Archives: Personal History

Name: Victor M.
Date of Interview: September 19, 2007
Sobriety Date(s):Mar. 1956-1963, 1964-1981, 1985-present
Current Home Group & Location: Back to Basics Kennedy Hospital Cherry Hill
Locations lived in during sobriety: Camden, Gibbsboro, Cherry Hill, NJ.

How and when did you get started in A.A.? Where did you sober up and go to your first meeting?
I asked a man that I worked with back in 1956 and he took me to my first meeting at the Center City Group in Phila, PA. I was only 21 years old and I went to find out that I wasn’t an alcoholic. I wanted to prove to my wife and my parents that I couldn’t be an alcoholic because I only drank for 7 years.
How did you first learn about A.A.?
From the man I worked with. He kept telling me I couldn’t drink. I just told him to shut up and he was the one who couldn’t drink. Because he belonged to that triple A or whatever it was called.
Did you have a sponsor when you first came in? What type of sponsorship did you have?
Yes, his name was Jack M. of Phila. He said he would tell me how to stay sober for one day not the rest of my life. He was right. He would say “boy if it’s not in the book it’s BULLSHIT” He was right. He gave me a lifetime membership card for the 4021 Club in Phila. Signed by him and Jimmy B.
How many groups or meetings were in existence? Can you recall the formats used at some of these early meetings? How were they run?
Don’t remember how many meetings were in the area at that time. My home group. Center City met once a week on wed. nights. We used to have what we called house meetings at someone’s house on Sat. or Sunday and spend the whole day and have dinner and share our experience, strength, and hope with everyone at the meeting. Most formats were Speaker meetings. Newcomers were not allowed to talk until they completed all 12 Steps or completed 3 months of continuous sobriety. When we introduced ourselves we said “I’m a drunk and my name is Vic.” And nobody responded with “HI, VIC”.
When was A.A. started in your town or area? How often were meetings held? Who were some of the people playing important roles in the formation of new groups?
Don’t remember. Big Ed W., Warren F., Kenny H., Warren M.
What else do you know about the growth of A.A. during that period of time?
Well a lot meetings were being formed and a few new Club Houses (Camalon Club, 400 Club,…)
What contributions did you, yourself, make to the growth of the Fellowship? (Don’t be unnecessarily modest!)
Well I don’t know if I personally made any big contribution but I did show up at meetings and sponsored a lot of guys. I made a lot of coffee at meetings got involved with intergroup 12 step calls, which seems to becoming a lost art.
Can you explain the differences that led to new groups being formed in your area?
More drunks showing up which caused overcrowding and RESENTMENTS caused a lot of people to start a new meetings. They forgot they were only trusted servants.
What controversies over issues addressed in the Traditions can you recall people wrestling with? (How were meeting spaces acquired? Was rent or other funding obtained by gambling sessions? Bingo games? How did the membership resolve these affairs?)
I can’t get into the politics of AA. Dr. Bob told Bill Wilson, “For God’s Sake Billy lets not louse this thing up keep it simple and do it one day at a time.”
What individuals were especially prominent in your sobriety?
Bill Wilson, met him in 1956 at a convention with my sponsor who knew Bill. Don’t ask me what he said to me but it was a great moment, he told me to stick with Jack and you might be OK.
How were new members contacted? What kinds of Twelfth Step work were going on? Are there any Twelfth Step anecdotes that stick out in your mind that you’d care to share?
My first 12 step call was with my sponsor on a Wed. night before our AA meeting. He said come on boy we have some work to do. The first thing he did was to stop at a state store to buy a half pint of whiskey. I said what are you doing? This is only for the drunk we are going to see – he might be in the DT’s and he’ll need it. I said OK. I usually just tell the person about my life as the Big Book says to do. I also add you only have to stay sober for one day at a time, and YOU CAN’T QUIT DRINKIN, DRINKIN! 12 step calls today are a lot different than years ago. Today most people just take them to a detox.
Today, A.A. is well known to, and supported by police officers, judges and corrections officials. What kind of relationship did A.A. in your area have with local authorities? How has that changed since you sobered up?
Well, back when I was drinking the cops would take me home and leave me a note telling me where my car was. A lot of cops today just lock you up. They don’t know that alcoholism is a disease. Alcoholism runs rampant in the law enforcement area. Except for the cops that are in AA.
Treatment facilities nowadays frequently host A.A. and other Twelve Steps meetings. Did any of them use a Twelve Step format or incorporate meetings into their structure?
Yes, this time when I was early in recovery a woman called me from Kennedy Hospital in Cherry Hill and said she had a 5 bed detox in the mental health ward and wanted to know if I could get someone to come over and explain what AA is and how to get help after detox. I was going to 7 meetings a week then and I said I’ll see what I can do. I wound up starting the mtg. on a Wed. Night back in 1985 (Get Well Group.) Also helped get the Friday night Group.( The Promises) get started. Both Groups Are still in force. Also I eventually wound up being employed by Kennedy and received my CADC certification. I always say “Find a job you love and you’ll never have to work another day in your life.” The best thing I can do with my life is to give back to others what someone gave to me many years ago. I love drunks.
Did you seek the cooperation of other local community or professional agencies?
Yes, My doctors and clergy.
Today, radio and television public service announcements for A.A., as well as Internet Web sites, are becoming commonplace. When you first got sober, how did A.A.s interact with the media? Have you had any profound experiences sharing your relationship with alcohol with the public? What cautions might you have for young A.A.s today regarding media exposure?
11th and 12th tradition’s reflect on our PERSONAL ANONIMITY I personally don’t care who knows I’m an alcoholic I will protect everyone’s anonymity because I have to.
During the early years of your recovery, how did the community receive Alcoholics Anonymous?
Most people didn’t even know about AA.
Do you think your group(s) has had an influence in your community? If so, how?
Yes, our group is a Beginner Class it is an open meeting all are Welcome. All you do is sit and listen or read along with the notebooks we give you. You can achieve all 12 Steps in 1 month’s time if you do your homework.
What do you remember of early conferences, assemblies, and conventions? Can you recall opening intergroup or central offices?
My earliest conference was with Joe & Charlie in Florida and I didn’t know all that stuff was in the Big Book. It helped me so much in my recovery this time. It got me into the history of AA and so much more.
Have you had any contact with G.S.O.? Please elaborate.
Yes, if I want to find out something about AA I get it right from the horses mouth not some second hand information.
Today, Conference-approved literature is available to help A.A. members deal with a wide variety of challenging questions. In the early days of the Fellowship all we had was the book Alcoholics Anonymous, common sense and your compassion. How did early A.A.s treat newcomers? How did your group(s) treat constant slippers? Thirteenth steppers? How were people, wishing to talk about multiple addictions during your meetings addressed? How about nonalcoholic drug addicts walking in off the street for their first meeting?
Of all the conference approved literature that AA sells, none of the books that the early AA’s read are on the list today including the Holy Bible. I heard a IGR at a meeting say don’t buy any books from Hazelden they’re not approved, they sell all AA books too. Dick B. has a lot of books on the history of AA and they are factual. Before some one says anything about our books or any books they should do a little research. The newcomers today are treated a lot different then years ago. Newcomers are the most important people in the room, make them feel WELCOME
Without New People we couldn’t grow. SLIPPERS why do we say KEEP COMING BACK if we don’t mean it. I thank GOD that when I came back to my group they didn’t tell me to go away. Where does it mention 13th steppers in the Big Book? It doesn’t. So it’s BULLSHIT it came from rehabs so did No relationships. KNOW THYSELF—TO THINE OWNSELF BE TRUE. SHAKESPEARE. 13th steppers are around it not in it. Other addictions—I always ask at the beginning of the meeting, How many people came here because they ate too many Hershey Bars? I never see any hands. In this meeting we talk about alcohol if you have a drug problem why don’t you try NA? I don’t ask them to leave, but will talk to them after the meeting.
In what ways has A.A. changed over the years?
Oh WOW! Types of meetings, chair persons, intergroups, phone system, Thank GOD the first 164 pages has not changed except for a few words and for that I am very grateful. I am enclosing an attachment below of the books that the first 100 guys read before there was AA and a Big Book.
Books the early members read before AA

  1. The Holy Bible
  2. Matthew-The Sermon on the Mount
  3. The Book of James
  4. 1st Corinthians chapter 13 (LOVE)
  5. The Upper Room
  6. My Utmost for His Highest – Oswald Chambers
  7. The Runners Bible – Nora Smith Holm
  8. Daily Strength for Daily Needs – Mary W. Tileston
  9. The Meaning of Prayer – Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick
  10. The Sermon on the Mount – Emmet Fox
  11. A Layman with a Notebook – The Oxford Group
  12. Carl Jung – Writings
  13. The Varieties of Religious Experience – William James
  14. The Book of Luke
  15. The Book of Psalms
  16. Rev. Sam Shoemaker
  17. The Greatest Thing in the World – Henry Drummond
  18. Victorious Living – E. Stanley Jones
  19. The Book of John
These are just a few of the books early AA’s read, this is before AA. Most of the first 100 men and 1 woman read anything that was spiritual in order to stay sober and gain their Faith in the Oxford Group and their Higher Power. They labeled themselves as (The Drunk Squad of the Oxford Group)
If you take notice none of these books are on the conference approved reading list today.