By John W
Many a youth has marveled, upon tossing a large rock into a pond, at the ripples created and how they disperse across the breadth of the pond. Science tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. My journey into sobriety was kick-started by the subtle operation of each of these two principles.
When I was newly sober I received the gift of a tape-recorded share given some 24 years before at the Oregon Summer-Fest A.A. Gathering in 1981. The words which had been recorded I found to be particularly moving and helpful in achieving and maintaining sobriety. The now deceased speaker, Raymond O’Keefe, observed at the time that the ripples of service started by Bill and Bob in Akron, OH, so many years before, had traveled a long way to find that Willamette Valley Summer-Fest in 1981. However, I suspect Ray did not quite imagine how far The Ripples of Service for the “rock” he dropped that day in Oregon would travel to traverse decades and miles only to later wash over me in Mill Valley, CA, in 2005.
So too it was with my experience at the Tam Valley Log Cabin 7:00 a.m. A.A. group. I did not realize as I stumbled in on that Monday morning in November of 2004, a drunken, arrogant, dishonest man, soon to lose home, wife, family and later business, that the meeting I was attending had its start years before in 1986. Although I noted a somewhat amateurish painting of the “Log Cabin” hanging on a wall, many meetings passed under my Sobriety Bridge before I learned about the artist and of his checkered past. The painter, a long deceased, convicted felon named Chuck O’Connor, had himself also found this meeting many years before I had located it. I was told this character’s drunk-a-log spoke to his adventures with the most notorious criminals in America’s underworld, including Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, Godfather Vito Genovese and Whitey Bulger. He had even become friends with the “Birdman of Alcatraz” while confined on The Rock in San Francisco Bay. But when Chuck O’C. received the breath of sobriety, he inhaled it deeply until his death, that of a sober man, whose home group had become The Cabin.
I learned through “Cabin Lore” that Chuck was an absolute marvel at dealing with the still-suffering alcoholic, often the man with booze on his breath or a belly full of beer. Chuck seemed to have the “just-right” knack for winning the confidence of the newcomer. The halfway house and rehabilitation center in Marin that Chuck founded* was a testament to the value of his service. Chuck dropped his rock into the quiet pool of sobriety and watched for the ripples of the sobriety anniversaries to disseminate from it. While some of those ripples I suspect, by a slip, did too soon hit the shore or cause death from our shared fatal disease, I am grateful, as I believe Chuck would have been also, that our Program is one of progress not perfection.
Sometime after the The Cabin had become my Home Group in 2005, I found out more about how that group had started in 1986. Although those founders had since moved on, one who lived only a few counties away was actively sponsoring women in the program. I was then fortunate to meet Linda G. and have since had the lovely experience on a number of occasions of listening to her share stories about those early days. The ripples of Linda G.’s service also persist at The Cabin as one of the women she sponsors still frequents it and calls it her Home Group.
On Unity Day, many can be grateful for The Ripples of Service caused by the rock dropped in Tam Valley in 1986 by Linda G. and her fellow alcoholics when they started the Log Cabin Group. Those ripples continue to disperse because, while The Cabin was closed by COVID-19 in March of 2020, the “Back to Basics” meeting has recently opened at this intimate location. Now the six days a week 7:00 a.m. meeting is again available and providing service to the alcoholic who wants to get or stay sober. Unfortunately, a lingering side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the national emergency it caused is that it has demonstrated the fruits of service are not always fully known and are promised to no one. Ray O’Keefe, and Chuck O’Connor never knew how far the ripples of their service would disperse. Linda G. and her fellow drunks could not foresee how far or for how long the ripples of service would travel or that they would provide a home group for Chuck and later for me. Chuck’s picture of The Cabin still adorns the wall where he hung it so many years ago, but whether the legacy started in 1986 will persist, at the moment is anyone’s guess. What is certain is that the service which started the sobriety snowball rolling at The Cabin should neither be forgotten nor overlooked.
On this day of Unity, the Back to Basic group continues to rely upon the will of that one Ultimate Authority which guides the Fellowship, always mindful of the fact that one cannot predict or guarantee that any one meeting of today will be here tomorrow. However, our Program is one of hope. My personal experience from this wonderful meeting serves as a vivid harbinger that service works and that The Ripples of Service do persist and nurture, whether or not the ultimate impact of that service is ever known to the alcoholic who provides it.
* Chuck O’Conner link: http://www.westcoastgangster.com/introduction