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Anonymous history in your area
Moore County, North Carolina
The "Mother Group" of Alcoholics Anonymous in
"Mother Group" of Alcoholics Anonymous in Moore
County is the Southern Pines Group, which meets at Emmanuel
Episcopal Church on Monday nights. It was founded in 1947.
circumstances that led to that first group in Southern Pines
began in a hotel lobby in Akron, Ohio in 1935. Our founder,
Bill W., was in Akron on a business trip. He was six months
sober. During his hospitalization for alcoholism, he had
discovered certain principles. One of those principles was
that he must work with other alcoholics in order to sustain
was looking for a drunk to work with when he saw a church
directory in the lobby of his hotel. He called several ministers
searching for an active alcoholic and the calls led him
to Dr. Bob, our co-founder to be. Bob got sober sharing
with Bill but relapsed on a medical convention while out
of town. When he returned, Bill detoxed him on beer. We
date the birth of our society from Dr. Bob's last drink,
on June 10, 1935.
Bob remained in Akron where he founded the first group of
what was to become Alcoholics Anonymous. Bill W. returned
to New York City where he started the Alcoholics Foundation,
which eventually became the General Service Office (GSO)
of AA> The infant, nameless society was small and grew
very slowly in the first years of its existence. By 1939,
one hundred people managed to get sober in three small groups
- the original group in Akron, a satellite group in Cleveland
and the New York City group started by Bill.
one hundred people compiled their collective experience
in a book entitled Alcoholics Anonymous. Our society takes
its name from that book.
growth remained very slow until 1941. It then received it's
first national exposure when "The Saturday Evening
Post" published an article by Jack Alexander about
Alcoholics Anonymous. That article resulted in eight thousand
inquires to the Alcoholic Foundation, which at the time
was staffed by Bill W. and his non-alcoholic secretary,
Nell Wing. Many of those inquires led to AA groups being
started by mail from New York.
think it possible, even likely, that someone locally wrote
to Bill W. at the Alcoholic Foundation in New York and was
sent a Big Book, some literature and encouragement to start
the Southern Pines AA Group. to give a local perspective,
there exists in the files of one of our oldest members an
AA meeting list from 1945 for North Carolina. It lists only
seven groups. Our old-timer relates that the first group
in North Carolina was in Shelby.
Southern Pines Group is the oldest group in Moore County.
The group has changed location and formats many times over
the years. None of the founders of the group are still alive
but we do have older members who recall them. For the 50th
anniversary of the group in 1997, the GSO was contacted
and they shared with us that, in their archives from 1947,
they have correspondence with the Southern Pines Group.
The archivist told the group that the early meetings were
held in a room in the arcades of the building that now houses
Hawkins and Harkness Jewelers on Broad Street. Later, and
for many years, the group met at Campbell House on Connecticut
1982, the Southern Pines group moved to the Episcopal Church.
Recently the group has changed from a speaker Meeting to
an "As Bill Sees It" format. According to one
of our oldest members, the group actually heard Bill W.
in 1948 when he visited while passing through Southern Pines
on his way to Florida.
Episcopal Church has also been the long-standing site for
two daytime meetings - the Tuesday noon "Southern Pines
Group" and the Thursday 10 a.m. "Morning Break
Group" - both of them closed discussion, non-smoking
men and a woman started the Aberdeen Group on February 14,
1959. One of the men, the "old-timer" of the group
with nine months of sobriety, had gotten sober in Fayetteville,
the rest had been going to the meetings in Southern Pines.
Three of these original six members are still alive and
sober as of this writing. The first recruit of the group
was a man who worked for the railroad. Our old-timer recalls
that he was a very rough case and took all their efforts.
The man did eventually get, and stay, sober and was a vital
part of the group for many years.
group first met in the old Aberdeen Fire Station - the present
site of First Bank. After 6 months, they received permission
from the town to use the old Community Building on Wilder
Avenue for their meetings. The building was in poor repair.
You may review the photos of the renovations to make the
building habitable. They are hanging on the back wall of
the Wilder Building.
a historical sidelight, the Aberdeen Community Building
was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project and was
dedicated in 1935 by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. There
remains a couple of members of the Aberdeen Group who recall
being present at the dedication as children.
interviewed the sole founding member of the group who is
still living in Moore County. He told us that the group
received a lot of support in the early days from the Southern
Pines Group and from the Central Carolina Group of Sanford
(which was originally started with the support of the Southern
Aberdeen Group originally met on Tuesday and Saturday for
Speaker Meetings. Our old-timer does not recall when the
format was changed to a discussion on Tuesday. Very slowly,
meetings were expanded to the present eleven per week.
first meeting to be added to Aberdeen was the Wednesday
Newcomers Meeting, which was started in June of 1981 by
four very fresh alcoholics, none of whom had more than ninety
days of sobriety. That meeting grew very quickly because
the new treatment center in Pinehurst started busing their
patients in for the meetings. This was a bit overwhelming
to the founding four members.
addition to meeting on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday,
Aberdeen now hosts a meeting for men on Monday nights; a
meeting for women on Saturday mornings; an "As Bill
Sees It" on Saturdays at noon' and Eleventh Step meeting
on Sunday mornings; discussion meetings on Thursday, Friday
and Sunday nights; and most recently, a Step Meeting at
noon on Wednesdays and a closed discussion meeting for gays,
lesbians and friends on Friday nights.
third oldest group that was formed in Moore County is the
Village Chapel Group. It has continued the format of discussing
one step each week since its inception. In former times,
when there were fewer meetings, it had a very large audience.
Now, on any given Thursday night in the Chapel Annex, you
will find fifteen to twenty alcoholics discussing the steps.
Hospital Beginner's Meeting was started in 1974 and the
Sunday Hospital Speaker's Meeting was added in the mid 1980's.
The hospital originally had a small detoxification unit
and later a treatment center was established.
the two groups already mentioned there have been any number
of other meetings at the hospital whose aim was to carry
the message to the hospitalized alcoholic. Currently the
Primary Purpose Group sponsors inside meetings twice weekly
for the sole benefit of the patients in the treatment center.
addition to the hospital being a fertile ground for new
members, there are two halfway houses in Moore County -
Bethesda for men and Bethany for women. there is also a
small adolescent treatment program, Bethesda Link. These
facilities are not affiliated with AA but they have a related
mission and have given many newly sober AA members a place
to begin their journey in sobriety.
old West End Senior Citizens Building has been the meeting
location of the West End group since it was started in March
1979. the group meets at 7 p.m. on Sunday nights. The group
quickly attracted a lot of recovering people from nearby
Montgomery County. It was the first group started away from
the more populous Southern Pines / Pinehurst ' Aberdeen
area and has benefited from the growth of the Seven Lakes
West End, smaller towns with meetings include Vass and Carthage.
There was a group in Robbins but it is currently inactive.
groups are started form many reasons. The Southern Pines
Big Book Group was started in 1982 by those who felt there
was a need for a group which concentrated on reading and
studying the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. They also
felt a need to revitalize the concept of the home group
with its attendant sense of group identification and responsibility.
Big Book Group originally met in St. Anthony's Catholic
Church and moved to Brownson Memorial Presbyterian Church
in 1983. It has added Step Groups and monthly Speaker Meetings
to its format.
Vass Group was founded in 1983 when a local minister invited
three AA members who lived in Vass to start an AA meeting
at the First Baptist Church. The first meeting was held
in the sanctuary of the church. It was attended by three
men, a prospect they were 12th stepping and a couple of
members of the Central Carolina Group from Sanford.
of the members of the Vass Group signed a note at a local
bank and the old church sanctuary was fixed up with a kitchen
and central heating and air-conditioning to make it suitable
to hold meetings. the group originally had a closed discussion
meeting on Wednesday and Thursday nights and a speaker meeting
on Saturday. The format now is for one meeting a week, closed
discussion on Wednesday.
of their location in the northern part of the county, the
Vass Group attracts members from Lee, Chatham, Harnette
and Cumberland Counties. Every year for their anniversary
they have an "eating meeting" with a special speaker,
which draws a large crowd.
group planned and formed for a specific reason is The Primary
Purpose Group in Southern Pines. It was started in June
1997, and concentrates on basic AA and carrying the message.
The group emphasizes action and service. All areas of AA
service are in place and functioning in this group. There
is focus on correctional facilities, treatment facilities,
public information and cooperation with the professional
community, newcomers sessions, regularly scheduled workshops
on recovery related areas, Intergroup, District and area
activities. The Primary Purpose Group holds that action
is indeed the "magic" word.
our local college students felt the need for a meeting during
their busy academic day. Thus, in the spring of 2000, one
of them obtained permission to start the "Friends of
Bill W." meeting on the Sandhills Community College
premises, Airport Road, Southern Pines. They meet at noon
on Thursdays for open discussion, non-smoking.
Tradition Ten states: "Alcoholic Anonymous has no opinion
on outside issues, hence the AA name may never be drawn
into public controversy". However, we are not exempt
from forces acting on society, nor are we so naive as to
believe that those forces have no effect on how AA has grown
and evolved in Moore County.
was started by middle-aged, middle-class white makes. AA
has well documented its own struggles to become a more diverse
fellowship. For example, it took several years before the
first woman got sober in the program. That woman, Marty
M., founded the National Council on Alcoholism. Fortunately,
in recent years, the number of women in AA has more accurately
reflected the numbers who suffer from alcoholism. A reasonable
estimate would be that about 30 to 40% of the local membership
the middle 1960's, segregation as an institution was legal
in North Carolina. Generally in the South, and locally,
unconscious acquiescence to the status quo. For many years
blacks were rare in local AA meetings. There were efforts
in the late 1970's and early 1980's to start a meeting in
West Southern Pines, a group that would not be restricted
to blacks, but one in which blacks would feel more comfortable.
West Southern Pines meetings were first held in a nightclub
and later in a black owned funeral home. Among the target
audience was a group of "winos" who met near the
nightclub under the "Tree of Knowledge". The meeting
produced no converts at the time and eventually folded.
However, by 1988 enough people with solid recovery, including
some alumni of the "Tree of Knowledge", were interested
in carrying the message to the black community.
people united to form the West Side Group in August of 1988.
The group has moved twice and now meets in The Douglas Center
on Pennsylvania Avenue on Wednesday nights. It is now well
attended by a large, racially and gender diverse group of
the only requirement for membership in Alcoholics Anonymous
is a desire to stop drinking, it is human nature to feel
more comfortable in some settings than in others. That is
why there are closed AA meetings and why some members prefer
speaker or discussion meetings. Groups are formed to meet
course, alcohol is not the only substance that ruins lives.
Many of the people who come to AA have addictions to other
substances. How to handle this issue has been a source of
controversy within the fellowship for years. In general,
most group in Moore County have done well with the issue
and some even address the issue in their opening remarks.
The group conscience is usually made clear to an individual
who may not yet understand that the requirement for membership
is a desire to stop drinking and that our primary purpose
is to carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
The wide availability of other fellowships has also been
very helpful in this respect.
way that Alcoholics Anonymous is a reflection of our society
as a whole is the controversy over smoking. This issue split
groups and generated resentments. In the late 1980's many
of the meeting locations, because of societal pressures
and decisions of their governing bodies, were banned from
smoking. Such a situation led to the founding of two groups,
The Higher Power Group, which meets on Friday nights at
Emmanuel Episcopal Church and the Aberdeen Friday Night
1989, the church board at Emmanuel Church decided to make
the facility non-smoking. the main body of the group that
had met there on Friday nights moved to Aberdeen - leaving
a small non-smoking remnant who stayed at the church and
reorganized as the Higher Power Group. Their attendance
stayed low at under 10 members for two or three years but
now averages 25-30 per meeting.
classic AA meeting with a smoke filled room and a big coffee
urn in the back still exists, but the majority of AA meetings
in Moore County are now non-smoking. Although smoking and
AA meetings were so long inseparable, one cannot help but
reflect that Bill W., his sponsor Ebby and Dr. Bob all died
of smoke related diseases.
with incarcerated alcoholics is another form of service
work in which many local A members are involved. Individual
alcoholics for years have volunteered to carry the message
into the prisons and jails, but in recent years there has
been a much more organized effort that has evolved it's
own service structure. Moore County yearly hosts regional
and statewide correctional facility meetings.
in Moore County is a very small part of a greater whole.
We are part of District 52 of Area 51, which is North Carolina.
Many of us as individuals, while representing our groups,
have had the opportunity to perform service work at the
Intergroup, Area and District levels as well as participating
in service work in the Correctional Facilities Service structure.
Service work, on any level, from making the coffee or attending
meetings to chairing the State Convention is extremely rewarding
and sobriety enhancing to those who choose to seek it out.
that small beginning in 1947, AA in Moore County has grown
immensely. There are now AA meetings every day - almost
30 per week as of this writing.
a resort area we, of course, serve as host to visiting members
of the fellowship who are usually very complimentary of
the meeting available here. The burgeoning number of groups,
meetings and other opportunities to carry the message demonstrate
that AA is not a "one size fits all" organization
and that the number and variety of meetings exists because
there is a need for them.
experience and the experiences of those who have gone before
us have clearly marked the path. If we keep to our primary
purpose to carry the message to the alcoholic who still
suffers we will continue, as individuals and as a society,
to successfully "trudge the road to happy destiny"
into the future of our recovery.
Sandhills Intergroup, like all AA groups, has its primary
purpose carrying the message to the still suffering alcoholic.
This message includes how those who have gone before have
achieved sobriety. We feel that this is especially important
for the newcomer because he or she usually spends most of
their time, energy and effort trying to get sober and stay
sober. They seldom give much thought as to how this new
circle of recovering friends came to exist. We feel it is
important for the newcomer to have this information.
we must, in all humility, recognize the many friends and
supports whose assistance and love have been central to
is a family disease. Without the support of our friends
and families, including the fellowships of Al-Anon and Alateen,
recovery would have been more difficult for most of us.
addition, since AA cannot own property, we have relied on
our local churches, governments and health care agencies
for our meeting sites. We thank them all.
we hold beyond price the genuine high regard and esteem
granted to the fellowship by our fellow citizens.
Aberdeen, North Carolina
© April 2001 The Sandhills Intergroup of Alcoholics