We were fortunate to have access to several people who were around in the very early days of Saturday Nite Live. Mike P., John P. and John S. met together each week for AA meetings and through those meetings the idea for a Saturday night meeting sprang forth. John P. and Mike P. have provided us with their recollections of those early days.
Unfortunately I do not have a very good memory, but here’s what I remember about being regularly involved with SNL.
Some time before May of 1981, John S. and I would meet and have dinner with John P. and then attend the Thursday night Step Study meeting in Santa Cruz. The Step Study was an open ended meeting where everyone would get a chance to speak. It was a very powerful meeting on a regular basis. One night when we were having dinner John P. suggested starting a Saturday night meeting. At that time the three of us were attending meetings in Los Gatos and Campbell most nights of the week, but none of us had a regular Saturday night meeting. I think there was one out in Santa Teresa that we attended some times but no regular meeting. So John P. raised the idea that it would be good to start a Saturday night meeting. It would provide a good meeting on Saturday night and could provide a night where he and his wife could have something they did together. He envisioned an open AA meeting and that Al-Anon participation would be encouraged. Somewhere in the discussion of the meeting format we decided that one Saturday night a month (I think this was the frequency) an Al-Anon member would chair the meeting.
I don’t know who found Prince of Peace Church. I thought it was John P, but he says he didn’t. Anyway we secured the Prince of Peace Church – John P. did that. We held our meetings in the preschool class room. I remember we had these little chairs that all the “grown ups” sat in.
We encouraged as many people as we could in the other meetings that we attended to come and support the new meeting. I don’t really remember the attendance of those meetings other than the meeting continued to grow each week. I also remember the meetings being very intense; a place where people really revealed themselves in a very honest way. I think I was the first meeting secretary. I remember as we got into the summer we held at least one meeting (maybe more) outside on the grass – it was very cool! I think we were still at Prince of Peace when the group did the monthly area speakers meeting (I can’t remember the name of the meeting – it was once a month and different groups were responsible for putting the meeting on each month). I’m not sure but I think I may have been the one to register the group with central office since I was the first secretary. I also remember that we requested who ever chaired the meeting that they tie the topic to something that could be read right out of the “Big Book”. As far as I can remember each chairperson actually read a part of the book that was related to their topic. All different kinds of topics were raised. The time at Prince of Peace from a meeting structure point of view was typical of other meetings throughout the valley. It was one night a week in a rented church space, with regular collections to pay the rent/coffee, and the balance contributed per the proscribed contribution percentages at that time.
So we were at Prince of Peace through the summer of 1981. Near the end of the summer we were told by the church that we would have to leave – we were not cleaning up after ourselves adequately – smoking, cigarette butts and stuff. Around the time that we knew we were getting the boot – John P. again raised another idea, the idea of starting a “group” in the form that the group is in now. He suggested we get a place where we would have the building 24/7 and could have as many meetings at whatever time – and other events – whenever we wanted (subject to lease agreements). John said that he had really seen a good example of this at the Preston Group – in Texas. It was not meant to be an Alano Club, and would close pretty much between meetings and events. Around this same time there was a core group of people who attended the Saturday night meeting pretty regularly. Somehow the message got out for “people” to start searching for a facility that we could start the new group. I vaguely remember there being a few different possible locations found and a few of us kind of touring and assessing the locations. I don’t remember the various locations or who looked at each. I think Eric or Bruce H found Room 47 at the Campbell Community Center.
I remember checking the room out and it was an old science room with work tables and stuff in the middle of the room. There were gas supplies and water in the room. After some time – and I can’t remember where these discussions were held – we decided that the Campbell location was the best. The price was right, and it was a good location. I think John P, John S, and John C, donated the first months rent and one of them executed the agreement with the facility. Also around this same time a group of us (I think you have the list of all the attendees) started meeting in John C’s garage.
We met each evening for about a week. The meetings were planning meetings to get the group going. We had detailed discussions of what meeting should be held – I think the start was just evening meetings. Although Michael O was a part of this planning group and needed to attend noon meetings to fit with his schedule. I think Michael started the first noon meeting. I don’t remember if it started the first week or not. Anyway the discussions included all sorts of topics – after we settled on what meetings to start with – I remember (may be wrong here) Monday night New comer meeting, Tuesday open podium, Wednesday and Thursday Big Book and Step study – don’t remember which on which night, Friday speaker, regular Saturday night meeting, and I think an earlier Sunday evening topic discussion. We reviewed all the readings for each meeting – And while there were standard readings at each meeting, there were also special readings for each of the meetings. We had a chalk board that we tracked a lot of the meeting decisions information on. Somewhere in there we discussed the idea of closed meetings and I think at that time the group conscience was to have only open meetings – sometime later this changed and a men’s only and women only meeting were started.
What stands out for me in this period was this group of 11 or so people, all relatively new in AA (I think John C had about 5 years at the time and the rest of us were 3 or less) had this truly magical experience together – everyone worked together to develop a group who’s “primary purpose was to carry it’s message to the alcoholic who still suffers”. Time and time again as we discussed different elements of the group – from meeting formats, times, duration, facilities, group positions etc., the individual group members might have approached the topic from one point of view but over the discussion period a group conscience would surface – and we would go with it. It was amazing. The people that I got to know during that time – from early Prince of Peace, through the starting of the group at Room 47, including that time in the garage have touched my life and heart in a way that I will never forget – I have a tremendous sense of gratitude for being able to count myself a part of that group of people.
So we started the group, I think John P was the first Chairman, John S was the first treasurer, and I was the first group secretary. John S stayed treasurer a long time. I can’t remember who were in the other service positions initially, but pretty quickly we had a full complement of service positions filled and active. Somewhere in those early days we put together our first group conscience. John S was a huge help with this. I think John S wrote most or all of the first group conscience with input and direction from the group. I can’t remember what guideline we used for the development of the group conscience – I think we had a “suggested topics” to be considered in the development of a group conscience from New York – anyway we met a bunch of times and hammered out an extensive formal group conscience. Again the incredible experience of watching a group conscience emerge over and over again during these discussions where the traditions of AA would reveal themselves in a sometimes very deep way would happen – too cool! In those early days the group dealt with a ton of issues that none of us had dealt with before.
Some examples are:
All kinds of other things came into being over time, some examples are:
I stayed regularly involved with the group from 1981 to about 1985. During that time the group continued to grow significantly. It was a group that had a lot of young people but was not specifically a young peoples group. The group had a really solid AA recovery message and a lot of energy. There was a tremendous sense of fellowship in the group. Many of the meetings continued to get to that really deep level of sharing and honesty that first surfaced at Prince of Peace. We had some troubles in general with some of the other AA members in the valley during this time. Some were worried about what SNL was doing to carry the message – was it just a meat market – were the members of SNL managing the money correctly. I believe John C was pressured more than once by “older” members in the valley who sort of saw him as “ring” leader of the SNL group – which John C was not. He fully participated but did not dominate the group or it’s direction. There was a period where we had the group money stolen – I think we had a couple of safes stolen, and the impact of the lost revenues to Central Office due to SNL’s reduced contributions was noted. I believe either John C. or John P. were talked to by at least one “old timer” about needing to be more responsible about protecting group contributions.
In 1985 I moved out of the area to Auburn California. I have since attended SNL meetings at each of its different locations subsequent to Room 47, but have not been an active group member since about 1985.
I remember at one of the “Days of Sobriety”, one of the raffle items was an original version of the Big Book. As I recall a newcomer won it – I can’t remember who – and there was a bunch of talk about whether the new comer would appreciate what they had won and if the book was somehow being wasted on the new comer. I think the person who won it stayed sober and may still be sober today. I don’t know what may have happened to the book.
There are a bunch of other personal stories I remember, but I don’t think they reflect directly on the group, rather more on my experience with different members of the group which added to my recovery and life experience at that time that I will always be grateful for.
On page 164 of the Big Book, it says, “See to it that your relationship with Him is right and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us.”
My sobriety began almost four years before Saturday Nite Live started. As many of us alcoholics learn, there are times, especially early in our sobriety, where we stand at the turning point. Do we stay or do we leave AA. My own personal experience shows that great events will come to pass whether your relationship with Him is right or not. If God wants it – it will be done!
Here are a few events that show it.
I was in my first month or two of sobriety. My soon-to-be-ex-wife #1 was seeing another member of AA. As with many alcoholics, I was beginning to learn how much I had destroyed my life and the life of others around me. Suffering from guilt, fear and rage, I attended a meeting where my soon-to-be-ex-wife’s boyfriend had the audacity to come up to me, extend his hand, and say “welcome”. I said nothing. I stared at him, turned and walked away. I went outside. My sponsor must have seen my soon-to-be-ex-wife’s boyfriend talking to me because he followed me outside. He asked what I was doing. I said. “I was going to get my gun and shoot that idiot.” My sponsor told me we don’t do those things anymore and that he would look into it. He asked me to give him a couple days. I don’t know why, but I agreed to give him the time. A couple days later, I got a call from that soon-to-be-ex-wife. She was irate. Her boyfriend’s sponsor gave him an ultimatum; either stop seeing the married woman or get another sponsor. The boyfriend chose the sponsor. She got dumped for a sponsor. This AA is weird. However, I later learned that my sponsor went to my soon-to-be-ex-wife’s boyfriend’s sponsor explaining I was new, that we were still legally married and that this was a bad message for me, a newcomer, to see.
That was in 1977. I know moral standards have changed. However, I’m very grateful to the folks that lived before me. They understood the importance of helping the newcomer. How this story ends is quite unimportant, as neither my ex-wife nor her boyfriend achieved any long-term, continuous sobriety…but I did.
Gail A. was a powerful member of AA. She was working as a nurse at an alcohol hospital called Monte Villa, in Morgan Hill, California. One evening after an AA meeting, she asked if I would come down to Monte Villa and visit a very angry, twenty year old at the facility. In those days, alcoholics under the age of twenty-five were a rarity. I was in awe that Gail would ask me. I was only six months sober. So, I went down and met with this guy whose name is Mike P. Mike later became one of the SNL founders and has been sober, at this writing, for twenty-eight years.
I’m living in Dallas, Texas attending meetings at the Preston Group. The Preston Group conducts about 16 – 18 meetings a week at the same location. They have their own phone number for 12-step calls. The Preston Group is not an Alano Club. The Preston Group is a Group of Alcoholics Anonymous. They dispense 24-hour desire chips at their Monday night speaker meeting. To get a desire chip meant you were barely hanging on. I learned all about how an AA Group functions. One service the Preston Group provided was in the event that a member had not been to a meeting for 72 hours – a couple members would go to that missing AA person’s residence. They did it for me during a time when being sober was beginning to make less sense. Members of the Preston Group rescued me. They took me to meetings until sobriety made sense again.
I meet a girl in Dallas. We eventually moved in together. The relationship is rocky. But aren’t all relationships? After a period of time, I can no longer take the push-pull insanity. So, I do what I have done so well up to that point of my life…I make a geographic back to California. Within a few weeks, she follows me to California. On New Year’s Eve in 1980, we get married in Lake Tahoe. I remember telling God, “Make sure you keep me sober God and I’ll handle the relationship.” That wife was the major force behind the start of the Saturday night meeting.
In February 1981, Mike P., John S. and I would have dinner every Thursday at my place in Ben Lomond. We discussed a plan of attracting others to start a Saturday night meeting. Within three months of the start of the Saturday night meeting, my then wife left and returned to Dallas. Within two weeks of her leaving, we had eleven sober AA members planning an array of meetings for a group of Alcoholics Anonymous soon-to-be-called Saturday Nite Live. God had taken my experience from being a member of the Preston Group in Dallas and immediately used it.
On page 89 of the Big Book, it says, “Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends — is an experience you must not miss.”
Whether skating, bowling, house parties, beach parties, etc., it was always the people and not the event. I saw people recover. I watched as they learned to give away what they were so freely given. I saw loneliness disappear and replaced with a host of friends. A fellowship was growing right in front of my eyes. It was absolute magic.
One night, after the Saturday night meeting at Prince of Peace, a house party was taking place at one of the AA member’s homes. One of the guys I was sponsoring was at the meeting earlier that night. He seemed OK. He said he was going to attend the house party. He didn’t show up to the party. So, I grabbed Mike P. and we went over to his place. We knocked at the door. There was no answer so we knocked louder. I remember yelling, “Hey Robert, you better open the door, we know you’re in there.” Robert R, who got sober at the sixth meeting at Prince of Peace, was ready to get drunk. Mike and I chucked his booze. Robert came to the party. As of this writing, Robert’s been sober almost twenty-five years. Mike and I were able to do for Robert what the members of the Preston Group had done for me. Wow, it really works!
At first, Room 47 offered old beat-to-death $1 chairs. They were hideous. These chairs not only served as seating, but they were hurled about the room by many of the newer and angrier members.
As SNL evolved and became able to afford it, the Group got new burgundy chairs, carpet on the walls (donated by a trying-to-get-sober Don D. who was continually 12-stepped by Randy L, one of the original eleven SNL members), and an alcoholic clock on the wall, which never changed time. SNL was lively, exciting and, at times, irreverent. It was Saturday Nite Live.
When SNL was slowly maturing, it lacked participation from the old-timers. Many members of SNL went throughout the Santa Clara Valley inviting old-timers to the Group. At first, some of these old-timers were reluctant to come, but once they saw many became regulars. Names such as Dr. Fred, Al E, Jack H, “Peppermint” Pat M, Gail A, Mike E, Pat E, Ollie O, Pat O, Dan C, Bud T, Don C and others saw that SNL offered a special brand of AA. For one thing, most newcomers in the Valley were entering AA though SNL. Whether it was a direct referral from the Central Office or the Diverter, or a recommendation by a Judge within the judicial system, SNL was the place people were attending. So, if you wanted to work with newcomers, and many of the old-timers did, then SNL was the place to find a baby to sponsor.
I was the first secretary of the Monday Night Newcomers. It was great but my term was cut short. Why…because many folks were coming to SNL. They wanted to get involved. All founders gave up their secretary positions early so others could get involved. This is one of my earliest SNL resentments…damn it…I enjoyed that meeting.
I met my “final” wife at SNL. Her name is Mary. She was full of life and newly sober. What a perfect combination. We would bring her daughters to meeting over the years. They met other children. Alcoholic parents in AA were raising many of these children. When Mary’s daughters, Carli and Lindsey, were aged about seven and nine, they would play AA meetings with the neighborhood kids. They would all bring their Cabbage Patch dolls to the meeting and place them in another room. This signified the babysitting room. Prior to the start of their AA meetings, the small girls would complain about not getting the child support money that month. When the meeting began it was serious. All those called upon had to identify themselves as an alcoholic. Period! Denial was not accepted. After Mary and I received enough calls from the neighborhood kids parents, we explained to Carli and Lindsey that other games may be more appropriate with their friends. However, it was very funny.
I left SNL in early 1988 and returned on March 22, 2005. It has been one of the best years of my sobriety. I missed the fellowship of the Spirit. I missed SNL.
All those reading this have a duty to carry on the legacy and tradition of SNL. There is still much work needing to be done. As I write this, I realize I am closing in on the end of my journey on earth. The message that God has given me is to let anyone, who is interested know, “God can and will if He is sought.” It’s in the seeking of God where we learn.
And always remember, as the Big Book states, “See to it that your relationship with Him is right and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us.”
May God continue to bless you and keep you sober one-day-at-a-time.
NOTE: John P. Passed on to the big meeting in the sky shortly after recording this note.
Looking back over the first twenty-five years, Saturday Nite Live did many more things right than it did wrong. When I think of the things done right, many times I think of these as gifts from a Power Greater than Ourselves. Gifts such as the energy and enthusiasm adopted by its early founders and members; it was contagious and became a fundamental part of sobriety at SNL. Another gift is The Informed Group Conscience Document (IGCD), a vision of John S. and highly-endorsed and adopted by the Group. This IGCD has helped keep SNL alive and on course, which has allowed it to celebrate sobriety for these past 25 years.
Much has changed during the past twenty-five years. As an example in 1981, there were no cell phones. It would cost 10 cents at a phone booth to call your sponsor. There were very few professional alcohol recovery centers or Sober Living Environments (SLEs). Going out on 12-Step calls and de-toxing an alcoholic were a way of life for members of AA that wanted to stay sober.
In 1981, the spirit that is SNL was quickly being cultivated. SNL was innovative, yet mainstream. SNL was irreverent, yet respectful. SNL was unique, yet inclusive. Many sober members, who found sobriety through the rooms of AA, will most likely feel that AA was their solution. And if you entered through the doors of SNL, then SNL was your solution. For those of you that went through a recovery center and six months of a sober living environment home, the line for you may not be as clear. With AA being over 70 years old and SNL being 25 years old, it is my hope that these facts will add some clarity for you.
SNL did many things wrong but always more things right. There will never be another Room 47, but we have new rooms and new excitement. There will never be another “First” Day of Sobriety, but there will be another “Talent Show”.
SNL is growing up. The history book is part of the Group’s maturity. SNL has been alive long enough to gather all the facts and create a historical book. Thank God we still have members active in the Group from 25 years ago.
As we enter the 26th year, the SNL website is gaining a personality and a following. As time goes on, it will be integrated better into our AA membership. It should become a very important part of the Group’s future. From listing meetings, to downloading speakers, to having a private intranet for access by “SNL member’s only”, the possibilities are limitless and the future is bright.
The future of SNL lies in the hands and hearts of the younger people. They must be encouraged to come into the Group and encouraged to participate. They must be guided and directed by the one’s that have walked before them. They must be allowed to make mistakes, but the mistakes need not be fatal. They are the contagious energy for the next 25 years. All we must do is invite them to participate, hand them the keys and be present, as they can make the next 25 years even better. Let the internet generation participate in the internet strategy. Twenty five years ago there were guides here for those that started this group and there are guides here now for those that will continue with this legacy.
I can see how a weekly young person’s meeting might make good sense and how many of the future ideas can come through our younger members. As it was 25 years ago, SNL needs the younger members now, as much as it needed the older members back then. The time has never been so ideal to “Pass it On”.
Trusting in God is the key. And God makes His presence known in any informed group conscience, especially at SNL. God will relieve all fears and lead the Group into everlasting existence. Group finances will never be a problem as long as God is involved. All that is needed is total trust in an informed group conscience. The IGCD is in place, the Group is strong and SNL members are willing to do whatever it will take to preserve and grow the Group over the next twenty five years.
I will not be with you to witness the next twenty-five years but I know that God will. God is the power and the member’s of SNL are the doers. May Saturday Nite Live always stay in God’s hands.
SNL has created an Informed Group Conscience Document (“IGCD”). First written in 1983, it was designed specifically for members to learn how SNL works. The IGCD is used each year during SNL’s Annual Group Conscience Meeting.
SNL conducts monthly business meetings the second Saturday of each month. All members are welcome to attend. See the announcements page for more information. Following are the minutes of those meetings.