go to Central Office. (There was additional discussion on Marin 2020.)

Return to Old Business Clarifying question: What is the actual ask? Renee explained that our current practice does not adhere to our bylaws. The ask is: would we like to change our practice to align with bylaws when electing committee chairs?

Back to Marin 2020 discussion Marin PI/CPC rep mentioned they will continue to work with and cooperate with whoever gets the “butts in the seats” and helps the still suffering alcoholic whether it is IFAA or Marin 2020.

What’s On Your Mind?

Patrick: Made clarifying point that Intergroup service committees and service liaisons are different, so the old business pertaining to electing committee chairs does not impact liaisons.

Targeted Message

  • Tell your group members about our Faithful Fiver Program
  • Sunshine Club needs Marin members
  • Communicate Intergroup purpose

Adjourn with the Responsibility Statement

Next Intergroup Meeting: Wednesday, September 4, 2019, 7:00 pm, at the First Unitarian Universalist Center, 1187 Franklin Street in San Francisco. Orientation is at 6:00 pm, dinner is served at 6:30 pm.

Treasurer’s Narrative

Month Ended June 2019

For June 2019, Total Revenue was $17,312, this was under budget by $4,473 due to lower than expected group contributions and individual contributions. Total Revenue is $10,012 under budget year to date. Total Operating Expense for June was $24,629, under budget by $1,002, due to lower than expected committee costs.

The result is a Net Operating Deficit of $7,317 for the month. This leaves the fellowship with a $13,391 deficit year to date.   

Group Contributions for June were $11,577, under budget by $1,353. Group contributions are $517 under budget year to date. Individual Contributions for June were $2,398, under budget by $1,733. Individual contributions are $12,000 under budget year to date.

Total Unrestricted Cash for June 2019 was $65,429, a decrease of $5,798 from May 2019.  Unrestricted Cash is about 2.7x monthly operating expenses.

The rating for June 2019 is “Excellent”.

OVERALL RATING:  Excellent

INTERGROUP FINANCE RATING SYSTEM

Every month we rate our monthly finances as “Excellent”, “Good”, “Fair” or “Poor”.  Generally speaking, here are the definitions of those terms:

EXCELLENT:  We exceeded our budget.  Our income was greater than our expenses for the month and we have more than two months’ worth of operating expenses in unrestricted cash balances.  Operating expenses are roughly $24K/month, so we’d have over $48K in unrestricted cash balances for the month.  The Intergroup rating has been “excellent” since December 2016.

GOOD: We are meeting our budget.  Our income for the month, or for the YTD, was slightly greater than our expenses and we’d have approximately 1.5 – 2 months of operating expenses in unrestricted cash balances.

FAIR: We are not meeting our budget.  Our expenses were greater than our income for the month and for the YTD – and our unrestricted cash balance would be somewhere between 1 and 1.5x our operating expenses.

POOR: We are not meeting our budget and our unrestricted cash balances fell below one month of operating expenses. The last time we were “poor” was in September 2016.

Pride & Humility

by Anonymous

When I was a barroom drunk, the lounge was my living room. The only reason that I went to my apartment was to shower and to sleep. Words like humility or ego were never mentioned. As I look back, I realize that the bar was my place of refuge, where I felt safe rationalizing just about anything to avoid the truth. 

Living in a bubble of denial, I would eventually run out of oxygen (options) and have to face life. Alcoholism is a dead-end street which leads to hospitals, prisons or death. When I was facing desperation and out of resources, I surrendered. A.A. replaced the denial with hope. People encouraged me to get realistic about life. The obsession to drink was lifted and has never returned.  

In the middle of two extremes

Intuitively understanding life didn’t happen overnight. I had to go through the process of unlearning all my ego-driven habits and replacing them with more unselfish values. As noted by many philosophers and world religions today, ego is the biggest obstacle to the process. My conscience now stands between my ego, my thoughts and actions and it’s starting to do a pretty good job of it. It has been a slow process adopting new ideas and discarding the failed mentality of the past.

Photo credits available upon request to thepoint@aasfmarin.org

Gradually, I developed trust in what I found in the program and in myself. Basically, I must never let down my guard. I examine my motives for every decision I make, and look for a proven, unselfish principle to apply. That takes decisions which used to derail me out of my hands alone. I make less mistakes. As I repeat this process, it becomes second nature. Old behaviors that caused my discontent are replaced by positive action. 

I was on the phone with a man who wanted to argue

Defining the word “humility” was not easy. It took a long time to settle on an understanding that put it to rest. The final piece of the puzzle came to me in my 22nd year of sobriety. I was on the phone with a man who wanted to argue. When he realized that I wasn’t going to bite, he fired his last volley by saying: “Well, I’ve heard stories about you, and you’re no angel.” I thought about it for a few seconds and replied, “I’ve done a lot of things in my life that I’m not proud of, but I’m not ashamed of anything that I’ve done in the past 22 years.” The phone call ended peacefully. 

Later, in a step study meeting where the topic was humility, I remembered that phone call and realized pride was not the opposite of humility—it was the opposite of shame. Humility fell right in the middle of the two extremes. When I boiled it all down, I concluded that I should not be proud of, or ashamed of, the things I do. I could be in the middle somewhere. This applies to my receiving as well as my giving.

Aristotle referred to this as the Golden Mean. For example, when we are in the habit of giving compliments to our friends when they deserve it, we should not be so stoic that we cannot accept a compliment with the proper amount of appreciation when we deserve it. To me this means finding the balance between the extremes and exercising it until it becomes second nature. 

With my ego on the sideline and my conscience in control, I stay on the unselfish side of the ledger. At the age of 77, I am always involved in some form of service to give purpose to my life. I plan to live to the age of 104, so I can’t quit now (LOL). 

 

Christina’s Way

by Bree L.

I started drinking in 8th grade; I was 12. I’d sneak down and drink all the left-over cocktails after my parent’s parties. My high school A’s and B’s went to B’s and C’s and a few D’s when I started smoking pot. After my high school graduation, I was smack dab into the seventies. Too young to be a hippy and too old to be a yuppie, I became a yippie. I was a teenager of the experimental seventies, part of the generation who prided themselves on not giving a f**k. 

I was paid to drink

I moved to Orange County, worked as a waitress and collected two DUI’s. My remedy for this was to move in with an Australian who talked about the shrimp on the barbie and loved his beer. He took me to the hospital to deliver our baby and that was the last I saw of him. It was 1985 and I was 23 years old with a child. So, I found another man to father my next two children. Around this time I discovered methamphetamines, and they became the love of my life. I was working in a bar and didn’t see myself as anything that resembled an alcoholic, because bar waitressing was my vocation. I was paid to drink. 

The births of my children were time anchors for how my life evolved. I’ve never raised any of them past the age of three, but their existence has allowed me to compartmentalize different phases of my life. My first child is now in New Zealand. I have no contact with him. After my second was born I tested dirty for drugs. My third child, a girl, was referred out for adoption and the fourth lived with an aunt on his father’s side because both of his parents were in jail.

photo captions available upon request to thepoint@aasfmarin.org

From 1989 to 1998, I was in and out of prison for possession. My last child was born in prison. In 1999, I think the judge got tired of seeing my face and sentenced me to a treatment center instead of returning me to the street. The center was a recovery ranch in the desert, co-ed, so I hooked up with a fellow client. After a bit, I stopped going to meetings, let go of my sponsor, went out and got loaded. I returned to working in a bar and getting paid to drink. My old standby.

At the bar, I met a normie guy. I was loaded, he wasn’t, but we got together anyway. He thought he could fix me, so I made the most of that and used him. I stayed with him for two and a half years, working at the bar, denying my addiction. That bar closed so I went to another bar, then another and then became unemployable. I see now how my lifestyle was only relapse mode, which led me back to drinking.

My war was over, and I had lost

In 2010 I was pulled over for drinking and got hit with a possessions charge. I knew I couldn’t be homeless and sober at the same time. This was delusional thinking. It doesn’t work. I called the treatment center looking for something to hang onto and connected with my same counselor. My war was over and I had lost. I surrendered and said, “I’m done.” 

I was at the treatment center for 60 days. My stay ran out, but I had nowhere to go, no other choices. So, I washed cars to get enough money to stay there. After 15 months a friend opened up a sober living place and asked me to come and work for her, which I did, and stayed sober. I no longer do life Christina’s way. I do all the things A.A. recommends and I’m still sober.

Sobriety Date: April 20, 2010.

Is Buddhism OK in A.A.?

by Kathleen C.

There are a lot of Buddhists in San Francisco and Marin A.A. A lot. Many of my favorite people. Old-timers, paragons of service, pillars of the A.A. community. Yet it gives me a twinge when I hear someone in a meeting quote their favorite Buddhist teacher or promote principles or tenets of Buddhism as part of their recovery. At a meeting recently a newcomer talked about a retreat he had just attended at a local meditation center and a lecture on Dharma and Recovery. There are books about Buddhism and the Twelve Steps.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this. A.A. members’ religions have been part of A.A.’s history. Bill W. and Dr. Bob were staunch Protestants. The Oxford Group, the ancestor of AA, was founded by High Church Anglicans. Sister Ignatia and any number of Catholic priests were some of A.A.’s earliest and most faithful supporters.

It still gives me a twinge when somebody in an A.A. meeting talks about their Buddhist practice. I find myself thinking how is this different from somebody in an A.A. meeting sharing how they were born again and got sober or how they accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal savior and got sober?

photo credits available from thepoint@aasfmarin.org

I myself am not without fault here. In A.A. meetings I have quoted a couple of Catholic priests who are on the speaker circuit and who have insights I find to be useful. And hilarious. 

I can hear some of my dear Buddhist friends speaking up that Buddhism isn’t really a religion – Good point. I know quite a few Buddhists who are atheists. But is Buddhism an outside issue in an A.A. meeting? Is it a distraction? Or is it a useful set of spiritual principles that can help an alcoholic stay sober? I don’t know the answer. All I know is that when I hear somebody in an A.A. meeting talking about Buddhism it gives me a twinge.

All the Steps a Stage

by John W.

When I first got sober and worked the steps, I completed a thorough Step Eight (to the best of my ability at the time, which my sponsor had approved). I saved the experience in my spiritual tool kit for the days to follow. Step Ten of course kept me on track as the days became years, so I thought of Step Eight more as a memory, something to hone for use with a sponsee down the road.

However, when the challenges of life on life’s terms hit like a tsunami, all of my memories and ideas of what’s good for me were washed away in the torrent. As instructed, I had sought to determine what step applied to the circumstances at hand. My sponsor—that thorough, “I want what he has” guy—of course reminded me that Step Four required a searching and fearless moral inventory. With earnestness he added that failure to fully perform Step Four had led many guys with more days than I back to the bottle.  This was not an attractive alternative.

Here I was, making a list, and the first name on it was mine

With my new Fourth Step inventory completed, I had moved through the admissions and taken the book down from the shelf, which yielded unexpected results. To this H.P. I was experiencing in a new and wondrous way, I was able to ask that my defects be removed. I was even willing to make this request straight from my heart and with complete abandon, as rigorous honesty demanded. But the Big Book seems to never let A.A.’s rest on their laurels. Its authors knew a drunk like me was in trouble if I did.  Instead I was called to more action. Now I had to make a list of all persons harmed. Since my recent episodes had been promptly admitted, the effect of requesting my defects be removed sank in. I had to ask—whom had I harmed by the expression of these defects this time?

The answer was unexpected, as it was me. Here I was, making a list, and the first name on it was mine.  My sponsor assured me this was not a hidden manifestation of ego, but rather an honest appraisal. I had developed resentments towards those on my inventory. Thanks to my H.P. and my fellow A.A.’s, I had not acted out upon those resentments, but I had sure let them eat me alive.

I forgot I was in his care, an actor on his stage

While I had not taken actions I’d regret, I had carried on profanely in the privacy of my own mind. I had riddled my H.P. with questions, demanded He conjure up favorable responses and, perhaps the saddest of all, denied He had all of these circumstances under control. I had forgotten I was in His care, an actor on His stage, a worker amongst workers in His field.

As this realization had been made exact during Step Five, the reflections suggested by Step Six had revealed that it was my inability to trust myself and my H.P. that required attention and change. To change I needed to be willing and then humbly ask for help. In that reflection I also saw whom I had hurt in the expression of this shortcoming—me.

Into the mirror my sponsor held up to assist in my perception, I looked at me. I began to understand how destructive my thinking patterns had been. I may not have lashed out at another (thank goodness) as I had fretted with my issues, but I had sure beaten myself to a pulp. My acceptance had developed around the circumstances, and my attitude with it, although the problems had not changed. Whether mine was to be a tragedy or comedy, only my Director knew. As the play of my life unfolded, my lines now came more freely, for I had begun my living amends to myself.

Fascinating Adventure

by Rick R.

As we approach Step Eight in the 12 & 12 (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions), it describes the A.A.  journey as a “moving and fascinating adventure” (Page 77). In Step Nine we start the process of making amends, and by then we realize that the promises are already starting to materialize. It would have been easy to rest on my laurels at that time, but I have been attending weekly step study meetings since I first got sober and I couldn’t get away from the sage advice I heard over and over. In Step Ten it says, “Our first objective will be the development of self-restraint. This carries a top priority rating.”

Some examples I read are: Restraint of tongue and pen, dropping the word “blame” from our speech and thought (Step Four), quick- tempered criticism, sulking and silent scorn. These are just a few, but you get the picture. Revisiting these things three or four times a year as we cycle through step study acts like a mental rock tumbler. Slowly but surely, I adopted new habits which eventually become second nature, and developed into virtues. This helped me to rein in many of those old behaviors that got between me and my peers. I never stop learning these new ideas.

Another thing that caught my attention in Step 10 was the quote: “Pain is the touchstone of all spiritual progress.” The paragraph ends with, “How heartily we A.A.’s can agree … for we know that the pain of drinking had to come before sobriety, and emotional turmoil before serenity.” Can this mean we can have no spiritual progress without suffering? It didn’t make sense to me, so I looked up the word “touchstone” in the dictionary.

A touchstone is a mineral that assayers use to test the purity of gold

I discovered a touchstone is a mineral that assayers used to test the purity of gold. Prior to that, I thought that it was synonymous with stepping stone. Now I understand it as a measure of how spiritual we are when the going gets rough. Do we revert to our old habits, or do we stick to the principles we have learned in the program?

photo credits available upon request from thepoint@aasfmarin.org

A template for improving relationships

Another quote I kept seeing that piqued my curiosity was on Page 90 of the 12 & 12: “It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us.” The “no matter what the cause” part threw me a curve ball. I questioned the idea. If a mother saw her child running into traffic and she wasn’t disturbed, there must be something wrong with her. I don’t think anyone could argue that point, so I believe that the spiritual axiom quote relates to the way we interface with other people. I find it to be a tremendous template for improving our relationships. We question what drives us when we start to get a little out of sorts and we can apply self- restraint.

For all the steps, I continue to attend those weekly meetings. Things get clearer each time I go through them so most of my issues are well under control (as long as I don’t assume I can let down my guard). Ego is always ready to fill in empty spaces in my program. The maintenance part of the tenth step is easy for me these days. I just get up in the morning and say, “God, please show me what to do, and please give me the strength to do it; I don’t do too well on my own.” I’m not sure that a higher power hears me, but I know that I hear me. It arms me with the best possible attitude I can have for that day. It usually works. I let the rock tumbler keep me on my toes, and I hope that I always pass the assayer’s test.

Intercounty Fellowship of A.A.