Archives: Personal History

Name: Wayne K.
Date of Interview: 9/24/06
Sobriety Date(s):6/21/74
Current Home Group & Location: Winslow Crossing Serenity – Turnersville, NJ
Locations lived in during sobriety: Camden County, NJ

How and when did you get started in A.A.? Where did you sober up and go to your first meeting?
Two AA members 12 stepped me on 6/21/74 and took me to the Friday night Bellmawr meeting.
How did you first learn about A.A.?
I first learned about AA when I was 12 stepped.
Did you have a sponsor when you first came in? What type of sponsorship did you have?
I had a sponsor when I first came in but he did not direct me to the steps.
How many groups or meetings were in existence? Can you recall the formats used at some of these early meetings? How were they run?
There were approximately 50 meetings in South Jersey at that time. The format was as follows:
a) The chairman opened the meeting with “How It Works” & “The Preamble”
b) Two topics were chosen
c) All attendees of meeting stated name and shared (or passed)
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? Can you explain the differences that led to new groups being formed in your area?
I am unsure as to when AA started in my area. There were at least 7 meetings a week in Camden County. “Russian Paul” & I were involved in starting my home group. New groups were formed because the meetings were getting too big.
What else do you know about the growth of A.A. during that period of time?
AA began to grow due to the state of NJ sending DUI offenders to AA. At this time Seabrook Rehabilitation just opened.
What contributions did you, yourself, make to the growth of the Fellowship? (Don’t be unnecessarily modest!)
In my homegroup I was the chairperson, literature rep, GSR & coffee maker. I was on the Public Information Committee and was on numerous 12-Step calls.
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, etc? How did the membership resolve these affairs?)
There were no controversies that I recall.
What individuals were especially prominent in your sobriety and why?
“Bitchin John” “George the Barber” & Bob P. were very prominent in my sobriety because I worked night work and they made themselves available during the day to help me.
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?
New members were contacted via 12-Step calls. We would carry the message to schools and church groups through the PI Committee.
On one 12-Step call, I had my “biker” clothes on & was 12 stepping a man in a suit. When I brought him to detox the staff addressed me as if I was the “drunk.”
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, Maryville Rehab did & still does incorporate meetings & the 12 steps into their format along with other rehabs.
Did you seek the cooperation of other local community or professional agencies?
No, I did not seek cooperation.
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?
There was no interaction that I was aware of.
Today, I would caution young AA’s to not judge the program by what is portrayed via the media (stars & public figures) as they are only members and not representatives of the program.
During the early years of your recovery, how did the community receive Alcoholics Anonymous?
At first the community was a little leery of the program as a whole.
Do you think your group(s) has had an influence in your community? If so, how?
Yes, my homegroup enabled some of its members to become sober, productive members of the community.
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?
Early AA’s treated newcomers by giving them the Big Book, 12×12 book, and a list of member’s phone numbers. Our group welcomed the slipper with open arms and compassion, but did not tolerate the 13th steppers. If multiple addictions were mentioned the group members would handle the situation tactfully. We let non-alcoholic drug addicts join the meeting but also directed them to NA.
In what ways has A.A. changed over the years?
Some of the changes are as follows:
Pros: The membership has improved. The fellowship is more accepted than before. People are more educated about addiction and AA.
Cons: More groups are straying from the primary purpose of AA. Meetings are getting too large. Hand raising as opposed to going around the room allowing all to share. (New members are not made to identify themselves this way.)