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The Marina Dock Newsletter September 2004

Dear Marina Dock Members and Patrons,

Thank you for your continued support. Despite the fact that August was a no show in terms of donations, we managed to keep our doors open and provide the highest caliber of services to our patrons. In addition, we are in the process of trying out some new chairs, on an experimental basis, in the East Room. I personally like them because they provide better back support. Others feel they are a little on the hard side, while others believe they will keep people from falling asleep. It's one of those deals where "more will be revealed." Before I forget I would like to express our deepest gratitude to the individuals who did come forward in August with decent donations and helped us out, we are eternally grateful to you.

From A Distance

Wade in Valentine, Nebraska, just celebrated his 89th birthday August 18th and on September 1st he will have 54 years of continuous sobriety. Wade is as sharp as a tack. I talked to him on the phone today and he went over a half a century of AA stories with incredible accuracy. He loves to tell the story about the time he and his wife Pauline (now deceased) went on a trip to Africa in the early seventies. Before he left, Frank Brennan showed up at his office wearing his customary big overcoat with huge pockets. Frank used this coat as his filing system. He'd have papers, notes, and old photos, dating back to his time in the Pacific, stuffed in every pocket. He pulled a crumpled piece of paper, with a name on it, out of the depths of one of these pockets and asked Wade to do some twelve-step work in South Africa. The intended recipient was a Zulu warrior/Chief King Edward, in Kwazulu-Natal (people of the heavens) Province. Brennan had information through a mediator known as "Sugar Bill" that this guy Edward M had a serious beverage problem and needed all kinds of help. Wade told me they were hold up in a hotel in Durban for about 8 days waiting for King Edward to show up. Everyday there would be a flurry of activity, with an assortment of emissaries and potentates running all over the place, in anticipation of his arrival, but he never did show up. When Wade got back to San Francisco Frank sidled up to him at a meeting and asked quizzically "So what did the King have to say for himself?"

"I got religion," Ebby told Bill

I used to be one of those people " who read wordy books and indulged in windy arguments believing that the universe needs no God to explain it" (p. 49). My best thinking got me, first, in a whole heap of trouble, and eventually, in a state of spiritual bankruptcy, to the doors of AA. I was in not in any shape or form interested in God, and then, one day I found myself sitting next to Randy Campbell (now deceased) over in the ballroom meeting at the French Hospital. Randy, an old-timer then in his seventies, was my unofficial sponsor (come to think of it I did not have an official sponsor). During the break he asked me how I was doing. I told him despondently, I was having a hard time finding God. Randy, then almost totally blind, leaned over and quietly suggested "I should follow those who seek God and avoid those who found him." At that moment, Randy the cabdriver became my Carl G Jung. Jung, the eminent Swiss Psychiatrist, you may recall was the one who treated Rowland Hazard, a wealthy Rhode Island industrialist, for chronic alcoholism in the early thirties. When you consider Rowland first tried to see Sigmund Freud, but Freud was fighting bone cancer and was not seeing any new patients. Rowland then tried to see Alfred Adler, another renowned psychiatrists but Adler was not available either. So Hazard ended up seeing Jung, Imagine what might have been had he seen Freud? We would all now be woefully hung over, trying to interpret our dreams from the night before, or more likely, our nightmares (I don't ever remember having any dreams until I was close to 5 years sober). Rowland kept relapsing during this period and would return to Jung seeking help. That is when Jung admitted to Rowland that he had badly misdiagnosed him and told him that he "had the mind of a chronic alcoholic" and "I have never seen one single case recover, where that state of mind existed to the extent that it does in you (however there are exceptions) here and there. Once in a while alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences. (See page 27 in the third edition Alcoholics Anonymous), which releases them from their obsessions." The rest is part of AA history. Hazard joined the Oxford Group where he met Ebby Thatcher. Ebby was having his own problems with alcohol and befriended Rowland in his pursuit of a spiritual solution. Ebby and Bill Wilson had known each other since 1911. The Thatchers were a prominent family from Albany, New York, who summered in Manchester, New York, not far from where Bill went to a private school, the Burr & Burton Seminary. In the fall of 1934 Ebby, now living at the Calvary Mission in New York, not far from Clinton Street where Bill was living at the time. When Ebby visited Bill, late in 1934, Bill noticed something different about his friend, Ebby had told him he was not drinking, Bill queried, "What was this all about?" "I have got religion," Ebby told Bill. This was something that aroused Bill's interest. He thought if this will help Ebby, it would make a genius out of me. We know Bill had his last drink on December 11, 1934, and on a business venture to Akron, Ohio in the spring of 1935 Bill met Dr Bob. Dr Bob was already attending Oxford Group meetings around Akron for some time but he was constantly falling off the wagon. In June of 1935, Dr Bob had his last drink and AA was founded. Bill was never really into the Oxford Group and broke with them entirely a few years later. Bill never forgot the first link in the chain of events that led to the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous. In 1961, Bill wrote a letter of gratitude to Jung, it was not a long letter but it included everything in the chain of events that led to Bill's own conversion or spiritual experience. Jung wrote back and recalled with great clarity his encounter with Rowland Hazard thirty years earlier. Bill kept the Jung letter as a talisman. In time it has been, read at meetings, reprinted in The Grapevine, but the original Bill kept in his top drawer and sometimes, even though he knew it by heart, he would look down at the signature and reread a phrase. Jung in his letter to Bill described "the alcoholics craving for alcohol as the equivalent, on a lower level, to the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God." Jung went on to stress the difficulty of formulating such an insight in a language that would not be misunderstood in our day. Alcohol, Jung went on to say "in Latin is 'spiritus' and the same word is used for the highest religious experience as well as for the most depraving poison. The helpful formula therefore is: spiritus contra spiritum."

Jung ended the letter with the following "As the hart paneth after the water brooks, so paneth my soul after thee, O God." (Psalms 42:1)

In a way, I suppose, I could argue, that Randy Campbell was essentially conveying the same message to me, when he told me to "follow those who seek God" but God is always just beyond our grasp, it's supposed to be that way, after all we are talking about God.

Matters more terrestrial in nature

The Art Therapy workshop is back to it's original time of 6:30 PM. Everyone raves about Jody H and the great insights she provides to recovery through the medium of art. The workshop is every other Wednesday. Ask or call for details at the Marina Dock. Paul H is still doing the Monday night Fourth Step Workshop, but I believe he is now focusing on steps one, two and three as well. He and Lucio are starting another Fourth Step workshop on Sunday nights at 9:00 PM, again call or ask for details at The Marina Dock. The Secretary's Workshop is still on a Saturday (call for details or ask for flyer). This workshop really does make a difference in the caliber and quality of meetings in general. We urge everyone who does AA service work to attend, especially those who are new. There are also several AA meetings that need a secretary. I know there are at least two on Sunday evening and a few others throughout the week. Ask the person behind the desk for more details. A six-month commitment now, will guarantee sobriety into the New Year and beyond.

The Surgeon General Warns

Thankfully, we have evolved from the era where the general public still viewed with skepticism the idea that alcoholism, drug addiction, compulsive gambling, and other destructive behaviors were anything more than a moral weakness on the part of the individual, so inclined. Fortunately, we now live in an age where the public recognizes that alcoholism and drug dependence is a disease with consequences that affect both physical and behavioral health. Evidence generated by scientific investigation demonstrates that treatment for alcohol and other drug abuse works. Treatment not only saves lives, it also saves dollars that would be otherwise spent in other areas of medical care and social services. For every dollar spent on addiction treatment, seven dollars is saved in reduced health care costs (NCADD).

I Know What You're Thinking

Smoking outside the front entrance is a continuing problem. not just for our neighbors upstairs, but for our patrons and volunteers in the social room. There are so many people who are affected by second hand smoke, especially those with, allergies, asthma and respiratory problems. You don't have to be reminded of the serious risks to ones health associated with smoking, and I know how difficult it is to quit. There is, however, a Twelve Step Program (Nicotine Anonymous) and we have meetings at The Marina Dock.

August Was Financially Brutal

It seems like everyone "got out of Dodge" for August, we noticed an absence of a lot of our regulars and a lot fewer donations. I always convince myself that it will be better tomorrow than it is today. It has worked for me now for, let's see, come October 7th, twenty years. In closing, I would like to include below this eloquent piece of San Francisco AA history (with Wades approval) in the form of a letter Wade wrote to his old friend Si P, when Si celebrated 35 years of continuous sobriety in the late nineties.

Anthony T. Murray "Irish Tony"

Letter from Wade D to Si P

Dear Si,

My old friend, I congratulate you on your 35th birthday, along with a warm and good wish for continuity of sobriety, a day at a time, or until 2017 when your social security folds.

In 1966, Pauline and I moved from Chicago to San Francisco. I was introduced to meetings in church basements, which included bad coffee. At these meetings I would lead off with "My name is Wade D. from Chicago." The usual reply was "Welcome, Wade, you you 'll like it here. Keep coming back." Then a little small talk followed by an unduly quick exit to visit with friends. How I longed for friendly near north side Chicago AA where we met in homes and sumptuous repasts were served after the meetings (Si, I 'm very fickle. I 've known for a long time that SF meetings are the best).

My self-esteem was sinking until one Friday at a City of Paris AA lunch I sat next to you. We hit it off. You indicated that you were going to speak the following night at an East Bay meeting. You asked me to drive over with you and, also, would I handle the preliminaries and introduce you. I was delighted. Through you, as time went on, Pauline and I met other people with whom we developed lasting friendships. Occasionally, we would get together for dinner. As I recall, there were you and Judy, Richard O'L, Ken K, Ron B, Bill S, Ted F (now deceased) and Chuck G (now deceased) with a female friend. Lighthearted talk ensued at the dinner, which triggered humor and laughter. We took the program seriously but not ourselves. Apparently, whatever we did worked. Our friends listed above have enjoyed 30 plus years of continuous sobriety. Now I want to touch on some humorous aspects that happened at those meetings:

Wednesday 5:00 pm Bank Meeting: You will recall that traditionally it was a men's stag. One Friday, two women showed up. Radio Free Freddy of Sacramento fame promptly announced that they were not welcome. The rest of us decided it would be in order to vote on this unique situation. We all voted "Yes." Radio Free said "No." The women stayed. Freddy exited. From then on out, we were a mixed meeting. Laurence of America: He would arrive late, hover around the doorway, take issue with whoever was speaking, insult them, tell us the coffee and rolls were better at other meetings, vow never to return. And always showed up the following week.

The Forum Meeting at Children's Hospital: Following this meeting several of us would adjourn for refreshments at the nearby Red Roof coffee shop. The waitress assumed us to be physicians-addressed us as doctors. We did nothing to dissuade them. One evening, you or Ray B, were speculating as to what might happen should a waitress confront a medical emergency - which of us would respond? We had a spirited debate. We finally nominated Henry K, as he looked the part of a medical man. Happily, we were never faced with the situation.
Center table, Grant Avenue Alano Club: The worst food in town coupled with vigorous table talk. Everyone an authority-usually about someone else's field. Maxim: Seldom right, but never in doubt. The heated arguments between Ted F, President of Triangle Trucking, and Teamster official, Ken W. You were usually the arbiter in attempting to cool things down. We plotted Ted F's birthday roast - you were master of ceremonies. The "roasters" were Chuck G, Bill S, Richard M, Ron B, and me. The pièce de résistance was the anonymous, scantily clad, well-endowed, young lady who jumped out of the cake. It was rumored she was a center table regular but we'll never know, as she was masked to conceal her identity.

425 Battery Meeting: The small elevator would become overloaded and at times we would be stuck between floors. Often you would challenge "No God" Betty at this noon meeting, which insured a lively discussion. I can still hear you say "Now Betty, you really don 't believe what you just said." Betty: "Yes, I most certainly do!" Then it would get interesting.

Frank B 's Seven Seas Club: Primary purpose was for rehabilitation of alcoholic seamen with open AA meetings playing a fundamental role. There was a sprinkling of business people, lawyers, politicians, homeless, priests, nuns and prostitutes. This notwithstanding, it was solid AA with occasional salty language. Si, your great story of the club (you were brand new and still pretty shaky). You thought you were hallucinating when you saw Admiral Nimitz in dungarees painting a wall. Brennan assured you it really was the Admiral-a non alcoholic-who often volunteered for mundane tasks at the club. You were so relieved to know you might be shaky but still sane.

701 Montgomery Noon Meeting: The mystery woman who never revealed her first name. She was a bag lady who placed personalities over principles. We were peppered with caustic, personal remarks. We did not take umbrage as one of our more curious noticed a pistol in her bag. Included in her personal effects were several wigs of diverse colors. She was deft in changing them several during the meeting. It was unnerving to sit next to her-you would see a blonde-turn your head for thirty seconds-and find yourself with a redhead. At one time, we elected a young male hairdresser a treasurer. He was also the coffee maker. Instead of doughnuts he provided us with great pastries and imported cheeses. The coffee was never better. One noon he didn't show up. We found there was no money in our group treasury. We estimated that he spent about half on us and left town with the other half. We shared the blame. We had elected as treasurer a young alcoholic with only seven months of sobriety. Bad judgment.

No more vignettes. Si, you and I always felt AA is a program of joy while attempting to live in the now. We parted slightly on the "now' bit. You may recall from the Bank meeting that I was an advocate of selective procrastination. In my book you were a role model in working the program. You adhered to the principles of not saying "No" when asked to speak, of not saying "No" to a 12 Step call, of often saying, "Yes", when asked to sponsor someone. These all required a heavy demand on your time. I know that you as a lawyer contribute substantial pro bono time to the alcoholic who still suffers and to others in the fellowship.

If wishes were airplanes Pauline and I would ride out to join you, Judy and your sons, together with a host of AA friends to celebrate your 35th birthday. No can do. Si, I not only love you - I like you! You are a good guy.

Fraternally, as a friend of Dr Bob,

Wade D. A.k.a. Joseph Pierpoint Beaverbox
P.S. Whatever happened to Bill Z?


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