There were no treatment facilities in the Orlando area during the 1960’s. AA’s found little support from the medical community. Why should they? Doctors did not have much success with alcoholics; they created a scene in their waiting rooms and seldom paid their bills. In those days, insurance did not cover alcoholism. When doctors did treat the alcoholic, it had to be called something else to receive insurance coverage. Doctors of Osteopathy were exceptions. In fact, it was through their encouragement that a group was formed in February 1964.
Next to the Orlando General Hospital on Lake Underhill Drive was the Atonement Lutheran Church, a ready-made location insofar as the doctors were concerned. Founders of the group were Bob and Dottie B., Ray and Harriet T., and Graham H. The Lake Underhill Group declared their meetings “open discussion.” As such, Al-Anons felt the group belonged to them as much as to the alcoholics. A few months later, the group found it necessary to move their meetings to Christ the King Episcopal Church on Willow Drive in Azalea Park, a number of miles from Lake Underhill. However, the group name did not change.
This may or may not be an indication of “typical” alcoholic thinking: Whereas the Lake Underhill Group moved from Lake Underhill Road to Azalea Park and did not change their name, the Azalea Park Group (a later-organized group with Wednesday night meetings) moved from Azalea Park to a church on Lake Underhill and also retained their name.
As soon as the Lake Underhill Group moved to their new location, they elected to hold “closed” meetings. The Al-Anons also met at the church, but separately. The starting time of Friday was 8:30 p.m. vice the “normal” 8 p.m. start time. This later time was chosen to allow its members to go to the bank and do a little shopping. At that time, not too many stores were open on Saturday, and practically none on Sunday. Once at a meeting, time was not a factor; and people relaxed. Meetings usually lasted much more than an hour. The members would then go to some restaurant for more coffee and a dessert. Friday was their night out.
Robbie R. was a faithful member of the Lake Underhill Group. Robbie came to the program in 1963 with the encouragement of his brother, who was in the fellowship, and his Al-Anon wife Edith. For awhile it was only they who wanted him sober. In a short time, though, Robbie took to the program and remained active until his death. Robbie was greatly involved in the organization of our Intergroup. For years, he manned the “hotline.” Robbie was seriously crippled with arthritis, at times needing two canes to walk. He could not hold a standard pencil. At the Intergroup Office was a special pencil reserved for Robbie. It had a triangle sleeve slipped over the pencil to keep it from rolling in his fingers.
One of the early New Year’s Eve parties (1971-72) was held at the Good Shepherd Church on Oleander Drive in Azalea Park. So carried away was Robbie with the festivities and music that he risked jitterbugging. Everyone noticed. Robbie, while dancing, told everyone, “Tomorrow I’m going to hurt, but today is for me.” He knew how to live — one day at a time.
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