NY Times Story Affirms AA’s Effectiveness

by Mark H.

A well-researched, academic probe into AA’s effectiveness found what many of us already know: AA is still the best way to find recovery from alcohol addiction…and its free to low cost (your choice).

While we can’t reprint the entire story here (copyright restrictions), we’ll offer some highlights. To read the entire story, see:

Among other things, the NY Times reports:

*An updated systematic review by the Cochrane Collaboration found that A.A. leads to increased rates and lengths of abstinence compared with other common treatments.

*“These results demonstrate A.A.’s effectiveness in helping people not only initiate, but sustain abstinence and remission over the long term,” said the review’s lead author, John F. Kelly, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Recovery Research Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital.

*Studies generally show that other treatments might result in about 15 percent to 25 percent of people who remain abstinent. With A.A., it’s somewhere between 22 percent and 37 percent (specific findings vary by study).

*Another study found that for each additional A.A. meeting attended, health care costs fell by almost 5 percent, mostly a result of fewer days spent in the hospital and fewer psychiatric visits. …The bonds formed from the shared challenge of addiction — building trust and confidence in a group setting — may be a key ingredient to help people stay on the road to recovery.

*Worldwide, alcohol misuse and dependence are responsible for 3.3 million deaths per year, 10 times the number of fatalities from all illicit drugs combined. In the United States, alcohol is a larger killer than other drugs; accounts for the majority of all addiction treatment cases; and is responsible for at least $250 billion per year in lost productivity and costs related to crime, incarceration and health care. Moreover, American deaths related to alcohol more than doubled between 1999 and 2017.

AA Criticisms

I have read some online criticisms of AA such as AA is too religious. My take: True, AA has some Christian overtones and some in AA push it, but not much. I am not a Christian. In 32 years of attending AA and 32 years of continuous sobriety, I have felt welcomed.

Most times, most in AA try real hard to be non-denominational. Its even in its literature and 12 Steps. I have been pushed harder to become a Christian at airports and on the streets. Honestly, putting up with the odd bible-thumper now and then is nothing compared to dying or ending up in jail because of active alcohol addiction.

Also, if an AA club is too religious, and I’ve been to some, just leave and find another meeting. There are hundreds of them out there.

Rumor: AA is depressing, talks about depressing things too much and is full of too many head cases. My take: People who say this have never been to many AA meetings. We talk about our issues in order to understand them and break through into recovery and lead good lives. We don’t wallow in our sorrows. We don’t have to because in AA, we learn from them and move on, focusing on recovery and the future. There are people with mental illness everywhere, not just in AA. I have seen many people recover from what bugs them and move on to happy lives over the long term.

AA is not perfect, but what is in life? Give AA a try, the only thing you have to lose is your misery!


Happy Valentines Day Brother & Sisters in Recovery!

I Want to Know What Love Is

Mick Jones of the band Foreigner wrote this song in 1984. Here is what he had to say about the lyrics, below:

“I don’t know where it came from. I consider it a gift that was sent through me. I think there was something bigger than me behind it. I’d say it was probably written entirely by a higher force.” 

I gotta take a little time
A little time to think things over
I better read between the lines
In case I need it when I’m older
Now this mountain I must climb
Feels like a world upon my shoulders
I through the clouds I see love shine
It keeps me warm as life grows colder
In my life there’s been heartache and pain
I don’t know if I can face it again
Can’t stop now, I’ve traveled so far
To change this lonely life
I wanna know what love is
I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is
I know you can show me
I’m gonna take a little time
A little time to look around me
I’ve got nowhere left to hide
It looks like love has finally found me
In my life there’s been heartache and pain
I don’t know if I can face it again
I can’t stop now, I’ve traveled so far
To change this lonely life
I wanna know what love is
I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is
I know you can show me
I wanna know what love is
I want you to show me
And I wanna feel, I want to feel what love is
And I know, I know you can show me
Let’s talk about love
I wanna know what love is, the love that you feel inside

I want you to show me, and I’m feeling so much love
I wanna feel what love is, no, you just cannot hide
I know you can show me, yeah
I wanna know what love is, let’s talk about love
I want you to show me, I wanna feel it too
I wanna feel what love is, I want to feel it too
And I know and I know, I know you can show me
Show me love is real, yeah
I wanna know what love is

Songwriter: Michael Leslie Jones


Rebel With a Cause!

Motorcyclists have a reputation as free spirits, non-conformists and risk takers. We should not be surprised, then, that Bill W. was a biker! Live to ride, ride to live! (Lois was Bill’s wife. She, too, was important to AA’s development.)

by Mark H.

I love this photo of Bill Wilson, co-founder of AA, from 1925, nine years before he got sober. I came across it at an AA club in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. I was there deer hunting last November and snapped a photo of it with my cell phone (sorry, the quality isn’t very good).

Here’s some information on Bill from Wikipedia:

William Griffith Wilson (November 26, 1895 – January 24, 1971), also known as Bill Wilson or Bill W., was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

AA is an international mutual aid fellowship with about 2 million members worldwide belonging to approximately 10,000 groups, associations, organizations, cooperatives, and fellowships of alcoholics helping other alcoholics achieve and maintain sobriety.

Following AA’s Twelfth Tradition of anonymity, Wilson is commonly known as “Bill W.” or “Bill.” In order to communicate among one another, members of “AA” will often ask those who appear to be suffering or having a relapse from alcoholism if they are “friends of Bill”. Although this question can be confusing, because “Bill” is a common name, it does provide a means of establishing a rapport with those who are familiar with the saying and in need of help.

After Wilson’s death in 1971, and amidst much controversy within the fellowship, his full name was included in obituaries by journalists who were unaware of the significance of maintaining anonymity within the organization.

Wilson’s sobriety from alcohol, which he maintained until his death, began December 11, 1934. In 1955 Wilson turned over control of AA to a board of trustees. Wilson died of emphysema complicated by pneumonia in 1971. In 1999 Time listed him as “Bill W.: The Healer” in the Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century.

Thanks Bill W., you did good, you made us proud!


The Sobriety Grapevine

Happy New Year…..One Day at a Time!

Happy New Year everyone. I hope your’s has been a sober one so far. Here’s a few stories from the AA Grapevine magazine. You can purchase some copies at Uptown House or subscribe. This is AA’s official publication, reprinted with permission:

The power in the rooms that helped her stop drinking also expanded her faith

by Amy C., Cleveland, Ohio

My family went to a Protestant church when I was growing up, but we were not religious. I think my mother wanted to give us some values to stand on. My father was agnostic, yet I always believed in God.
In my teens, I tried Christianity, but it didn’t fit me. Later in my 20s, I had a spiritual hunger that led me to a Unitarian church that did not espouse a creed or dogma, but instead encouraged a personal search for truth and meaning. I still go there.
In AA, I’ve gone through stages of defining my Higher Power. I resonate with Native American spirituality, believing in Mother Earth, Father Sky and the Great Spirit. I’ve participated in sweat lodge ceremonies that I’ve found to be extremely cleansing and healing. Once after I did the sweat lodge, I had a revelation of my truth, that all of nature and humanity are intertwined. It’s easy to forget that when I am acting from ego-based fear.
I like that AA encourages me to find a Higher Power of my understanding. My soulful journey in AA has expanded my faith in God. I have a conviction in the ‘we’ of the program. I know that alone I could not control my drinking. After a lot of self-inflicted pain, I realized I needed help with it. Even then, I was in and out of AA for years, getting some lengths of sobriety but always relapsing.
Eventually it took an overdose and a detox to wake me from my nightmare, and I ended up in a month-long treatment center. I had literally just gotten on Medicare, which I desperately needed to cover the cost. That was definitely what I’d call a ‘God thing.’ Next I went into a sober house for two years. I now believe it was God who got me there and God who got me through. People were praying for me. At the time, I was haunted by depression and anxiety and had to get outside help. It was a lengthy, slow process, but I continued to make strides.
Unfortunately, the sober house closed down, and all of a sudden I had nowhere to go. I panicked. Amazingly, right around that time I got a call from a HUD apartment complex where I had put in an application two years before! Another ‘God thing,’ or ‘cosmic coincidence.’ These events seem to flow together when I’m open to change.
I am now five years sober. I have an awesome sponsor and work the Steps continuously. I am the treasurer at my home goup and a secretary at another one. At my AA meetings I feel the connected energy of the ‘we’ in process.
Finding my Higher Power has been a long, circuitous path up mountains and down valleys. Even deeper than valleys, actually, under the Earth itself at times, while I kept digging my way to the bottom.
Today, I pray every morning and every night and ask all of me to be aligned with God’s will. I know sobriety has to be my top priority in life; without it I have nothing. And with God I have everything I need.

Balcony Brothers
He made his plan to escape out of the back door: But two guys with a coffee pot were waiting

by Luke H.
Allendale, New Jersey
For me, desperation has a short shelf life. I had been so eager and desperate to do everything needed to get sober after my latest drinking spree, which was on a Saturday. But by Tuesday, things didn’t seem so bad. I was all ready to go out there again to repeat the desperate experiment of the first drink. That’s when a couple of ‘muppets’ came to my rescue.
The last four years of my drinking hell culminated in me getting my car impounded and walking from a police station to my brother’s house and going to sleep on his couch. During that walk, I knew with absolute certainty that I had to get back to AA. This time, I would take seriously the suggestions that had been offered to me so many times in the past.
After two days of staying in and wrapping myself in a blanket of self pity, I knew I had to get to a meeting. The Tuesday noon meeting at Hohokus would do the trick. But as it got closer to noon, something happened to me that I cannot explain. All of a sudden I thought that things were not really as bad as I made them out to be. This time would be different, I told myself.
I had my brother drop me off an hour before the start time to the AA meeting. I planned to head out the back door after he left. The $100 that my aunt had just gien me to help out was burning a hole in my pocket.
My brother dropped me off and I stepped inside the darkened meeting room. I was waiting for my brother to be out of sight and then my plan was to take off. That’s when I heard an odd sound in the otherewise quiet, empty AA room.
It was a mechanical ‘psst….psst’ sort of sound. I peeked into the room to investigate and discovered the sound to be a coffee urn starting to brew. Just as I turned to leave a raspy voice penetrated the room.
“Hey, who’s that? Are you new? Come here, kid. Where are you from?” the voice said. Just then the lights went on and I saw two men sitting in the balcony section in the back of the room. They looked like the two old guys from The Muppets television show who always sat up in the balcony. The old men asked me to come up. I felt I had no choice but to go over and sit with them.
I didn’t leave that day and I haven’t left AA since. That was 16 years ago. I can’t be sure what would have happened if I had gone out the back door that day. Maybe I would have made it back, maybe not. I often think about that when I see empty chairs in our meetings.
I like to think that those two ‘muppets’ saved my life. I don’t even remember their names now. They were just making coffee and doing service. I have a special place in my heart for AA service and what they did for me. Now I get to do the same.

Copyright © AA Grapevine, Inc. January 2019. Reprinted with permission. Permission to reprint AA Grapevine, Inc., copyrighted material in Uptown Club publications/website does not in any way imply affiliation with or endorsement by either Alcoholics Anonymous or AA Grapevine, Inc.


Women binge drinking, youth substance abuse deaths up

The Good News: There’s AA. It works if you work it!

By Mark H.

A recent National Health Interview Survey found the proportion of respondents who reported binge drinking increased during a study period from 32 percent in 2006 to 39 percent in 2018. Although men ? particularly those without children ? engage in binge drinking more often than women, the upswing in this type was drinking was greater among women.
? ?? The proportion of women who reported binge drinking rose from 21 percent to 33 percent. That compares with a rise of 42 percent to 45 percent among men. In fact, the largest increases in binge drinking occurred among women ages 30 to 44 without children, doubling from 21 percent back in 2006 to 42 percent in 2018.

? ?? Heavy drinking did not trend up ? except among older women (those aged 45 to 55) without children.

? ?? Why does all this matter? Well each year about 88,000 Americans die as a result of excessive drinking. Binge drinking also places a huge economic burden on the U.S. economy ? at least $191 billion a year in lost health care expenditures, criminal justice costs, lost productivity and other expenses.

Deaths of Despair?

? ?? Another recent study found mortality rates are rising in Minnesota, caused by a combination of an aging population and a rise in so-called ?deaths of despair.?

? ?? No age group has seen a larger increase in death rates than young adults, ages 25 to 34. Between 2010 and 2017, rates of death for this group rose by more than a third in Minnesota, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.

? ?? Spikes in three causes of death are largely to blame: drug overdoses, alcohol-related liver disease, and suicide. Two economists who identified the trend, particularly among middle-aged white Americans, coined the term ?deaths of despair.? They pointed at economic insecurity and income inequality as possible causes.

? ?? But deaths of despair aren?t limited to middle-aged Americans. While liver disease caused by drinking is degenerative and generally affects older people, accidental drug fatal overdose rates nearly tripled in Minnesota between 2010 and 2017 for the 25 to 34 age group, from 8.5 deaths per 100,000 people to 22.1 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the CDC.

? ?? But, Jon Roesler, an epidemiologist supervisor at the Minnesota Department of Health, said he?prefers to call deaths caused by suicide, drug overdose and alcohol ?preventable deaths,? rather than ?deaths of despair,? because with the right interventions, there is hope that these types of deaths can be prevented.

? ?? Yes, these deaths are preventable, in large part, by a simple, free program called Alcoholics Anonymous! Google to find a club near you!

(Thanks to MinnPost and Minnesota Public Radio News for portions of this story)?


Grateful for What I Have

Are you a “Bob Cratchit,” left, or Ebenezer Scrooge?

by Mark H.

Most folks want more in life, more money, more material things, more toys, a bigger house, more savings, more sobriety, more, more, more. Where does it end? In fact, it must if you ever want to find happiness.

Our consumer, capitalist society constantly pushes us to buy more and want more. We put those ‘with the most’ on pedestals, not really knowing if they are happy or not. How does that one joke go, “Who ever has the most when he/she dies wins!”

Of course, we know this is not true, we know this is absurd. One study, for example, found that happiness does not increase beyond an income of $70,000/year. What does that tell you? It tells you that money, up to a point, can’t buy you happiness. 

The happy person sees through the constant barrage to accumulate more, to buy more. The happy person is grateful for what he/she has no matter how much or how little that is. This does not mean, of course, that we use gratitude as an excuse to quit striving to improve our lives, to be a lazy. It just means we have learned to be happy where we are at today, with what we have today. In AA we call this doing a ‘gratitude survey.’ 

I have often caught myself being glum. It is an old paradigm I learned as a youth. Yet, I totally surprise myself with how much I DO have when I start adding it up. It is an amazing transformation when I practice gratitude.

Being grateful for what I have is a major part of my life, it is a key way for enjoying my life day in and day out. I often find myself comparing myself to others and what they have, wanting more and lamenting the fact I don’t have more. Then, my sobriety teaching kicks in, and I start listing in my head the many blessings I have. When I do this the depressing thoughts disappear. It is such a great feeling to leave the darkness behind.

Like most people, I have lost things in my life, some of them dear to me. Most of us come into AA having lost much. Also, as I get older, I am losing the ability to do some things I used to love, that were central to my younger life. Yet, I am still able to replace those things with other activities, etc. I just roll with the punches life dishes out.

Our consumer culture constantly preaches that more is better. Addicts know this edict well: if one beer or joint was great, even more will be better. We discover, in the end, however, the more is often not better. In fact, more often leads us to ‘jails, institutions and death.” I used to joke when repeating this truism that even too much water is bad for you: its called drowning!

Another way I stay grateful in life is reminding myself that my life could always be worse, much worse. Life offers plenty of examples of this from my past, from those around me, from those who have already been put in the grave by addiction.

Counting my blessings, being grateful for what I have, doing a gratitude survey, whatever you call it, is a major technique I use to enjoy life one day at a time (while I strive to improve my life every day).

One of my favorite gratitude parables this time of year is Charles Dickens’ story “A Christmas Carol.” Scrooge, who is rich beyond measure, is likewise miserable and mean beyond belief. Yet, the man he persecutes and despises, his employee Bob Cratchit, has very little, but is much happier. Why? He is grateful for what he has.


Uptown is Looking for a Few Good People

Volunteers, that is, for our Steering Board

Steering Board members meet once/month for a hour or so. Won’t you please give back to AA for what has been freely given you.


New Uptown House Steering Board members will be elected at our December 10th meeting, 6:30 p.m. in the basement room.

If you are a regular Uptown AA member with at least six months of sobriety (2 years for chairperson, 1 year co-chair) and if you would like a service opportunity which can benefit all of Uptown as well as enhancing your program, come to this meeting. The steering board would like to encourage new blood with fresh ideas.?

Some current officers are willing to serve another year, while others are finishing up their year or years of service. If you?re interested in serving, just come to the meeting to express your interest! Here is the lineup of positions:

Chairperson. The Chairperson facilitates the monthly steering board meeting and is the focal point for house activities and concerns.

Treasurer. The Treasurer works closely with the Bookkeeper on financial matters of the House. This member compiles pertinent financial information and gives a report at each monthly meeting.

Intergroup Rep. This member attends monthly Intergroup Steering Board Committee meetings as Uptown?s representative (on the 3rd Tuesday of the month) and compiles a brief report of activities to be reported to the Uptown Board at each meeting.

Gopher State/Picnic/Founders Day (open to Chair and Co-Chair). This chair plans for and organizes the Uptown hospitality suite at Gopher State Roundup in May and Founders Day Roundup in November. This involves coordinating the activities of the many volunteers who help in setting up the Uptown Suite for Gopher State and arranging for food. This chair also plans the location, food and activities of the Uptown picnic in September.

Communications. This chair is responsible for gathering information and publishing the Uptown Newsletter each quarter. This person also maintains the calendar of activities on the bulletin board. There is added responsibility involving the website and/or social media as needed.

General Services Representative (GSR). This member attends the local monthly GSR Committee meetings as a representative of the Uptown Group and compiles and presents a brief report of GSR activities to the Uptown Board at each meeting.

Open Meeting (open to Chair and Co-Chair). This position helps organize the monthly open speaker and medallion celebration meeting and selects the AA and Al-anon speakers. This is often a 2-year term.

Literature. This person manages literature for the House, maintains an adequate stock of all literature and keeps track of inventories, reports inventory to Bookkeeper monthly.

Outside Commitments Liaison. This member communicates with treatment centers and other groups that are interested in having members bring AA meetings to its facility, and offers these opportunities to our squads. This member also sends guidelines and letters to treatment centers and halfway houses, maintains a list of contacts, and contacts them on a regular basis.

Development. Seeks input, proposes, prioritizes and oversees the improvement of standardized group communications as directed by the Board. They maintain and oversee the House pledge drives throughout the year. This position looks for new ways that Uptown can better serve it?s members.

Facebooker.? The Steering Board is discussing a position to manage our Facebook page, perhaps with other duties.


Alcoholicos Anonimos

Our headline is AA in Spanish and the photo is the serenity prayer, likewise Espanol, as seen on the wall of Uptown House. So, what about diversity in sobriety?

by Mark H.

I was sitting in the main meeting room at Uptown House last week, looked up at the wall and saw this plaque with the serenity prayer in Spanish.

“That’s a first,” I thought to myself. And, hopefully, not the last way Uptown House reaches out to all who have a desire to stop drinking and drugging. I have no idea who posted the plaque, but good idea.

The Twin Cities, Minnesota and the country will be a better place with more sober substance abusers running around no matter the color of their skin. I have noticed people of many colors at Uptown House over the years, albeit not many in numbers. But, the AA movement would do well to welcome more diversity.

Diversity made this country greater than it would have been and the same applies to AA.

I love this quote by Martin Luther King, it sums up the issue pretty well. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”


Sobriety ‘World Record’!

by Mark H.

I love that fact that no matter how long I have been coming to AA and been sober (32 years this month) I am still hearing new gems of recovery wisdom at meetings.

At the Wednesday 6pm Uptown House meeting this week trusted servant Elizabeth was recognizing sobriety birthdays, and at the end, as is customary, she recognized 24 hours of sobriety, but in a way I have never hear before.

She said, “now let’s hear it for the world’s record: 24 hours!”

This gave me a chuckle because it is so true, but also because I had never heard it before and it came from such young person (20-something).

I love the fact that after 32 years, AA is still keeping it fresh with new thoughts and a touch of humor. Yes, long-term sobriety is great, but it still a one day at a time proposition. One day truly is a world’s record for the person experiencing a day of sobriety for the first time in their using careers. It is also a reminder to those of us with many years of sobriety that today is all we have, today is all that matters and we best remember it! Meeting makers make it!

Calling a single day a ‘world’s record’ is a great way to proclaim a day of sobriety for the newcomer and old timer alike.

Thanks AA, thanks Elizabeth for your wisdom, humor and keeping us coming back, one day at a time!


The ‘Marijuana Maintenance’ Program?

Not for me

by Mark H.

A couple of months ago a young man asked me to be his sponsor after a meeting at Uptown House. I said sure.

“How long have you been off alcohol and drugs?” I asked.

“My girlfriend and I haven’t drank in two weeks, but we still both smoke pot,” he replied.

“I don’t know anybody who has stayed sober on the ‘Marijuana Maintenance’ program,” I responded. I never saw that young man again.

Some consider talking about drug use in an AA setting is an outside issue, best dealt with elsewhere. But for me, however, booze and drugs were always intertwined. Booze led me to drugs and drugs would lead me back to booze every time. There is no line between the two for this alchie. Smoking pot led me to use other drugs too.

I often hear it put this way in AA. “How long have you been off mind altering substances?” This question makes no distinction between peoples’ drugs of choice (alcohol being considered a ‘drug’ in this instance.)

Its a confusing time for cross addicted folks, especially newcomers I imagine, but for us old potheads too. Pot is becoming legal all across our nation and, in fact, it is legal in the nation to our north (Canada).

My wife has worked in the mental health field for decades, she works with these folks face-to-face every day. She tells me the worst drug for those with mental illness is pot.

The debate over legalizing pot continues, but legalization is winning in most places. The worst drug of them all, of course, has been legal in this nation since 1933: booze. It remains society’s most destructive by any measure, including the on-going opioid epidemic.

I hope that young man who asked me to be his sponsor is still going to AA somewhere and has found sobriety….from all mind altering substances.


Uptown House Picnic

Come for the free chow, stay for the fellowship!

Come celebrate sobriety with some great fellowship and free chow Sunday, September 15, 11am to 2pm at beautiful Newell Park. As of September 11, we still need some folks to bring side dishes and desserts.

Directions: Get on University Avenue and go north on Fairview Avenue North. The park is on the right at Pierce Butler.

I doubt I would have stayed sober without the ‘meeting’ before and after the meeting. Fellowship with other sober folks helps keep me sober, happy and growing!


Get Out of Your Head

Speaking at AA helps others and yourself.

by Mark H.

Early sobriety was a confusing, hard time of radical change from a life of substance abusing dysfunction to living sober.

When I was about a month sober, I learned a very important lesson from an AA friend Marty. I trusted him because he was a kind and happy man.

Marty could tell I was struggling. He had some years of sobriety and knew what to suggest.

“Why don’t you come with me to this small treatment center and speak,” Marty asked me. “It will be good for you.”

The thought of exposing myself like that in front of others frightened me. I seldom even spoke in meetings at that time. And besides, I had a hard time imagining how I could help.

“What could I possibly offer them, I’ve only been sober a month?” I asked Marty.

“Well, a lot. You’ve been sober longer than all of them. Some have only been sober a few hours,” Marty responded.

Luckily, I was in that classic state of willingness, sick and tired of being sick and tired. I really didn’t know how I could help, but I agreed to speak anyway. I decided to trust Marty, I made a leap of faith.

On the way to the center, I asked Marty what I should speak about. “Tell them how you did it,” he said.

“Did what?” I asked.

“How you have stayed sober,” Marty responded.

I was still internalizing my new identity, that of a sober person. It was all so new. Marty and this experience helped me let go of my old, using identity and strengthen my new sober identity.

So, I swallowed hard and got up before a group of about 20 folks and told my story of recovery, short although it was. Nevertheless, the experience helped me start to give myself some credit for my achievement, it helped me feel good about myself, something I desperately needed back then.

The guys were appreciative and even applauded. Some of them asked questions afterward. The biggest thing I learned from speaking was the importance of getting out of myself, getting out of my very confused head, my troubled state of mind for at least an hour or so. It taught me I could find relief from my troubles in ways other than drugs and alcohol.

I also felt good about helping my fellow recovering people…..giving freely of what was freely given to me.

I never forgot the lesson Marty helped me learn that day decades ago: give to others and you also improve your own sobriety. Thanks Marty, thanks AA.


Milky Way Magic

The Milky Way’s immensity helps us wee humans keep life in perspective.

Intrepid shooter Earl W. of Uptown House took this stunning photo of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. The image is a two-photo composite, with the foreground taken at Split Rock State Park in April, the Milky Way July 3.

Earl used a Canon 6D Mark II, Tamron 15-30 F2.8 lens. The Milky Way was a 15 second exposure at f8, iso 3500; the foreground 30 seconds, iso 800 f10.

The immensity and beauty of our Milky Way galaxy reminds me of how small the Earth is and we humans that inhabit it. We are but a small cog in an infinite universe.

This truism reminds me of some wisdom an old friend from a Stillwater AA club once shared with me when I was new to sobriety and struggling mightily. He said there are two rules in life: One, don’t sweat the small stuff. Two, its mostly small stuff. I use that bit of wisdom to this day.

See you at a meeting! Meeting makers make it!


New Orientation Meeting

Leave your misery behind, join AA and start a new, better life at Uptown House’s new orientation meeting Thursdays, 7p.m.


Join Mike C. and the gang this Thursday, and every Thursday, 7p.m. in Room 4 upstairs for Uptown House’s new weekday, evening orientation meeting for newcomers.

Mike and friends rightly recognized the need for an orientation meeting on a weekday evening as some folks can’t make our regular weekend morning orientation meetings.

So, if you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired and are curious about AA, the best recovery program around, give Thursday’s orientation meeting a try. All you have to lose is your misery!


Clean Up Day & Pizza, This Sunday, Noon

One evening a husband returned home from work, walked into the kitchen and teased his wife, “You know, dear, I can write my name in the dust on the mantel.” She turned to him and sweetly replied, “Yes, darling, I know. That’s why I married a college graduate.”

Calling all 12-steppers! Please join us for a light clean up half day at Uptown House this Sunday, July 14, noon. We’ll go out for pizza or ? after. This is a good opportunity to give back to the house that gives to so many. Thank you.



Hand San On The Rocks?

Its easy to believe in the irrationality of addiction when considering the fact some people were drinking the hand san provided at Uptown House (it has since been removed.)

by Mark H.

Recently I asked a person on the Uptown House Steering Board, of which I am a member, why the House is no longer providing hand san.

Hand san has become ubiquitous in our culture to prevent the spread of disease. It is a great way to keep our hands clean, especially during influenza season, until we can wash our hands. Hand washing is still the best preventative since viruses, etc., find safe haven in hand grime.

The board member told me the hand san was removed from the club on purpose because there was a person or more drinking it for the alcohol content.

I guess I’ve been sober too long or had a high bottom because this revelation shocked me.

I do know one thing, however, addiction is irrational. “Why,” several normies have asked me over the years, “do people continue to use alcohol and drugs when it is destroying them and their lives.?”

“That is a rational question, but addiction is irrational,” I respond. This simple truism explains a lot about addictive behavior, including drinking hand san.

I wondered the same thing about myself, that is, why I behaved in certain ways when the behavior was so destructive. At some point in my early sobriety, at the urging of my sponsor and home group friends, I quit trying to figure everything out. As AA’s Big Book instructs, I just accepted the undeniable truth about myself, surrendered to Step One, asked for help and watched my life improve until this day.

And I thank AA and my higher power for that every day.


Higher Power & Door Knobs

AA encourages members seeking sobriety to find a higher power…or not.

by Mark H.

I came into AA alcoholic, angry and atheist. I mean, I went to atheist/theist debates, gave the atheists money and read their newsletter. Back then I lived in Denver, which was a big center for atheist thought and action at the time.

Alas, like abusing alcohol and drugs, I found in sobriety that atheism didn’t work for me. Neither, however, was I ever going to be part of any organized religion. I was born into a Catholic ‘family,’ but it never took. Religion was not in my genes and never would be.

Of your own choosing

Thus, I was happy to learn in those early days that AA did not advocate any specific religious and instead allows members to pick a higher power of their own choosing…..or not. If this hadn’t been the case, I would not have stayed in AA and probably would have ended up dead.

But, after some sober time, and with more time on my hands, I began taking up some old hobbies and acquiring new ones…..many of them having to do with the outdoors where I did have spiritual inklings, feelings and experiences.

Some prodding from AA and other sources also played a role. One book by Melody Beattie said studies found that many with long term sobriety had found and were following a spiritual path. This especially interested me as I really wanted to stay sober (one day at a time for the rest of my life!).

Also, and this appealed to my intellectual side, the AA Big Book says in regards to a higher power that condemnation without investigation is the height of ignorance. This undeniable truth, by the way, is attributed to an 18th Century clergyman.


So, as my mind and body cleared from 19 years of substance abuse, I began walking the first spiritual path I had ever taken in a sincere way. I must say, it felt good, right and natural for me. Now, 31 years sober, I remain a nature spiritualist. It works for me.

Just recently, however, in the last two years or so, I’ve come to realize AA is also one of my higher powers. I’ve heard many times in AA that the group or even a door knob can be your higher power. I’ve heard more than a few people, mostly newcomers, but not all of them, profess in meetings that door knobs is their higher power. This still brings a smile to my face. I still love that independent streak in people, in myself.


All this said, I do acknowledge much of AA is based on Christianity, and I live in a largely Christian society, although that is changing now.

Like AA, I don’t care what brand of spirituality you are or not. What I really care about is alcoholic people getting into recovery and staying sober for today.

May The Force Be With You!!! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!!)


The “We’ In Step One

Surviving a breakup

by Chris C.

The ‘we’ in Step one is helping me survive a painful breakup without resorting to alcohol and drugs.

When I was active in letting my disease run my life, I always felt a prevailing sense of loneliness and isolation. I had always, as far back as I can remember, felt isolated and different from everyone else around me. In time, this led to complete physical and, more painfully, emotional isolation.

I did not feel I had a way to discuss how I was truly feeling and what I was truly experiencing with anyone around me. For a long time, the only thing that ever truly relieved the absolute dread and terror of emotional isolation was the bottle and drugs. Then those stopped working.

I was at the precipice of the tallest cliff overlooking the deepest pit. By the grace of my higher power, which I call God, I was given the opportunity to surrender and a new door called sobriety opened.

Honesty, for the early part of my sobriety, simply meant not lying. This was in and of itself an incredibly daunting task. My entire life had been built up around lies: lying about school, lying about what I was doing, lying about who I was with. I lied to my parents, family, friends, romantic partners and, most tragically, myself.

But when I admitted Step One it opened a door that has led to tremendous changes in my life, a new way of dealing with the pain caused this recent romantic breakup with a woman I really loved.

At age 26, I am in the absolute worst emotional pain I have experienced sober. Pain can open doors, though, and that is what happened at a recent First Step meeting in the Uptown House suite (sweet). I now understand the ‘we’ and ‘honesty’ of the First Step and am hanging onto it for all I am worth.

I am at a point in my life where I can come into AA, reach out to any one of you, friend or stranger or newcomer, and look you in the eyes and say “I am not okay.”

I can sit in that suite (sweet) and just let myself feel. I can be completely transparent to you. I need not worry about judgement, rejection, or shifty looks. I do not have to do any of this alone. All of you, literally every single one of you, are the only ones helping me overcome my feelings of hopelessness and pain. You give me hope for the future, for a good life.

I now realize I do not have to endure this painful breakup alone. I never have to be alone again because I have AA, I have you.

I have faith that all of you will always be there for me. In the darkest of times, I know I can always come to any AA meeting in any city or state in the country, and I can just cry and say that “I am not okay” and you will understand.

Nothing can make me give this up.

My sponsor told me, “You know Chris, sometimes it is completely okay not be okay.”

He’s correct, I can make it through this breakup without using. I never again have to take a drink to escape or numb or hide from my painful feelings. I never again have to experience the bad things in life, the bad feelings or thoughts alone.

My AA ‘family’ has truly shown me what it means to be part of God’s love. I am so grateful to have all of you in my life. Thank you.


One Special Tuesday

And how it brought a father and his daughter closer

By Jim B.

I got sober on a Tuesday.

I remember this because my oldest daughter, home from her first year away at college, walked into our home and said, “you’re a drunk and need to get to an AA meeting.”

She said some other sober and sobering things which got my attention. I attended a meeting that night.

I remember that Tuesday, in part, because as a librarian of the reference variety, I have a knack for numbers and dates. I am known, far and wide, for having answers. But I do, however, have a mild resentment toward Google, the competition. I am working on it.

I also remember that fateful Tuesday because after my second AA meeting that Wednesday I made a visit to Half Price Books on Ford Parkway to see if I could find a satisfactory copy of the Big Book. I found at least six hard-bound copies. I picked up the first one and began paging through it. No index! All the highlighting! The marginal notes! What kind of a manual for living doesn’t have an index?

When I picked up the last copy I was surprised to see, scrawled across the two blank pages of the inside cover, this inscription, “Welcome Jim.”

I immediately put it back on the shelf and promptly left the store. I was rattled. It seemed as if AA had been patiently waiting for my arrival.

Later on I shared with a sober brother that I had been to an AA meeting. He made several suggestions: attend 90 meetings in 90 days, get a sponsor and, lastly, buy a Big Book!

So that Friday, after attending four consecutive AA meetings, I returned to Half Price Books. I knew right where to go. But, much to my surprise, all the hardcover copies were gone! But, on a display standing right in front of me was a blue soft cover copy. I picked it up with some hesitation, and there on the inside cover, written in the most beautiful longhand was this little note: “To my good friend Jim. May your recovery stay as fresh as it is today! Your friend, Brother Gerry.” That book is with me still today.

Indeed, my sobriety has remained fresh because I have learned to surrender, acknowledge my powerlessness and accept things as they are. I pray and make quiet time for myself. I consciously practice gratitude and the AA principles.

Today, I have over 34 months of sobriety. I did do 90 in 90 and still get to as many meetings as a I can. I have a sponsor, carry our message to the best of my ability and know I don’t have all the answers.

And most especially, that first ‘Tuesday” has come full circle: Last week my middle daughter spontaneously hugged me in the kitchen and said, “thank you for taking care of me. I like you sober.”

I kissed the top of her head and said, “I like me sober too.”



by Max R.

     Whether I am in active or inactive addiction, my sense-of-self is distorted to the point I believe I am not an alcoholic or addict. But it is not a lack of understanding of my condition that leads me to engage in these behaviors. The denial that I am an addict-alcoholic qualifies me as one. This is not illogical. I am neurologically vulnerable to pursue intoxication. Yet, I am still accountable for my actions. I do selfish irresponsible things because I’m an addict, and I’m an addict because I can’t stop doing these selfish irresponsible things, even when I want to.
    My addictive tendencies are rather predictable, and make sense medically, while my reasoning to pick up another drink or take part in further substance abuse is far from logical. The thought process behind this behavior is illogical, not the addiction itself.
    This is why it is extremely difficult to bring me to a rational enlightenment that my thinking is flawed. Just as it’s difficult to engage in a logical discussion with a hysterical person, it is almost impossible to argue logically with a person in active addiction or thinking addictively.
    From my first use to my first day of sobriety last December 2, I had gone through countless cycles of abstinence and extended periods of heavy using. The long periods of abstinence eventually make me miss using and my long periods of use make me miss sobriety.
    Countless times have I lost my sobriety in an attempt to challenge my disease when it turned out the only thing being challenged was my ego, and my ego always lost. My disease tells me “I obviously don’t have a problem anymore.”
    But, from attendance at AA and other therapeutic meetings, and listening to the stories of other alcoholics and addicts, I know I’m powerless over my disease of addiction.


Uptown House Member’s Photo to be Featured in Grapevine’s 2020 Calendar

This photo of a monarch butterfly on a purple cone flower by Earl W., Uptown House treasurer, will be in the Grapevine’s 2020 Calendar.

Earl W., Uptown House Steering Board treasurer, will have one of his photos featured in the 2020 AA Grapevine calendar. His beautiful photo of a monarch butterfly on a purple cone flower, a native wild flower, was one of 12 photos selected to be included in the Grapevine’s 2020 calendar. The Grapevine is AA’s national magazine.

Earl’s love for photography started in his teens and continued with the exception of a five-year period before he found AA and recovery.

“The five years before I found the solution was a very dark time in my life,” Earl said. “I lost my enthusiasm for photography. As I succumbed to the disease of alcoholism, the desire to take pictures left me. I knew the focus it took to be the photographer I wanted to be. I knew it no longer existed within me. Fortunately, I sought help through Hazelden. Through intensive and ongoing work with Alcoholics Anonymous, I found a renewed enthuiasim for the art. I now find time behind the lens to be very spiritual. It is my way of seeking 11th step meditation.”

Earl then noticed the Grapevine magazine was holding a contest for its 2020 calendar and submitted several photos for consideration. He was surprised and humbled to have his monarch butterfly photo selected to be included in the May spot on the calendar.

“I now consider myself more than just a hobby photographer, having had my work published in magazines and showcased in galleries all over the world,” Earl said. “My photography career is now focused on landscape, wildlife and architecture.”


A Walk to Remember

by Kimmie O.

I remember walking in to my first AA meeting. I was already a few months sober. I held out as long as I possibly could during my months of treatment from attending one of those meetings. I went through detox and successfully finished outpatient therapy. Although discussed in great length during treatment, I saw no need to join those people. At my last group session, I was told by my counselor, “Kimmie, it’s time.”

“What?! Time? Time for what?” I thought. I didn’t want to hear those words. I didn’t want to leave my little recovery group. I just wanted to stay where I was. And at this time, I was in the comfort of my own home attending what is now considered a pretty remarkable concept in substance abuse treatment: online, intensive outpatient therapy. And the first four months of my sobriety, I developed the ideology that I could remain completely anonymous in my disease. “I’ve been doing just fine without AA,” I thought. “I most certainly do not need it now.”

I was clean for six months and doing very well (even had a neat sober app show my 183 days of clean time to prove it). I had my textbooks on addiction, my pamphlet from recovery, and my journal from outpatient therapy. I was golden, “What’s a big book anyway?”

I found every way to convince myself that attending AA was pointless. It’s full of crazy people. It’s nothing but a bunch of old fuddy-duds yammering away about fishing tales. It probably smells like cigarettes in a cloudy room full of raspy, middle-aged women. Or the worst of them all, it’s really a place for preying men to pick up vulnerable chicks. No sir. There was no 90-in-90 for me. I was perfectly fine without AA.

It’s amazing how easily I allowed fear to set it. I could not imagine attending a meeting in my town. Surely, people would see me and know that I was an alcoholic. I found comfort behind my computer screen instead. So, I did what any level-headed alcoholic would do; I hid.

It wasn’t until a friend of mine in long-term recovery convinced me to set foot into a coffee-guzzling, AA Big Book-doting, long stairwell into a church room that I had the courage to attend my first AA meeting. I decided to finally attend AA because I did not want to continue the stigma of alcoholism. There’s more to life than just stopping the drinking. That’s only one aspect of recovery. I became willing to the idea that recovery was a way of life, not just an act of abstinence. I also realized this is where the big book comes into play. AA is simply a group of people who have one thing in common, their desire to quit drinking. And the big book is an instructional manual of sorts to help me along this journey.

So I gave in and went to my first AA meeting with my friend. The club was in the most northern part of Minnesota you could be in without crossing into Canada, in a small town called Baudette.

Even with the support from my friend, I was scared and intimidated, “They’re all going to stare at me,” I thought. But no one did. Instead, they smiled and shared stories of how they overcame their own struggles.

“Surely, they’ll judge me,” I thought. But they did not. Rather, they opened up, showed their vulnerabilities and imperfections to others.

“I don’t belong here with these people,” I argued to myself. But, for the first time in my life, I felt more at home than anywhere else.

For the first time, I wasn’t judged. For the first time, I wasn’t shamed. And for the first time, I felt the presence of a new family that promised to welcome me back with open arms without any reservations.

And return, I did.

Three years ago, I fell in love with these rooms and the people who frequent them. I now frequent the Uptown House during my many visits into the cities.

Whether I’m in town for a few hours or a few weeks, I always find my way home. This home. The Uptown House.

In all their perfect imperfections, they are my kind of people. They are my family now. And I wouldn’t trade any of them.


My Mantra is: Meeting Makers Make It

by Mark H.

“Meeting makers make it” is my mantra. I’ll tell you why.

Last week I chaired a first step meeting at Uptown House. Every seat was filled, mostly with 20- and 30-somethings, most new to sobriety.

I started the meeting thus: “What do you think is the first thing someone says after they leave AA, start using again and then came back?”

“I quit going to meetings!” most the crowd called out. So true!

Of course, there’s much more to AA than meetings, but I access all the other aspects of AA by going to meetings. Chief among these aspects off AA is a safe haven to tell my story and to hear other alcoholics/addicts tell theirs, but also listening to folks read the Big Book and 12×12 book, the opportunity to discuss your own life, work the 12 steps, finding sponsors, learning about sober events after meetings, finding fellowship like going out with friends before/after meetings, hot coffee, service opportunities and more.

Sober evolution
I didn’t want to be an alcoholic, I didn’t want to go to AA, but I didn’t want to end up in jail or die either. When that’s the choice, the choice is easy.

When I first joined AA, I kept coming back because I was terrified of where my life was and where it was going. I needed a way out and was hopeful that AA would work for me.

A few months in, I had a three-month slip (Sobriety Lost Its Priority) before returning to AA. Then, after achieving a few years of sobriety, I started to  identify as a person in recovery. AA had become a big part of my personal identity. (AA isn’t my entire life, rather it guides my entire life.)

Then, a few years later, I was given a powerful reminder why meeting makers make it. I was getting a bit bored in sobriety (I needed to do more with my sobriety and life) until I heard one man speak in a meeting. He said he had had 15 years of sobriety, but quit going to meetings and ended up drunk again for some time.

I was used to hearing about newcomers going back out to drink, but never someone with 15 years of sobriety doing it! His story was a powerful reminder why meeting makers make it. The man has stayed sober since and so have I. 

Several times over the years I’ve had ‘normies’ ask me, “You’ve been sober all these years and you STILL need to go to those meetings?”

My response is always, “No, I have been sober this long BECAUSE I go to those meetings!”

If you’d like to comment on this story, please email Mark H. at info@uptowngroupstpaul.com