History of Suffolk AA
SIA Building

A copy of a 1947 letter exists in the Suffolk Intergroup Association Archives from Bill  W., the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous to the Huntington Group congratulating it on its first anniversary. We can trace AA's beginnings back even earlier. It was in March 1941 that the famous Jack Alexander story about Alcoholics Anonymous appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. Soon after that article A.A. headquarters in New York City tried to send one known A.A. on Long Island to a veteran's home on the grounds of the Kings Park State Hospital. How that Twelve Step call turned out we may never find out but along the way other alcoholics did sober up. We have copies of newspaper articles that document this. One article from the March 1, 1945 Huntington Times said "there are several members holding regular meetings at the home of a senior member" This is two years before the Bill W. letter was written!

By the end of the 1940s we had active and established groups in Huntington, Sayville, Bay Shore, Kings Park, Southampton, Amityville and East Hampton. For some reason the Riverhead group stopped meeting and its members moved over to Southampton but would reappear in the 1950s with renewed vigor. Such is the resiliency of Suffolk AAs. No matter what is thrown at us we bounce back, sober!

In the late 1940s, a meeting was started on a sleepy summer resort community called Fire Island. Some sources say it was started by the first lady to maintain continuous sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous---Marty M.  Around this time, according to information found at A.A.'s World Services Archives in Manhattan, a clubhouse called So So existed in Bridgehampton. Not much is known about it but this can end the debate whether or not any clubhouses ever existed in Suffolk County. At least two more clubhouses would pop up over the years. One behind an auto repair shop in Ronkonkoma and another above a saloon in Islip.

As Suffolk County grew in the 1950s, so did Alcoholics Anonymous. The newest additions to our rolls were Babylon Mid-Island, Brentwood, Northport, Patchogue, and Wyandanch as well as the newest incarnation of the Riverhead group. This time it flourished and still meets to this day. Notices about A.A. meetings that began in the 1940s in the East Hampton Star continued to appear in other newspapers from Huntington to Northport to Patchogue. All of these articles spoke of the miracle of recovery happening to alcoholics everywhere through A.A.

The 1960s were truly active and at least 20 groups joined the roster. Meetings sprouted from Copaigue to Greenport (then known as Southold-Greenport) with stops along the way in Port Jefferson, Stony Brook, Centereach, Dix Hills and Bohemia to name just a few. The East Moriches group was born in Center Moriches and would move back and forth from East to Center a couple of times before settling in the East version of Moriches.

In 1966, several groups on the east end of Long Island banded together and formed an answering service to better assist the suffering alcoholics. The eastern groups each committed to contribute a set amount of money to keep this service afloat. This was to eventually evolve into our present hotline. The service appears to have been headquartered in a motel out in Quogue. No doubt it saved many lives by providing service up close and personal. Previously all phone calls for help were handled out of New York City.

By 1970 A.A. had grown considerably in Suffolk, and the need for a more centralized service was apparent. The answering service was extended county wide with a majority of the groups contributing to the support of the service. In addition to answering calls for help and information, there were referrals for Twelve Step activity and meeting lists were compiled and distributed. In the phone directory the number for Suffolk Alcoholics Anonymous was still a New York City number and this caused trouble. Issues with phone calls to Manhattan became increasingly problematic. Phone calls were not being answered quickly enough. One old-timer  advised the Archives that a phone call placed to New York would result in a  post card being mailed to someone in Suffolk County days later! The A.A.s answering phone calls were unaware of the geography of Suffolk County and a Twelve Step call for help from someone in Montauk would be referred to someone in Queens. Many times the suffering alcoholic was reluctant to invest in the price of a long distance phone call. Efforts to resolve this ended in an impasse.

In May of 1973 a unanimous vote established full Intergroup status. With 85 groups throughout Suffolk County and with over 190 meetings a week, it was time for Suffolk County to declare its independence. This was met with considerable resistance from Manhattan and among some staunch Suffolk loyalists. Problems with the phone listing being listed incorrectly in the phone directory continued for at least one more year with letters written back and forth to rectify it. Change is not something that is met all the time with open arms. In time, however, bruised egos gave way to the time honored Tradition of placing principles above personalities.

Suffolk Intergroup was on its own, blessed with enthusiasm but fraught with the expected growing pains. These growing pains still exist at times thirty five years later. To celebrate our newly founded independence, the first Share-A-Thon was held at the old Colonie Hill in Hauppauge in 1975 hundreds attended. A huge banquet complete with a live orchestra topped off a day of workshops. With the exception of one year, the Share-A-Thon has continued to be an annual event, although the banquet has long since been discontinued due to the increasing expense.

The Suffolk Intergroup Association continues to provide much needed services and outreach to the alcoholic both in and out of the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. Thanks to our membership, all positions are voluntary. None of the staff is a paid employee. This is Twelve Step work at its purest but as anyone will tell you service is what keeps us sober. We cannot keep it unless we give it away.

The Suffolk Intergroup office is kept open six days a week by an all volunteer staff of recovering alcoholics who handle incoming phone calls and provide meeting lists and literature. Our 24 hour a day hotline is also manned by AAs. Each incoming call is referred to another member of Alcoholics Anonymous. A Twelve Step list is maintained for that purpose and updated yearly.

Other SIA committees include Public Information which works to provide information about Alcoholics Anonymous to the public at large. Treatment Facilities works to make sure that rehabs, hospitals and outpatient agencies have necessary literature and onsite meetings as requested. The Corrections Committee carries the A.A. message to those inside the penal system, with literature and meetings. Third Legacy reaches out to those in Alcoholics Anonymous and reinforces the valuable necessity of doing service work. The Archives Committee works on preserving our wonderful history. The SIA Bulletin is issued each month with the express mission of keeping Suffolk A.A.s aware of pertinent news and events. The Schools Committee carries our message to students and teachers from grade school to college. The Webmaster sees to it that the SIA website is up to date and running smoothly so that easy access and quick information can be obtained from our website.  Special Events coordinates various functions many of which are designed to show that sobriety can be fun. Our counterparts at General Services arrange for improved communications between the Suffolk A.A. groups and General Services in New York City. Although the Share-A-Thon is held in the fall every year, preparations for it are year long. All committees continue to need volunteers to continue

In Suffolk Intergroup Association's 35th year (2008), the number of groups has sky rocketed to 328 offering about 733 different meetings weekly. From the early morning to midnight there are meetings of all sorts throughout the day across the county. The meetings have been as diverse as the membership itself. We have held meetings on beaches, in parks and parking lots,  in colleges, high schools and grade schools,  hospitals,  treatment centers,  jails,  yoga studios, coffee shops, sporting good stores, music halls, municipal buildings of all sorts, tire shops, recording studios, above saloons and below restaurants and of course, in synagogues, and churches of various denominations. Wherever we do meet we share our experience, strength and hope with each other as we have since June 10, 1935. We are bound together by our mutual recovery and this band of once hopeless alcoholics tries to live life happy, joyous and free, one day at a time.


SIA Archives Committee
September 1, 2008

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