Tag Archives: thepoint_202005

Anything Is Possible

by Eric S.

Listen | Audio from Stephen R.

The Anything is Possible (AIP) meets 5 PM Monday through Friday, 11 AM Saturdays and 1 PM Sundays. This A.A. meeting at Congregation Sherith Israel (CSI) blossomed into a popular event seven days a week. Our roots grew from Nu Outlook, a clubhouse similar to the Dry Dock open from noon to 10 PM. It provided a home for many of us in recovery.

Our group began to wander like nomads in the desert

When Nu Outlook closed in December 2016, our group began to wander like nomads in the desert. We started meeting at noon at the Macedonian church near our old club, but we had no meeting to attend together after work hours. After a long stay in the hospital where I did a lot of thinking, it became apparent we needed a new home.

I approached CSI, my religious home, and asked them to provide space for our meeting. A glorious environment, the building opened in 1904 and is the oldest Reform Jewish synagogue West of the Mississippi. The beautiful stained glass windows and old-time architecture provide a very spiritual setting. We negotiated and CSI was willing to give it a try. Soon we all became intertwined and our meeting started to provide a new vibrancy to the temple each evening during the week and on weekend afternoons.

My friend Freddie S. suggested the name

We began with a well-attended Monday group of 20 people or so. My friend Freddie S. suggested the name Anything is Possible. Thereafter the meetings were attended sparsely, some with merely two members. Fortunately a popular old timer, a regular from Nu Outlook, was instrumental in establishing our new meetings at CSI. I will be forever grateful to Kurt for setting up and filling commitments, formatting notebooks, establishing a phone list, newsletter and literature — all the things that make meetings successful. At the time I didn’t realize how vital this was to the future of the meeting.

photo credits available upon request to thepoint@aasfmarin.org

When we had been around for six months, we qualified for entry on the aasfmarin.org schedule. We appeared as the first 5 PM meeting (Anything is Possible begins with A, providing a primo website listing position). Many of the oldest old timers began to appear regularly. Newcomers started coming, too, and continued to come back. There are now 15-20 members at most meetings. From time to time there are as many as 30.

Anything is Possible has helped many A.A.s in the San Francisco recovery community (and now continues to do so online). I am extremely grateful for the continuing opportunity to participate in the growth of this wonderful meeting along with Kurt, Nancy of CSI and everyone who contributed to our meeting’s success by just showing up.

Request online meeting information from https://www.anythingispossiblesf.org/ — scroll down to Contact Us.

Giving it Away

by Jerry B.

During this difficult time when A.A.’s are trying to navigate circumstances we’ve never  confronted before, I sit in my Zoom meetings and think about how fortunate we are to have Alcoholics Anonymous offering us the degree of fellowship, connection and hope our non-alcoholic brothers and sisters are forced to do without. Throughout our literature we are taught to “fit ourselves out to be of maximum use to God and to our fellows.” During this time – and we don’t know how long it may be – when we can’t approach a newcomer with a cup of coffee, a handshake and a warm welcome, our primary purpose has not changed. It remains our responsibility to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

The name of the game is still, as it has always been, giving it away for free and for fun

In the last days of my drinking, living in a welfare hotel on the upper West Side of Manhattan, I hope I never forget how useless I had become: Useless to myself, to my family and to my community. Alcohol had robbed me of not only my abilities, but more destructively, my desire as well. When I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous in Minneapolis, I was blessed to fall in with a group of A.A. “warriors” – men and woman who lived by the principles of love and service. The word suggestion wasn’t part of their vocabulary, but the words discipline, guidance and direction were.

I was taught when I walked into a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous there was someone in that room I could help; my job was to find that person. I was taught that my arm needed to be spring loaded. When a job or commitment needed to be done in A.A., or anywhere else for that matter, and the call went out for volunteers, my arm should shoot up, on its own. My sponsor said, “Outside of A.A. people should think there is something special about you. They don’t know what it is, and you’re not telling them what it is. We don’t wear A.A. on our sleeve. All they know is that you’re always offering to help, sometimes in the smallest of ways.”

My life began to have new meaning and a new purpose. When A.A.’s needed to move, we had moving parties. When an apartment needed to be painted, we had painting parties. When folks were on the last day of their first year in A.A., we had watch parties. We stayed with them till past midnight, so they knew and we knew they had made it. It was a big deal and we wanted them to know it was a big deal. They were part of something very special, and all we wanted in return was for them to pay it forward with the next generation of sober alcoholics coming up behind us.

When a job needed to be done and the call went out for volunteers, my arm should shoot up on its own

photo caption available upon request to thepoint@aasfmarin.org

My life in A.A. taught me how to replace selfishness and self-centeredness with a willingness and desire to help others: as often as I can, in any way I can. If you knew me on the street, you’d know what a transformation God has performed in me. This is not who I was. I am truly a miracle. There’s no other way to explain it.

The coronavirus and Zoom meetings haven’t changed any of this. When a newcomer identifies himself in my meeting, he could be in my town or he could be thousands of miles away. My responsibility hasn’t changed. I’m obligated, and actually privileged, to welcome him to the meeting and see where I might help. I try to get his number so I can call and see how he’s doing. At this moment in A.A., people counting days desperately need our help more, not less, than ever.

Our primary purpose has not changed. We need to continue reaching out to newcomers and offering them our experience, strength and hope. The name of the game is still, as it has always been, giving it away for free and for fun. Thank God for Alcoholics Anonymous. Were it not for A.A., I would have long since been gone and forgotten, and none of this would have happened. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Primary Purpose

Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers. —Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 150

by Claire A.

Thank goodness for this Tradition: it reminds me of what’s really important. Following this tradition takes humility. Just like humility is the main key to sobriety, humility is a large part of having a functional group. As soon as I let my ego have free rein, it starts coming up with all kinds of “shoulds” as in “the group should do this or that.” The trouble with this thinking is that it reflects what’s going on in my own head rather than the group conscience. I may not be completely wrong, but I definitely don’t have the full picture. You have a part of the picture as much as I do. Humility allows me to participate as a piece of the whole. It allows me to voice my thoughts calmly and openly and vulnerably.

I don’t have to be a leader or a follower

It can be really hard to do this. I’m human: I want things. I think I know things. I do know some things. But I don’t know what is best for the group all the time or even any of the time! In the same manner that I trust my higher power, A.A., my sponsor, the Steps, I also have to trust that the group conscience is what is best for the group, and lean on the group conscience as a guide. Not just after a decision is made, but as a constant presence, always accessible simply by asking “What does the group think?” And truly, doing this is very freeing. I don’t have to have all the answers or even any answers. I don’t have to be a leader or a follower, I’m simply another alcoholic.

During this pandemic time, when so many meetings have moved to Zoom, occasional issues have come up. I’ve found myself worrying about how things will work out. It has been so comforting to see the group conscience at work these days. People working together to sort out problems and make decisions with each other? Amazing. This is not what I grew up with, and it’s wonderful to experience. I’m newly aware of a higher power, speaking through the group. I don’t have to worry. Our A.A. community will work together to carry the message. We are responsible.

photo credits available upon request to thepoint@aasfmarin.org

Coming back to our primary purpose of message-carrying: this Tradition makes me think of moments in meetings where I hear the voice of my higher power loud and clear, or even more when a newcomer pipes up to say they “got it” at a meeting. If you’ve been around the rooms of A.A., you have witnessed these extraordinary moments of grace. It doesn’t always happen in a moment. Sometimes it’s watching a newcomer transform over time from a desperate wreck to a functioning part of the world. It’s really miraculous, and the group carrying the message is at the start of that transformation.

People working together to sort out problems and make decisions with each other? Amazing.

Tradition 5 also shows up in those moments after a meeting where people surround a newcomer to exchange phone numbers and fellowship. Whether people are chuckling over remembered exploits or consoling someone in their grief or simply shaking hands and saying “Keep coming back!” We’re all unified in carrying the message.

Finally, this Tradition is such a great example of K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Sweetheart. When the going gets rough or cantankerous, we can always come back to our primary purpose. Remembering the point of having meetings and our primary purpose helps to keep things in perspective.

Safety in A.A.

by John R.

When I attended the Safety Workshop Saturday, February 29, there were around 65 people. We had the required coffee as well as fresh fruit, pastries and cookies. The event started promptly at 10:00 with the Serenity Prayer and opening remarks from Lara who was also the emcee at 777 Brotherhood Way in San Francisco. We listened to Riaz A., Steve R. and Liz C. who said what safety in A.A. meant to them. We heard stories of predatory behavior by other members, meeting disruptions, and banishment of some members upon recommendations by meeting committees. Then we took a 10 minute break to re-caffeinate and catch up with friends in the fellowship.

After hearing some information from a Box 459 article and some of the GSO safety guidelines, we broke into groups and had round table discussions covering the following topics:

A.A. Membership, Tradition 10 – outside issues such as religion, gender, rehabs, politics, racism, and homophobia.

Sponsorship: Personal Conduct – being a safe sponsor, instilling appropriate and safe behavior.

Group Safety: Physical/Medical Emergencies – creating a group emergency plan, liaising with meeting hosts, group awareness of emergency resources, group conscience eviction. 

Harassment and Predation – dealing with sexual harassment, sexual predators, non-members, illegal activity, phone lists, group conscience responses. 

Meeting Disruptions – intoxication, mental illness, homeless activity, electronica media, photography, off-topic sharing, crosstalk, group conscience responses. 

Primary Purposes – creating a welcome, safe environment for new and current members with love, tolerance, and kindness. 

Anonymity – social media, phone lists, educating family and the public, anonymity breaks in public.

I attended the Anonymity and Meeting Disruptions discussions. Both tables were full. Our discussions that followed could be easily put into a rough draft for a pamphlet of Safety in A.A.  as one does not currently exist and again, in my opinion, I feel many people that come into A.A. do not feel safe for one reason or another. A pamphlet on Safety in A.A. would give resources and appropriate actions to take for both new and old members. Contact your District Committee Member or Area Delegate for local shared experience. Thanks for letting me be of service.

Helpful Resources for A.A. Members and Groups

  • Box 459 October 2010 edition, articles on “Disruptive Members at A.A. Meetings” and “A.A. and the Law” (available on the newsletters page at www.aa.org).
  • A report from the 62nd General Service Conference Workshop: “Safety in A.A. Our Common Welfare.*
  • Final Report of the “Ad Hoc Committee on Group Safety of the
    General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous, U.S. and Canada
    ” (Feb. 2, 2014).*
  • A.A. pamphlet, “Questions & Answers on Sponsorship.”**
  • A.A. pamphlet, “The A.A. Group… Where it All Begins.”**
  • Service Material, “Safety Card for A.A. Groups.”**
  • Contact your District Committee Member or Area Delegate for local shared experience.

*Available upon request by contacting G.S.O.

**Available on aa.org. See https://www.aa.org/assets/en_us/smf-209_en.pdf

Second Chance at a First Class Life

by Marcello C-B.

Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are delighted. We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall away from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin to have spiritual experience. The feeling that the drink problem has disappeared will often come strongly. We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe. —Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 75

Step 5 for me was the beginning of the changes I have been looking for since the first time I got intoxicated. Changes I truly needed to continue in a positive way. After putting all my effort into my fourth step, sitting down with my sponsor and telling him all my dirty laundry really opened up my eyes how amazingly shallow, egotistical, selfish, so full of myself I was and how I behaved while I was intoxicated. Of course during those times I couldn’t see it until I put pen to paper.

I remember been so intoxicated I thought I was untouchable. My belief was I could actually handle toxic situations better when drunk (instead of making messes out of them). My character defects would get the best of me regardless of the situation. Even though I was better at insulting people I can’t say it served me at all. It gave me a false sense that I was on top of the world.

We feel we are on the Broad Highway

Step 5 is one of the steps I’ve come to like the most because getting all the information out and giving it to God and my sponsor has released me from the bondage of carrying dead weight. With so many self-absorbed behaviors I never thought I had, I was in complete denial about them until my eyes opened after step work. Then the fog started to lift.

This step is more than just cleaning house to me. It’s the beginning of an easier way of life to show you, me, anybody that it is possible to climb out of the deepest hole a person can dig for themselves. I know I kept digging like I was looking for a chest full of gold.

Today I am on Step 12. I continue to work the steps with the same sponsor, I continue to stay in contact with other sober individuals in the program. I go to Zoom meetings all over the continent. If I get the idea to use I simply remind myself how bad it was before I got sober, and I will call a fellow addict or just play the tape of the countless times I have been to jail behind my drinking here in the US and in Mexico.

photo credits available upon request from thepoint@aasf.org

Believe me, my life has not been peachy. It hasn’t been horrifying, either, but I am completely sure I don’t want a repeat of past bad situations. I’ve had enough of it and can still taste my last relapse in my mouth. I am not going back for any of it, again. I have given myself a second chance at a first class lifestyle today. I believe you can as well, you just have to be consistent, be true to yourself and truly believe in yourself. Then you can move forward from it.

A habitual relapser who couldn’t put the bottle down because somebody was going to steal it from me (when I was partying by myself)

At first I couldn’t keep myself sober in the beginning from the many times I tried. This last of two hospital visits at UCSF Parnassus Hospital in San Francisco was enough. The journey I started and continue to be on since September 17, 2019 has been so amazing I really can’t complain. And if I can do it, you can do it too. This is coming from a habitual relapser who couldn’t put the bottle/pipe down because somebody was going to steal it from me when I was partying by myself! How crazy is that?

I’m so grateful I took the right steps and the guidance to listen and to do what was in front of me. One thing I can say that has stuck is that my only job is to “shut the F up and listen,” which is how my uncle put it. Today I continue to follow those words because it saved my life. Thank you, Uncle Mark B.

What Meetings Used to be Like

by Anonymous                                                                              

Years ago, thinking I had a drinking problem, I called A.A., got the time and location of a nearby meeting, and decided to check it out. I nervously approached an open gate that led to a building’s side alley and avoided the person who was about to greet me. I walked through an open door and heard many people laughing and chatting. The air in the small crowded room was saturated with cigarette smoke. Bewildered, I did not know what to do or where to go, so I found the coffee machine. At last, something I recognized!

Before I could pour myself a cup of coffee a drunk man bumped into me as he made his way through the crowd. I thought to myself, “What in the world is going on here?” I replaced my Styrofoam cup and walked out. That was it­: my first attempt to attend an A.A. meeting. 

I returned to A.A. in 1991. By that time, I had hit bottom. It was A.A. or death. I was ready to call myself an alcoholic. People still smoked at those meetings. I was desperate, so I simply sat away from the smokers.

Memories of early meetings include seeing posters with slogans such as “This too shall pass”

Fond memories of my early meetings include seeing posters with A.A. slogans, such as “This too shall pass”; “One day at a time”; “Think, think, think” and “Just for today.” True words of wisdom. I remember meetings with both greeters and coffee hosts. Both important to me because I needed someone to say “hello” and make me feel welcome. Once welcomed, I had no need to run away. 

I remember the row of chairs against the back wall, filled by the same people. It took me a while to figure it out. They were the old-timers. They sat in the back, watched us newer members discover the program, and provided gentle guidance by sharing their experience, strength and hope. 

I’ve noticed the following changes since 1991. I don’t see A.A. slogans posted on the walls, greeters outside of meeting rooms, or coffee hosts—those who gave me a cup of coffee, a smile and a welcome. I’m also happy to report that meetings became non-smoking in my state (just my preference).

photo credits available upon request to thepoint@aasfmarin.org

Another change is the influx of women. I attend gay A.A. meetings in my neighborhood. Over the years, more and more lesbian and straight women joined and became active members taking service positions. They added a welcome new dimension to these groups.

Once welcomed, I had no need to run away

The latest change in A.A. meetings is from my city’s Coronavirus lockdown. In response, our Central Office published a Remote Meeting Schedule listing both telephone and Zoom meetings. I have participated in multiple Zoom meetings with my home group, and I think that it’s an effective alternative. When A.A.s need to have a meeting, we will find a way, whether in person, in print from the Grapevine magazine, through correspondence, by telephone, or by Zoom.

What have not changed are the steps, the traditions, and the concepts; the desperation of those people who seek to save their lives through working this spiritual program; the gratitude I see in the faces of people who regain their lives, families, health, and careers.

I’ve changed. I’m now one of those old-timers. Now when a drunk person enters a meeting, a few of us will scoop him up and do some 12 Step work, give him a Big Book and some telephone numbers. We encourage him to go to a meeting the next day and not drink in between. Some things will never change. Thank God for that!