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Gateway Newsletter Summer 2022

To download the Gateway in PDF format, click here.

Meet the 2022 Conference Voice: Perry Hunt, Jr.

On the first weekend in August each year, Fellowship Hall hosts our annual conference – put together by a dedicated group of volunteers called the Fellowship Hall Council. Each year, the Council elects the “Voice” who leads the effort to identify and book our conference speakers, as well as work with Council volunteers who fill a variety of positions – from hosting our guest speakers to making sure the coffee keeps flowing during conference. This year, Perry Hunt, Jr., is serving as the 2022 Voice – a very special conference year as Fellowship Hall is celebrating our 50th Birthday.

We hope you’ll enjoy our interview with Perry – and that we’ll see you at Conference this year, August 5-7, at the Carolina Theatre in downtown Greensboro!

Perry, what are you looking forward to at this year’s Conference?
This year is special because it’s Fellowship Hall’s 50th anniversary! I am excited to celebrate this milestone with the HercuLeons in concert as an added special event this year. I’m also looking forward to the camaraderie of everyone being together, especially after the past few years of uncertainty. People I met during early recovery may have moved away, but they always come back in town for Conference, so I’m excited to see people I haven’t seen in a while. That includes alumni from Fellowship Hall who I helped with getting into Oxford Houses or listening to their 5th steps – I love to see that they’re still in recovery. The whole atmosphere is great to be a part of – seeing that light come on in people’s eyes as they realize recovery is for them and recovery can be fun!

What are your responsibilities as the Voice of the Conference?
I work with the speaker committee and help make recommendations for potential conference speakers that we think would be a good choice. Then, we send them over to Board members for approval. I am responsible for making first contact with our speakers and serving as a liaison between the Director of Development and the speakers themselves to make the process smoother. Every speaker has a Host assisting them; I make sure our Hosts are prepared and to ensure that Conference is going along as scheduled.

What has recovery given you and the lives of those around you?
August 25th will mark my fifth anniversary of sobriety. I went to Hope Valley here in NC for treatment in the early 2000s and returned in 2017. My second round was much more successful; I now serve on their Board of Directors.

I really got a lot out of recovery when I decided to “get in the middle of recovery” – doing everything I was told to do; really putting in effort and working the program. After a year of sobriety, Wayne Smith (volunteer coordinator for Fellowship Hall) thought I’d be a good sounding board for post-9/11 veterans due to my military background. I began listening to their 5th steps as they complete treatment.

My recovery has also been great for my family. Without my sobriety, I wouldn’t enjoy the great working relationship I now have with my father. Relationships with my wife and son have also greatly improved. Recovery opened a lot of doors for me; I now spend a lot of time volunteering at various organizations in the community – and serve as a sponsor for people in recovery.

What’s your best advice for someone struggling with addiction?
My advice would be to give recovery a try and trust the process. When I was struggling, I didn’t want to trust anybody or anything. That was just a hard thing for me to do. I finally decided to trust what people were telling me, and after that I dove in head-first.

Tell us a little about your background.
I am a Native American from the Lumbee tribe, born and raised in Greensboro. I volunteer for the Guilford Native American Association and help plan pow-wow events in Greensboro to celebrate Native American culture. I served in the military until 2014 after a 15 year career – four in the Navy and 10 in the Marine Corps. I work alongside my father at Hunt Tree Service, our family-owned business, which I’ll be leading after his retirement. I am a bit of a homebody! When I have free time, I enjoy working in my yard as there’s always something to be done on our two acres. As crazy as it sounds, I actually like mowing the lawn –I consider it my “guy time”!

Message from Mike Yow

Greetings from the front office!

Here at The Hall, we are open but continue to be affected by COVID. We are admitting people who need a safe place to find respite from the disease that is disrupting their lives and the lives of their families. Our amazing, dedicated staff continue to “suit up and show up,” and for that I am most grateful.

It continues to be a strange and stressful time for all of us. COVID, the economy, the war in Ukraine, political strife, isolation, mental health stressors, the list goes on. People are struggling to find their footing in recovery; we are grateful that we can do our part, offering hope to those who need it. It isn’t all gloomy!

Fellowship Hall is a well-respected organization, well represented among our peers. We are honored to be held in high esteem with Addiction Professionals of NC (APNC) and the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP). There are many forces at work in NC and the US around treatment issues and we continue to be a leader in the field. With our staff’s dedication, and the tremendous support of volunteers and alumni, we are standing strong as we continue to fulfill our mission of helping the suffering find hope and healing from addiction.

Are you following us on Facebook and Instagram? Our staff does an amazing job posting recovery blogs, inspirational messages, and announcements of events, like our Walk & Run for Recovery that we held in mid-May. 150 enthusiastic participants turned out for the 5K run and 1.5 mile fun walk. Three speakers shared their personal recovery stories. It was a fun day!

I’d also like to invite you to Conference, August 5-7, as this will be a very special year! The fun begins with the 21st annual golf tourney at Bryan Park (register your team now!!) on Friday, followed by the opening of Conference that evening. We’ll be in a new venue — The Carolina Theatre in downtown Greensboro!! — and we’ve got a GREAT line up of speakers this year as FH celebrates 50 Years of Saving Lives! To commemorate this special milestone, the HercuLeons will be performing a concert on Saturday night. Your conference registration covers it all! You don’t want to miss Conference this year!!

I can’t wait to see you soon,

In loving service,
Mike Yow, President & CEO

Staying Connected: why does it matter?

By Eleonore Buet

I don’t know about you, but I became completely disconnected from AA during the pandemic. Looking around, I see so many of us still disconnected from our recovery support system since COVID made it impossible to meet in person. As I try to get back to my pre-pandemic involvement, I find there are many like me who are struggling to reengage.

As we are so often told in early recovery, we cannot do this alone. While there are many benefits to my AA network, the biggest is having someone to tell that worrisome thought to because sometimes worry will take over and torture me. I know that once I talk about it, the power it holds over me goes away. Without my support system in place, I start accumulating more and more worries, until eventually I am totally alone and miserable. These days, I am extremely protective of my serenity; I know I must start reaching out and building my relationships back up.

I also must do for others what was done for me. If I am isolating and not reaching out to help the next person, I end up thinking about myself all the time (and that is never good)! Being of service to others not only helps me, but gives me joy and is essential to my serentiy today.

If you are struggling to connect, or looking for ways to become more connected, there are some great apps in addition to conventions and connecting with a sponsor.
The most important take way here is, please don’t do this alone. Reach out and let the people around you help.
Download a Sobriety App: Turn that social media craving into a boost for your recovery – try these…
Sober Grid: https://www.sobergrid.com/
Loosid: https://loosidapp.com/
12 Step Tookit: https://www.12steptoolkit.com/

Attend a 12-Step Convention: There are lots of events that will let you network and have some much-needed fun in recovery. Check these out…
AA NC State Convention: https://www.aancconvention.com/
NA Upcoming Events: https://na.org/
Fellowship by the Sea: https://fellowshipbythesea.com/
Fellowship Hall’s Annual Conference: https://www.fellowshiphall.com/conference/

If you don’t have a sponsor, get one! As addicts and alcoholics, being alone is no good for us. Above all else, don’t wait on this one, especially if you are in early recovery.

The primary role of a sponsor is to walk you through the 12 steps. This is the core of the program, and in doing so, you learn how to function in the world without using alcohol or drugs. This is the work that leads you to joy and freedom. I know when I was new, I could not understand why everyone was laughing and talking about “joy and gratitude”. Where was their misery? I know today that it is through these steps I am free. A sponsor is also there to help you walk through those day-to-day struggles, and will hold you accountable for your actions, which is something we never had for ourselves in active addiction.


the oldtimers column

My name is Ogi O.

I have broached the subject of anonymity several times during the couple of decades I’ve been blessed to do this column. And in the 35 plus years that I’ve been a columnist (among other things) for various newspapers and periodicals scattered around central North Carolina, I’ve written dozens of columns about alcoholism, alcoholics, drug addicts, recovery and relapse. But I have never brought AA into the discussion and have never broken my anonymity outside of this publication. My view, and I believe the view of AA as a whole, is that you can talk about recovery all day, provided you don’t bring AA into it; you can talk about your support group, but not AA; you can admit you got help for your disease, but you can’t say that it was AA. There are all kinds of ways to get your message across to the general public without breaking the 11th Tradition.

Yet, one of the beauties of doing the Oldtimers column is that I don’t have to tiptoe around the issue, I get to attack it head-on. Given that The Gateway only goes out to former guests of Fellowship Hall and their families, I consider this, in essence, a closed meeting. And no less an authority than Dr. Bob himself gave his blessing to using your last name within the rooms (page 264 of Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers), so I feel I’m on firm ground.

So, having said all that, I fear that I am getting ready to become the world’s biggest hypocrite — or at least the biggest one in AA. I am in the process of compiling some of the columns I’ve written over the years into a book. It’s not something that I intend to market to make money, merely a tome wherein I will have some of my favorites from a fairly large body of work in one place. And it occurs to me that some of my favorites were contained right here.

You see where I’m going with this, don’t you?How can I reconcile breaking my anonymity in what is clearly “the level of press,” especially after I have railed against the constant stream of celebrities bragging about going to rehab after they’ve been out a week; my fellows who should know better continually blasting it out on Facebook (yes, social media is still media); or having counseled newcomers on the limits of what is and is not acceptable?

I’ve sought guidance from my sponsor, my wife and several trusted friends in the program, and have gotten about as many answers as I have questions. Some say “go for it,” that the stigma of alcoholism is not nearly as great as when the Traditions were put in place, that the burden of anonymity has evolved over the years. They say that it is in keeping with the 5th tradition, “to carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers.” They say that I have been sober long enough to make prudent decisions, that it is a personal choice.

But, I must ask, what is the determinant on the evolution of anonymity, does one tradition supersede another, and just how long is “sober long enough”?

Then others say that anonymity is sacrosanct, that the 12 Traditions are very clear on the matter, and that anonymity was meant to protect the fellowship more than the individual. And I can’t disagree with any of that.

I suspect I’m looking for a loophole, because I really would love to include several of my Gateway columns. Your best work comes from the heart, and these are definitely from the heart. In fact, years ago when the book Chicken Soup for the Recovering Soul was being compiled, the authors contacted Fellowship Hall asking for submissions. They sent five of my columns and, although none were chosen, it was still an honor that someone felt they were worthy.

Another time I interviewed the great Dodger shortstop and base-stealer Maury Wills. Not only was he the 1962 National League MVP, he was also, by the end of his career, a hopeless alky and addict. He had written two books on his career, one of which dealt extensively with his struggles with booze and dope. He was very open about the fact that AA saved his life. I wrote a column about him, titled, “My name is Maury W.” Yet, I still did not reveal my AA membership, although he did. His rationale was what I considered a valid one, that people needed to know that no one is immune from this disease, and that if he could help another person from falling victim, that outweighed his anonymity.

So, I am asking you, whom I consider my extended family, to tell me what you think. Email me at overmanogi@gmail.com. Our correspondence will be private and confidential. And that truly is sacrosanct.

the power of passion and discovering new interests

In recovery, eventually, the obsession with substances subsides. What fills up those spaces in your mind, aside from your recovery? This mental space, free from the obsession with drugs and alcohol, is the perfect place to fill with new hobbies and passions, which can help support your recovery in numerous ways.

Your passions are things that excite you, motivate you, and drive you to a purpose. Whatever it is that brings you joy and feeds your soul, seek those things out and do them often. Sobriety doesn’t mean that life cannot be fun or exciting – in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Whether you lost your passions along the way during active use, or you never had the chance to discover them, they are living within you always.

The first step to finding what you enjoy doing is to try new things. Attend a class; art, cooking, sculpting, writing, singing, dancing, you name it — even virtually they are available and just a simple internet search away. Youtube is also an incredible source of free information and instructional videos! Check out some different creators on the platform and note what does and does not spark your interest.

Reflect after each activity that you try. Get out of your head and into your body for a moment. What are you feeling when you try these activities? Do you feel positive, warm, excited feelings? Do you feel much of anything at all? This is important to note in two ways: 1. This can lead you towards more activities and hobbies that you truly enjoy. 2. This is a great practice to increase your own emotional intelligence and understanding.

Use your search for passion as an opportunity to connect with others. You might find that it is not the activity alone, but the shared human experience that you enjoy most. For many extroverted individuals, this is often the case! Reach out to your sponsor, those in your meetings, or close friends or family that support your recovery to go on this adventure of trying new things with you.

Don’t be afraid to fail. In your pursuit of passion, like with anything else, do not be afraid to fail. Even if you are afraid, remember that often the most beautiful things live beyond the realm of our deepest fears. You have made it this far, so why not continue to try to find things that make you feel more like you.

Remember, passions and hobbies are a great place to begin as you get to know yourself and your personality again in sobriety. This is a great inner-place to turn to instead of feelings such as obsession, isolation, boredom, anger, depression, anxiety, etc. They can become a good outlet of expression for these emotions as well. Your passions can constantly change and develop, so be patient and don’t give up! Like the steps, you can go through the motions of trying new things over and over again, and you will only get better with time and repetition.