With her permission (and a suggestion that she submit it as a Grapevine story), I’m very happy to provide the following verbatim copy of Romy S’s presentation at PRAASA on the value of Grapevine:
Good morning, my name is Romy, and I am an alcoholic. My sobriety date is April 24, 2010. I am gratefully serving as the DCMC of District 12 in South Orange County California, and I am humbled and honored to be here today. Thank you to our Area 09 Delegate, Ed, for your trust, and the PRAASA committee for this opportunity. Thank you to everyone that I spoke with in my research for today. Your help was instrumental and invaluable. My topic is “How important is Grapevine?” I will try to answer that in a general way in a moment, but I would like to begin by telling you that Grapevine has a very special place in my heart and in my sobriety. And so I believe, and you may too, that it was no mere coincidence that this topic was chosen for me.
One day in 2018, eight years sober, active in AA and in General Service, I found myself in Hawaii, escaping my life at the invitation of a dear sober friend, trying to come to terms with the sudden estrangement of my relationship with my adult daughter. She simply removed herself from my life and I was unprepared. I was devastated. I raged, wept, prayed, and talked with my sponsor, my husband and my homegroup. I was grateful for all of that, but the wound was just getting bigger. I couldn’t find a name for my suffering, I couldn’t find my footing, and it became obvious that I needed something more than the ocean to heal me. There I sat in the sunshine with a broken heart and my phone. It occurred to me suddenly that I was “grieving” and I needed to know how AA’s did that. I opened my Online Grapevine Subscription and went directly to the archives. In the search bar, I entered the word “grief”. As the list of stories stared back at me through my phone screen, I felt the beginning of hope. And as I read, story after story of how AAs found strength and navigated grief in sobriety, I could finally breathe again. I was connected. And I began my healing that day. So, if you are asking me personally, “How important is Grapevine?” I will tell you that it is profoundly and deeply important. I will tell you that it is crucial, as a lifeline, a resource, a twelfth step tool.
Grapevine is an integral part of the Alcoholics Anonymous past, our present, and our future as well. A bit of history, the AA Grapevine began in 1944 as a way to connect AAs across the country and to bring harmony between groups through knowledge and understanding. The Grapevine was around long before AA was in every town, before the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions was published, and even before our General Service Structure was established. In 1955, Grapevine issues included three essays that would comprise the original version of the history section in The AA Service Manual. Grapevine was the vehicle that brought us our beloved Traditions, our Preamble, and it is the birthplace of so many of our co-founder, Bill W.’s writings.
Let’s also talk about La Viña. La Viña is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and it is the keeper of the stories of Spanish-speaking AAs, original content that is today, much more than a translated version of the Grapevine. They are telling their own stories in their own language. These stories are lovingly crafted from members all over the world, and some even come to La Viña in hand-written form. From aalavina.org, “Originally the Conference voted for the production of La Viña as a five-year experiment, but in 2001, the General Service Conference recommended that La Viña continue to be published by the AA Grapevine and supported by the General Service Board as a service to the Fellowship.”
Both Grapevine and La Viña are an evergreen source of AA stories, in all their diversity and richness, available to all who seek. Yet at last year’s end, Grapevine subscriptions numbered only 68,572, and La Viña 6,425. With a total AA membership of over 2 million at last estimate, may I humbly suggest, this number is not enough.
We can find many alcoholics in the pages of the Grapevine who will tell us in their own words how important it is to them. Dear Grapevine August 2020, “Today I turned 30. I’m sitting here in prison and I have 75 days sober today. Thank you so much for Grapevine. I really love ‘If Walls Could Talk’. It’s my favorite section. It’s so inspiring. I sit in my cell and look at all the different places AA groups are held around the world. I dream of traveling to each meeting. Casey Y., Knoxville TN”. Dear Grapevine February 2021, “I’m a healthcare worker in a nursing home. Last year from March until July, the sadness and hopelessness we workers felt because of COVID-19 was intense. It helped me to read stories in Grapevine of how other alcoholics were dealing with all these changes. I so appreciate getting my Grapevines this past year more than ever. Thank you, Grapevine, for being one of my best sober tools. Rhonda K Manchester NH”. Dear Grapevine August 2018, “I have a disability that keeps me more-or-less housebound for months at a time. Being alone gives rise to my self-centeredness. This is where Grapevine holds me in the palm of its hand and gives me comfort. It has been a lifesaver for me. When my Grapevine arrives, it reminds me that I’m not alone. Geraldine K. Kamloops, British Columbia”.
This year at the Conference, there are many agenda items regarding our Big Book and other literature, to find ways to update language and remain relevant to those coming into the rooms of AA today. I believe these conversations have been timely and necessary. But in this talk, I would like to offer this reminder, we already have current and relevant material in the Grapevine and La Viña; where AAs tell the stories of today, in modern language, both in English and Spanish. They are the ultimate source for sharing what impacts our sobriety right now, and an up-to-date, accurate picture of the fellowship we belong to. The fact that they arrive monthly, or bi-monthly in the case of La Viña, is even more meaningful to those alcoholics otherwise isolated. It is a twelfth step call in a magazine, it is the fellowship we crave. The Grapevine and La Viña are the hand of AA, the tangible, touchable message of hope that AA is willing go to any lengths to find a way, to help anyone, anywhere.
Now, seeing the great importance of Grapevine and La Viña, another question rises up almost on its own. “How can we help?” I’d like to leave you with a little food for thought. What if we went back to our homegroups and made sure we had a subscription to build a lending library? What if we re-thought our 7th Tradition contribution disbursement to include the Grapevine? What if, at every event we hold, there are several Grapevine subscriptions given away? What if we challenged each of our committees to participate generously in the Carry the Message project? In these ways and many others, we can contribute to Grapevine’s mission to be self-supporting, and we can help pass along its life-saving message to alcoholics everywhere. In the words of Bill W. from “The Language of the Heart” Bill W.’s Grapevine writings, page 396, “Grapevine is our great means of intercommunication; a magic carpet on which each of you can ride to the more distant reaches and watch new brothers and sisters emerge from darkness into light. May God prosper the Grapevine always.”
To wrap it up, I’d love to share with you, my favorite commitment at the group level, my best 60 second AA Grapevine pitch! Hi! My name is Romy and I am your alcoholic Grapevine Rep for today! The Grapevine is the International Journal of Alcoholics Anonymous, written for alcoholics, by alcoholics. Grapevine is a lifeline linking one alcoholic to another. Visit aagrapevine.org and aalaViña.org and take a look at the print subscriptions, as well as online subscriptions that include access to the treasure of the Grapevine archives! Please subscribe if you haven’t already, and add a subscription for a friend, a sponsee, a newcomer! Also, please don’t leave the site until you add a Carry the Message gift certificate to your cart! It will provide a year-long subscription for an alcoholic in need. I encourage you to get into action and buy with abandon! You just Gotta Getta Grapevine! It has been my honor and privilege to be of service.
In Love and Service,