Alumni Newsletter | September 2017
Chris Raymer, VP of Recovery Services
“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” ~Jane Howard
In 1935, a newly sober alcoholic named Bill Wilson came in contact with a drunk named Dr. Bob. What was to be a “15-minute” visit turned into a 5 (plus) hour meeting and a friendship that lasted 15 years. If you haven’t read the Forward to the 2nd Edition of the Big Book lately, go read it! There are probably thousands of history articles written about that fateful meeting but that Forward pretty well boiled it down.
“He suddenly realized that in order to save himself he must carry his message to another alcoholic. He NEEDED another alcoholic!” Big Book, page xii
All these years later, not much has changed as far as I see it. I had been going to 12-step meetings, on and off for 7 years. Never staying long. Not once did I go out after a meeting to coffee or attend social events with other recovered folks. I never went to conferences, workshops, or “eating meetings”. Picked up a new dry chip, got me some hugs, and went home. Isolation kills SO many of us! (Yep… you can isolate in a packed room.)
In 1987, I landed in one more meeting. Something was different with that bunch. A couple of guys asked me to stay afterward, explained the problem and, thankfully, the solution. The steps were clearly the key but so was the Fellowship! (Not just meetings.) They wouldn’t let me isolate. These folks made it clear that if I didn’t become a PART of a group, I would keep relapsing. I wanted to stay sober. They KNEW I wanted to, so they took a chance by pushing me past my comfort zone. They encouraged the “shyest guy in the room” to get involved with them. I’m still friends with some of those wonderful people. Many have passed but I will always remember the effort they took to include me. Hard to believe that’s been nearly 30 years!
I was at my Monday night meeting last week – setting up and visiting with one of my guys. Stupid microphone needed a new battery. I noticed an old guy with a BIG cowboy hat sitting by himself against the wall. Never saw him before but he had that look… new guy. I made a mental note to introduce myself and finished setting up for the meeting. Not sure when he left but he did. I have disappeared from meetings like that a hundred times. I’ll be watching for him. I will recognize the hat! Hope he comes back so I can show him what a REAL member of our Fellowship looks like. The opportunity to include that newcomer is a gift. One that I ignored that night.
I am SO looking forward to our Reunion visits coming up in October! Nice to talk to y’all on the phone but it’s WAY more fun to see you! Holler if you have any questions. See ya soon!
Myers Raymer, Alumni Specialist at Origins Recovery Centers
I totally know that we are just barely past Labor Day but, since I was a kid, September has always been the month when I start thinking about cold weather and Christmas. Yep, I said it – Christmas!!! So, as my thoughts turn toward giving and getting, I started thinking about what might be cool gifts to give or to get. Some of my all-time fave gifts when I was newly sober were books about recovery.
Most of us love our Big Books, and there is a time in everybody’s recovery when this book is enough; but I think there is also a time when other books that speak to the history of how we got here will start being of some interest.
These books marked a big turning point when I started to take some ownership in this grand Fellowship. I was recently with some folks at a conference and was caught off guard by how few of them knew about the “other” cool books out there in Recovery Book Land. With that in mind, let me give you a fast list of some great books to give or get.
The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
Bill Wilson’s grand collection of essays that gave us more understanding of the steps and traditions. Written shortly after the Traditions were adopted, they did a fine job in helping us understand these new guidelines for living and growing as a group.
Language of the Heart
A fine collection of Bill Wilson’s writings. (Available in Kindle too!).
Pass It On
The story of Bill Wilson and how the AA message reached the world.
Slaying the Dragon by William White
The history of addiction treatment and recovery in America. This book made me more grateful for my membership in the Fellowship than most anything I have ever read. Most of us don’t even begin to realize how horrible it was to be addicted before the Big Book came along.
Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers
A recollection of the beginnings of AA in the Midwest by some early members. This book will make you long for those days when most folks were giddy with gratitude as they forged what was to become our Program of Recovery.
AA Comes of Age
Another good history book of how we got where we are.
Came to Believe
A collection of stories, mostly from early editions of the Big Book. Really nice accounts of how folks found God in their walk toward recovery.
A New Pair of Glasses by Chuck C.
Not sure why this one really stuck with me – perhaps because I was running a business like he was. But, for whatever reason, this book was a must read. The idea of using the Program to help in other areas of my life (especially business) was profound beyond words.
That’s enough to get started with! There are also a good bunch of meditation and reflection books, too.
Lastly, Chris reminded me of the fact that in the earlier years of our Fellowship we used to really encourage folks to read these books. They became the fabric of who we were and who we would become. Hope y’all will dig ’em as much as I did. Look for them at the GSO in NYC or local intergroup offices or believe it or not – Amazon!!!
Get Ready For Reunion!
Kellye DeBerry, Alumni Coordinator at Hanley Center
Be sure the date is circled on your calendars, because it’s almost time for the Hanley Center Alumni Reunion and BBQ!
Those of us at Hanley are honored and grateful to be able to set this special time aside to celebrate our former patients’ commitment to recovery. Our alumni are shining examples of what it means to be recovered, carrying the spiritual message and being of service to others. We are absolutely thrilled to welcome you back!
The event will kick off on Friday, October 20th with a speaker meeting featuring Chris Raymer in the Hanley Resource Center. The following day, Saturday, October 21st, the BBQ will be open to all alumni, friends, and family. To say alcoholics are not a glum lot is correct! The Reunion will have fabulous food, great music, a medallion ceremony for all alumni celebrating anniversaries in the month of October, and a prize giveaway. We’re also going to have a photo booth for fun pics and s’mores for the kiddos! Prizes include high-tech gadgets and the awesome recovery books! It’s pretty much guaranteed to be a great time.
It is so humbling being able to witness the spiritual growth of the alumni here at Hanley. Seeing them take action and reach out to others in need is an incredible to experience. I know that the work done at Origins changes not only the lives of our alum but the lives of countless others.
The Three Legacies
Chad Lentscher, Director of Alumni Services at Origins Recovery Centers
There came a point in my recovery when relapse seemed impossible. Just as I once thought I had passed the point of no return in my addiction, I began to think I had come too far in my recovery to ever turn back.
Being sober was a blessing, and I loved recovery. Why would that ever change?
It never did change, and it did not need to change for me to fall flat on my face. My recovery was based on self-knowledge and self-will disguised by passion. “I saw that will power and self-knowledge would not help in those strange mental blank spots,” Big Book, Page 42. I spent plenty of time talking about God, but I was not doing the work to remain connected to God. The truth was that I did not understand the strange mental blank spot. I was convinced that there would be some warning signs preceding a relapse; I would begin to obsess over the drink or drug, or I would become unhappy. Neither of those things occurred, and if they did occur, I certainly did not recognize them. The subtle insanity returned in a single moment.
I was certain those warning signs would be my cue to re-engage in some step work. I was never given that opportunity, and I picked up a desire chip after three years of sobriety. This delusion that I or anyone else has earned permanent sobriety seems to be pretty common. Are you engaged in all three sides of the triangle, or are you living in some form of delusion around self-knowledge and self-will keeping you sober?
The safest and most peaceful place of existence is located right in the middle of all three legacies.
Weathering the Storm
Tharin Smith, Recovery Advocate Coordinator at Gate Lodge at Origins
The recent inspirational quote posted on one of Origins’ social media accounts, “Together, we can weather any storm,” came in light of the devastation left by Harvey and Irma in Florida and Texas. Many people, especially those that were directly affected, need these words and more to give them hope at a time they are perhaps feeling hopeless.
For those of us who have Recovered from our own previous states of hopelessness, we understand.
It is in these times that I’m always reminded, in a big way, of just how powerless I really am…people, places and things (Mother Nature). Just like no human being could stop the path of the storms, I too had been beyond human aid in my ability to stop my 35 years of drinking and drugging.
It is this ol’ rednecks opinion that the same holds true for ALL human beings that are at this stage of despair. My experience in 2005 was that I realized I didn’t have the power I thought I did. I came to believe that something else did and immediately felt some hope. Of course, all this took place with much help and guidance from others – the same I’m willing to do for others.
“Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction ahead. We must take the lead.” Big Book, pg.83.
For all of us that have found the way out of those feelings of despair and hopelessness, reach out to those in need with the Good News of recovery.
TAKE THE LEAD.