Just a short while ago, I had the privilege of visiting some of the historic sites of Alcoholics Anonymous. At twenty-two-years old, and a member of AA for several years, I never in a million years would have thought I would be choosing to visit historical AA sites (of course being an alcoholic wasn’t really in my plans either).
For the month of October and early November I travelled around eastern Canada and the U.S. It was a glorious adventure! I went to meetings in Toronto, Montreal, New York, Queens, Washington, and Chicago. At first I didn’t want to go to meetings; I would tell myself “when you go to a meeting you’ll have to sit and really feel your feelings… that’ll be hard!” You see, when travelling one is usually feeling quite high-energy and excited; I didn’t want to have to sit with what was below the surface. But meetings absolutely saved me. Throughout my month-long journey I ensured I went to a meeting every few days. Every meeting was just like a meeting here in Nanaimo; the people in the meetings looked different, but the feeling and message was the same. It was all very comforting and I felt incredibly grateful to be a member of AA. My first historic stop was at the General Service Office (GSO) in New York City. Although the GSO has had several location changes, it has been in its current location for over twenty years.
The office takes up the eleventh floor of a large building. While at the GSO I was given a fairly extensive tour of the office and educated on the many types of work it does. Frankly, I was overwhelmed at all that was done in its office! There were about forty employees, so one can imagine the GSO does a lot!
While at the GSO I was given a fairly extensive tour of the office and educated on the many types of work it does. Frankly, I was overwhelmed at all that was done in its office! There were about forty employees, so one can imagine the GSO does a lot!
A few days later I arrived in Akron, Ohio. During my brief stay in Akron I went to Dr. Bob’s house, his grave site, St. Thomas’s hospital, and the Mayflower hotel.
When I arrived at Dr. Bob’s house I was greeted by an older man who calmly said, “welcome home.” I felt overwhelmed when he said that. The house was kept in a lot of its original state. The tour was wonderful and ended with coffee at Dr. Bob’s kitchen table where thousands upon thousands of other alcoholics have sat. I had coffee with the tour guide and two women, one from Kansas and the other from Arizona. After coffee, the two women and I went to Dr. Bob’s grave. We each took one of our AA chips, said a prayer, and placed them on his gravestone. It was a very serene moment. Next we went to St. Thomas’s hospital. In this hospital Dr. Bob and Sister Ignatia worked together to help others get sober. Sister Ignatia is rumoured to have been the one who started giving out AA chips for sobriety. When patients would leave the hospital newly sober, she would give them a token and tell them to bring the token back if they drank again. Lastly, we visited the Mayflower hotel. The phone that Bill W. used to call Dr. Bob still exists in the hotel today.
Truthfully, before my travels I knew very little about AA history; in fact, I still know very little today. Sure Alcoholics Anonymous isn’t perfect, but I am beyond grateful to those who came before me.