In 1983, when loneliness and desperation prodded me to go to more meetings, I discovered the newly formed Friendship Group that still meets Saturday 10 o’clock in the basement of Friendship Manor [thus the origin of the name]. In 1983, Saturday had only two daytime meetings, the Friendship Group and an afternoon 11th step meeting at the Alano Club.
The Friendship Group was like no other. It had been started by residents of the apartment building built for the elderly and disabled.. The group was attended by mainly older women with quality sobriety. There were few men. I was a humble, frightened and motivated student of AA back then, and not the “know it all prick” that I’ve turned into. I bonded with the women who were gracious, patient, encouraging, knowledgeable, and to me surprisingly fascinating. When these older women opened up with their alcoholic adventures, I was flabbergasted. The little lady with the knitting bag told promiscuous stories that embarrassed me, who grew up during the free love 60s. There was May S. a resident of Friendship Manor with 40 years of sobriety, Pat N., born in territorial New Mexico [one of the wisest people I’ve ever known], Kay P. a cornerstone of the group, married to Matt P. who was a “General” of my home group the Men’s Sugarhouse Group. And there were others Beverly H. Mary O., Betty G. and Bonnie P. that were equally as well grounded and had fascinating stories behind their deceptive looks of crocheted sweaters and bifocals.
I am grateful these women took me in. They were educated in the ways of the 12 steps. Even though these women understood the theoretical truths, they insisted on being pragmatic in their approach. Their tradition was to go to the Village Inn for breakfast after the meeting. I invited myself and was welcomed. There, at the café, after the meeting, fellowshipping proved its’ value. These wonderful women were full of applied wisdom but also students of other philosophical thoughts. I was surprised when conversations would include Gurdjieff, Alan Watts, Krishnamurthy, The Hemlock Society, or even Allen Ginsberg. I learned to keep quiet and learn rather than show my ignorance.
As the population of AA grew, the meeting grew and the demographic became more general. Because it had the exclusive Saturday morning time slot, the meeting gained popularity. Years later, a satellite meeting broke off to 8:30 and has proved very popular. Even the 8:30 meeting got so crowded that another one broke off of that and is now on 17th South and 17th East. All of this proves Saturday morning is a delightful time to take in the fellowship. But the traditional taproot is 10 o’clock at Friendship Manor. It is a 12&12 book study meeting that everybody finds valuable in its illumination of the 12 steps.
The grand old heirloom meeting is still dedicated to traditional AA truths and traditions. The regulars are knowledgeable, helpful and anxious for some new players. This summer it is lightly attended and I encourage you to make it a regular part of your Saturday morning like I did for so many years.