1 07, 2021

“Never turn anyone away”: Glenn D.’s Story

by Bree L.

Glenn, a true local, was born and raised in Bayview-Hunter’s Point in San Francisco.  He was born into a large family, the youngest of seven children. He was a fraternal twin with one older brother and four sisters.  His mother was the primary caregiver as his stepfather, an alcoholic, was gone a lot. His father eventually died from cirrhosis of the liver.  Today, two siblings have passed away and the rest are living in the area. His mother died of lung cancer after smoking steadily for forty years.  Glenn, as the youngest, says, “they spoiled me.”

His sobriety date is October 28, 2003. Prior to getting sober, he was in and out of jail for many years. There was a reoccurring theme of getting sick and going to San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH). He would be admitted for overnight observation and upon departure get discharge meds, and the whole circus would start over again. One time, while waiting for his medication he decided to take a walk. He stopped for a cigarette as part of his walk and ran into a sheriff’s department security guard. The guard recognized Glenn, detained him, and realized there was a warrant for his address. He landed in jail four more months. That was an example of how his life went up and down. 

His life went up and down

The last arrest before his incarceration, he was sent to drug court and sentenced to attend outpatient rehab in the Bayview, his old stomping grounds. He’d attend class on Carroll Ave. every day from nine to one and spend the rest of the day using. It was great to get treatment in his neighborhood as he knew all the dealers and where they were located. Periodically, he’d return to court, but treatment would be denied because he’d had too many dirties when they tested him.  The last time, he was sent to Redwood Center inpatient program. It was an opportunity to get out of the city. He was dressed for court at 850 Bryant, thinking he’d have a day or so before treatment but this time he was sent directly to Redwood City with no chance to visit his known neighborhood. 

Getting to Redwood Center, he questioned if he really needed to be there?  There were all these men, punk rockers, gays, straights, so different from his neighborhood but he decided to at least give it a shot. He didn’t see what they could do that would be so different, but there was at least a chance for change. He managed to graduate after ninety days. But with this new certification he was still unemployable. He says it was a lucky break that the city paid for all his treatment.

His new sponsor told Glen about the Dry Dock

Upon his return, he had a conversation with his godmother who lived in the Bayview. They both questioned if he could stay clean. He knew he was now more focused and had an idea of what he wanted out of life. He figured between his Higher Power and his godmother, they would help him stay on track. He moved in with her and began taking care of his godmother who had multiple health issues. 

His new sponsor, Terry, told Glen about the Dry Dock and how it had many meetings. Glenn took the bus from the Bayview (the 24 to Jackson, and the 22 to Lombard and Fillmore) and began attending the 8:30 pm meeting after putting his grandmother to bed. This worked well so he included the 10:00 pm meeting. Things got better as he got to know people, and with that, he added the 5:15 meeting after feeding his grandmother an early dinner. Her son was available after work help. Glenn stayed with her as a caretaker for four years until she passed

After his godmother passed, a man from the Dry Dock said he had an extra room in his place in Daly City. The man had a disability, needed help, and asked Glenn to move in. This worked well for ten years, but toward the end, Glenn needed to make a change. As our program works, he fortuitously connected with a fellow at the Dry Dock who said he had a condo in town with an extra bedroom. The fellow’s mother had originally bought the place before she died and left the condo to him. Here he was offered a San Francisco condo, centrally located. As Glenn says, it was a “God shot” to have this wonderful place available to him.  

Glenn now works the swing shift, customer service desk at the Dry Dock, which has the most meetings of any site in the city. His motto is to never turn anyone away, even during quarantine. When a room was full, he had a dial-in lobby connection. He truly adheres to our motto of always having the helping hand of AA available to anyone who reaches out.

1 07, 2021

Grace, Continued

by Kathleen C

One morning I was lying in bed. I was hungover. Yeah, I’m a morning person: I could wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning and have a joint. My sister and I were talking about this, “How is that possible?” I felt it mellowed me. Hungover I was grumpy. So it’s morning and these two bright-eyed little two-year-olds come bounding into the bedroom. They start jumping on the bed as if it’s a trampoline. One of them landed on my stomach, really hard and she hurt me.

I didn’t think, I acted. This was a visceral reaction to getting my stomach jumped on. I pick her up, I’m lying down so I pick her up, and I threw her on the floor. The floor was carpeted, I hope she wasn’t hurt. Honestly I don’t remember. I don’t remember if she cried. I don’t remember what I did, if I hugged her or comforted her or what. I will remember forever the look on her face when she realized what I was about to do.

It really was something that I was aware of for years afterwards, because I figured she had realized, “Don’t make mommy mad. Whatever you do don’t make mommy mad. If she’s not brushing your hair the way you like it, don’t make her mad, just do it yourself.” My daughters say they don’t remember these things. I remember. I will always remember.

Don’t make mommy mad. Whatever you do, don’t make mommy mad

Funny how mornings are just not that great for us alcoholics. My other daughter wanted to go to the park. I didn’t feel like getting it together to take her there. Her sister was still asleep, she was in her little fuzzy pink pajamas with feet, those kinds of things. I said, “Why don’t we just go out in front of the house?” It was sunny on the sidewalk, there was a little picket fence and I said, “Let’s just go outside.” Maybe that would get it out of her system.

We were standing out there on the sidewalk and the phone rings in the house. The phone’s hanging in the kitchen, it’s right inside the front doorway. I said, “Stay right there, honey.” She’s standing there, she’s holding a cloth diaper that was her security blanket, sucking her thumb. I’m like, “Just stay right there honey, I’ll be right back.” I run up the stairs, I answer the phone. I space out. I forget about her. I don’t know how long I talked, 15 minutes, 20 minutes. I hung up the phone and I realized, “Oh my God, she’s still out there on the sidewalk.” Except she wasn’t.

All that was there was her little cloth diaper hung neatly across the picket fence. I went nuts. I started screaming, assuming she’d been kidnapped. I’m running up and down the street. One of my neighbors came out and she took charge. She said, “Okay, you go down to that end of the block, I’ll go down to this end of the block.” Where we lived then, and I still live now, is Bernal Heights. The park she had been talking about was Rolph Park. We were on the other side of what was then Army Street, now called Cesar Chavez. My neighbor found her standing at the southbound on-ramp for the 101 freeway, looking across four lanes of traffic at the park across the street.

My neighbor found her standing, looking across four lanes of traffic at the park across the street

That didn’t get me sober. That didn’t. We are immune to self-realization. Not good. Sorry, I just gave you horrendous drunkologue and no sobriety. My sister had gotten sober, she started taking me to meetings down in LA where she lives, saying we’d see movie stars. We did. I also saw her life and how it changed. She dragged me to meetings. Forget attraction rather than promotion. She said, “If you don’t stop drinking you’re going to die,” which was true. She said, “If it was the only thing left in the world would you abuse it?” I realized, if there was nothing left but alcohol of course I’d abuse it. I was still abusing it, I just wasn’t acknowledging that fact.

I started going to Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings, which I did for about a year and a half and I worked the steps in that program. Then I decided to check into Alcoholics Anonymous. I started going to the Potrero Hill Big Book meeting. My sobriety date by the way is September 11th, 1986, which is my sister Carolyn’s birthday. I won’t say which one. I started going to the Potrero Hill Big Book meeting, eight o’clock, Monday nights. I got my sponsor, Bonnie, and she worked the steps with me very patiently. I went to that one meeting for five years. I was just going to do the minimum.

Half the time when I’d say I was an alcoholic I had my fingers crossed behind my back. It was really hard for me to do that First Step, say, “Yes, you’re just an alcoholic.” Eventually at five years I went to a conference with Carolyn in Southern California. I shared that the extent of my program was the one meeting a week, sometimes commitments. Yes I had worked the steps, but I wasn’t sponsoring anybody. Nobody wanted what I had.

A woman came up to me afterwards. This is something really important in AA: we reach out to people. She said, “You’re going to drink.” She said, “There’s no standing still in this program. If you’re not moving forward you’re sliding back. You’re going to drink.” That is what made me start going to more meetings. I started going to the Tuesday noon meeting in Civic Center, where I met Patricia. That also got me started going to meetings in West Marin, where I didn’t realize there were alcoholics. Surprise. I met all the wonderful people that I’ve met out in West Marin, which completely changed my relationship to that community, because all of a sudden I knew people in a real way. (To Be Continued)

1 07, 2021

Gerald’s Story

by Gerald W

This is a phrase I have said at least a thousand times over the past five years, since entering into a new way of living through Alcoholics Anonymous: “I am an alcoholic and an addict and my name is Gerald.” And these words have changed my life. Every time that I say them I am reborn. Because it is through the program of Alcoholics Anonymous that I now have a life and not just an existence.

In addition to being an alcoholic and an addict, I am also African American, gay, and I have a depressive anxiety disorder. And I am living with HIV. These are my truths. Nonetheless, at some point in my life I used each of them as an excuse to drink and use. Until I realized there are no excuses.

I believe that the disease of alcoholism is both of nature and of nurture

My introduction to alcohol came as a young child when I tried to mimic what I saw on 1970’s television dramas. Whenever some catastrophe that took place (someone getting shot, a car accident, an avalanche), there was always someone standing by and the first thing they did was to give the distraught victim this stuff called brandy. This magical elixir called brandy seemed to make the victim more at ease and able to function and calm down after the trauma. So yes. At eight years old I tried the magical elixir and I hated it. I swore I would never drink it again. Well, that was the first of what would become a pattern of lies surrounding alcohol and drugs.

jumping into oceans when you can’t swim

I believe that the disease of alcoholism is both of nature and of nurture. I come from a long line of alcoholics. All of them participated in alcoholic antics: Playing chicken with trains while drunk, sleeping in the neighbor’s dog house, or jumping into oceans when you can’t swim (that was me), just to name a few. My journey into A.A. was not a graceful one, and I am not unique.

My higher power made it perfectly clear I could either change, and stop using drugs and alcohol, or I would die. This was demonstrated by my almost walking into traffic in what I termed a “walking blackout,” barely missing getting hit by oncoming vehicles. A loud voice in my head woke me just as I was about to step into the street. I call this voice my higher power.

My journey into A.A. was not a graceful one

I had to surrender to a power greater than myself. The practices and principles of A.A. have given me the opportunity to be of service to others that suffer with this disease. I no longer have to wake up not knowing what I did the night before, sick from the ingestion of poisons, remorseful, ashamed, demoralized and the like.

It was college where my alcoholism took off in leaps and bounds. This is where cocaine was introduced to the mix and this made partying a sport. Who can get the most wasted yet still claim some parts of their sanity? Not I. This is also where my promiscuous attitudes towards sex began. There is no doubt that I contracted HIV as a result of the behaviors directly related to my drinking and using. That was just one of the consequences of the deadly disease of addiction. I have learned in this new design for living that acceptance is the key.

Today I start and end my days by making an effort to be the best version of myself. This starts with thinking of others before I think of myself, and knowing that I don’t control anything. Don’t think, don’t drink. Thy will be done and  bless you all.

1 07, 2021

Inverness Fire House Saturday Night

By Gail F.

The fall of 1988 was when a group of newcomers in West Marin were told, by one of the few women out here with some time in the fellowship, that we should start our own meeting. There were four of us trying to stay sober by doing “365 in 365” instead of the usual “90 in 90.” We were having a lot of fun driving back and forth from Inverness Park to Bolinas and Stinson Beach. We had endless discussions puzzling about sobriety, meetings, A.A. in general, the Big Book, the Steps and our various personal problems as we drove back and forth trying to avoid the wildlife on Highway 1.

We didn’t know it then but the bond we formed helped to provide us all with a solid base for our recovery. I think about those times often when a new woman comes into the meeting we started back then and wish for her what was given to us — a feeling of connection and support that none of us had experienced before. 

We started by asking all the sober women in West Marin to tell their stories

The meeting began in a little cottage in downtown Point Reyes Station, a cottage which at that time housed Health and Human Services. The living room we met in had an old-fashioned fireplace. We all got into the habit of bringing wood in the winter to keep ourselves warm. Eventually the meeting had to move when the house was sold and we were lucky to get the Inverness Fire House meeting room, where we are now. 

It is hard to keep a small meeting going sometimes, but this meeting has been strong for a long time now. Seventeen years. It’s easy for me to remember because I only had a few months of sobriety when the meeting began. We started by asking all the sober women in West Marin to tell their stories. That took care of our first few months of speakers. We decided pretty early on that we should alternate speaker discussion meetings with discussion meetings. After the local women had all told their stories a couple of times over as well as stories from their sponsors and relatives, we branched out.

I was going over the hill regularly to the Fairfax 7:00 a.m. meeting in those days and invited women from Fairfax and San Geronimo to speak at our meeting. We all made it our business to supply speakers. As a lot of sober women came to give us their experience, strength and hope we found they became regulars at our meeting and brought their friends. Now the continuing membership is at least one-half women from out of our immediate area. The meeting still fluctuates between 3 and 35 or so. We meet at the Inverness Fire House from 6:00 to 7:15 p.m. every Saturday. All are welcome.

30 06, 2021

Unity & Service

by Israel B

The sixth annual Unity and Service Conference promotes interest in the 12 Traditions and 12 Concepts of AA. The content specifically caters to sponsored members who have worked the Steps, but might not yet have a strong grasp of these two important areas. It is the Conference’s hope that attending members will be inspired to volunteer for General Service, as well as discover more ways to put the principles of A.A. into their everyday lives.

The seed for the Unity and Service Conference appeared in 2012, and sprouted from the friendly conversations of two Love and Service Group members. Almost by accident, Bob D. and Kent D. started the local conversation about expanding service and awareness of the Traditions and Concepts. These two men were on fire for the Concepts and Traditions and wanted the world to know it! How could they get more people interested? How could they inspire more service? How could they share their own experience, strength and hope with the AA World? Through much hard work and sponsor’s encouragement, the answer appeared: The first Unity and Service Conference came to reality on Labor Day 2016. The event was a resounding success, so much so that it became one of the annual highlights of the San Francisco Bay area.

This year has been a challenging one, due to COVID-19 and the state-wide restrictions on in-person gatherings. There was a very real worry that the momentum over the years could be slowed, and the committee was concerned that there might not be a conference at all. What we did not count on was the ingenuity, resourcefulness, and dedication of A.A. members. All around we saw other events adapt to the situation, finding new ways to interact. We saw the spark of A.A. continue to burn even in the face of this daunting scenario. Thanks to video-conference technology, the willingness of members to try something new, and everyone’s creative efforts, this year’s gathering would go on! This year’s conference would be virtual, offering members from all over the world an opportunity to share in this once local-only event. How exciting it was to find this much needed silver lining in a year marked by so many challenges.

This year’s conference would be virtual, offering members from all over the world an opportunity

The Conference committee has put a lot of hard work into this event, and the speakers are dedicated to doing their best to communicate their own enthusiasm for the 12 Concepts and 12 Traditions. They hope to inspire attendees to catch Bob D. and Kent D.’s fire, and take it back to their own friends and local groups. General Service is an amazing chance for A.A. members to get involved in the fabric of what keeps A.A. going. The event’s motto is “The Secret of Service,” which echo’s Bill and Bob’s discovery that indeed it is the secret to success in A.A. 


30 06, 2021

What Love Does

by Rick R. 

There’s a man who groans and squirms when the word ego is mentioned in a meeting and he has been sober for 20 years. I try not to make him uncomfortable but it doesn’t always happen that way. A man shared that he could love someone but he doesn’t have to like him or her. I’m saying it’s not the man that you don’t like; it’s his behavior.

The longer I attend A. A. meetings the more aware I become of the evolution of the subject matter of meeting topics. In my early days in the 1970s the topic was normally about drunkalogues or whatever the leader wanted to talk about that day. Most of the meetings that I attend today are literature-based meetings and there is ample information in the literature that reinforces the topic. On page 164 in the Big Book it says, “We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us.” Today we have access to all that they had learned up to that point in time, plus everything we have learned since then, and the sharing in the meetings is so much deeper as the result of those disclosures. 

I was at a meeting recently and the topic was “Love without strings,” Sept. 28 in the Daily Reflections. It was interesting to hear the differing perceptions mainly based on the differing lengths of sobriety and how the word love was perceived. I looked up the word in the thesaurus and it is all about feelings like fondness, passion, adoration, affection and many others. 

The will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth

Over the years I have heard it said, “I can love him, but I don’t have to like him.” Is it him I don’t like or is it his behavior I don’t like? All of us come to A.A. with behavioral problems. It is not about him. It is about me being judgmental. There were comments about sexual attraction or “erotic love,” which are common in most online definitions but that is not our purpose when dealing with the word Love. There are many definitions of the word love and for our purpose; I believe the one that Scott Peck writes about in his book The Road Less Traveled. He defines love as, “The will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” He implies that it is not that version that we see on the movie screen. To me this means that love is caring for, and nurturing another person. I can love everyone, even if they do not love me back. It is not about them; it implies that it’s about my actions and me. 

As I took this approach, one by one I defused and neutralized all those mental conflicts and accepted everyone exactly as they are. No longer do they crowd my thinking. Do those people that still have behavior problems sometimes cross my boundaries? Oh yes, they do. Sometimes their ego is threatened by something I shared at a meeting or in the community and they need to defend their position. Today I recognize these symptoms in others, and I try to be understanding about what I say at a meeting to not make them uncomfortable. This takes time and I never respond to innuendoes when someone is trying to draw me into an argument. It takes two to tango. Over a period of time he gets to know who I really am, and the thing I share no longer threatens him. 

I try to care for and nurture everyone, and at some point in time I have run out of adversaries, that I know of. In fact, I become their best advocate. Today, the word love is not a noun. Love is a verb. Love is as Love does. Understand them, wish the best for them, and be willing to help them when you can. Who could understand the behavior of an alcoholic more than another alcoholic who has experienced their own development in the program? The founding principles of A. A. are the caring for and nurturing of another alcoholic. If that is not love, then what is? With all my love, I rest my case.

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