Staying sober during the pandemic

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Missing out wasn’t an option for Doug, a local rock musician, graphic artist, and Alcoholics Anonymous member. 

When the world came crashing down on our ears more than a year ago with the COVID-19 pandemic, AA shuttered the majority of its meetings. But the need for these important meetings surrounding the pandemic grew for people like Doug. What was he going to do to keep a grip on his sobriety?

“When it first started and things were shutting down, I couldn’t not go to meetings,” says Doug, who requested use of his first name only. 

He credits his 26 years of sobriety to AA and its sponsored meetings. He attends them three, four times a week. But not via Zoom, as so many members had begun to adopt and attend.

“I tried the online thing,” Doug says. “And I hated it, it sucked. There was no physical contact, you couldn’t talk to your friends after the meeting.”

So, Doug started a meeting at Webster Park by invitation. 

“Everyone had to wear a mask. We honored social distancing,” he says.

It was an outdoor meeting, but by this time it was April,  just in time for warm weather and for getting back outside for a change of scenery. It worked big time.

“Right through the summer, it was packed,” Doug says. “We got people starting other meetings in the park. One guy started one in his house. But we couldn’t advertise. It was more underground. It wasn’t really part of AA at all.

“(AA) probably didn’t know about it, but they didn’t care,” he adds. “We advertised it as a ‘Fellowship Meeting’ on Facebook. A lot of young people were coming in because they weren’t in school.”

And Doug concedes the Zoom meetings served a purpose, though they weren’t for him.

“(In-person meetings) were good for the old-timers,” he says. “It got them out of the house. So, Zoom had its purpose.”

Still, AA is losing members. When the end of the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to be on the horizon, members began to stop going to meetings. 

“It’s fallen way behind,” Doug says. “Usually at our 5:30 p.m. meeting there would be 60-70 people. After COVID-19, it was down to 10 people. We lost a lot. A lot of members relapsed or faded.”

It’s an anonymous program, so it’s a little tricky to advertise. But people know where to go if they need help.

“We really need help to get our numbers back up,” Doug says. “It’s safe to come out again.”

Coming to town

The ’Topes are Rochester’s favoritest and bestest surf-instrumental outfit to ever come out of this jerk-water burgh. 

With lightning-fast slashes of their picks and fingernails across bloody strings, the band—whose songs are all titled with “The Simpsons” references—is the most fun you can have with your pants on. They play surrounded in fog generated by a nuclear cauldron. 

Oh, and there are dancing go-go girls who jiggle and wiggle with maximum shake appeal and who you won’t want to stop as the Isotopes grind out hits from their 2018 Christmas album, “Merry Christmas from the Isotopes,” and their most recent pleasure platter, 2020’s “Duck and Cover.”

You can catch The Isotopes—they don’t run that fast—tomorrow at 8 p.m., with comedy guests Saunt Yubear, at Photo City Music Hall, 543 Atlantic Ave., Tickets $5

Frank De Blase is Rochester Beacon music writer.

Here’s a comprehensive list of live shows in and around Rochester: Get Your Gig On

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