The North Shore AA Round UP kicked off last night with speaker Tina H from Waukesha Wisconsin. The Hyatt Regency Hotel in Downtown Vancouver at Burrard and Georgia was packed with sober AA's and Al Anons. This Annual Event goes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with some thousand or more people attending. Out of towners come early and stay at the hotel while locals come for all or part of the convention. There are books and tapes for sale, information booths, tourist events, and just for coffee meetings rooms. AA and Al anon meetings go on all day with local speakers sharing their 'experience, strength and hope' in recovery while out of town speakers like Tina are highlights of the conference. Each year a committee is formed to organize the next year's event. Committee members listen to countless speaker tapes selecting inspirational speakers who they feel 'carry the message' especially well.
Ti na's story was of alcoholism that began really early in a family of alcoholics with abuse and drugs and finally sex ,brawling and crime. At 14 Tina was in a coma from alcohol and thought not to live. She did. That was the turning point. She entered AA and joined all the 'old farts', "they wore flannel",she said in mock horror while I was dressed like Pat Bennatar with "4 inch heels, mini skirt and the tightest top I could find". "I didn't want to be there." The exciting part of Tina's story of Recovery was her service work for young people. She was part of the making of the video for young people for the increasing numbers of teens and 20 year olds who want out of their life of drugs and alcohol. It has been a real inspiration and fun for all those involved in the production and distribution. Claiming to be 25 years sober she doesn't look a day over 20 and is vivacious, refreshing and entertaining with a message that had everyone standing and all hands clapping when she finished.
The other highlight speakers are Theo F. from Calgary, Saturday night at 8, Kay L. from Los Angeles, Sunday 10 am, and Deb H. from Pioneertown California 12 noon Sunday.
Last night after the speaker and Serenity Prayer the carpets were rolled up and the dancing began. Upstairs the DJ Dance and Lightshow while downstairs the live Band, Promises, played anything from blues rock to straight rock with even a touch of country. Richard, over 6 feet tall with white hair and dark glasses reminded me of a Rock n Roll version of the Blues Brothers, supercool were it not for his great sense of humor. His harsh rangy world voice coupled with the beauty of the female singer whose name I missed in all the feet stomping and applause.
North Shore AA and Al Anon Round Up is a highlight event of the year for glamor and glitz. The girls just seem to go city sensational while the guys clean up surprisingly nice for a bunch of recovered drunks. All year round townships and towns hold AA one day, weekend, and camp out conventions and round ups. The North Shore AA Round Up just seems to start the whole process. Abbotsford comes up soon. Yaletown throws a fine party. Salt Spring Island, Kamloops, Chilliwack, Alkali Lake and Squamish are just a few of the favourites. Vancouver Island has their own and while locals flock to these real celebrations of the gifts of the recovery, there are tourists that make a point of coming to these all over the world.
The big AA Convention which happens every 5 years is going on this summer in San Antonnio Texas. Tens of thousands show up and wherever they're held it seems over and over again the city councils and police thank the AA people for being the most courteous with least problems, less than Shriners even, one city council man said, Who would have guessed with a group of drunks. People whose alcohol and drugs took them to jails and institutions, thanks to AA find their way back to a life that is 'joyous and free' with friends, community and purpose. The rounds up bring people together and 'by golly jeez' that person you met a decadeback who was carrying knives and stealing coffee and looked liked they'd not last a day more out of jail and would never stay sober is now happy, employed telling you about their travels overseas for vacation, and there with them is someone who loves them when years ago they'd have sworn no one could. Beside them is the famous movie star and sure enough a priest, a doctor, a lawyer and given the anonymity no one would know were it not for their sharing . It's the Miracle of the Recovery. A joy to see and be a part of.
And every year it's the same old joke, "imagine all of us here drunk and stoned and what a mess that would be." The girls laugh and the guys remember fights and everyone thinks of vomit and piss. Without the booze or drugs, everyone is having a good time. Without the cleavage, tattoos and leathers maybe with a stretch of the imagination you could think of a church convention. There's that much spirituality. However, AA is not a religious organization. "Religion is for people who don't want to go to hell while spirituality is for people who don't want to go back" is just one of the many sayings that members use. Like "keep coming back, it works if you work it."
North Shore AA Round Up surely works and the evidence of the success of AA is in the thousands of restored and happy lives.