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AA helps Plum man stay sober 19 years

| Sunday, June 10, 2001

March 3, 1982, is a day one Plum resident will never forget.

It's the day Bob got sober.

That's because Bob spent a good part of his life drunk after he discovered beer when he was 14 years old.

He drank at lunch, after work, at home and again when he went out at night. Even during military duty.

Bob, 57, of Plum, has been sober for 19 years - since March 3, 1982. He looks forward to March 3, 2002, his 20th anniversary of sobriety.

About Alcoholics Anonymous
  • There are more than 51,700 AA groups in the United States, with more than 1.1 million members.
  • The average age of an AA member is 45 years old.
  • The average sobriety of members is more than seven years.
  • Members attend an average of two meetings per week.
  • Sixty-six percent of members are men; 34 percent are women.
  • Of a random survey of 7,000 AA members, 88 percent are white, 5 percent black and 4 percent Hispanic.
  • Thirty-nine percent of members are married, 27 percent single and 25 percent divorced.
    Source: Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Alcoholics Anonymous members will only speak to the media on issues of alcohol abuse under the condition of anonymity, which the organization strictly believes is a core aspect of becoming sober.

    All-too-familiar story

    Bob's story is much the same as other alcoholics.

    Coming from a small town outside Wilkes-Barre, Bob and his friends were easily able to get alcohol.

    When Bob graduated from high school, he went into the military. He spent one year on the battlefields of Vietnam. He returned home and went to Penn State where he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.

    Bob's drink of choice• Beer, for most of his life; sometimes, it was whatever he could get.

    He never thought he had a problem, although he had a drunken-driving conviction in California in the 1980s.

    'Some people are able to come to the conclusion that they need help on their own,'' Bob said. 'In my case, it was intervention at work that got me into rehab.'

    Bob said his mental and physical condition at work began to deteriorate, although he was achieving the top level of responsibility within the company.

    'I should have missed work,' Bob said. 'I drank all the time I was awake.'

    But he didn't. In fact, Bob said he held down his job as a field services representative for 15 years as a drunk and another 12 years finally sober.

    Bob has been married for 35 years. He has two daughters and a granddaughter. He hasn't had a drink since that day in 1982.

    'My wife knew I drank. We were married when we were 22 or 23 years old,' Bob said. 'But at one point, she did say she was going to leave me.'

    Bob said he didn't know how many drinks he used to have each day.

    'I have no clue,' Bob said. 'It was a lot. I have a stack of checks that I used to write out to pay for my alcohol.'

    After undergoing inpatient treatment at Gateway Rehabilitation for 28 days, Bob began going to AA meetings every week and hasn't stopped.

    Acts as sponsor

    Bob has been a sponsor for several people in the group.

    'Nothing has tempted me to drink since becoming sober,' Bob said. 'You can't do it on your own. These people know you and know how to relate to you.'

    Bob's seen up-close the damage that's done from drinking. A friend of his let an alcoholic stay in his home. But the man didn't stop drinking. In fact, Bob said, he drank himself to death.

    'You can't force someone to get help,' Bob said. 'The person has to be willing to accept help.'

    But like prevention specialists, Bob recognizes that it sometimes takes a crisis to get sober - losing a job or a spouse leaving.

    Today, Bob enjoys gardening and spending time with his granddaughter. He still works for the same company part time.

    'The easy part of getting sober is stopping the drinking,' Bob said. 'The hard part is learning to live life again.'

    Leslie Suhr can be reached at lsuhr@tribweb.com .

    AA meetings in the Valley
    Sundays
  • First Baptist Church, 2230 Center Ave., Ford City, 8:30 p.m.
  • ARC Manor, 200 Oak Ave., Kittanning, 2 p.m.
  • New Kensington Big Book, St. Andrew Episcopal Church, 1090 Edgewood Road, New Kensington, 8:30 p.m.
  • Butler Sunday Night, VA Hospital No. 21, 325 New Castle Road, 8 p.m.

    Mondays
  • Kittanning Beginner's Big Book, Grace Presbyterian Church, North Jefferson Street at Arch, Kittanning, 1 p.m.
  • Tarentum Monday Nighters, St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Freeport Road at Morgan Street, 8 p.m.
  • Timshel, Hope Haven, 301 Greensburg Road, New Kensington, 8:30 p.m.
  • Greensburg Big Book, Trinity United Church of Christ, 139 Main St., Greensburg, 8 p.m.

    Tuesdays
  • St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Freeport Road at Morgan Street, Brackenridge, 10:30 a.m.
  • Apollo Big Book, St. James Catholic Church, 109 Owens Ave., Apollo, 8 p.m.
  • Tuesday Grapevine, Grace Presbyterian Church, North Jefferson Street at Arch, Kittanning, 11 a.m.
  • Grace United Methodist Church, 1333 Freeport Road, Harrison, 8 p.m.
  • New Kensington New Life, St. Joseph School Hall, 1125 Leishman Ave. at Locust Street, 8:30 p.m.

    Wednesdays
  • Ray of Hope Group, St. Paul Episcopal Church, 112 North Water St., Kittanning, 8:30 p.m.
  • Concerned, Grace Lutheran Church, 225 W. New Castle St., Butler, noon
  • Trinity United Methodist Church, 847 10th Ave., Tarentum, 8 p.m.

    Thursdays
  • Kittanning Group, Grace Presbyterian Church, North Jefferson Street at Arch, Kittanning, 8 p.m.
  • AM Tarentum, St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Freeport Road at Morgan Street, Brackenridge, 10:30 a.m.
  • Tarentum Women's Group, First United Presbyterian Church, 913 Lock St., Tarentum, 7:30 p.m.
  • Vandergrift Step, First Reformed Church of Christ, 248 Franklin St., Vandergrift, 7:30 p.m.
  • Choice of Hope, Hope Haven, 301 Greensburg Road, New Kensington, 8:30 p.m.
  • New Ken 12 and 12, United Presbyterian Church, Fifth Avenue at Sixth Street, New Kensington, 8:30 p.m.

    Fridays
  • First Presbyterian Church, Washington Street at Columbia, Vandergrift, 8 p.m.
  • Big Book Study, St. Francis Church, 5th Avenue, Ford City, 8 p.m.
  • AM Tarentum, St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Freeport Road at Morgan Street, Brackenridge, 10:30 a.m.
  • Allegheny Valley Hospital, 3rd Floor, 1301 Carlisle St., Harrison, 7:30 p.m.

    Saturdays
  • Tarentum Saturday morning, First Presbyterian Church of Tarentum, 925 Lock Street, Tarentum, 10:30 a.m.

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