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Cocaine Anonymous Celebrates 30 Years

A joyful, poignant gathering in LA marks a special occasion for many thousands of recovering cocaine addicts.

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Born in LA, 1982 Owen Osborne

By Owen Osborne

11/26/12

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The Four Points Sheraton at LAX might not be your first idea of a hopping scene. But on the Saturday night before Thanksgiving—and early Sunday morning, by the time the cake was cut—it hosted a remarkable event. It was the venue for the 30th birthday celebration (or anniversary, for folks back east) of Cocaine Anonymous, which held its first meeting in Hollywood on November 18, 1982. Back then a few pioneers—struggling snowblind through AA's "singleness of purpose" about alcoholism, with old timers waxing against sharing about "outside issues"—gathered to grapple with one choice: to get clean from cocaine, or die. In taking the former course, they seized some AA-inspired imperatives: having an open mind; embracing life on life's terms; accepting that the disease of addiction is about the desire for a vacation from reality, not the means of transport; accepting that addiction is a spiritual disease, with a spiritual solution; and believing that the 12 Steps are for walking a life of recovery, no matter what the mind-altering substance of choice.

Thirty years on, tens of thousands of members meet to share their experience, strength and hope in CA chapters in over 20 countries. The only outside issue is the need to welcome those outside the rooms. Many members also belong to AA, NA, PA, or whatever-else-A. So it was at the Four Points, with more than 400 guests packing the venue, full of gratitude for lives transformed, or literally saved. There were somber moments, too, with grief shared for friends who tried, but didn't make it: tears came to the eye among one contingent of CA-ers from the OC, where meetings are on offer every night of the week. Many dressed to the nines (hey, nothing about recovery says you can't look good), feasted on some surprisingly fine food, and heard four outstanding CA speakers—including two from those very first meetings three decades ago. The highlight of the evening was a surprise video, set to the tune of Cheers, to celebrate CA's role as a place where everybody does indeed know your name: your first name and your commitment to recovery. As it moves into its 31st year, CA enjoys a reputation as a fellowship where you'll be welcomed, whether or not blow was part of your story. 

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