I drank for nearly 25 years and I ended up in the gutter, and drink never worked anymore and I knew I was going to die. Bill Wilson (Founder AA) puts it in a nutshell for me. “No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I found in that bitter morass of self-pity. Quicksand stretched around me in all directions. I had met my match. Alcohol was my master.” I was then put in a mental hospital in September 1995 and that was my last drink. I then was put into two treatment facilities. I class my sobriety date from 14th February 1997 as I was on other mood-altering substances from the September until the February.
Since the time of Bill W and Dr. Bob it has been clear that for a member to gain responsibility and good direction they belong to one group which they called the Home Group. This made good sense to me and also to have my sponsor in the same home group, so I could see him 2-3 times a week, even though in the early days I telephoned him daily. I came to realise the importance of accepting responsibility and try to sustain life-long friendships. Although as Tradition 5 states “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking”. I needed substance and weight so I’m a great believer in the concept that the home group is the strongest bond between the AA member and the Fellowship.
When I arrived in at the Road to Recovery Group I was beaten to the core and a very angry man, full of self-pity and no knowledge on how to live sober. Even my new to be sponsor thought I looked aggressive. However for the first time in my life I shut my mouth and listened. For the first time I listened to a main share and concentrated on the similarities and not the differences, I decided to throw in the towel in and asked for a sponsor who I believed by listening to his share that practiced what he preached. That was a starting point for me to a road of happy destiny. Bill W puts it brilliantly that “We commenced to make many fast friends and a fellowship has grown up among us of which it is a wonderful thing to feel a part of. The joy of living we really have, even under pressure and difficulty.” I was then given suggestions, which I commit to still doing even today, which included prayers, reading the AA Big Book, gratitude list, phone two newcomers each day, pray for people that get on my nerves and read the Just for Today card.
My sponsor believed in me when others didn’t. It was these enduring principles that kept me in good stead. I was put into group service straight away. I put myself into the centre of AA, and become willing to do whatever I was asked and could be of service to the group. I went through the group service structure from cleaning ashtrays (you could smoke in meetings then). Then tea, literature, and then I had the privilege of being secretary twice. Also during this time it was suggested that I went onto the telephone helpline, which I believe is the heartbeat of AA. This service I became very passionate about and became a responder, telephone liaison officer for Intergroup and then Region Telephone liaison officer followed. I also completed other service positions such as Health Liaison and Region Representative.
It would not be honest of me if I said I remained in the group for the full 17 years as I left on self-will and resentment, which as we all know is the number one offender, although I carried on doing my suggestions, going to meetings, meeting up for coffee with fellow members. However something was missing I felt empty, very alone and not feeling a part of anything I used to. The other groups I attended did not provide the discipline and structure I needed and it started to make me become unhappy and low, even to the point of being scared of picking up a drink. I knew the Road to Recovery gave me the spiritual tools and principles I needed to regain a spiritual life again. I had no thought of drinking but my living problem became drastically wrong. I knew what I had to do and that was to make amends to my ex-sponsor and get back to the home group I loved and respected. Within weeks I was back on track and became the happy person I once was. This AA program is one of the miracles of time. I found this miracle in the Road to Recovery group.
What’s changed over the years? Well I’ve seen people come and go, sadly die of this disease, go mentally impaired and some return for similar reasons I did. I have seen the group change in numbers, once at a group conscience the group members nearly split in half. However the ones that remained kept on doing what they believed in and the group become strong again. When first coming to the Road to Recovery it was very black and white, however now I have seen some grey spots appear, which has been all for the better. For example a lot more younger members are now coming to AA and staying for longer periods. I’ve seen changes of group meeting places, due to how vast the numbers of members have grown, as it was unable to hold so many members, especially on a Friday. The meeting used to be held downstairs at St Mathias Church hall, which has now moved upstairs and is quadrupled in size. The group now have a website, which is regularly used, which is exciting as it’s moving with the times, as a lot of struggling Alcoholics struggle to talk over the phone. So 12-step work can now be done by e-mail. I have seen a change in younger members starting to arrive and mostly stay. The group introduced a lot more service including, court service, school talks, bail hostel talks, hospital service and 12-step work. One sad fact I have noticed is that how less women are now in the group, whereas years ago there were ample of women who were willing to assist with service. My hope is that women in our group will grow again so more women will get the full knowledge of the working of the Steps and Traditions so they may in turn carry the message to hopeless and helpless women out there who are presently suffering.
What’s stayed the same is quite simply is the working of the Steps, Traditions, Concepts and the Service Structure of our group. These have never been watered down during my time at the group. Although myself I am not the world’s greatest speaker, however over the years I have seen members stick by the principles of AA and the workings of the AA Service manual – never compromising when at Intergroup, Region and Conference. I have seen strong members being compassionate in what they believe and not water down anything that would compromise AA as a whole. At times our group has not always had good responses, however because of the use of the AA Service Manual the group has been going for 20 years this April 2014, and there’s a lot to be said that. ” As many old timers say let’s not change the game plan”‘. Bill W knew at the first Conference in the 50’s what he was doing when he gave the groups back to AA. In Bill’s last message before he died in 1975 he stated “If I were asked which blessing I felt was most responsible for our growth as a fellowship and most vital to our continuity, I would say, the “Concept of Anonymity.” This is still promoted in The Road to Recovery Group today.
The Road to Recovery Group has become over the years a strong example of AA. It has proven that all the strong members that have not changed the game plan have remained strong and steadfast. It has inspired growth in other countries including Australia, and other parts of the county including London, Exeter and Bournemouth. As I am slowly coming into my 17th year of sobriety, I look back and two important aspects that remain dear to my heart which is love and service. In my opinion there has been much said about our group in other groups and other organisations, some good and some bad. However the group has become a life-saver in my eyes, I have life-long friends and I am loved. I have recently endured another life threatening illness, alongside alcoholism, which I was not sure I would pull through. I have had non-stop help from members and shown love and compassion. To me my home group has become a fellowship of friends, companions and not just fair-weather friends. I also believe that it is the greatest group in the world. If you want to live a happy sober life, have a host of friends and have a life way past your wildest dreams then the Road to Recovery Group is for you. There’s way over a hundred years’ sobriety in the group. If you truly want to get well and have a life way past your wildest dreams you just need simply need to get a sponsor and follow suggestions on a daily basis, being honest, open-minded and willing and you can join us on this road of happy destiny.