Article Hero Image
October 2008

Young People Smash the Delusion

Oklahoma City plays host to ICYPAA's 50th birthday bash

The surge of emotion at the 50th annual International Conference of Young People in Alcoholics Anonymous (ICYPAA), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, had only a little to do with the vast quantities of coffee, soda, and energy drinks being consumed.

"There's a vibe here," said Stosh G., of Neptune, New Jersey. "Everybody here is excited about being sober."

ICYPAA was formed in 1958 "for the purpose of providing a setting for an annual celebration of sobriety among young people in AA," according to the conference program. "The number of young people suffering from alcoholism who turn to AA for help is growing, and ICYPAA helps to carry AA's message of recovery to alcoholics of all ages."

It's obvious that AAs come to ICYPAA to have fun, with a pre-conference trip to amusement park Frontier City, a scavenger hunt, dances in the ballroom every night, a game room, a film festival, karaoke, and jam sessions. Just about everywhere, people were smiling, hugging, and screaming with joy over running into an old friend. But it's the stories behind all the smiling faces that reveal why ICYPAA is important.

"I know I would be dead without it. It kept me connected to AA at some of the worst times in my sobriety," said Matt H., Manhattan, California, who was attending this ICYPAA, his 15th, just before his 25th anniversary of getting sober. ICYPAA, he explained, gives young people a sense of community and the hope that they can stay sober.

The official ICYPAA theme was "Smashing the Delusion"; service was a secondary theme. "General Service for Dummies," a Local Forum conducted by the General Service Office, discussed the ways AAs get involved.

Stosh, Public Information Chair for Northern New Jersey's Area 44, said he got involved with service early and soon was going to area assembly meetings. "The high schools had been requesting speakers, but wanted them to be young and look young," Stosh, who's now twenty-four, said. "I've been to three different high schools, talked to over 500 kids."

"Many of the young alcoholics who attended . . . will go on to be the next generation of delegates, trustees, and board members," said Megan B., New York, New York, ICYPAA Advisory Council Chair. "It brought me a tremendous amount of hope for the future of AA."

Other types of service were obvious all over the convention center. Tom P. of Oklahoma City offered foot massages, a service he'd started at the International Convention in 2000 in Minneapolis. "I saw a lot of people who were doing a lot of walking," he said.

On Saturday night, four Grapevine Reps from New York City and Michigan appeared in grape costumes--bunches of purple balloons--to hand out subscription cards to the Grapevine and increase awareness of the international journal of AA. "It's our magazine," said Raina D. of Detroit.

At the Grapevine display table, Ken J., Oklahoma City, said he was helping out wherever he was needed. He'd been sober three years then relapsed--and it was a long journey back that included a drunk-driving accident, surgeries, and a jail term. He now has a year sober. "I'm just glad to be here," Ken said. "I'm trying to stay plugged in."

The conference was attended by people of all ages. At the sobriety countdown, the AA who'd been sober the longest time was Bill D., of Memphis, who got sober at nineteen and now has been sober fifty-two years.

Ben R., sixteen, of Frisco, Texas, attended with friends his age who'd brought guitars and were going to the jam session later. He said he'd hoped to see more people under twenty, but, "I don't think it matters, if you can relate." Ben admitted some fear about staying sober when he starts his junior year of high school in the fall, and hopes to maintain a sober support group.

ICYPAA, for many, is the first inkling of AA as a "world-wide Fellowship," said Bill D., 64, of Oklahoma City.

"We gotta get them involved," Bill said. "We gotta pass this on."

Have Something You Want To Share?

We want to hear your story! Submit your story and it could be published in a future issue of AA Grapevine!

Submit your Story