With Homage to Bill W
Punk Rock Fever ran high in the small New England town of Provincetown. Three college classes short of graduation from Kent State, I had just decided I was ready to join the other young punks and artists who had fled to Land’s End. We were flattered when the first locals brought us to their places for “sleepovers,” making us feel like the rock stars we aspired to become. Here was applause, love, streetlights, and moments sublime with hilarious intervals. I had found my new family, rebels, crackpots, and one of my personal favorites: fallen women. At nights on the way home from the bars we would sometimes pass through the cemetery. The tombs were old, from the 1600s, and the creepy bas reliefs of skull and crossbones only made me feel more alive.
Creepy bas reliefs of skull and crossbones only made me feel more alive
I was 22 when I got to Provincetown, and found myself the leader of a band. young and ambitious, my bandmates and I knew we would be huge rockstars as long as we kept living the lifestyle. Lots of gigs, wild clothes, excessive promiscuity and all the booze we could get into our systems. We had many friends who hung around with us. They had the same ideas on how life should be run, and we engaged in a little vandalism, and once stole a five-foot-tall Virgin Mary from the town hall creche. We put a strobe light inside her, and brought her on stage. Now P-town is an artist colony at the very tip of Cape Cod, and the wild way of life was the norm. I was finally home.
I had had some success in high school, but always for nerdy things: holder of the track record in the half mile, editor of the school magazine, student council, that kind of stuff. I had tried drinking in high school and loved it. Alcohol helped me feel temporarily liberated from my father’s strict household. I didn’t start drinking seriously though until after leaving my folks and going to college. My intake went to another level on the cape. Drinking and running amok served me well for a few years. I finally became one the “cool” people, and they wanted to befriend me because I was a flamboyant musician, who was up for anything. Just like Bill, I felt that I had “arrived.”
Alcohol was my higher power
Then I arrived at the town jail a couple times and things got worse. I wasn’t drinking to celebrate so much. Alcohol was a maintenance chemical to keep my body at its new unhealthy equilibrium. Also, I wasn’t making a lot of money so financially I had to make sacrifices. A night in the county jail can wreak havoc on one’s self worth, the same way Bill’s bender ruined his stock opportunity in 1932.
Bill craved drinks when he wasn’t drinking and felt remorseful afterwards. I too experienced this like Bill; I promised my partner I was done with alcohol. Like Bill, shortly afterward I came home drunk. Bill tried to control his drinking, as I did, but it wouldn’t work. I considered how I couldn’t live this way and considered taking my own life, and fortunately was a failure at that as well. Alcohol was my higher power.
My sobriety date is May 10, 2021, after “too many relapses to count.” I attended my first AA meeting in 1979 at age 17.
by Pat P
I’ve been asked questions lately about Marin Fellowship’s Intergroup. Perhaps an update for The Point might be helpful. A plan to create an Intergroup for Marin had been urgently pursued 20+ years ago, and the effort resulted in a good compromise. Marin began having its own Teleservice, which has been important, and successful.
Then seven years ago (2015) the idea of Marin having its own Intergroup was revived. The evolving discussions designated Marin Intergroup 2020 to clearly signify that the intention was to develop the idea with Marin groups over the next five years, which is what happened.
Marin Fellowship: Past and Present
As plans evolved, it became apparent that some Marin AA members were asking that Marin plan for having its own Central Office and Bookstore. After a year, it became obvious that a Marin Central Office and Bookstore would be divisive and also unnecessary. However, the fallout from that period was rough in that a resistance developed, some of which still remains.
In any case, over the next four years, discussion was held with AA groups over all of Marin. It gradually developed that the only focus would be to provide events for Marin (since few AA workshops or fellowship opportunities were being held in Marin County at that time). It was decided that the monthly planning meeting would also serve as a forum where Marin groups could discuss, with other Marin groups, questions or issues that came up in their meetings.
In 2018, the Federal not-for-profit 501(c)(3) status was filed for and gained, and in December of 2019, GSO certified MI 2020 as an Intergroup. The name was changed to the current Marin Fellowship Intergroup. These last two years, MFI has held an AA workshop or fellowship event every month, including many step-workshops, speaker meetings and social activities such as Super Bowl Sunday, Kick Ball and Karaoke Night. In November, there will be an AA Gratitude speaker meeting on Zoom with Al-Anon participation. Last year, over 80 people participated.
There is an AA fellowship event every month, including step workshops, speaker meetings and social activities such as Super Bowl Sunday, Kick Ball and Karaoke Night
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day evening zoom meetings were held from 9:00 pm to midnight last year and will be held again this year as well. Also planned is a New Years Eve Dance with a DJ, particularly aimed for young AA members and beginners.
An online Marin A.A. Newsletter is published every month, with the primary focus on giving a voice to Service Committees. See the November issue at aamarin.org. The website has the primary function of posting flyers for any group events, alcathons and the Newsletter. It does not post meeting schedules, as that function is well handled by aasfmarin.org. MFI is self-supporting from donations at events and a few groups who occasionally send a little support. Last year we donated surplus funds to the San Francisco/Marin Intergroup and GSO.
There are a few people who are still opposed to MFI and that is because they haven’t learned much about it. MFI is well known now, and very appreciated by Marin AA members. There is no confusion; we don’t try to handle anything that is already handled by SF/Marin Intergroup. In fact, we have a good relationship with IFAA now: they run our event announcements on their website and we post Intercounty Fellowship AA events on aamarin.org when the info is submitted to aamarin.org. Many people have worked long and hard to make Marin Fellowship Intergroup a reality and it is a success, totally dedicated to service through A.A. Education and Fellowship in Marin.
By Rick R.
How heart-wrenching it is to see newcomers arrive in the meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) after losing families, friends, jobs, relationships and hope, then to watch them struggle through relapse after relapse while they see others around them building happy and resourceful lives.
What makes them different from the rest of us? Why is it that all their efforts to make a happy life for themselves continue to fail? My heart goes out to them, and I am always trying to find a way to articulate things, in simple terms that the so-called newcomer, can understand.
My problems started long before I ever touched a drop of alcohol. I always felt different from the other (normal) kids, but I did not know it at the time. I thought they all felt like I did, but they did not. It may have been as simple as how I reacted the first time I was humiliated in public, or when I was punished for doing something wrong and learned that it was easier to lie my way out of trouble and I went covert when I violated the rules. I will never know exactly why but I do know my mental makeup was different.
When I took my first drink, I went from a 2 to a 9
Now, what can I do about it? On a scale of 1 to 10, let us say that I woke up each morning at an emotional level of 2, while the normal person wakes up at an 8. When I took my first drink, I went from a 2 to a 9, and everything was right with the world (So, I thought). The “Normy” took a drink and went from an 8 to a 9. No big deal. The world had not changed but my perception of it had changed and with the euphoria I felt, I thought I had found the solution to my problem. Later, I discovered that it only temporally masked the real problem, which was much deeper. When, after a while, my tolerance for alcohol ran out, I completely lost control. In time, I lost almost everything that was meaningful in my life.
I had unknowingly hit bottom and I had little choice but to try AA. “My name is Rick and I’m an alcoholic.” Knowing that I was an alcoholic got me into the program, but knowing it, did not solve my problem. I started to have success in the program when I came to understand the cause and effects of my core issues, such as low self-esteem, fear, guilt, neediness, unworthiness and how they kept driving people away from me.
Symptoms caused by faulty self-perception
I had to understand that those symptoms were caused by my faulty self-perception, and that my mind was lying to me. I had been at a level 2 since childhood, and that is my problem. Alcoholism is the symptom of my problem. If I woke up this morning with amnesia, I would be just like everyone else, because I would not be dragging my past around with me in my head. Much of my surface behaviors failed, mainly because I was overcompensating for my feelings of inadequacy. My solutions have been to establish a pattern of behavior that is unselfish in nature, consistent with the suggestions in the Big Book and the 12&12, and practice them without fanfare. Tough order, I know. But by doing this, with patience, in time, others noticed the change, and before too long I was receiving more than my share of affirmations. If you can understand that you are not responsible for being emotionally diverted as a child and for the alcoholism that resulted from it, you can move forward. You contracted a disease and, with this understanding of its cause and effect, you can draw a line the sand, start the recovery process today, and join us on the road of happy destiny. We will be waiting for you.
by John W
It was only after attending meetings for months, getting sober when I was finally ready to agree with my higher power that my time had come, that I first heard about hitting bottom. I did not realize until beginning to work the Steps with a sponsor, that this was something any alcoholic needed to come to grips with if recovery was to become a reality. While the road to getting to my bottom had been tedious, painful, full of drama and almost killed me, as was so with many whose stories I have heard, my path was also long, it took years.
The Big Book has stories like “They Stopped In Time”
The Big Book has stories such as “They Stopped In Time,” of those whose last address was not c/o Skid Row, Anytown, USA. While I did not hold out to that bitter end or one of asylums or institutions, I was on the express jitney heading in that direction. The worst part about that ride was that although I sensed I was going in the wrong direction, I was in complete denial as to why that was so. My hard work at my career and my success at it, clothed with the usual trappings of a lovely family in a nice home, in a congenial, desired neighborhood, all belied the truth.
My world was becoming smaller and smaller, my friends less and less, my successes fewer and farther in between. Those about whom I cared the most, seemed to want less to do with me. When I shared these observations with my sole confidant, my bartender, he (or she, didn’t matter, whoever was pouring would do), they would nod their understanding, remind me of my lovely car in the parking lot and the house, no longer home, to which it would take me, and say I had it good. To highlight their point, what usually followed was the offer of a proposed trade: Their jalopy for my car, their studio for my house. I’d laugh, they’d laugh, another drink would be poured and we would turn to solving the problems of the world, again, before I rolled out for my house, late – again. Had this been a monthly or bi-annual deal, one might say it was just the right of an upstanding man to enjoy his fancy, to take a well-earned opportunity to blow off a little steam. In my case, since this was just the tip of the nightly drinking iceberg, literally, and it had been so secretly for years, I was on a back hoe digging to the bottom. This would have been clear to anyone who knew the truth of my situation, anyone that is but me.
So my disease took me to a bottom, that place of incomprehensible demoralization of which I had heard tell, in which I was ensconced and of which I knew zipola. I had come to that line, that level of pain at which the alcoholic must step and I was helpless. I was powerless, I had no power. I could not stop drinking and I was on the proverbial Highway to Hell. There is an old saying: When the student is ready, the teacher shall appear. The court’s order throwing me out of my own house was the teacher’s calling card.
On a beautiful summer, Friday afternoon I went to the only place I was welcome now: the Friday night Attitude Adjustment meeting
Later on a beautiful summer, Friday afternoon I went to the only place I was welcome, the Friday night Attitude Adjustment meeting. There, men in our fellowship, upon hearing of my woeful dilemma at meeting’s end, came to me to remind me there is a solution. With their shared experiences in that “meeting after the meeting” came the hope that I could rest my head that night, even if only on the sofa several of them offered, sober. Despite my weakening arguments that this should not have been happening to me, they helped me to begin laying the concrete foundation of acceptance of my bottom. I finally understood Step One and was ready to take it.
On that newly dried foundation of acceptance, I had begun climbing the steps of sobriety and towards that spiritual awakening each spoke of experiencing on their journey. They also warned me to be wary of the “Squatters in My Basement.” Resentment, rationalization, self-pity and, the one sitting at the top of my list: Justifiable anger. They foretold each would be found lurking at the bottom, reveling in the loneliness of it. I was alerted to be wary of indulging the overtures of these squatters in my basement as each came with a price, each would bring me one step closer to a drink. These squatters wanted nothing to do with my recovery. They sought only to loop me back into the mire I had just sealed with the bondo of acceptance. I was to come to find out that these squatters, and others like them, wanted me there with them, isolated, afraid, powerless.
As sober days passed, as steps were climbed to escape the bottom, I learned I could not slam the cellar door upon it and throw away the key. Like those men whose experiences and hope had buoyed me on that hot summer day now over a decade gone, I have seen how my road to the bottom could be an asset. I have seen how my past, and my recovery in spite of it, could be a beacon, a lighthouse, for the next guy [or gal or person] to guide them to safe passage and a sober moorage.
Little did I realize at the time that those squatters were actually being of service to me. They forced me to ask for help and my higher power answered that plea. My teacher appeared, our fellowship responded. With each anonymous member came hope and strength that I could live a sober, useful existence. With them they brought and shared with me the tools to build a whole new way of life. So it is now my truth, that for these teachers and their lessons which I have been learning one day at a time, I will be forever indebted and remain so very grateful.
by Christine R
“Happy, Joyous, and Free.” As a newcomer to AA, when I first heard we were to be happy, joyous, and free I thought, “Sheesh! What an order! I can’t go through with it.” Restless, irritable, and discontent” were far more familiar.
My sponsor often told me, “If you don’t know what to pray for, pray for joy and victory, because you haven’t had much of those.” She was right. Years had passed since I knew joy. Victory was not even in my vocabulary.
My sponsor told me, “If you don’t know what to pray for, pray for joy and victory because you haven’t had much of those.”
The theme of joy is in all our steps as we read, “Right action is the key to good living. The joy of good living is the theme of the Twelfth Step and all the Steps.” Working the Steps brings forth the joy of good living. Joy is the result, not the goal.
While drinking, I took synthetic joy from the bottle. I sought spirit in spirits. Rather than push myself for it, I chose the easier, softer way. By working the Steps, I discovered the Program is the “easier, softer way.” Who knew?
The first fruits of what joy really means
The first fruits of what joy really means came when I “turned outward to my fellow alcoholics in distress.” With 7 days sober, my sponsor encouraged me to help the one with even less time. Feeling raw and restless, I was closer to the firing line; closer to the drink; closer to connecting with the latest newcomer with a phone call, a handshake, a meeting after the meeting. We called it a posse. A gang of renegades, fallen women and knife-carrying bikers, we had each other’s backs.
Teleservice, taking home-group commitments, showing up and sharing, or just plain, old showing up: this quiet giving is my joy of living. Highlights of my day include phone calls with sponsees. My colossal, alcoholic blunders prove useful as well as fodder for laughter, bringing true belly-laughs out in the parking lot. So loud is our merriment, the neighbors stick their heads out the windows. Laughter is the unmistakable presence of joy.
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.
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.
She was struggling with her sobriety and with getting settled in her new apartment
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! (Reprinted from May 2021.)