For more than three decades, the Triangle Centre has offered a place to socialize, and support for sobriety
From the outside, the only hint that No. 51 Liverpool Ave. in St. John's may be more than a multi-apartment home is a couple of golden-coloured triangles worked into the rust-coloured brick.
The triangle represents the Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) program's three legacies: unity, service and recovery, says Frank (not his real name).
Frank is an alcoholic who has been sober for over 30 years.
Different kind of club
The Liverpool Avenue building - appropriately called the Triangle Centre - was purchased over three decades ago by a handful of recovering alcoholics who felt they needed a place to go in the daytime, he says.
"We found that members were spending more time at the clubs and pubs and not going to the (AA) meetings. And we wanted a place where we could put an end to that. So there were five or six of us who, more or less, put a mortgage on our house to get the money to buy this building."
The men were fortunate in obtaining a mortgage from Central Trust, Frank says.
"The original boys then sold the club back to the membership for $1," he recalls.
Since that time, club members have been fundraising to pay the mortgage by hosting dart tournaments, pool tournaments, bingo games, raffles, dinners, dances and other social events.
"We have membership dues as well, but no one was ever denied membership because of lack of money," Frank says.
Over the years, the Triangle Centre has become a haven for hundreds of recovering alcoholics - men and women of all ages who spend their time socializing during the day and attending AA meetings six evenings a week.
"We encourage families to come by anytime as well," Frank says.
Members can play pool downstairs or sit and enjoy a hot or cold drink while chatting with others. There are also several chesterfields and chairs, and a large-screen TV.
"Now," Frank says, "not only in the day time do they have a place to go to but there are always AA members here that they can talk to."
Those who wish to get sober are encouraged not only by their fellow club members but also by inspirational messages posted throughout the building.
"If you're ready to start living, you're in the right place," reads a sign coming into the front door reads. "Nothing is so bad that a drink won't make worse," notes another.
Having fun and socializing downstairs is not a substitute for the meetings that take place in the evenings upstairs, Frank says.
"The quality of our club downstairs is dependent on the quality of the AA members and that means attending the AA meetings," he says.
Confidentiality is respected at all meetings.
"For the discussion meetings we pick a chair at the start of the meeting. If it's only AA members, it's a closed meeting. But if a member of the public comes in and wants to sit in on a meeting and we agree, we'll call it an open meeting so that each one, when they're talking, can judge for themselves what they're going to say. At a speaker's meeting there's an AA member asked to speak at that meeting but there's no discussion." Frank says.
It's crucial, Frank says, that the Triangle Centre continues to be self-supporting.
"We can't go out bumming money or going to the government crying on their shoulders. This is solely from the members' work and the idea for that is to show the people outside that the AA program is not solely a program. We do have another life, a recreational life."
If the day ever came when the Triangle Centre could not remain self-sufficient, Frank says, the constitution stipulates that a judge will decide what happens to the building.
"It has to be a group with similar objectives who will get it. In no way can it be sold and the members take the money," he says.
People who live with an addiction to alcohol come from all walks of life, Frank says.
"What people don't realize is the ones you see staggering on Water Street those represent only five per cent of the alcoholics. Most alcoholics got one or two cars out by their doors."
Adhering to the AA principles means getting sober and sharing how you've managed to do that with other recovering alcoholics, Frank says.
Doing so helps in his own sobriety, Franks says.
"We work on behalf of each other."
Frank firmly believes in the adage once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.
"I haven't seen anyone yet where an alcoholic went out again and drank successfully … Even if you're sober for 10 years, you go out drinking and in a week you're adding on to where you left off," he says.
While initially leery about doing an interview about the Triangle Centre, Frank says he agreed to do so to let other people know that the centre is there to help people who want to get and remain sober.
"We don't believe in promotion, it's attraction. But as an old-timer said to me one time, you've got to promote the attraction. And this place is an attraction to recovering alcoholics."
For more information on the Triangle Centre call 579-2954.