In New York City, back in the 80s, a number of AA groups formed as explicitly ‘clean’ or ‘dry’ meetings.
Some AA old-timers were (and some still are) not fond of hearing stories about coke and LSD and pot and bennies and speedballs and mushrooms and peyote and ‘the cooker’ and needles…you get the idea. Among the slogans in meetings and the upside down Think sign you might see one that reads “Let's talk about BOOZE.”
Several cultural factors were colliding at once at this point in history. Those still fucking alive after the 60s and 70s had either faced death too many times or seen too many others die of addiction and the door was closing on survival by just getting high and drinking. The crack epidemic was starting to swallow up addicts in its path. AIDS was rocking the circus of drug-fueled abandon that wound up in anonymous sex.
With Narcotics Anonymous not quite firm enough in its footing, and not enough people with long-term sobriety, there were enough people to buck the trend of booze-and-booze-only at AA meetings and open the floodgates by the mid-80s.
For me, I had no clue what my story was, but I just thought, uh, I smoked a lotta pot (and drank and did coke and LSD and bennies and speedballs and...). I'd consider a ‘desire to stop.’ I went to NA and somehow identified. The next day someone in recovery a little longer told me about an AA group called "Completely Sober" on 16th Street. The introduction the chairperson read at the meeting had a phrase I'll never forget, “We encourage the discussion of drugs as well as alcohol.” And that was all I needed to hear.
Yeah, my first time at Completely I wound up sitting next to a rock star. Not a metaphorical rock star...I mean a Mother Fucking Rock Star. You know his name. You sang his songs. You may have seen him live. I admit, I could’ve stood because the room was jammed…but I chose to work my way down the row to that seat next to…Him. He wasn’t friendly and I was just going through the motions. What did I know?
“Best entertainment for a buck,” they say about meetings.
There was the butch blonde with blue hair who introduced herself with the qualification “...I’m a lush and a speed freak.” There was a vivid gay character with a smoky voice and hulking body who always had memorable shares including one about going back to visit The Sunshine Family, a legendary commune from the 60s he belonged to. There was the artist who used to work for Andy Warhol, the rising lesbian comic, the drummer in the legendary punk band, and the downtown nightclub owner.
I wound up sitting next to a rock star. Not a metaphorical rock star...I mean a Mother Fucking Rock Star.
These cats were so cool, they had articles written about their concerts, their shows and their gallery openings and the mother fuckers who wrote the articles in the Times and Voice? They were in the meetings too! Yeah, some of these people were famous. A lot of us were not.
Still, I prefer my own anonymity and I want to protect others’ anonymity.
The reason I share this is not about tweaking flashy names: it's about service and sharing. I think it's important, vital, that we find people in recovery to admire and respect. Recovery is not boring, not just about sitting in meetings. It is about the people you get sober with. For me, the people I got sober with are just as creative and whacked and brilliant and hilarious and stupid and out of their minds as I am. Who else would hang out with a nutcase like me?
And, at the same time, let's bring this back to your meetings. The fact is, in your town, out of the way…even the suburbs where I live now…the people who get sober are prominent, legendary in their own way. They may not be on Broadway or TV but I'll bet you know them for other admirable and remarkable achievements. Maybe they've started a business that supports lots of people in recovery and employs others as well. Maybe they're a local cop who works with the community. Or, maybe they're just incredibly nice people who give of themselves and show us recovery is about so much more than cash and prizes.
This is about showing the world, what happens every day, all the time with recovery. We are all young, even if we are in our 40s, 50s…60s! We are young because we have lives ahead of us, without drugs and alcohol, with a willingness to live clean and dry a day at a time. And like you, I need to connect with sober people wherever they may be, to remind myself how this all works.