District 70 and Vernon AA holds its 40th Annual Roundup June 8 and 9. Organizers invite members and anyone who wants to know more about AA to attend.
Gerry remembers the first time he attended an AA meeting.
“It was June 20, 1962. It’s complete defeat that leads you a meeting,” he said.
His parents were teetotalers but he started drinking at 14 with friends. It was always easy to get someone older to buy them a bottle of wine for 98 cents.
“As I look back at that time, I can see that I was trying to cover up a feeling of inadequacy and loneliness and not belonging,” he said.
He left school as soon as he could and got a job, marrying while still in his teens and starting a family.
“For years I was drinking every day and I got to a point where I couldn’t pay my bills. I can remember the night exactly when I was sitting on the sidewalk in Chinatown in Vernon with a bottle of vodka and a beer chaser. I said to myself, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ I put the bottles down and went home and told my wife I was going to AA. I don’t even know how I knew about AA but somehow I knew it was a place where I could get help.”
AA meetings started in Vernon in 1958 and by the time Gerry went to a meeting in 1962, there were five people coming to a meeting regularly.
“I knew from the first minute I was in the right place. I was met with a hug. A hug. And the guy said to me, ‘If you think you’ve got a problem with alcohol, come in.’ It was very non-judgmental and I was accepted exactly the way I was. The people there knew what I was feeling.”
After 10 years of sobriety which put his life back together, he thought he could drink again.
“I lost everything, including my business. I was back to the bottom again. Amazingly, my family stuck it out. I thank my wife for that,” he said. The second time Gerry went to AA, he found the same encouragement and support as the first time.
“I knew there was nobody else that could do this thing for me even though they could help. This isn’t about age, we have members of all ages. It’s about the human experience. You do it for yourself and take responsibility for your decisions and the consequences.”
As a longtime AA member, Gerry has had the opportunity to help encourage many others when they make the choice of sobriety. He notes that society’s attitude towards drinking has changed. When he was first sober and would not be drinking when others were, they would comment on it. Now, no one seems to notice when he chooses a non-alcoholic beverage.
“If alcohol is causing a problem in your life, come to a meeting. We just hold out a hand and if you want to take our hand, we’ll try and help.”
Everyone is welcome to attend the roundup. There will be guest speakers for AA and Al-Anon both days. Roundup takes place June 8 and 9 at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Vernon starting with registration at 5 p.m. June 8. There will be breakfast, lunch, and banquet and dance on June 9. The cost is $35 per person. For tickets and more information, call Josi A. at 250-542-6705. For information about regular AA and Al-Anon meetings in the area, call 250-545-4933.