1 05, 2021

Gratitude Attacks

by Karen D.

I am a newcomer with less than 40 days of sobriety. After relapsing, I got a new sponsor, who is very hands-on and who provides the kind of structure I need and appreciate. It would be fair to say that I am grateful for her. 

For the first 30 days, I checked in with her every morning. At her request, I provided a schedule of local AA Zoom meetings in the area where I live that I planned on attending for the week (2 per day). On April 10, 2021, I decided I wanted to join a women’s meeting and randomly selected a Zoom meeting at Lush Lounge in San Francisco. I was born in San Francisco and had my first drink here when I was seven years old. I still have many relatives, friends, and of course, memories of The City.

I was born in San Francisco and had my first drink here when I was seven years old

Once the meeting began, I felt welcome and comfortable. Like most AA meetings, newcomers are made to feel welcome. I appreciated the organization and structure of this meeting and was relieved that, unlike my first San Francisco Zoom meeting last year, it was secure and without any interruption by zoom bombers.

During her lead, the speaker coined the term “Gratitude Attacks.” She felt overwhelmed with being alive, because she was so grateful and happy to be sober. Her energy and enthusiasm stuck with me, and seemed to affect most members of the group. 

The speaker had recently moved to L.A. and had hoped to find in-person meetings, but she was a bit apprehensive about attending one. She spoke about her progression from when she was drinking to the present, which is part of the reason she brought up the Gratitude Attacks. 

she was struggling with her sobriety and with getting settled in her new apartment

When the meeting was open for sharing, another woman who had just moved to San Francisco from L.A. said she was struggling with her sobriety and with getting settled in her new apartment. She was also, however, grateful she had help moving, that the movers were in AA, and they didn’t charge her. I got the impression that her sobriety was wavering but that gesture of kindness gave her a reason to be grateful. Although she seemed a bit down, I was glad she shared and hoped that the meeting overall lifted her spirits. 

It was encouraging to hear gratitude described this way. Since attacks are usually thought of as negative, having a Gratitude Attack is a reason to celebrate and encourages optimism. This is really helpful if staying sober is a struggle. This very different way at looking at gratitude occurs when something good happens. Being sober each day is a reason to celebrate and to be grateful. 

Upon waking up in the morning, we list five things for which we are grateful

When I shared I mentioned that, coincidentally, the night before I had watched a video about gratitude. The narrator suggested that, upon waking up in the morning, we list five things for which we are grateful. This is a good way to start the day in a positive direction. I can see how making an extensive gratitude list could lead to a Gratitude Attack—like compiling happiness.

I was glad to be in a meeting with women. I appreciated how nice everyone was, and even more so, how honest they were. Like any meeting there were people who were struggling to stay sober and others who seemed to be doing well, had worked the steps, had a sponsor and attended meetings regularly. Many, it seemed, had never thought about reasons to be grateful but I got the impression that they would consider making their lists. I myself was very grateful to have attended this meeting and I will definitely be back. Thank you!

1 05, 2021

1st Gay Meeting in SF

by Conrad G

Around 1968 a group of 10 men met in Gordon T’s apartment. I was there. The apartment was on Central Avenue in the Haight Ashbury. Our meeting was called to discuss starting the first official gay AA meeting in S.F. We agreed to start the meeting. 

We rented space at 261 Fell Street in the building with the rose garden. Our goal in starting the meeting was to encourage members of the gay community who were reluctant to come into the mainstream of AA to come to our meeting. Then we could encourage them to enter mainstream AA as they became more comfortable living sober. 

We were surrounded by beautiful psychedelic art

Our local Central Office was not comfortable with the idea of gay meetings. We therefore did not list this meeting in their directory. We listed the meeting with the Society for Individual Rights’ monthly newsletter. 

The 35-and-under group of Alcoholics Anonymous that met on Thursday nights in the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in North Beach was S.F.’s unofficial gay group. The meeting was for anyone who wanted to attend. We had a lot of very good friends who came regularly also what was then a large gay attendance of maybe twenty. 

As a community little did we ever dream our community would be as large as it is today, with gay AA meetings throughout the Bay Area and throughout the country, including Hawaii. The first conference was the Living Sober conference here in S.F., held yearly around the same time as the Pride Parade so travelers could come to both.

Coffee, jasmine tea and cake were served

the black light was turned on

Since we were unable to use 261 Fell for our very first meeting, two of our members with a hippie pad in the Haight invited us to use their space. They had decorated their pad with metal wall sculptures painted in bright pastel colors. A piece of round iron sculpture with all kinds of flowers appeared to grow out of the carpet. 

After reading the usual opening literature, we added the last paragraph of page 68 and all of page 69, ending with the first paragraph on page 70 from Alcoholics Anonymous Third Edition. After that it was always read at all of our meetings. Then the black light was turned on and all others off. We were surrounded by beautiful psychedelic art. No drugs were taken, no marijuana smoked. Coffee, jasmine tea and cake were served. Conrad G. and Carlos S. were co-secretaries. The only people still with us in body that I know of are Don K., Gordon T. who now lives in Hawaii, Roland S. in Palm Springs. In 1968, it was a beautiful, first gay meeting. 

1 05, 2021

Who I Am

by Ken J

Growing up a little gay boy in a small Nebraska town in the 1960’s, I think I was alcoholism waiting to happen. I actually did not know what was wrong for me. I just knew I didn’t fit in.

In 1969 I was actively escaping through reading anything I could find. I read about the Stonewall Riots in NYC. There were unfamiliar words in the article, so I got out the dictionary and looked them up. Even at that young age I identified and realized I was not alone. I got the message that one day I would be with people like me. I also somehow knew that I needed to keep this revelation to myself. And I began keeping secrets. Living a life full of secrets became a coping mechanism. The less people knew me, the less chance I would be rejected. Standing in the back of the room was safer than being in the front row. Hiding the truth about who and what I was also allowed me to be a person that I thought would be more accepted. Of course we all know that none of that works.

What worked for me was alcohol. It was the social lubricant that made life livable. I began my drinking at 13, sneaking drinks from my parent’s liquor cabinet and dipping into the vats of wine my sister and her husband were brewing on their farm. I would ride my bicycle the five miles to get to her farm, and then spend time in the root cellar with awful vintages of strawberry, rhubarb and cherry wines. And I loved it all.

I didn’t pretend to have a girlfriend, but I didn’t share who I was with everyone

At 16 I was accepted to spend a year as a Rotary Exchange Student in Brazil. It was my first geographic. Upon arriving in Brasilia in June of 1975, my host parents took me for lunch and ordered me a beer. I said, “I’m only 16.” To which my host mother replied: “There’s really no drinking age in Brazil.” I immediately knew that I never wanted to leave. My year in Brazil was brilliant. I found people who were very different, who had a value system much different from where I was from. I became a stronger person, and my self-esteem actually improved. Of course, I was drinking daily. Because I could.

I was able to find gay people in Brazil. Although it wasn’t really that accepted, there was a greater degree of tolerance. Especially in Rio de Janeiro. I spent the majority of my weekends there, on the beaches, in exclusive nightclubs, and in absolute dive bars. I learned very well how to be the model American Exchange Student Monday through Friday. And then wild gay party boy on the weekends. I truly led two lives.

After my year in Brazil, I went back to my home town in Nebraska. I finished my senior year then left for college, which was only 300 miles away. I felt like I was chained to that miserable town. Three years later I was invited by the University of Nebraska to seek education elsewhere. Another distinction accomplished. I became the first member of my entire family to ever be kicked out of college.

Three years after that, I had actually created a life for myself in Phoenix. I had a good career, a house with a pool, and a couple of cars. I also had a massive alcohol problem. I was 26 years old. One day, I just lost all sense of control and became delusional. I drank for two weeks straight. I cared about nothing but drinking. On the Monday morning after Halloween I took the first step in reaching out for help. I asked a woman I worked with to take me to the ER. She came and got me, took me to the hospital, dropped me off and said, “Don’t call me again.” And that was the beginning of my real life. Three days later on November 6, 1985, I went to my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. And I have been gifted with continuous sobriety from that day.

a good career, a house with a pool, and a couple of cars

My sobriety began in LGBT+ meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. At 26, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to come to AA if there hadn’t been gay meetings. And even if I had come, without gay meetings I might not have stayed. There was a safety that I needed. Fortunately my sponsor made it clear to me that I needed to become a member of Alcoholics Anonymous as a whole, not just a special interest group.

Service commitments became my thing. I loved working on conferences and panels. I spent nine of my first ten years in Intergroup. I was extremely active in both the gay groups and in the general AA community. But continuing with my life of secrets, I still led two lives. I had a gay life, and a straight life. That was the way it was for me in AA, at work, in school and with my family. Granted, I didn’t pretend to have a girlfriend, but I didn’t share who I was with everyone.

In 1996, when I was 10 years sober, they were planning the annual anniversary of Alcoholics Anonymous in Phoenix. The theme was “The Diversity of AA.” There were going to be six speakers, a newcomer, an old-timer, a Hispanic American, a Native American, an African American, and a gay person. I thought that was really progressive and amazing. Until they asked me to be the gay speaker.

He told me to get over myself

I’d been taught that you never say no to an AA request, so I agreed. But I wasn’t happy about it. I was faced with sharing my biggest secret, one I had been nurturing for 35 years. As the date got closer, my anxiety and frustration grew. I went to lunch with my sponsor, an older man with 40 years of sobriety. I said, “You know, the newcomer, the old-timer, the Native, Hispanic and African Americans don’t have to say why they are there. I actually have to say that I’m the gay speaker.”

He replied, “Oh, I think they already know.” He told me to get over myself. And it’s really that simple, isn’t it? We put so much time and energy into trying to be who we think people will like and accept. They are usually able to see right through our masks.

The anniversary night arrived, and in front of around 3,000 people I came out. It was like my breath stopped for a moment. Then my two lives began to come together.  I no longer had to hide. And that led me to be the man God meant for me to be, in all aspects of my life.

When I was fairly new, I remember my grand-sponsor, a woman named Gene L., telling me, “If you live this way of life, work the steps, and be an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous, there will come a day where you can hold your head up. You will find the dignity and the grace to be who you are. Who you are!” I am now 35 years sober, and Alcoholics Anonymous has given me exactly that: the peace of mind and the serenity of the soul to be who I am.

1 05, 2021

SF General Service Updates

by Jackie B

After a whirlwind start, April has been a welcome respite for those of us serving in San Francisco General Service.  At our April District Meeting, we held a sharing session for first-time General Service Representatives (GSRs) to reflect on what they saw, heard and felt at their first Pre-Conference Assembly (Panel 71, the 71st Annual General Service Conference). We also took a Zoom poll about collecting group consciences on this year’s agenda topics and participating in the General Service Conference process. 

Zoom polling to gather facts during the District Meeting was illuminating, fun and encouraging

It was heartwarming to learn that 30 GSRs collected group consciences this year on agenda topics. The average range of topics discussed by groups was between four and six. Half of the GSRs reported emailing their group consciences to the delegate directly or using the Area’s web form. The other half shared at the microphone or passed their consciences on to a District Committee Member (DCM) to share at the Pre-Conference Assembly on their behalf. 

The other half shared at the microphone

Using Zoom polling to gather this information during the District Meeting was illuminating, fun and encouraging. I am also happy to report that District 06 of San Francisco and Distrito 16, Spanish Central, now have a bilingual Interdistrict Liaison, Martha B. 

Finally, with heavy hearts, we mourn the too-soon loss of our Panel 57 District Chair in San Francisco and former Area Chair, Jeff Antonson-Oden. Jeff passed away on April 3, 2021 in New York City. He was a beautiful and brilliant man who inspired and mentored so many of us here in San Francisco, including myself. A virtual Celebration of Life will take place on Sunday, May 30, 2021 at 11:00AM Pacific Time on Zoom.  The Zoom ID is 891-3514-8366 and the password is 1935. Spanish-English interpretation will be provided. Please note that some non-AA members will be in attendance, including some of Jeff’s family and non-alcoholic friends.

1 05, 2021

Regaining Self-Respect

by Rick R.

During my most desperate days, I was the guy standing around in the parking lot at 5:45 AM along with one or two other desperate souls, waiting for the bar to open. I was craving a drink. When we heard the keys being inserted in the door from the inside, we knew the agonizing wait was almost over. The door would open, and the bartender would greet us with a patronizing smile. We would trade wise cracks in an attempt to make normal, a scene that was obviously pathetic.  We then sat down at the bar. The bartender would draw a glass of beer and place it in front of me. I would sit there for about five minutes, just staring at the bubbles rising, before drinking. I was already getting relief before I even raised the glass to my lips.

Why the delay? If I was so desperate, why didn’t I just pick it up and guzzle it down? The answer came to me years after I was sober. It occurred to me that, in those five minutes, I was attempting to regain my dignity. After all I could not be that desperate, could I?

I would sit there for about five minutes, just staring at the bubbles rising

It took about four more years of drinking to get me to the point where I had lost more than I was willing to lose and was about to lose a lot more. In those four years, in a last-ditch effort to regain some sanity, I re-enlisted in the navy, one of the only things I was still qualified for. In a short period of time, I also got married, had a child, and was divorced by correspondence. I was all over the Pacific while trying to deal with all of this. I then started to lose the ability to show up at my ship on Monday mornings and the reality started to set in once again. Without the discipline and structure of the navy, I would be, once more, standing in front of that bar before it opened. That was the last straw.

I called Alcoholics Anonymous that morning and, in military terms, I did the right about-face. Then that part of my life was over. I spent the last 13 years of my navy career sober and on the cutting edge of the Navy’s Alcoholism Program. I went to school to learn about alcoholism in different cultures in the world and became the Collateral Duty Alcoholism Consultant (CODAC). I monitored and counseled different departments about alcohol. I retired in 1982 to continue this wonderful journey as a civilian once again. 

Without the discipline and structure of the navy, I would be, once more, standing in front of that bar before it opened

on the cutting edge of the Navy’s Alcoholism Program

I was not much for platitudes. When I was in my first year of sobriety, I heard a man sharing, “If I surrendered to this disease, cleared up the wreckage of the past, and practiced these principles in all my affairs, I could walk out the door with my dignity and my self-respect.” He seemed to understand how worthless I felt about myself. I knew that I was in the right place. I took him up on the challenge and things have never been the same.

I have learned about character building, respect for everyone around me, compassion, forgiveness, faith, unselfishness, and how to be a friend. The list goes on and on. In closing, I would like to quote another old friend, who is no longer with us. He used to close his sharing at the meetings saying: “I am sober today, I will get weller [sic] with time, but I never want to graduate from this wonderful program.”

1 05, 2021

The Principle of Faith

by John W

We learn from history so as to avoid repeating it. This concept may help in many facets of life, but it certainly did not help with my history of drinking. The embarrassing moments in high school, which had been cute or funny, became embarrassing moments in college. These ranged from dubious badges of honor to moments friends just looked the other way. After graduation this proclivity to imbibe translated into a wrecked car and arrests, more than I care to acknowledge even after over a decade sober. Like so many others, I did not arrive at the doors of AA on the Wings of Victory. My stop was the last house on the block, literally the end of the line.

Before I could believe there was a solution, I needed to cross the threshold of unmanageability and accept I was powerless over alcohol. Lack of power was my dilemma. I was not a moral weakling. I was just suffering from a disease that was out to kill me and, while performing its treachery, was bent on telling me I was fine.

This message was like a wave breaking on the sea wall at Ocean Beach. It rolled in every morning when I showed up at my 7:00 a.m. meeting hung over. The idea receded as the day progressed and I took the oath to make this Day One of never, ever drinking again with it. As the next swell built, I consumed my daily swill and history repeated itself.

This message was like a wave breaking

Praying alone did not work for me. The luster of swearing off had paled for those close to me. Yet the conversations I began to hear at my morning meetings were different. I was certain I was not an alcoholic and was just as sure I was more successful in business than everyone in the room (my fantasy world was in high gear). Yet they were each doing what I couldn’t. They stopped drinking and stayed stopped. This was a new frontier for me. 

like a wave breaking at Ocean Beach

As my days at meetings began to pile up, I had somehow been given the gift of faith. I began to believe that if these men and women could do it, then maybe, just maybe, I could too. As the days became weeks and then months I heard how they did it one day at a time. I heard the horror stories of those who slipped and managed to make it back. Sadly, I also heard the reports of those who did not. Once I experienced the miracle of a sober day, when the obsession actually vanished, I knew I was either in it for the long haul or the end would soon be upon me. 

A member of our program was asked to read one day and turned to Bill’s story: “But just underneath there is a deadly earnestness. Faith has to work twenty-four hours a day in and through us, or we perish” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 16). Faith was not only in the admission my life was unmanageable because I was powerless over alcohol, but also in the belief that I could be restored to sanity. If I was painstaking, I would comprehend the word serenity and I would know peace. 

They asked me to focus on progress, not perfection

Each sober day this new frontier revealed an unexpected landscape. While I had heard these wonders described, to actually have them become a part of my life was entirely a product of my faith growing as I followed the suggestions set forth in the Big Book. My sponsor told me many times, “Faith without works is dead.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 88) His actions and those of the other members of my group personified what it meant to lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.

I tried to follow their lead. Thankfully they asked me to focus on progress, not perfection. My faith grew. I cannot say how it happened, nor when it happened, only that it happened. I heard the words “We know that when we turn to Him, all will be well with us, here and hereafter” (Twelve and Twelve, pg. 105). I do not know what these words mean to others who might hear them; I can only say what they have come to mean for me. Simply, I have faith that all will be well when I turn to a higher power. Finally unwrapped, this gift of faith our program has given is something I can freely partake.

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