By: Mike Murphy, Manager of Alumni Services

Every October I am fortunate enough to be able to travel to Malibu, California for a work conference. It is a collaborative event with other Treatment Program Alumni Departments from around the Country (and a couple from Canada, eh). It’s an amazing group of people in recovery working to help others in recovery. As I am sure you can imagine, it’s quite a group. All former Misfits and quite the Motley Crue of addicts and alcoholics are in recovery. But my favorite part is the location of this event where this group of retired degenerates gathers. It takes place at a Franciscan Monk Monastery called Serra Retreat. Here you have a group of people with stories that are anything but holy, sharing meals and the grounds with Monks. It’s a sight to see, for sure. It is nestled in the hills of Malibu overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is absolutely one of those places that take your breath away when you arrive and make you miss it the moment you leave. It’s unbelievable and I am beyond grateful that Transformations allows me to attend this. 

But that is not what this blog is about. Don’t get me wrong, I could write a blog based solely on that collaboration, but there was something else on this trip that stood out to me. When I was new to sobriety, I would think to myself how cool it would be to attend AA meetings in different cities, states, and Countries. I wondered what the people would be like, the stories that would be shared, and if they would be anything like our South Florida meetings. And since getting sober, I have had the opportunity to check out quite a few meetings in different locations. But this trip stood out.

I arrived one day before the collaboration was to start. And I stuck around for a couple of days after it was over. I figured if I was going to be on the other side of the Country, I might as well see some things. And boy did I. If you’re anyone that knows me, horror films and anything considered macabre are right up my alley. And California is full of treasured spots. That very first night I hopped on the Meeting Guide App (phenomenal tool. Whether you travel or are looking for other local meetings in your area) and found a meeting 2 miles away from my hotel in Beverly Hills. Yes, Beverly Hills. It still seems weird to me that I was staying at a hotel on Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills. I was walking up to the Church where the meeting was held, and I was nervous. I don’t know why. I was almost anxious. What in the WORLD would a Beverly Hills AA meeting be like?! Well, I’ll tell you. It was awesome. There were people there that you certainly would’ve pegged as residents of Beverly Hills. And on the other hand, you had the struggling newcomer that looked like anyone you would find in any meeting, anywhere. And, when they asked if anyone was visiting, I introduced myself and got a VERY warm welcome. Including a few people after the meeting that wanted to chat about Florida recovery. I never thought I would feel at home in Beverly Hills, but there I was.

The Monastery where my event was held also offers daily noon AA meetings. I got to check out one of them during my stay. Much like Beverly Hills, I was anxious to see how a Malibu locals meeting would be. And much like Beverly Hills, again. It was great! It was just another meeting with other alcoholics talking about life’s daily struggles and how we are trying to cope with them. And wouldn’t ya know it? Just like in Beverly Hills, these Malibu meeting attendees welcomed me with open arms and great conversation following the meetings. 

And this brings me to my last two meetings. My final two days I stayed on The Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. At one point, this was the mecca of Rock and Roll debauchery. It was known as where the Rock Stars and A List Celebrities would collide. And for a few years, I had heard rumors that at arguably the most notorious rock bar on The Strip, they held AA meetings. Yes, you read that right. AA meetings. At a bar. A bar that Ozzy Ozbourne, Motley Crue and Motorhead have partied at and written songs about. The place is legendary. And I would find in those two days, so are the meetings held there. It’s not the easiest meeting to find or hear about, but through some digging I found the potential days and times of these meetings. And for the first time in my sober career, I walked up and asked the bartender very quietly, like I was speaking in code, “I’m looking for an AA meeting that I think is held here?”. She politely told me where to go with a smile. I thought I was being pranked. I followed the directions she gave me, “Around the fireplace, up the stairs and past the bathrooms”. I had read about the room I was in. It was known as the VIP of VIPs back in the day. It felt like what a bar in a pirate ship would look like. Only with about 15 plastic folding chairs and a tiny desk in the middle of it. Those two meetings were electric. And while the crowd appeared to be the exact opposite of the Malibu/Beverly Hills attendees, where LouBoutins and Gucci were traded for ripped jeans and tattoos, the stories were the same. The passion was the same. These were all people fighting the daily fight of alcoholism and addiction. And I could relate with damn near every one of them. I left those meetings energized.

On my flight back home, I had time to do some thinking. And put into perspective my experiences on this trip. And the only things that came to mind were the meetings I went to. And the people I encountered at these meetings. I started to think about how at these meetings I was going into them anxious/nervous. Why? It was just an AA meeting. Why would these people be any different? Maybe I was anxious/nervous because of myself. It made me rethink my views of meetings just based on location and stereotypes. Perhaps I needed that dose of humility on that red eye flight. But, the biggest take away was this: I had just spent one week in California amongst the “rich and famous” and the “rock and roll royalty” and my biggest take away was that they were JUST LIKE ME. You never know where your inspiration will lead you. Mine lead me to some amazing meetings. 

Also, in one week on a work/pleasure trip on the other side of the Country, I still managed to get in 4 meetings. So, I don’t want to hear any excuses on “I couldn’t find a meeting”. They’re out there. And if you ever find yourself in West Hollywood and want to check out the Rock and Roll AA meeting, let me know and I will let you in on it. 

P.S. Yes, celebrities are in recovery, too. And they go to meetings, as well. And if you closed your eyes while listening to them, you would think they are someone from your own Homegroup. And no, I will not tell you who I saw. You’ll have to go see for yourself.